Need a reason to check your credit score? A new study from WalletHub finds that buyers who have “fair” credit will end up spending about five times more to finance a new vehicle than somebody with excellent credit.
The study, part of WalletHub’s third quarter auto financing report, estimates that not having a top credit score could cost consumers an extra $6,300 over the life of a $20,000, five-year loan.
An “excellent” credit score is considered anything over 720, according to the study. A “fair” credit score is in the range of 620 and 659. The average credit score in the United States is about 695, according to ValuePenguin.com.
If you’re in the market for a car soon but have a less than excellent credit score, sadly, there’s no quick fix. It can take months or even years to improve a low credit score, which is based on past credit history and your total amount of debt, among other factors.
But, if you have more time -- perhaps you won’t need that new car for another year or so -- there are ways to boost your score before it’s time to borrow money for some new wheels.
Keep track of your score:
Of course, you’ll need to know your starting point. And, who knows? You might get some good news. Recent changes to the way credit scores are calculated have boosted some people’s scores.
In the summer of 2017, VantageScore, the credit scoring system used by the three major credit bureaus -- Experian, Equifax and TransUnion -- revised its formula. Now, for instance, civil judgments, medical debt, and tax liens are no longer considered as part of your score.
With these and some other changes, your score could already be trending upward. To check your score, head over to AnnualCreditReport.com where you can get a free copy of your credit report every 12 months from Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Your free credit report will not list your score, but you can purchase the score for a small fee. You can also get an estimate of your score for free from Credit Karma.
Dispute any errors
Once you have seen your credit report and know your score, scan for any errors. Common errors include listing the wrong address, adding the account of another person, reporting closed accounts as open and not using the correct balance or credit limit, according to the Federal Trade Commission.
If you do find errors, by federal law, credit bureaus must fix them. We’ve created a handy guide to credit report dispute to walk you through the process.
Decrease your debt
One of the easiest ways to send your credit score into a tailspin is to charge up your credit card accounts and carry high balances. And now, with the latest changes to VantageScore, it’s an even better idea to pay those bills. The new formula actually rewards consumers who pay off their debt instead of allowing it to grow.
If you are in over your head and don’t think there’s ever any way that you can make even the minimum payment on your bills, it may be time to consider a debt management plan to get it under control. The payment plan is created with the help of credit counseling experts such as CESI.
Pay your bills on time
Late payments can have a huge negative impact on your credit score. If you find that you often are late paying your bills on time, put together a system to remind you when payments are due. Ask your bank if they offer automated notifications. Or, develop your own system through an online calendar or, if it works best for you, paper. MyFrugalHome.com offers this printable bill pay checklist.
If a new car is your goal, the hard work required to boost your credit score could save you thousands of dollars. But the benefits will go far beyond that. With improved financial health, a better quality of life without the worry of bills and future needs, is possible, too.
The CESI Team is committed to helping you reach your financial goals. If debt keeps you from living the life you dream of, contact us for a free debt analysis today and get started on the road to a brighter future!
Consumer Education Services, Inc. (CESI) is a non-profit service provider of comprehensive personal financial education and solutions for all life stages and for all of life’s milestones. Our goal is enhanced economic security for everyone we serve.
CESI is NOT A LOAN COMPANY