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How to Calculate APR on a Car Loan

Written by Allison Martin

Allison Martin is a personal finance enthusiast and a passionate entrepreneur. With over a decade of experience, Allison has made a name for herself as a syndicated financial writer. Her articles are published in leading publications, like, Bankrate, The Wall Street Journal, MSN Money, and Investopedia. When she’s not busy creating content, Allison travels nationwide, sharing her knowledge and expertise in financial literacy and entrepreneurship through interactive workshops and programs. She also works as a Certified Financial Education Instructor (CFEI) dedicated to helping people from all walks of life achieve financial freedom and success.

Updated January 1, 2024​

3 min. read​

how to calculate apr on a car loan

When you apply for a car loan, you’ll receive a quote from the lender. It will include the loan amount, term, and projected monthly payment based on these figures. You’ll also notice the annual percentage rate (APR), which should not be overlooked as it could easily add several hundred or thousands of dollars to the vehicle’s total purchase price.

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What is APR (Annual Percentage Rate)?

The APR you pay on an auto loan represents the cost of borrowing funds from the lender.

Is APR the Same as the Interest Rate?

Consumers often use the terms interest rate and APR synonymously, but they aren’t quite the same. The interest rate is the percentage of the principal amount the lender charges you to borrow funds. However, the APR includes interest and fees, like loan origination costs you’ll pay when financing the vehicle.

Why the APR Is Important for a Car Loan

The APR is important because it tacks on a sizable amount of additional costs to the loan. So, shopping around for an auto loan is essential to ensure you get the best deal possible on financing.

APR and Your Credit Score

The lowest APRs are generally reserved for borrowers with good or excellent credit. Of course, a bad credit score doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be denied an auto loan. Still, you can expect borrowing costs to be higher.

To illustrate, a 60-month $30,000 auto loan with a 5 percent interest rate comes with a $566 monthly payment, and you’ll pay $3,968 in interest over the loan term. But if your credit score is on the lower end and you get a 9 percent interest rate, the monthly payment will increase to $623, and you’ll pay $7,365 in interest over the life of the loan.

Calculating APR on a Car Loan

Follow these steps to calculate the APR on an auto loan with ease.

Get Information on Your Car

You’ll need to prepare the following details to get started:

  • Principal $35,000
  • Interest Rate: 6 percent
  • Loan Term: 48 months
  • Projected interest: $2,200
  • Fees: $1,500
  • Taxes: $3,000

Once you have these figures, plug them into the APR equation below.

Plug Them into the APR Equation

  • APR = [(Interest, taxes and fees / principal / loan term in days) * 365] * 100
  • APR = [($6,700/$35,000/1,460) * 365] * 100
  • APR = 4.79 percent
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Or Use an Online APR Calculator

You can also input these figures into an APR calculator that will do the calculations for you.

How Lenders Calculate APR

Most lenders assess your APR based on your credit rating, assuming you meet the other eligibility criteria. As mentioned above, with a higher credit score, you’re more likely to receive a competitive APR. But if your credit score is on the lower end, expect to be offered a higher APR to offset the risk of defaulting on the auto loan that you pose to the lender.

Other factors lenders consider when calculating APR include:

  • Principal: The loan principal or the amount you’re requesting to borrow
  • Down payment: You may not be required to make a down payment. However, doing so could get you a lower APR on your auto loan
  • Loan term: You’ll pay more in interest if you opt for an extended loan term, which could overshadow the benefit of securing a more affordable monthly payment

What is a Good APR for a Car Loan?

It depends on your credit rating. Borrowers with good or excellent credit scores can expect to pay an APR between 3.61 percent and 5.38 percent. But if your score is lower, you could get an APR from 9.8 percent to 19.87 percent.

Compare APR and Loans to Refinance Your Car Loan

If your credit score has already improved since you took out your original car loan, you could qualify for a lower APR by refinancing. Here’s how to get started:

  • Step 1: Submit your details to get pre-approved. Be prepared to answer a few questions to verify your identity. You’ll also need to input data about your employment, earnings and vehicle.
  • Step 2: View your loan offers. If there’s a match that works for you, upload the requested financial documents and information. You’ll need to provide a copy of your driver’s license, current proof of insurance, a current registration, proof of income (or pay stubs) and your current auto loan contract if you have it available. The lender will handle all the paperwork for you and ensure you steer clear of all the tedious tasks that often come with refinancing auto loans.
  • Step 3: Sign your loan documents. Once the loan is finalized, you’ll start paying the new lender, typically within 45 days. However, you may qualify for a 90-day payment deferral that lets you keep more of your hard-earned money in your pocket even longer.
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