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Both Upstart and Caribou have appeal to consumers who want to complete the auto loan refinance process entirely online. Both companies use AI to match borrowers with compatible lenders, boasting speed and ease as appeal factors. But those looking to secure a loan based on broad eligibility criteria may see more advantages to applying with Upstart, while those looking to apply with a co-signer may see clear benefits to working with Caribou.
Launched in 2012 by a former Google executive, Upstart is not a direct lender. It instead partners with more than 90 banks and credit unions. Upstart offers personal loans in addition to vehicle loans.
Established in 2016, Caribou is a much smaller company with a narrower scope. Unlike Upstart, Caribou focuses only on auto loan refinances. Despite its much smaller size and more specific focus, Caribou may be a better fit for some borrowers. The potential to include a co-signer on the application may make Caribou a more accessible option for some.
Upstart vs. Caribou at a glance
These two companies share many similarities on the surface, but nuanced differences can help you choose.
|Loans offered||Auto loan refinancing||Auto loan refinancing|
|APRs||Varies by state||5.99%-28.55%|
|Loan term lengths||24-84 months||Varies by lender|
|Fees||None charged unless the vehicle is repossessed||Possible $399 processing fee|
|Minimum credit score||510||640|
|State footprint||49 states and Washington, D.C.||45 states and Washington, D.C.|
|Time to funding||1-14 days||Varies depending on lender|
Upstart auto loans
Upstart offers vehicle refinance loans in addition to personal loan products. The company does not permit co-borrowers, which may be prohibitive for some borrowers. However, they will consider applicants with a low minimum credit score of 510 and up.
In addition, the platform considers factors beyond credit score for loan eligibility, like an applicant’s education and work history. This may open doors for applicants who may not qualify for a refinance through some competing lender networks.
- Flexible eligibility: Loan eligibility criteria go beyond a borrower’s credit score and bank balance to include educational attainment and work history. These factors might help those with credit difficulties qualify for a less steep rate.
- Range of repayment terms: You can take as little as 24 months to as long as 84 months to repay your loan — more range than some competing lender networks offer.
- Generous mileage limit: Upstart will consider refinancing your vehicle even if it has up to 140,000 miles on the odometer. This is well above the 100,000 threshold standard for vehicle refinancing.
- No co-borrowers: Co-borrowers and co-signers are not allowed. You can submit paperwork to include a co-owner, but the co-owner will not share responsibility for making payments.
- APR range not shared: Upstart used to post its available APRs (annual percentage rates) online, making comparing it with other lenders easy. Now, its website states that available rates vary by state but offers no specifics.
- High minimum amount: The minimum amount for refinancing is $9,000, a relatively high threshold compared to competitors, which may fund $5,000 or less on a vehicle loan refinance.
Caribou auto loans
Caribou funds one kind of loan: vehicle refinancing. With a small, fully remote workforce, Caribou may also offer a level of customer service expertise that sets them apart for larger-scale, more diversified companies. Its website offers multiple ways to reach out, including by email, over the phone or through a chat feature.
Caribou offers prequalification before processing applicants’ loan applications. If you want to compare rate eligibility before committing, this soft credit check helps you avoid a hard inquiry.
- Prequalification: Caribou offers prequalification based on a soft credit check, which can help you compare rates without dinging your credit. Upstart also starts determining your eligibility with a soft credit pull.
- Co-borrowers allowed: You can add a co-borrower when applying for refinancing with Caribou. If your co-borrower has a higher income or better credit than you, you may qualify for lower rates.
- Website chat feature: The site offers a website chat function ideal for any quick questions potential or current borrowers have.
- Process fee: A processing fee of $399 applies to Caribou refinances. The lender may pass this cost on to you, the borrower.
- High maximum APR: The max APR of 28.55 percent is higher than what most rivals list. However, its minimum APR of 5.99 percent is lower, so if you have excellent credit and plan on refinancing to a 36-month term, Caribou may be a great option.
- Limited customer service hours: Compared to Upstart, Caribou offers more restrictive customer service availability. On weekends, in particular, a 4 p.m. Eastern time cutoff means West Coast borrowers may have trouble reaching the company when needed.
How to choose between Upstart and Caribou
Caribou is the obvious choice for consumers looking to include a co-borrower, as Upstart does not allow one. For borrowers looking to qualify independently, Upstart may offer avenues for doing so.
Choose Upstart if you need flexibility
Maybe you are refinancing your vehicle to remove a co-borrower from your loan, or maybe you qualify for a lower rate. Upstart may be a good place to start if you are looking to refinance your vehicle independently and compare many options at once.
If you have a substantial balance remaining on your auto loan, Upstart may provide options catering to your desire for a lower interest rate, a shorter term or simply qualifying on your own for the first time.
Choose Caribou for industry expertise
Caribou’s laser focus on auto loan refinancing means they are experts in this area of lending. And an excellent Trustpilot rating underscores this company’s customer-oriented approach.
For consumers wary of Caribou’s standard processing fee, the company is fully upfront about the $399 price tag. Other lenders charging a similar fee may not disclose it so clearly before you apply.
Compare more lenders before applying
Both Upstart and Caribou offer different opportunities and benefits for drivers looking to lower the costs associated with their auto loan. Upstart is a solid choice for borrowers who want to prioritize qualifying on their own for a refinance. Comparatively, Caribou offers a customer focus that hesitant borrowers may especially appreciate.
Before committing to an auto loan refinance, comparing rates and considering the fine print is important. Remember that many lenders in the marketplace can give you options, and depending on your circumstances and the vehicle in question, certain lenders may be a better fit than others.