If you’re thinking about buying a car, it’s important to consider how the purchase will fit into your overall financial responsibilities, including student debt. You’ll want to be sure you can afford both the cost of the car and the ongoing expense of driving and maintaining it.
Refinancing student loans to buy a car is one option that may allow you to free up money to put toward the cost of a car or monthly car payments. Here’s what to know about refinancing student loans to buy a car, if you can use student loans to buy a car, and how to make the choice that’s right for you.
Can I Use Student Loans to Buy a Car?
Federal student loans (and many private ones) are for “qualified” educational expenses, such as tuition, room and board, and books and supplies. And while the cost of transportation (for example, commuting to school) is considered a qualified expense, purchasing a car is not.
So can you use student loans to buy a car if you’re using the car to drive to class? No – only an allowance for the cost of driving the car to school would be an eligible expense. It’s an important distinction: A borrower caught misusing student loan funds can face serious repercussions, including having their loan revoked and the balance becoming immediately due.
Some private loans may have broader criteria for what constitutes an educational expense, and fewer penalties for how you use the loans. Still, using a private student loan to buy a car may not be the most efficient or smartest use of funds. You may end up paying more interest than you would on a typical car loan, and then have fewer funds to go toward the educational expenses you need.
So what do you do if you have student debt and need to buy a car? Refinancing may be an option, and can free up money in your budget to open a car loan. Here’s what to consider before refinancing student loans to buy a car.
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Refinancing Student Loans to Buy a Car
When you refinance a student loan, you pay off all or some of your loans with a new loan with new terms from a private lender. The primary benefit of refinancing is that you can save money over the life of the loan if you’re able to lower your interest rate.
You can also change the terms of your payment, potentially spreading your payment over a longer period of time, and paying less each month. If you go this route, however, you may end up paying more in interest over the life of your loan.
Refinancing student loans can help lower your monthly payments and have more room in your budget to cover the costs of a car. However, it’s important to understand that if you refinance federal student loans, you’ll lose access to federal benefits and protections, such as income-driven repayment plans and forgiveness. If you’re planning to take advantage of any of these federal programs, refinancing is likely not a good option for you.
Pros of Refinancing Student Loans to Buy a Car
Considering the pros and cons of refinancing student loans to buy a car can help you decide if this choice is right for you. You’ll want to be able to cover the costs of the car as you continue to pay your student loans back. Some of the pros of refinancing a student loan to buy a car include:
Lower Monthly Student Loan Payments Can Offset Car Costs
Refinancing your student loans can lower your monthly student loan payment if you’re able to secure a lower interest rate or extend your loan term. A lower monthly student loan payment can mean that you have more funds to cover the costs of buying or maintaining a new car.
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As mentioned, lowering your interest rate can save you money over the life of a loan. Extending your loan term may not save you money, but it can free up cash to have more funds to put toward the costs of a car.
Simplified Payments Can Make Tracking Car Expenses Easier
When you refinance multiple loans into a single new loan, you’ll have one new monthly payment. This can make it easier to keep track of your student loan payments and be sure you’re making them on time.
And if you’re looking for ways to get a car loan, having a simplified student loan payment can make budgeting easier as you add a new loan to the mix. As mentioned earlier, you may find lower interest rates on car loans than what you’re paying on your student loans — another reason using student loans funds toward car expenses may not be the best choice even if they’re allowed according to your loan terms.
Saving Money on Student Loans Can Help Pay for a Car
Many people explore refinancing even when they don’t need to make an immediate purchase like a car. That’s because refinancing may help save money over the life of the loan if you can lower your interest rate.
And while applying for student loans can be arduous, applying to refinance student loans is relatively straightforward. You can check your rate and get an estimate of loan terms before you officially apply, and an application can generally be completed online. You can also compare refinancing rates without triggering a hard credit check—a credit check is only done once a formal loan application is submitted.
Cons of Refinancing Student Loans to Buy a Car
While refinancing student loans to buy a car can be one way to cover car payments when you have existing student debt, there are cons to this option as well. Here are some of the cons of refinancing a student loan to buy a car.
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Losing Access to Original Loan Terms
If you refinance your loans, you lose access to the terms of the original loan. This may be important to consider if you’re refinancing federal loans.
Refinancing federal loans not only means potentially missing out on federal forgiveness or repayment programs, but also the opportunity for deferment or forbearance if you qualify.
As mentioned earlier, if you plan to take advantage of federal programs, refinancing is likely not a good option for you. Some people may choose only to refinance private loans.
Repayment May Take Longer
If you extend the length of your student loan term when you refinance to lower your monthly payments to offset the costs of a new car, it will take longer to repay your loan and you may end up paying more in interest over the life of the loan.
Overstretching Your Budget
It’s important to make sure that you can afford any car loan that you take out. If you’re planning on getting a car loan or leasing a car, will you be able to comfortably cover your student loans, the car payment, and other bills? What would happen if you were to lose a job or source of income? Those questions can help you assess whether a car payment would stretch you financially.
A borrower who can’t make the payments risks having the car repossessed and damaging their credit. If you ever think you’ll miss a monthly car payment, reach out to your lender to find out what your options are. Down the road, refinancing your car loan is also an option if you’re able to secure better terms.
|Pros of refinancing student loans to buy a car||Cons of refinancing student loans to buy a car|
|Lower monthly student loan payments can offset car costs||Losing access to federal benefits and protections if you refinance federal loans|
|Simplified payments can make tracking car expenses easier||Longer repayment time if you extend your term|
|Saving money on student loans can help pay for a car||Overstretching your budget if you’re not able to afford the costs of a new car|
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Refinancing Your Student Loans With SoFi
When you need a new car, you may need to rethink your finances in order to cover the costs. Refinancing student loans to buy a car is one option that can help you free up funds. You may be able to lower your monthly payments and save money over the life of the loan if you qualify for a lower interest rate. You can calculate your potential savings using a student loan refinance calculator.
Refinancing can be a good option if you’re able to qualify for a lower interest rate and are not planning to use any federal programs. When you refinance a federal loan, you lose access to federal benefits and protections.
If you’re considering refinancing your student loans, SoFi offers flexible terms, competitive rates, and no fees.
Learn more about whether refinancing student loans with SoFi is right for you.
Do car dealerships look at student loans?
Your student loans appear on your credit report. If you apply for a car loan from a dealership, then they may be able to see your payment history and your credit score on your credit report. Student loans also count toward your debt-to-income ratio which may affect your ability to secure a car loan.
Does financing a car affect student loans?
Financing a car won’t affect your current student loans, but consider how taking on another loan will impact your finances. It’s important to be certain that you’ll be able to pay both your student loan payments and any new car loan payments on time. Refinancing a student loan can help offset the costs of a new car if you can save money by qualifying for a lower interest rate. It can be a good option if you’re refinancing private loans or not planning to take advantage of any federal programs.
Is it smart to buy a car after college?
Buying a car after college is a personal decision. But keep in mind that a lot can change in a few years, and a new car or a lease may be a liability if your plans change. It may make sense to consider buying a used car or holding off on buying a car until you have a sense of what your commute and lifestyle will look like.
Photo credit: iStock/LeoPatrizi
SoFi Student Loan Refinance
If you are a federal student loan borrower, you should consider all of your repayment opportunities including the opportunity to refinance your student loan debt at a lower APR or to extend your term to achieve a lower monthly payment. Please note that once you refinance federal student loans you will no longer be eligible for current or future flexible payment options available to federal loan borrowers, including but not limited to income-based repayment plans or extended repayment plans.
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