Is an Auto Loan Credit Score Different from Other Credit Scores?

What is an Auto Loan Credit Score?

An auto loan credit score is the number that potential lenders would look at to help determine your credit worthiness, the higher the better in this case. It would also determine your interest rate on the loan for the vehicle you are seeking.

Your score is based on the contents of your credit report, which is why the two go hand-in-hand. A mathematical equation is applied to various aspects of your credit report, and a 3 digit number is then formulated to “score” your overall credit rating.

Is it the same a regular credit score?

Generally, yes, it’s the exact same thing. Potential lenders will usually pull your credit report along with your FICO score. The end result of your score can differ slightly depending on which bureau your lender obtained your credit report from. (, or ), but all 3 should be roughly the same, so lenders will normally just pull your credit report and score from one of the credit reporting angencies, and move forward based on that information.

From my experience, auto lenders normally pull my with my FICO score to determine the risk of lending to me. My FICO score is generally above 780 (which is an excellent credit score) so they are able to offer me their best interest rate on the loan.

If your score is in the 725 range, this will usually put you in the same “excellent” category as a score of 780. In most cases, a score of 700-725 would be considered “good”. However, if your score is below 700, you may not be approved for the best interest rates your lender has to offer, and you should probably work on increasing your credit score before obtaining a loan.

Pull your own Credit Report & Score

It’s always a very good idea to view your credit report and score before applying for an auto loan, or any other kind of loan for that matter. That way you can check for errors on your report, know first hand what your credit score is, and eliminate any surprises when you’re actually in the process of applying for the loan.

Did you know that you can access your own credit report and score without damaging your credit, and it won’t lower your credit score no matter how many times you do it? strong>Did you know that you can also get your credit report and credit score for free? Here’s how.


  1. Kali

    Dear Admin,
    I have been reading through your Q&A’s for the past hour. I’m due to get my tax refund in the next week! I’m a single mother of 4 children, and am in desperate need of a new car. (Or new used car😉)
    My score from Equifax is 542, I have been very reckless with my credit. Now that I’m a single mother, I’m starting to actually care. Should have done that from the beginning, I know! But, it is what it is! I have a few questions…
    1) Do you even think I would get approved for a auto loan by myself? I’ll have $3,000-3,500 to put down. A
    2) Do you have any advice on how I can try to get my credit back up?!? I’ve tried applying for CC’s, I’ve just been denied! I don’t know what else to do! I’m desperate! Any advice or personal experience is welcomed! Thanks!!

    1. Post author

      Hi Kali,

      I am glad to hear you have decided to improve your credit. It can be a wonderful thing if used correctly! As for your questions, i will do my best to answer them here:

      1. With a credit score of 542 I think it’s unlikely that you will get approved for an auto loan. There are ways to obtain a loan with a poor credit score, but most likely you will be paying extremely high interest if you are able to get approved for a loan. The good thing is you will have a down payment. Try a couple dealerships or maybe even a local credit union first, see if they can help you out. I’m just afraid you will be paying 25% interest if you are approved! Be careful. I would have to suggest maybe buying a good used car with cash until you can improve your credit score to at least 650.

      2. If I were you, other than paying all your bills on time and making sure you pay down your credit card balances (if any) to below 25% of your total credit line… I would get a secured credit card to help improve your credit. This is a card which you will put down the money up front, and you can use it sort of like a debit card. Be sure to choose one that reports to the credit bureaus so you can reap the benefit of the good payment history!

      Start there and make sure you have a good credit monitoring service to see how your score changes over time. It may take a year or two to build up your credit, but it will be worth it. Good luck!

  2. Nikki

    I bought a Toyota 3 years ago and have never been late in a payment. Same with my home. Unfortunately three months after buying both I was laid off, and ended up with major medical problems. My car was extremely expensive and I am wanting to trade it in on something with a much cheaper payment. My score is almost 600 because of all the medical on the credit cards. Trade in value on my car is estimates at 25,000. I owe 13,000. How much consideration on the interest rate will be taken for the positive trade in value and the payment history in trading for a elentra?

