Why Car Dealers Don’t Care About Your Online Credit Score

Have you ever applied for a car loan, either on your own and through a dealer, and your credit score came out different than what Credit Karma, or your credit card (Capital One, Chase, etc.), told you? The truth is, the dealers don’t really care about the score that you can readily show them on your phone because it’s not the same thing as the score they will pull when they run your credit because they operate on different credit scoring models. Here is a closer explanation of what we mean.

Credit Karma operates using the VantageScore system

For those not in the know, your credit score is dependent on three different credit bureaus: TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax. And while it’s imperative to know your credit score from all three of them, sites like Credit Karma only show you scores from two of them, mainly TransUnion and Equifax. Why? Because Experian wants you to pay to see your score from and it’s typically lower than the other two. If you just want to check your credit from time to time and get an idea of what it is, then checking Credit Karma is a good way to do it.

According to Investopedia, Credit Karma uses the VantageScore system because it’s accurate, however, it is very general. The Credit Karma website details what factors the VantageScore system accounts for when looking at your credit. These factors include:

  • Your payment history
  • The length of your credit history
  • What credit lines you have (credit cards, loans, mortgages, etc.)
  • Your credit limits
  • How much debt you have
  • How many hard inquires you have

These factors represent a general outlook of your current credit situation, but the model that the dealerships and bank lenders go by when you apply for an auto loan is a little different.

RELATED: Getting A Good Auto Loan is Possible Even with Low Credit

car sales
ELK GROVE VILLAGE, IL – JUNE 2: Jim Fraser looks at the sticker price of a new Chevrolet in the showroom of Hoskins Chevrolet June 2, 2003 in Elk Grove Village, Illinois. Auto dealers are looking to increase sales with incentives for car buyers to try and help disappointing sales in May. (Photo by Tim Boyle/Getty Images)

Auto lenders most commonly use the FICO Score 8 system

When you submit your credit information to a dealership or directly to a lender to apply for an auto loan, the information they pull from the credit bureaus is typically under the FICO Score 8 scoring model. The FICO Score 8 model follows a lot of same credit-granting guideline as other models, like the VantageScore system, but it’s more “sensitive” to certain aspects of your credit such as:

  • High credit card usage: If you high balances on your credit cards
  • Isolated late payments: If you were at least 30 days late with any of your payments
  • Amounts owed on your credit lines
  • Payment history
  • Credit mix: The FICO Score also looks at your balance between credit cards, auto loans, mortgages, etc.
  • New credit inquiries: Although new credit inquiries don’t weigh heavily on your FICO score, they are taken into account.

While the differences between the FICO Score 8 and the other systems like the VantageScore might seem minimal, auto lenders have historically used the FICO Score model 8 for loan approvals, so that one would be better for you to keep in mind.

RELATED: Can I Get a Car Loan With No Credit?

man shaking hand with woman customer
Salesperson showing vehicle to potential customer in dealership; Shutterstock ID 447213895; Purchase Order: –

Why dealers don’t care about your online credit score

Ultimately, the next time you’re at a dealership and you happen to flash them your Credit Karma score after they pull your credit, don’t be surprised if they don’t bat an eye at it. The scoring models are different and the score that they pull is more in line with what the actual lenders are looking at in order to prove that you’re creditworthy enough to lend a large sum of money to.