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Understanding Auto Financing

With prices averaging more than $28,000 for a new vehicle and $15,000 for a used vehicle, most consumers need financing or leasing to acquire a vehicle. In some cases, buyers use “direct lending:” they obtain a loan directly from a finance company, bank or credit union. In direct lending, a buyer agrees to pay the amount financed, plus an agreed-upon finance charge, over a period of time. Once a buyer and a vehicle dealership enter into a contract to purchase a vehicle, the buyer uses the loan proceeds from the direct lender to pay the dealership for the vehicle. Consumers also may arrange for a vehicle loan over the Internet.

A common type of vehicle financing is “dealership financing.” In this arrangement, a buyer and a dealership enter into a contract where the buyer agrees to pay the amount financed, plus an agreed-upon finance charge, over a period of time. The dealership may retain the contract, but usually sells it to an assignee (such as a bank, finance company or credit union), which services the account and collects the payments.

For the vehicle buyer, dealership financing offers:

  1. Convenience – Dealers offer buyers vehicles
    and financing in one place.

  2. Multiple financing relationships – The dealership’s relationships with a variety of banks and finance companies mean it can usually offer buyers a range of financing options.

  3. Special programs – From time to time, dealerships may offer manufacturersponsored, low-rate programs to buyers.

This booklet explains dealership financing and can serve as a guide as you evaluate your own financial situation before you finance a new or used vehicle. It will also help you understand vehicle leasing.

Federal Laws

Familiarize yourself with laws that authorize and regulate vehicle dealership financing and leasing.

Truth in Lending Act – requires that, before you sign the agreement, creditors give you written disclosure of important terms of the credit agreement such as APR, total finance charges, monthly payment amount, payment due dates, total amount being financed, length of the credit agreement and any charges for late payment.

Consumer Leasing Act – requires the leasing company (dealership, for example) to disclose certain information before a lease is signed, including: the amount due at lease signing or delivery; the number and amounts of monthly payments; all fees charged, including license fees and taxes; and the charges for default or late payments. For an automobile lease, the lessor must additionally disclose the annual mileage allowance and charges for excessive mileage; whether the lease can be terminated early; whether the leased automobile can be purchased at the end of the lease; the price to buy at the end of the lease; and any extra payments that may be required at the end of the lease.

Credit Practices Rule – requires creditors to provide a written notice to potential co-signers about their liability if the other person fails to pay; prohibits late charges in some situations; and prohibits creditors from using certain contract provisions that the government has found to be unfair to consumers.

Equal Credit Opportunity Act – prohibits discrimination related to credit because of your gender, race, color, marital status, religion, national origin or age. It also prohibits discrimination related to credit based on the fact that you are receiving public assistance or that you have exercised your rights under the federal Consumer Credit Protection Act.

Fair Credit Reporting Act – Gives consumers many rights, including the right to one free credit report each year. It allows consumers to call one number to notify credit reporting agencies and credit card companies of identify theft. It also provides consumers with a process to dispute information in their credit file that they believe is inaccurate or incomplete;


 
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