    1. Jake Post author

      Nikki, Generally from my experience, your trade-in/down payment makes no difference on your interest rate. It’s possible that some lenders might factor that in – but I’ve bought over 10 cars in my life (some new, most used – all from dealers) and none of the loans I obtained for those cars considered your money down when determining your interest rate. They will typically look to your credit score for that. However, considering you have a credit score of only 600, you may have some trouble obtaining a loan. If you are able to get one, most likely your interest rate will be sky high. I do wish you good luck though, and if you think about it, come back and let us know how everything turned out!

  3. Anthony MacNeil

    The credit score is BS. I have a 557 from Equifax and I have no bad stuff just need to open more credit to raise it. I was told in November by a bank to open a new CC and come back in 3 or 4 months and they’d do something for me. This was a $44,000 auto loan. Credit scores are BS and good ppl will get approved with a low score like myself at a 4.99%.

  4. mrjester

    Whoever said reaffirming a car loan in a bankruptcy is a horrible thing, everyone differs but I disagree. I filed bankruptcy and reaffirmed my loan, and every payment I made on that loan before and after continued to be reported. As a matter of fact 3 months after it was discharged I was qualified for a 24,000 dollar 0 down payment loan at a chevy dealership, while still having payments left to make on the other vehicle. The trick is that you need to have it in your reaffirmation agreement with your lender that they will continue to report all the payments you made/make. Your lender will be happy to do that, as long as you ask. If you don’t ask, they more then likely won’t. For those of you Having trouble qualifying for an autoloan, Capital One is fairly good about non perfect credit. You can get prequalified and go into the dealership and tell them to shove the tic tac toe sheet right up their rears because you already have financing. No, you won’t get an incredible interest rate, but your credit is not incredible. Expect an interest rate of 12-16% if your score is anywhere near 600.

  5. Suzi McMullen

    I sold used cars. I hated it. BUT, just know this. The dealer only gets a kick back for getting a higher interest rate out of you if you pay the entire loan off with that lender. If you instead, pay on time for 6 months, then go to a re-financing company and refinance, the car dealership will not get a kick back and you will likely get at least a point or two lower. Just pay a little extra every month on the loan or put some money aside to make another chunk payment when you re-finance. But the idea is not to let the loan stay in one spot so the car dealer doesn’t get rewarded for their shady doings.

  6. Robert

    My son is student, 21 years old. He is still on college. Recently, we help him to buy older car. We could pay it in cash, however I insisted on half down and half car loan to start build him a credit history. We were able to secure him a car loan for little over $5,000 without co-singing. It is on his name only and his first credit on file.

    How long we should pay the monthly payments for him to establish credit with the CRA’s? Dealer is recommending at least 1 year, before paying off the loan. Do you really need 12 monthly payments to start build credit, or is the dealer playing for the financing company?

    Simple Interest loan of $5,691.50 for 24 monts with interest of 21.58%. (Interest cost is $3.35581 DAILY).

    1. admin Post author

      Robert, I know that seems very expensive to pay on for a whole year, but I think what the car dealer told you is correct. At least one year of on-time payment history on an auto loan can work wonders for your credit!

  7. Inky

    My FICO is in the mid-500’s to mid-600’s depending on the credit bureau. My credit rating has suffered due to credit card charge-off’s resulting from a divorce. I have kept a perfect credit history for auto loans.

    It’s about time to get a new car so how should my rating differ for my standard FICO versus the FICO Auto Industry Option Score? How can I get this number?

    1. admin Post author

      Inky, as far as I know there’s really no way to purchase your auto industry score yourself. The only way I am aware of is to go to the dealership and apply for credit there, they are required to show you the score they see. In your case your auto specific score might be better than your regular score, but it is very tough to say what it might be. Your charge offs will almost surely bring down both scores significantly. Your credit history on past auto loans will weigh heavier on your auto industry score, but it’s still not the only thing that determines your score in either case. Hope this helps. If you get a chance I would love to hear back from you if/when you find out. Good luck!

  8. Sharon

    Just found what the auto dealer score is officially called: FICO Auto Industry Option Score. So no doubt it will be different from the any of the scores you pull yourself. Doesn’t matter which credit bureau you use.

