How Much Does Buying a Car Lower Your Credit Score?

How Much Does Buying a Car Lower Your Credit Score?

Buying a car is an exciting and significant financial decision. Many factors come into play when making this purchase, including budgeting, researching different models, and securing financing. In the midst of all these considerations, one question that often arises is how buying a car can affect your credit score. Your credit score is a crucial aspect of your financial health, impacting your ability to secure loans, obtain favorable interest rates, and even rent an apartment. Understanding how purchasing a car can impact your credit score is essential for making informed decisions. In this article, we will explore this topic and address some frequently asked questions.

How Does Buying a Car Affect Your Credit Score?

When you purchase a car, there are a few ways it can impact your credit score, both positively and negatively.

1. Credit Inquiries: When you apply for an auto loan, the lender will typically perform a hard credit inquiry to assess your creditworthiness. This inquiry can temporarily lower your credit score by a few points. However, the impact is usually minimal and short-lived, lasting for about six months.

2. New Debt: Taking on a new car loan means adding to your overall debt burden. This can potentially lower your credit score, especially if you already have a high debt-to-income ratio. Lenders prefer borrowers with a lower debt load as it indicates a lower risk of default.

3. Payment History: Your payment history plays a significant role in determining your credit score. Making timely payments on your car loan will have a positive impact on your credit score, showcasing your ability to manage debt responsibly. Conversely, missing payments or defaulting on your loan will significantly lower your credit score.

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4. Credit Mix: Credit mix refers to the variety of loans and credit accounts you have. Having a healthy mix of credit types, such as a mortgage, credit cards, and an auto loan, can positively impact your credit score. Adding an auto loan to your credit mix can potentially improve your score, provided you manage it responsibly.

5. Average Age of Accounts: The average age of your credit accounts also affects your credit score. Taking out a new car loan will lower the average age of your accounts, potentially impacting your score. However, this impact is usually minor and diminishes over time as you make regular payments.


1. Will shopping around for the best auto loan rates hurt my credit score?
No, shopping around for the best auto loan rates typically does not hurt your credit score. Credit bureaus understand that consumers may apply for multiple loans within a short period when shopping for the best rates. As long as these inquiries occur within a specific timeframe (usually 14 to 45 days, depending on the scoring model), they are typically treated as a single inquiry, minimizing the impact on your credit score.

2. Should I pay off my car loan early to improve my credit score?
While it may be tempting to pay off your car loan early to improve your credit score, it may not always be the best financial decision. Paying off a loan early can potentially reduce the length of your credit history, which is another factor in determining your credit score. Additionally, if you have other high-interest debt, such as credit card balances, it may be more beneficial to allocate your funds towards paying off those debts first.

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3. Can buying a car with cash improve my credit score?
Purchasing a car with cash does not directly impact your credit score. Your credit score is primarily influenced by your borrowing and repayment habits. However, having a history of responsible credit management, such as making timely payments on loans and credit cards, can positively impact your credit score over time.

4. How long does it take for a car loan to improve credit?
Building credit takes time, and there is no fixed timeline for how long it will take for a car loan to improve your credit. Consistently making on-time payments over an extended period is crucial for improving your credit score. It may take several months or even years to see a significant improvement, depending on your individual circumstances.


Buying a car can have both positive and negative effects on your credit score. While applying for an auto loan may result in a temporary decrease in your credit score, responsible management of the loan, such as making timely payments, can help improve your credit over time. It is important to understand the various factors that influence your credit score and make informed decisions when purchasing a car. By staying well-informed, you can ensure that buying a car does not have a detrimental impact on your credit score, and you can enjoy your new vehicle with peace of mind.