When it comes to auto financing at Car-Mart, Rick Musial has been around the block a time or two. After all, he developed the company’s credit reporting process. It was the perfect project for Rick as he takes pleasure in seeing first-time Car-Mart customers, who never have had credit, start their credit, buy their first vehicle, buy a nicer vehicle and then make other major purchases.
A 34-year veteran of Car-Mart, Rick was our General Manager in Texarkana, Texas from 1985 to 2000 where he sold hundreds of vehicles to customers. Rick remembers a family who had purchased 25 vehicles from him while in Texarkana. It’s this operational background and knowledge of our customers that make Rick uniquely qualified to develop financing programs that will help our customers.
“Car-Mart is not like a typical car dealer where we’re trying to sell our financing,” says Rick, Car-Mart’s Vice President of Underwriting. “Our customers are hard-working people who need a dependable vehicle so they can get where they need to go. Some may have a lack of credit or have credit challenges so we’re here to help them.
“We make the car-buying process easy. We provide financing. All of that is in one place,” he continues. “We are there for our customers after the sale. We’re always there to help them. We’re not a telephone call with someone three states away. We’re part of their community.”
In this blog article, Rick answers customers’ questions about financing a used, quality vehicle at Car-Mart whether you have good credit, bad credit or no credit.
Q. How does the financing process work at Car-Mart?
A. For starters, we encourage customers to apply for used car financing using our financing pre-approval application on Car-Mart.com. This will expedite the process. We then review the application, both for income and expenses of the customer. Based on that information, we’ll determine a monthly payment that is affordable and that works for the customer’s budget. And when you complete an online application, there is no impact to your credit.
We help the customer find the used vehicle they want. We don’t push vehicles on our customers. We structure an appropriate monthly payment. Overall, we will show them what it will take to buy that vehicle.
Q. Why should a customer finance a vehicle with Car-Mart?
A. We care about our customers and their long-term success. We believe that every person deserves to get into the vehicle they want and need regardless of their financial situation. We want to make sure our customers can pay off their vehicle and get that clear title in their hand. And, we also don’t want to overload the customer with a payment that doesn’t make sense and thus, sets them up for failure.
At Car-Mart, our financing plans are designed so the customer can own the used vehicle as quickly as possible and drive it until the wheels fall off if that’s what they want to do. Of all the customers we finance, we turn down very few customers, and we’re proud of that fact. And, we work hard to make the process painless and seamless.
We’re committed to making sure customers leave Car-Mart with the right used vehicle for them. We’ll work to understand their financial situation. We know customers need that vehicle and we don’t want it to be a financial burden.
Q. How are financing decisions made at Car-Mart?
A. We make our financing decisions at the lot level. We believe that making these financing decisions locally allows us to build better relationships within the communities we serve.
Our general managers at each dealership make the auto loan decisions about their customers. They look at a customer’s time in his or her job, time at his or her residence, income amount and any current and previous credit, good or bad.
They also consider anything unique to that customer’s situation. They’ll talk to the customer to get that customer’s personal story. We believe this is the best way to understand the customer’s unique situation and to help them get approved for used car financing.
Q. How does Car-Mart’s auto financing process differ from other ‘buy here pay here’ dealerships?
A. We sincerely care about our customers. We want to help customers succeed in all areas of their lives. Let me share the differences and benefits we offer our customers:
Many dealerships don’t report a customer’s payment history to the credit bureaus. We do. We report on-time payments to the credit bureaus. So, when a customer buys a vehicle from us, he or she can establish a credit history. We believe our customers deserve to have their good credit reported.
Other dealerships may require a certain credit score to qualify for financing. We don’t. We don’t use a traditional credit score to assess a customer’s overall ability to pay.
Our interest rates are lower than those at many other dealerships. Our financing terms are also shorter compared to the industry average and other dealerships. Finally, our financing decisions are made locally, not at a corporate office.
Essentially, we’re not only selling a vehicle to a customer, we’re providing future opportunities.
Q. How long does financing take?
A. Once the customer selects a vehicle and agrees to the terms, it’ll take five to ten minutes to get the basic information.
Then it’s another 15-20 minutes to finish the application, 20 to 30 minutes to get verified and approved. We strive to have our customers driving away in their vehicle in less than one hour.
Q. What if I have bad credit? Does Car-Mart depend on credit scores to determine whether to finance?
A. No, we do not use traditional credit scores to make our financing decisions. We have found that doesn’t paint the picture about the uniqueness of our customers. People aren’t just a credit score number. That’s why we sit down face-to-face with our customers and learn about them and what’s going on in their lives.
We know some people have experienced hardships in their lives and may have bad credit, which makes it challenging to obtain financing. Customers can come to Car-Mart and select a used vehicle and work with us to get a loan that works for them without the burden of a poor credit history.
When customers buy from us, they can build their credit because we report on-time payments to the credit bureaus such as Experian and TransUnion. In so doing, the customer can establish a credit history and can then make other major purchases, such as a home.
Q. What are the financing terms at Car-Mart – interest rate and monthly payments?
A. Currently, we charge 18 percent interest, (interest rates may vary by state of purchase) which is a lower interest rate than the industry average of nearly 21 percent. In addition, the average length of the financing (or term) is 43 months compared to the industry average term length of 60 months.*
When a customer buys from Car-Mart, they’re getting a lower interest rate and shorter term than the industry averages. Therefore, our customers save some money in interest charges, and they’re able to get their vehicle paid off earlier.
Q. What are your suggestions when buying a quality, used vehicle?
A. When people shop for used vehicles, it is important for customers to consider their budget and distinguish between their wants and needs for a vehicle. Customers should know what they can afford on a monthly basis and look for a vehicle that fits in that price range.
Also, be mindful of what the salesperson is focused on. If he or she emphasizes the monthly payment amount, customers may be paying too much for the vehicle or maybe accepting extended financing terms. It is important to consider the total cost of the vehicle over the life of the contract or loan term.
Customers should also know that the longer the financing term, the more they’ll be paying for the vehicle. The higher the down payment, the shorter the term and the higher they can keep the payment, the less overall they will pay for the vehicle.
Again, the bottom line is that customers should find a vehicle that meets their needs and their budget. Don’t overextend. Plan for the unexpected. And, save as much as possible for a down payment.
Q. What is Car-Mart’s overall viewpoint when it comes to financing customers with a challenging credit history?
A. Essentially, we provide transportation and we make the lives of our customers better. We really care about their long-term success. It’s about customers getting the right car at the right price so they can get on with their lives and where they need to go.
Once a customer buys a vehicle from Car-Mart, they’re part of our family. Our business is focused on the success of our customers in their personal and business lives. We want them to come back and buy a bigger and better vehicle.
We go above and beyond to get the financing our customers need, so they can drive home – same day – in their new, used car, truck or SUV. Happy customers. That’s what it’s all about.
Have other questions about used car financing at Car-Mart, check out our FAQ section.
If you have bad credit, Car-Mart is ready to help you. Let us put you in a clean, affordable, quality, used vehicle today. Apply online. And check out our inventory at over 150 locations to choose from.
*America’s Car-Mart, Inc. Form 10-Q Filed December 12, 2022 (ir.car-mart.com)
Source: Q4 2022 Experian State of the Automotive Finance Market Deep Subprime (FICO Score 500 or less) Industry Average.