Labor Day Auto Loan Checklist

This upcoming weekend, Labor Day weekend, is one of the busiest car shopping weekends of the year. With the 2010 model year ending, shoppers should find a good deal on leftover 2010 inventory. If you prefer a new 2011 vehicle, you’ll still be able to take advantage of manufacturer incentives like 0 percent auto loans and low lease rates, but you’ll have less wiggle room when negotiating the price.

Before you go to the dealership this week or weekend, there are a couple important items you need to check off the list if you plan on buying a new vehicle and getting approved for the car loan or lease. Dealerships are going to be extremely busy. If you’re prepared, the process will go much faster, and you’ll still have time to go to the barbeque or party.

Buick LaCrosse

If you’re prepared for the auto financing part of the car shopping process, your shopping experience will go faster and smoother.

What is your credit score?

If you don’t know what your credit score is, you’re at a huge financial disadvantage. The dealership’s finance manager will run your credit once you’ve reached that stage of the shopping process, and if they figure out you have no idea what your number is, this gives the finance manager an opportunity to bump up the interest rate you’ll receive on the auto loan by several points from what the lender offers, giving the dealership a larger profit and giving you a bigger auto loan payment.

Another advantage of knowing your credit score before going to the dealership is to see if you qualify for the manufacturer incentives, like low car loan rates and discounted monthly lease payments. If you don’t qualify, your monthly payment could be much higher, and may put the car you’re looking at out of your price range. You might still qualify for a lower auto loan or lease rate though, so don’t be completely discouraged if you have a 695 instead of a 700, for example.

Since the most common score used by lenders is the FICO score, you may want to go to and buy your score there. It’s $15.95 and you get it instantly online. You’ll also receive your credit report, which is important so you can check for errors. You can also get your credit report for free on The scores you receive there aren’t free, but also realize that they may not be your FICO score. If there are serious errors on your credit report, you may want to hold off on buying a car this weekend.

Get your financing ducks in a row.

If you plan on taking a vehicle home with you this weekend, be prepared for the auto loan or lease by having a folder of paperwork ready for the finance manager. Not only will this make the process go much faster, but it will save you a trip back to your house to get your pay stub.

The finance manager and lender will want to see verification for your income, where you live and how much you have left on your trade-in vehicle. Bring your most recent pay stub or proof of income, most recent car loan payment stub on your current vehicle if you plan on trading it in, electric bill or a utility bill to verify your physical address, driver’s license, social security number or card, current auto insurance card and any other documentation to support your claim, like a letter explaining your bad credit situation, or documents to prove your government assistance or alimony and child support.

Without basic documents to show your income or creditworthiness, the lender won’t be able to approve your auto loan or lease. By having all your ducks in a row, the finance manager will be able to breeze through your credit application and you’ll get approved faster.  

There are a lot of good deals on leftover 2010 vehicles this Labor Day weekend, and if you’re prepared for the auto loan or lease part of the car shopping process, you’ll easily be able to score one.