  9. Sharon

    You should call a couple of car dealers and ask them about it. They have different options when they pull credit reports/scores and it’s not available to the public. Different industries (mortgage, insurance, medical, auto, etc.) buy a different product from FICO and can filter results based on what they’re specifically looking for. We get the standard reports/scores without any filters; car dealers get custom reports. So all these folks who say the dealer had an Experian report/score that differed from the Experian report/score they just pulled… they’re not crazy or stupid or confused or looking at something the wrong way. There are two very different reports.

  10. Confused about Credit Scoring Systems


    I am so relieved that I have the same issues going on right now as we speak. Is there a difference between the scoring system for auto loans vs. mortgage loans? I had just ordered my creditreport(3in1) in order to inquire about a mortgage loan and my equifax MID beacon score was 648. A month later, I had went into my credit union in order to obtain a approval for an auto refinance and the loan officer showed me a credit score of 616. I was so confused because I have not applied for any loans or credit cards in over years so I could not understand the difference. When I showed the loan officer my score that I received which was a 687 he said that the difference was that beacon used a different scoring version than now. In other words, when I pulled my credit the version that was used was the beacon 5.0 and what the credit union used was the later version named beacon 09. As per the loan officer words, beacon uses a different scoring system to calculate new credits scores than previously used. Then I speak with a real estate agent and she tells me the loan officers used a different scoring system for mortgages and different scoring system for auto loans. Can this be true?

    Thank you for your help

    1. admin Post author

      Hello, unfortunately it’s not as simple as having just one credit score. You actually have many different credit scores depending on what you’re applying for, and even which credit bureau’s report they are basing the credit score on. The auto loan industry has one score, usually referred to as your “beacon” at the car dealer. Mortgage companies typically have a slightly different version of that. Credit card companies often times have yet another version. All are intended to best determine your risk as a borrower, so it would make sense that there’s a different version for each industry to get an even better picture of the probability that you will repay said loan/credit. Some people may have a higher “beacon” (auto lenders version) than other versions of their credit score if for instance, they have a long history of on time payments on auto loans, but maybe not much history of anything else such as mortgage, credit cards, etc.

      Also your score will almost certainly change over time even if you have not applied for any loans in many years, or even if you have not had any current loans, credit cards, mortgages etc. on your report for several years. That is because part of what determines your score is your “credit age”, or how long ago you first established your credit. So even if you have not made a payment on any credit account in, lets say, 10 years… your score will most likely still change during that time. Also the scoring system will change as well over time, as you mentioned.

      The score you will receive from the different sources, even if it is your FICO score (the one most lenders use, even if they do have a different version of it), still may not be the exact number your lender will see. But we take what we can get! There was a time not too long ago when we didn’t have access to our scores at all, which pretty much left us in the dark about our credit. These days though, in my experience the scores we receive as consumers are typically pretty close to what the lenders will see, but sometimes there can also be a big gap there especially if you have a relatively short credit history.

      Hope this helps, I know it can be very confusing!

    2. bobby

      Confused, what happened to you is the same thing that happened to me. that being said, you experienced the dealer ship getting your auto beacon score which is a bit different from your fico score. your auto beacon score can be influenced by late automobile payments only, reposession, if you have never had an automobile financed before or no activity reported for long periods of time. I am sorry but i do-not know of any way you can pull your auto beacon score.the car dealership can get this score. this is the reason for the differences in your fico score that you pulled and what the dealership was given by the lending institution. Hope this answered your question

  11. TheAxxe

    I Just sat with a local auto Lender in El Centro, CA (Hyundai) and they spent a looong time trying to tell me that auto lenders use a “Different” Credit Score (available only to them apparently) to evaluate credit. My Fico score is currently at 646 (filed banckruptcy 2 years ago)but insisted on the “Auto Lending Scoring System) that my scores were in the 580 range! I called “BS” and they eventually found my Transunion score of 651.. They still didnt budge on an insulting interest rate though.. No new car today!

    1. admin Post author

      Yes, unfortunately it’s not BS at all but just lenders way to best determine their risk in lending to you for a specific big ticket item, in this case, a car. The number you see when you check your own credit score is not necessarily the number your potential lender will see. In many cases those numbers will be very similar, but in some cases like yours, it can vary drastically! Sorry to hear you weren’t approved for a low interest rate, keep paying those bills on time, keep your CC balances low and your score will rise!

