Car Buyer Labs

Car Buying Advice, Tips, and Reviews

A bad credit car loan is stamped with 'Approved' next to car keys.

Finding a Great Used Vehicle With Bad Credit

If you don’t live in the heart of a big city, you need a vehicle. Folks in places where it’s mostly rural and public transportation is infrequent know this all too well. Finding bad credit car loans can make all the difference. The need for reliable transportation is true for people who work, don’t work, have families, or live alone. You need to be able to get to the grocery store, to the doctor’s office, to appointments and places of employment, or just out with friends on occasion.

Life will pass you by without adequate transportation. This is true for people with good or bad credit; the need doesn’t discriminate. Getting a new car when you have bad credit can be challenging, though. You need to go about it the right way, find the right dealership, and ensure any payment terms aren’t predatory and are affordable for your budget. Here are a few key things you need to check when looking for a used vehicle with bad credit. We’ve also given you a short list of some of the most popular used vehicles with folks who have bad credit to get you started.

Check for a Clean History

When you’ve got bad credit, an unreliable vehicle simply won’t do. You can’t afford to have your investment tank in value because you drove off the lot in a bad car. Cars with bad histories are much less likely to get loan approval if you have bad credit. Save yourself some hassle and make sure that the car you’re checking out has a clean vehicle history before falling in love with it. A thorough historical report from CARFAX or AutoCheck will help. These types of reports show whether the vehicle has been in an accident before, how many times it’s changed hands between owners, and what repairs it’s undergone.

They should also tell you whether the vehicle has had any water damage, a sneaky villain that often sneaks through the cracks during an inspection if not performed thoroughly, but one that can have dire consequences. Understanding the past of the car for sale will give you peace of mind for your investment and make it easier to attain a car loan with bad credit. It will also reduce the risk of breakdowns that could have your investment sitting in the shop for weeks.

Get an Inspection Before You Buy

Sometimes, the history report doesn’t catch everything. It’s possible that previous owners didn’t have damage repaired or documented. If they didn’t go into a shop to have a fender-bender looked at or claim it on their insurance, there might not be any real record that an accident took place. To protect yourself from these undocumented circumstances, get a pre-purchase inspection by a mechanic you trust. It might cost a little in the short term, but in the long term, it can pay dividends by not taking a bad-quality vehicle home with you.

A salesperson is handing keys to a smiling man in a silver car.

Find a Dealership with a Special Bad Credit Program

Some dealerships offer special programs for bad credit car loans for folks with financial issues. They often combine these programs with low down payment terms, like $99 down, with credit scores as low as 500. These loan programs are specifically designed to make the car buying experience easy and painless, unlike if you went to a dealership without these programs.

There are also likely used vehicles on the lot that the dealership knows will work well for people with bad credit, mixing a combination of reliability and low overall cost into the equation. And since dealers are accustomed to working with people with bad credit, they know all the tricks to get their bad credit customers the lowest interest rates. In some cases, they even have “Buy Here, Pay Here” programs.

Negotiate the Price

Even if you have bad credit, there is sometimes room to negotiate the price of your new vehicle purchase. This is especially true if you’re not working through a special bad credit program where the dealership hasn’t already trimmed any fat, so to speak. This can help you save a little money on monthly payments and make it all-around easier to own a vehicle despite having bad credit.

Reliable Used Vehicle Models

When you’re looking for a vehicle to purchase when you have bad credit, the actual brand and model play an important role in your ability to get qualified. There are certain vehicles that loan companies trust more for their longevity. This, in turn, will mean a vehicle that will spend less time needing repairs and will retain the most value for you when you eventually upgrade or sell. Here are a few of the notable makes and models that make good candidates for people with bad credit scores.

The Toyota Corolla

First on our list is the Toyota Corolla. This compact sedan is small in size but not in character. It’s known for its superior reliability and excellent fuel economy, making it a low-cost car to own long-term. If you’re looking for a vehicle that will last for years and years, any Toyota will do the trick, but the Corolla will cost less overall. These compact sedans seat up to five people, so you can even pile your kids into the back. The Corolla is often regarded as the hottest-selling sedan worldwide, mixing cost-effective features and size with reliability and value that can’t be beaten.

The Honda Civic

Another compact sedan, the Honda Civic, will also serve folks with bad credit well. The fact that Honda parts are widely available on the market makes it easy to repair if something were to go wrong, and the fact that even older model years of the Civic are still common sights on streets across America is a testament to its longevity. While Toyota is often regarded as the brand with the best-lived vehicles, the Civic can give the Corolla a run for its money. If you’re someone who prefers a Honda, the Civic might be the top choice for you.

The Toyota Camry

Moving up in size, we have the Toyota Camry. These are midsize sedans that offer passengers more leg and headroom and provide more storage space in the trunk. They tend to be slightly more expensive than the Corolla, but the additional space might be a tradeoff you’re happy to make. These vehicles are also known for their great safety ratings and the wide array of safety features that come standard, especially on newer used models, making the Camry a great choice for families on a budget.

The Honda Accord

The Honda Accord is to the Honda Civic as the Camry is to the Corolla; it’s the next step up in terms of size in Honda’s lineup. It’s known for holding its value and being a reliable vehicle to drive year after year. It blends efficiency, comfort, and performance into a car that has maintained a solid presence in the market for decades.

A red 2020 Toyota Camry is shown driving through a city.

It’s Still Possible To Get a Reliable Vehicle With Bad Credit

Just because you have bad credit doesn’t mean you can’t get yourself a great used vehicle. Look around for dealerships that offer special bad credit car loans for folks with bad credit and check out their used Toyota and Honda sedans for vehicles most likely to be approved. Look at pricing and make sure that the vehicle is affordable for you and offers great long-term value. Do your work ahead of time to make sure the vehicle you choose has a clean history, and get that extra pre-purchase inspection to cover your bases. In no time, you’ll find yourself in a new vehicle despite having bad credit!