September 2, 2014 2:18 pm

Tips on auto financing if you have poor credit

The average length of a car loan in Canada hit 72 months late last year. Some dealers have begun offering terms of 96 months -- or eight years.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Stefan Rousseau

Easy credit and longer-term loans currently being offered at auto dealerships can make buying an expensive car alluring. Greg McBride, chief financial analyst at the Bankrate.com website, says consumers with poor credit shouldn’t bite.

Consumers tend to focus on the payment rather than the interest rate, which likely will be far higher than the below 3-per cent rate now available to those with good credit.

“They engage in the dangerous financial habit known as payment shopping,” McBride says.

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Here’s what he suggests instead.

— Buy a lower-priced car or a used car with a shorter payoff period. Paying it off will help you get a lower interest rate on your next car.

— Don’t be fooled by the payment on a loan that’s six years or longer. Look at the interest rate, which could be double or more what borrowers with good credit can get. It will take years for you to build any equity in your car.

— Don’t buy a car until you pay down other debts and improve your credit rating.

— Try to save for a bigger down payment. This could get you a lower interest rate.

Bankrate.com offers an auto loan calculator that can help figure your monthly payment (http://www.bankrate.com/calculators/auto/auto-loan-calculator.aspx ). The site also has an interactive calculator to help buyers decide between a new or used vehicle (http://www.bankrate.com/calculators/auto/new-or-used-car.aspx).

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