  12. KJ

    I normally never post on these things but Ruth’s experience really resonated with me she and I has almost exactly the same experience.
    I am well aware that my scorce needs improving however my car was recently totaled forcing me back into the car buying market before I was ready.
    I did what all the experts say to do I checked my credit b/4 leaving the house.Said 646 not great but I was assured that with a down payment I should be fine. I applied for a 19,000 car and was turned down! Said my auto loan score was 478! Over 160 points difference!!! What kind of system is this? We are being raked over the coals! I paid off two cars last year be on my job for seven years before this i had not applied for new creidt in over fours years! Doesnt that count for anything at all! THIS SYSTEM NEED TO BE RESTRUCTURED!!

  13. Jane

    This whole scoring thing is crazy. I pay a company 14.95 a month to keep up with my credit and score. I recently filed bankruptcy so I don’t expect my score to be high. I am trying to buy a new car (despite never missing payments on current car this payment history disappeared with bankruptcy filing despite the fact that I reaffirmed the car – FYI, never ever reaffirm your vehicle even if you want to keep the car – it hurts you in the end) and checked my scored. I go to the auto dealer (claims special financing for discharged bankruptcies – lies) and was told my Equifax score was in the low 500’s. Makes no sense because the score I saw was in the 600’s. Then I went to another dealer that I had been working with all along who said the inquiries from the other dealer had probably caused my score to drop like 40 points. I just checked my scores today and they are exactly the same they were before I went to the dealers. I really don’t understand the whole credit score anymore and truly believe it is just a scam. Depending on which dealer you go to and who you deal with. One place will say you need more income, another says your score is bad, and yet everybody is advertising these “specials” and consumers can’t even get a true score.

  14. navitavi

    I just pulled by FICO score with the free trial. Along with that trial, you get a scenerio calculator that will tell you what happens to your score if you take certain actions.

    I put in there for it to calculate what will happen to my score if I have someone pully my credit for an auto loan. My score estimator dropped by score by like 40 points.

    So, what I get from that, and this conversation on this board is, it might be possible that once the auto lender pulls the score, it drops 40 to 90 points (depending) and that dropped number is what the lender sees.

    I don’t think that’s fair. I think if your score dings cause they pulled on it, then it should show them the high score, but then drop for the next creditor who pulls it. Know what I mean? I think it’s unfair that a lender can pull your credit to check how good it is, but his action in doing so will make your credit worse before he even looks at it!

    Go get the free trial from and try it. You’ll see it drop the moment you type in there that you want to pulls for a car loan. I think the software is cal future fico estimator or something like that.

    1. admin Post author

      Navitavi, the amount your score drops due to a credit check such as one from an auto lender, will vary from person to person based on many other factors. However, it drops AFTER your credit is checked, which means the next time your credit is accessed by a lender is when you will see the ding. But it sounds much worse than it generally is for the average person. Even though it does hurt your score to have a hard inquiry performed, which is what you’re talking about, a few within a couple weeks is expected when searching for a loan. So although it may drop 10pts for the first hard pull, the second and third will not affect it as much if for instance you are shopping different lenders for the best rates. The scoring algorithms can usually recognize what’s going on in a case like this and adjust accordingly.

  15. Ruth

    I went for a car loan when I found my credit score via experian, transunion & equifax were 625,629 & 619. When I got to the dealer, I told his what I saw that day & they assured me they can help. All my car loans are excellent. Medical debts is killing my scores.

    When they are 2 of the 3, they showed me it was 502 & 510. I GOT MAD! Told him I would sign onto the websites directly & show him what I am seeing. He advised car dealers use a different scoring just like mortgage lenders also use a different system.

    Why can consumers see what is their real score? Why so many diffent scoring systems? Just not fair. I’m trying to clean/clear things up. How am I supose to know if I am making headway with have another report ran and going against for it being ran by someone else?

