What Does Refinance Your Car Mean?

by Grace McInerney ; Updated September 11, 2015

When you buy a car and borrow money to pay for it, you are financing the purchase of the car. Later down the road, you may realize that you have a poor interest rate or that your payment is too high. One way to reduce your interest and payments is to try to refinance the loan.

What Is Refinancing?

When you buy property and finance its purchase, the lender usually takes a security interest in the property. That is, the property is the collateral for the loan. If you stop making your payments, the lender can take the property to satisfy the debt. Refinancing is the process by which you can get a new lender to loan you enough money to pay off the old loan. The old lender releases the lien on the title, and the new lender takes a security interest on the property.

Reasons to Refinance a Car

Refinancing can help you obtain more favorable loan terms than you already have. For example, if you bought your car when you had bad credit and have a 19-percent interest rate but your credit has improved since the purchase, you may be able to get a new loan at a much lower interest rate. A lower interest rate means a lower payment and possibly a shorter loan term.

Negative Equity

The difference between the value of property and the amount you still owe is called equity. You might have difficulty refinancing your car if it's worth less than what you owe on it, which is called negative equity. For example, if your car's book value is $3,000 and you owe $1,700, your car has $1,300 in equity. But if you owe $5,000 on that car, you have negative equity of $2,000. A lender is more likely to take a security interest in property that's worth what it lends you, because if it has to repossess the car and sell it, it's more likely to get most of its money. Some lenders, however, will refinance car loans even if the car has negative equity, but only up to a certain percentage.

How to Refinance a Car

Many banks have vehicle refinancing loans. Shop around for the best rates you can find and make sure to speak with the bank directly about the terms of a refinance loan. Find out what your new interest, your new payments and your new term will be and decide if the refinance will actually help you. While a much lower payment may seem attractive in the short term, if the new loan would go five years longer than your current loan, it may be smarter in the long run to keep the loan you have.

About the Author

Grace McInerney began writing professionally in 2010, as a consumer bankruptcy attorney specializing in bankruptcy issues. She worked as an editor for several years prior to attending law school and now writes on various topics in business and finance, as well. McInerney holds a Bachelor of Arts in English literature and a Juris Doctor.