You recently filed for bankruptcy to free yourselves from the chains of debt bondage. It seemed like a smart way to press the reset button on your finances and receive a clean slate.

couple buying car

But now it’s impacting your ability to secure loans. And you’re feeling the pressure because you need financing for an automobile and can’t get approved.

Most traditional lenders may have said no. But there are lenders that specialize in loans for those who’ve filed for bankruptcy.

Read on to learn how soon you can apply and how to increase your approval odds.

Which Type of Bankruptcy?

The time frame between filing and the clearance to secure a car loan will depend on the type of filing.

Chapter 7 (Liquidation)

If your debts were discharged or liquidated under Chapter 7 Bankruptcy, there isn’t a specific waiting period. But you may have to give your score at least a year to start recovering from the filing.

Chapter 13 (Reorganization)

If you filed for Chapter 13 Bankruptcy, which is a reorganization of your debts, getting a loan is a bit trickier. Payment is remitted to creditors via a payment plan that spans three months to five years.

So, you may not be able to secure a loan until you’ve satisfied your repayment obligations. But under certain circumstances, you may get permission before the repayment period ends. To learn more, contact your attorney.

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Review Your Credit Report and Score

Once you’ve received clearance to take on new debt (if under Chapter 13) or your Chapter 7 proceedings are over, the next step is to review your credit profile. Your credit history and score are major factors in the application review process.

How to Get Your Credit Report for Free

Did you know 1 in 5 consumers have an error on at least one of their credit reports, according to the results of a study conducted by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)?

For this reason, you want to review your report to ensure the accuracy of the contents. Why so? The information contained in your credit report is what’s used to generate your score, and you wouldn’t want errors dragging your credit score even further into the trenches.

You can get a free copy of your credit report at AnnualCreditReport.com. (More detailed guidance is provided here if you need it).

Check Your Credit Score

If you’ve recently filed for bankruptcy, chances are your score is on the low side. But this doesn’t mean your loan application won’t be approved. And it’s good to know where you stand before applying so you won’t be caught off-guard when the prospective lender pulls your credit report and score.

You’ll have to pay a nominal fee to access your FICO score on MyFICO.com. But you can also view your credit score by signing up for one the credit score monitoring services. You may also be able to view your score on your bank’s online dashboard or credit card statement.

Dispute Errors

Once you’ve retrieved a copy of your credit report, review the contents in their entirety. Pay special attention to information reported on past auto loans. If you spot errors, file disputes to have them rectified. (Here’s a handy guide on how to get the process started).

But be careful if you’re disputing accurate negative items to raise your credit score. According to the FTC, information that’s both timely and accurate cannot legally be removed from your credit report.

You can also call the creditor, explain your situation, and a request a goodwill adjustment. Or save yourself the time and headaches by leaving the work to reputable credit repair professionals.

Research Lenders

It’s never a good idea to go with the first lender you find without shopping around. Why so? For starters, they may not be a legit lender.

And if they are, how do you know they have the most competitive auto loan offer for your financial situation? Instead, shop around to see what’s out there. You’ll find that some lenders offer bad credit auto loans to consumers.

Tips for Shopping Around

  • Keep this loan shopping period to a minimum to reduce the impact on your credit score. FICO scores overlook auto loan inquiries made 45 days before scoring. “So, if you find a loan [within this time frame], the inquiries won’t affect your scores while you’re rate shopping,” notes myFICO.
  • Some online lenders offer prequalification tools to see what you may qualify for. There is no impact on your credit score.
  • Visit the dealership after you’ve been prequalified elsewhere and see if they can beat the current offers you have. This may also give you more negotiating power if their numbers are low and they really need your business.
  • Consider reaching out to your financial institution to see if they can help you out. If you’re a member of a small community bank or credit union, you may have luck as they sometimes approve loans off the strength of the account holder’s history with their institution.
  • Avoid “buy here, pay here” dealerships if possible. They appeal to consumers with credit challenges, like bankruptcy, because they don’t conduct credit checks. But, this usually means the interest rates are astronomical since the lender is assuming more risk. In fact, interest rates are usually well into the double-digits and the lender will “make as much, or more, profit on the financing as they do on the car itself,” according to Autotrader.

Save Up for a Down Payment

Most lenders will require you to make a down payment to approve the loan. Why so? Well, you’re still perceived as risky by the lender because of the bankruptcy filing, so funds from the down payment helps minimizes the risk the lender will assume. Plus, it will lower your monthly payment and earn equity in the vehicle faster.

Apply for a Loan

Upon deciding on a loan, access the application online or in-person and complete it in its entirety. You don’t want the application to be rejected due to a simple error or omission that could be prevented by scanning for accuracy.

Remember, you want to paint the best picture possible for the lender to show them you’re on the way to cleaning up your finances and aren’t the person your credit report reflects. You just hit a rough patch and need them to give you a second chance to prove yourself.

Most lenders are able to issue a prequalification rather quickly if you provide the right documentation. This includes:

  • Copies of your last two pay stubs
  • Your employer’s contact information
  • Bank statements (to prove you have the funds on hand for a down payment)
  • Copies of your last two tax returns and financial statements (if self-employed)
  • Proof of residence
  • Information about the vehicle you’re looking to purchase
  • Credit references

But if you hit a snag, reach out to the lender to explain your situation and hope for the best. They may be willing to give your application a second look and issue the stamp of approval.

Make Timely Payments

Payment history accounts for 35 percent of your FICO score, so you can’t afford to fall behind on payments if you want to avoid doing further damage to your credit score.

But if life happens and you get in a financial bind, reach out to the lender sooner than later to make payment arrangements or inquire about a financial hardship payment plan that will protect your score.

Consider Refinancing the Loan

Filing for bankruptcy doesn’t mean you have to settle for an astronomical interest rate for the duration of the loan. By managing the loan and staying current on other debt obligations, your score will start to climb. At this point, it may be wise to look into refinancing the loan for a lower interest rate.

Bottom Line

It’s possible to finance a car soon after bankruptcy. But you may have to jump through a few hoops to qualify for a loan with decent terms that doesn’t break the bank.

And if you aren’t successful when applying the first time around, don’t throw in the towel. Return to the drawing board to see what other lenders may have to offer you or take steps to improve your credit rating.