    1. admin Post author

      Ruth, I know it must seem unfair that we don’t see the exact score your lender might see, but unfortunately that’s the way it works. Your dealership was right, they use slightly different algorithms for car loans, mortgages, etc. so they can specifically guage your risk as a borrower, and at the same time, THEIR risk as a lender, for specific needs. For instance an auto lender might pull a score geared specifically towards determining the likelihood of you making your auto loan payments on time. Which will probably use past auto loans as a major indicator. Same for other needs such as mortgage loans, credit cards, insurance.

      The scores we see as consumers when we check our own credit, are mostly for educational use and approximating our credit, rather than exact scores the lenders will see, as you found out.

      Was this your first attempt at obtaining an auto loan? That would explain the large discrepancies there. I think most people will probably not experience that big of a difference between the scores they can access themselves, and the one the auto lender sees. Mine usually run about the same at the lender as they do when I check them online.

  16. DM

    Same thing just happened to us! Experian says 720 credit score, but auto dealer pulls score last night and gets 623 from Experian!! Like many of you have said — how the heck can it be 100 points difference! While sitting there playing the financing game, I went online and pulled it up to show them the score we see and they said doesn’t make a differnce because dealer sees a “different score”. This is really frustrating; I later read in our financing papers that the dealer “may” receive part of the financing interest $$$. So wow is this a scam or what?!? They knock you down 100 points, jack your interest rate, then both the dealer and finance company benefit from the interest? Good luck out there everyone!

  17. mark

    I recently obtained a car loan from Wells Fargo and they said my credit score was 628 and pulled it up from Equifax. I checked it today (about 10 days later) and my score was 698 with Equifax, which was the lowest of the 3. I see that they may use a different model, but that doesn’t make since that they vary that much. It almost seems illegal. When I told them a week ago, they said if I pull my credit score and it’s different on Equifax, then to let them know and they may adjust my rate. What do you think?

    1. admin Post author

      Mark, was there a change to one of your credit accounts that hadn’t yet been reported to Equifax, which could raise your credit score? If so, I can understand why they may be kind enough to adjust your interest rate accordingly. Otherwise if there’s no pending changes such as lower credit card balances, negative item being removed etc., then my guess if you’re pretty much stuck with the rate they already gave you. They are going to use their scoring model to determine your rates and it may (and probably does) differ from the score you are seeing even though they are both based on the same Equifax credit data.

      Unfortunately there’s no “real” credit score for everyone and every situation. Most lenders do check your score using the FICO model, so if you want the most accurate one go with FICO. But it’s also true that lenders will use different variations of the FICO score geared toward determining your specific risk for an auto loan, mortgage etc.

  18. Chet

    The scores that the big three show you are not actual FICO scores. The only way that you can get those are from a lender or

    Also there is a Auto Plus FICO score that car dealerships use. This is more heavily weighted on your past auto loans. This is only something that you can get from the Auto lener. Usually they are ALOT lower than the score on the Big three web sites. And a little bit lower than your actual credit score.

  19. laura

    This just happened to me. I pulled all three scores before applying for an auto loan. Experts say know your score before you apply. Then the lender said my score was 100 points lower than what all three agencies report. The lender said it was because the agencies inflate your score so you will apply for loans and that they are not accurate to your credit worthiness.
    If that is true than how in the world can anyone really know their score. Im walking around thinking my credit is good and the lender says know its just below fair. Please explain this to me

    1. admin Post author

      Laura, I personally don’t believe what your lender told you is true. I don’t think the credit bureaus purposely inflate your credit scores so you will apply for loans. But there are some facts that can explain why your credit score was so much different than you thought it was.

      First of all, was it your FICO score that you checked? Or another credit score? That could be one possible reason, different scoring models use different algorithms and different ranges. FICO has a range of 300-850. Vantage score on the other hand has a range of 501-990. So your scores can vary depending on which scoring model was used to determine the score.

      The second thing that comes to mind is your score can also vary at each credit bureau, since not all creditors report to all 3 credit bureaus. Some only report to one or two, which can make a difference on your credit score.

