Can You Pay Off a Car Loan Early?

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Paying off a loan early can reduce your overall interest payments, but depending on the terms of your loan, you could face prepayment penalties.
If you have a lump sum of cash, paying off your car loan in full can look appealing. But auto lenders tend to make it difficult to make principal-only payments because it’s not profitable for them—the interest is where they make their money!
There’s a lot to consider before you move forward. That’s why car insurance comparison shopping app Jerry has compiled everything you need to know about paying off car loans early.
And not only that, Jerry can help you refinance your auto loan. This intelligent, AI-based app is the fastest, most accurate way to comparison shop for loan options—and you won’t have to spend time making calls. (And bonus—finding and comparing quotes is totally free!)

How car loan interest is calculated

To understand why you might want to pay off your loan early (and why lenders don’t want you to!), you need to understand a bit about interest. There are two main types:
  • Simple interest is charged only on the principal balance of your loan.
  • Compound interest accumulates based on the principal amount plus whatever interest you have accrued (essentially, interest is charged on your interest).
There’s also something called precomputed interest. This is when a lender does the interest calculation at the time you take out the loan. You can pay off the loan early or make extra payments, but the amount of interest is set in stone and will not change.
Interest is calculated as a percentage of your full loan amount. It’s normally called an APR, or annual percentage rate.

Benefits of paying off your car loan early

There are a few great benefits of getting that loan paid early.

Save on interest

If your loan has simple interest or compound interest, paying off your loan early means you could benefit from paying less overall interest. A shorter pay-back period allows less time for interest to accumulate—which means more money in your wallet.
A 5-year, $20,000 loan at a 5% APR would normally cost you $2,645 in interest by the end of the loan term. But paying it off just a year early would save you more than $500 in interest charges! For larger loans and longer terms, the savings could run into the thousands.

Free up money for other expenses

While paying off your loan obviously requires a lump sum of money upfront, it frees up funds in the long term that you can use for other expenses. Once your loan is paid off, you can start applying that monthly payment amount to a mortgage, a vacation, paying off a debt, or beefing up your savings account.

Avoid ending your loan upside down

With long-term loans, there’s a possibility you could accumulate so much interest that you end up owing more than the car is worth. This is called being "upside down." Paying off your loan early allows you to avoid this situation.
Key Takeaway Paying off your car loan early can result in serious interest savings and free up money for you to save or put towards other expenses.

Things to consider before paying off your car loan early

In some cases, it might not make financial sense to pay off your loan early. Here’s when you might consider keeping those monthly payments.

Precomputed interest

If your contract includes precomputed interest, an early payoff won’t save you any money because the interest is built into your payments. You may even get hit with prepayment penalties if your loan agreement includes a fee for early payoff.

Your financial situation

You’ll also want to consider your overall financial situation. If you have another debt with a higher interest rate, it may make more sense to pay that off first. Credit cards, for example, tend to have far higher APRs than car loans. In the long run, this strategy will save you more money on accrued interest.

Credit score

If you’re concerned about your credit score, maintaining an open line of credit and making regular payments over time can have a better impact on your credit score than a quick and full payoff. Consider keeping your loan open if you want to slowly and securely build your credit history.
Key Takeaway If you’re considering paying off your car loan in full, review your budget and the loan terms to see whether it makes good financial sense.

How to pay off your car loan early

If paying off your loan early makes sense, start by contacting the lender to discuss your plan. You have two options:
  • A lump-sum payment
  • Increasing your payments to more than the minimum payment amount to shorten payoff time
But be careful! Make sure you tell the lender to apply your payments to the principal amount, as this is the only technique to actually reduce your payoff time.
If your current lender will not accept principal-only payments or if you want to reduce your loan term or get a better APR, refinancing might also be an option.
And if you want to keep the savings coming, look at your insurance next. Perhaps you’re not getting quite as good a deal as you initially thought! Comparing insurance quotes can find you something cheaper.
That’s where Jerry comes in. As a licensed online broker, Jerry does all the hard work of finding the cheapest quotes from top insurance companies and setting up your new car insurance policy. Jerry will even cancel your old policy for you.
And to ensure you always have the lowest rate, Jerry will send you new quotes every time your policy comes up for renewal—so you’re always getting the coverage you want at the best price. No wonder people are loving it!

Jerry’s car loan comparison tool

You deserve a loan package that works for your budget and the confidence that you’re getting the best deal on your auto loan refinance.
Jerry also happens to be the one way to get both. This intelligent, AI-based app is the fastest, most accurate way to comparison shop for loan options—and you won’t have to spend loads of time making calls. (And bonus—comparison shopping is free!)
Jerry does all the digital research for you. No uncomfortable phone calls, no emails, just savings and an awesome new rate on your auto loan!
"Jerry is beyond easy to use. They actually found me a rate $100 lower than I was previously paying. Plus they don’t sell your info, so I’ve gotten no annoying calls from other companies." —Satisfied Jerry customer

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