Most employers consider reliable transportation a must-have unless you live where public transit is readily available. Because having a car might make you a more desirable employee, you might try to get an auto loan while unemployed. While it is possible, a lender probably won't consider unemployment benefits as part of your income. You'll need evidence that proves you can repay the loan.
Auto lenders review your income because they want to make sure you can make the payments. While you get unemployment benefits on a weekly basis, lenders won't consider them as income because they're temporary. While benefits vary by state, some are available for only 26 weeks at most and a loan would probably require payments past that time span. You don't need have traditional income to qualify for an auto loan, though. Other types of government assistance, including social security and disability, qualify as income because they're not temporary. Bring proof of your benefit amounts when you apply. If you're selling items online, collecting scrap metal or baby-sitting to get through unemployment, a lender may consider these as valid sources of income.
It might be easier to get a car loan if you're unemployed but have a high credit score. An excellent credit score is generally between 740 and 850, while an average credit score usually falls between 600 and 739. Another advantage of a good credit score is a low interest rate. If your score is in the 700s, your interest rate might be around 8 percent, as opposed to more than twice that if your score is very low. That means having a high credit score could help make payments more manageable.
Down Payment Blues
Scraping up enough money to make a significant down payment can be tough while unemployed. Still, plunking down between 10 percent and 20 percent of the purchase price shows responsibility and your intention to repay the loan. A down payment also means you'll borrow less, so your payments will be lower. If you don't have cash but you do have an older car, you might be able to trade it in as part of the deal. If your old car isn't in the best shape, you might do better to sell it yourself and use the proceeds as a down payment.
If you can't find a lender who will give you a loan while you're on unemployment, you might be approved with a co-signer. If you're married and your spouse's income is high enough, just fill out a joint application. While you're more likely to get approved, remember that your spouse's name will be on the title alongside yours. Ask the dealer to list your name first so it's clear you own the car. If you're not married but have a friend or family member with a high and steady income, she could co-sign for your loan. As a co-signer she's responsible for your payments if you default, so be sure to ask nicely.
- Auto Loan Daily: Income Verification -- Why You Need to Prove Your Pay to the Auto Loan Lender
- Chicago Tribune: A Primer on Collecting Unemployment Benefits
- Cars Direct: What is a Good Car Loan Credit Score?
- Cars Direct: Basic Car Loan Requirements
- Edmunds: Trading In Your Used Car
- Scrap Car HQ: Steps to Take to Scrap a Car and Maximize Profit
Miranda Morley is an educator, business consultant and owner of a copywriting/social-media management company. Her work has been featured in the "Boston Literary Magazine," "Subversify Magazine" and "American Builder's Quarterly." Morley has a B.A. in English, political science and international relations. She is completing her M.A. in rhetoric and composition from Purdue University Calumet.