      Another likely reason for the difference is lenders usually obtain a score specifically targeted at what sort of credit/loan you are applying for. For instance the lender you mentioned might have been checking a score designed to show your risk as a borrower specifically for repaying an auto loan, as compared to a general score, which is what consumers will probably see when they check their own credit score. Because of this, there is no “real” or “true” credit score, since it’s not just one number over all credit scoring models and credit bureaus.

      These are probably the 3 most likely reason for the discrepancy, and it could also be a combination of all 3.

      Here’s what I like to do before I apply for an auto loan when I’m unsure if my credit score is high enough: Check your FICO score based on your Equifax credit report, from my experience it’s the closest to the score auto lenders use.

  20. Constance

    I was told my score for auto was 580 do anyone know where I can get an auto loan with no money down with my score

  21. PCC

    I went to get an auto loan and they showed my Experian credit score at 641, but I knew it was higher. I got on the browser on my phone and got an Experian report and score and it showed 705. The lender still denied me because the score they got back from Experian was 641. How can I get a score from the Experian site of 704 at the exact time the auto dealer pulls my report and Experian gave them a 641? I tried calling Experian but since it is July 4th, they are closed.

    1. admin Post author

      PCC, the reason for the discrepancy in your Experian credit score is most likely due to the credit scoring model used when checking your score. There are several different scoring models, with the most popular one being FICO. If you want to see a score closest to what your potential lenders will see, I would recommend checking your FICO score from

      I would also recommend asking what scoring model your lender is looking at to make sure. It’s most likely your FICO though.

  22. Dan Maggin

    rotobadger: a few items could cause this discrepancy.

    1) auto credit scores do differ from other credit scores (such as real estate loans).
    2) depending on the type of credit accounts you have, pulling the report at a different time of the month will cause changes
    3) perhaps in the interim from when you pulled to when she pulled, something new reported to your Experian score.

    If you have a copy of the report I would be happy to review it with you and show you how to raise your score, or why it is where it is.

    Good luck!

  23. rotobadger

    I just came across this site and wanted to add and ask a question similar to AJ. I paid to have my credit score pulled from Experian and got a 750 (excellent right?). I then applied for a auto loan from a credit union and was turned down! It was not debt to income (I make plenty). She, the loan officer, said my credit score from Experian was 667! How could I be seeing a 750 and she has a 667…from the same agency!

    Any insight would be greatly appreciated…

  24. AJ

    it was from Equifax ;still it is kinda crazy I also checked it today 650 same so that tells me something is wrong with our system I have checked all 3 and they don’t very that much a little with Trans Union, Experian Higher say what ?

  25. AJ

    I went to a Chevy Dealership today to test drive a hummer H3 I wasn’t going to buy it but he talked me into it I had checked my FICA in the morning, score 650, so he ran it on their system and it said it was 547 why is there a difference that’s over 100 points

    1. admin Post author

      AJ, my guess is you checked your credit score based on a report from a different credit bureau than your dealership did. For instance, if you checked your credit score based on your Trans Union credit report, and your dealer checked your score based on your Equifax report, your score can vary between the two (not usually by 100 points, however). There are times when some creditors will not report your payment/loan history to all 3 credit bureaus, which usually the reason for the difference. I had an auto loan from a C.U. years ago, which only reported to Trans Union and not Experian or Equifax, this resulted in an increased credit score if it was based on my Trans Union credit report.

      You will have to pull all 3 of your credit reports to find out for sure.

  26. Randy

    I just obtained an auto loan from one of the big national banks, and the paperwork said my transunion score was 666, whcih surprised me becuase I had not looked at my Transunion for about a year, but my Experian was 60+ point abouve that. So a few days later I pulled my transunion myself and it was 762. No way it changed that much in less than a week with no other major things occuring. But my friend who sold cars at a delership for years, says the banks use a diferent score from transunion than what I get. Is this true, or did the bank commit loan fraud by saying I had a lower score and giving a higher interest rate?

    1. admin Post author

      Blewis: In short, yes! If you are looking to buy a car and your wife has great credit, but you do not, then you can still fall back on her credit score to qualify you for the best interest rates. Even if you’re applying jointly for an auto loan, with you as a co-applicant, her credit could still greatly improve your chances for being approved for the best terms on the loan. As long as the payments are made on time, it would also be great for your credit to be a co-applicant.


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