Pay Off Your Car Loan Faster With These 5 Hacks

Buying a car, whether it’s new or used, is an exciting affair. However, if you’re like most Americans, then you probably bought your last car, or plan to buy your next car, with the assistance of an auto loan. And while buying a car is indeed exciting, having to pay off that loan is not.

Considering America is at an all-time high when it comes to monthly auto loan payments, it’s important to stay on top of the loan that you took out and pay it back on time. But if you would rather stay ahead of schedule, here five simple hacks to pay your car loan off faster.

Make extra “principal only” payments

When you first bought your car and applied for the auto loan, you probably already had an idea of how much of a monthly payment you could comfortably afford. And while that payment might sound like it’s set in stone (at least in your mind), it’s not. In fact, most simple-interest loans aren’t subject to a pre-payment penalty, which means that you can pay off the loan faster than the allotted loan term without getting charged.

In that case, one idea is to make extra “principal only” payments in order to pay down the loan quicker and reducing the amount of interest that it will accrue over time. Normally, your monthly loan payment covers the principal (loan amount) and the interest accrual, but making a “principal” payment means that you will just be paying toward the loan amount.  

You may need to check with your lender to see if you can pay extra toward the principal, but doing so every month (even just a little bit) will go a long way in paying your debt quicker.

A potential customer browses cars at a car dealership
A customer at a car dealership during the COVID-19 pandemic | Kirill KukhmarTASS via Getty Images

Use your bonus and stimulus checks toward your loan amount

Do you get an extra holiday bonus from your employer every year? Or are you not sure what to do with that extra stimulus check? Here’s an idea: use that extra money toward paying down your auto loan. Sure, it’s not nearly as fun or exciting as spending that extra money on a TV or something else that you “deserve,” but the extra $1,000 or two will easily take a few months, or maybe even a year off your auto loan term.

Round your payments up to the nearest $50

In case you don’t want to throw that much money at your seemingly never-ending auto loan, you can at least chip away at it. Lending Tree suggests rounding up your monthly payment to the nearest $50, which means that if you’re currently paying $209 a month, pay $250 instead. Doing so will compound over time and can shorten your loan length by months or even over a year.

Nissan Rogue SUVs on display at a dealership
Nissan Rogues for sale at a dealership | Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images

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Make bi-weekly payments

As we can see, it’s the little tricks to paying off your auto loan quicker that count the most. As such, Lending Tree also advises that splitting your monthly loan payment into two bi-weekly payments could be advantageous.

The logic behind this method is that the first payment will pay more toward the principal of the loan, while the second payment will pay toward the principal and the interest. By paying the loan this way, you’ll be making 13 monthly payments over a 12-month span, which will effectively reduce the overall interest tacked onto the loan in addition to paying the loan off quicker.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV 2020 Jeep Gladiator pickup trucks are displayed at a car dealership
The Jeep Gladiator | Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images

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Refinance your auto loan

If your loan currently has a high-interest rate, then it could be a good idea to refinance your auto loan. This hack mainly works if your current credit score is higher than it was when you first applied for the loan as that will give you better odds of getting a lower interest rate and reducing your monthly payment in the process. By doing so, you’ll be able to pay off your loan quicker since you’ll likely be able to afford to pay more every month.