Financing an auto purchase? Your credit score might look higher than you thought it was

Auto dealer inventories remain tight, but buyers are undeterred, with sales of both new and used vehicles at record highs. Many buyers finance their purchase, and that requires a credit check.

The standard FICO score ranges from 300 to 850. But for vehicle loans, lenders instead use the FICO Auto Score. The Auto Score ranges from 250 to 900.

“It is the same fundamentals, like paying your bills on time, and keeping your debt low and that sort of thing. But for something like the FICO Auto Score, they’re going to put a little more weight on your history with car loans and leases, and also other installment loans,” said Ted Rossman at CreditCards.com.

There is a FICO Bank Card Score that more heavily weighs credit card behaviors. FICO is the main provider of consumer credit scoring, but there are a half dozen different versions of FICO scores that lenders use for different types of loans. While FICO is the most widely used, Bankrate says there are dozens of other credit scoring providers.

For good credit, consumers should strive to keep their FICO score at 670 or higher. The standard FICO score ranges from 300 to 850, though most consumers do not have credit scores above 800.

“Only about 20% or about one in five Americans are in that 800-plus club. For the most part though, on the traditional score, anything above 740 is really viewed as basically interchangeable. It is really only bragging rights above that,” Rossman said.

The average monthly payment on an auto loan is now a record high $563 for new vehicles, $379 for used vehicle, and $450 for leased vehicles, according to LendingTree. Americans take out about $56 billion across 2.3 million new auto loans each month.

Jeff Clabaugh

Jeff Clabaugh has spent 20 years covering the Washington region's economy and financial markets for WTOP as part of a partnership with the Washington Business Journal, and officially joined the WTOP newsroom staff in January 2016.

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