What does it mean to be pre-approved for a car loan?

My friend is recommending that I get pre-approved for a car loan. What does pre-approval mean here?

Answer
Pre-approval simply involves applying for a loan before you buy a car. Technically, a pre-approved auto loan is a conditional offer to lend the money to buy a car up to a certain amount. It is approved in the same way any other loan is — they check your credit, employment, income, and the amount you are considering for a down payment.
It is best to apply to several lenders for pre-approval to find the best deal for you. One good tip is to submit all your applications within 14 days. Why? Hard inquiries on your credit from lenders lower your credit score. If you submit all your loan applications within two weeks, the major credit bureaus will consider these applications to be one hard inquiry, which will lessen the negative impact on your credit score.
Being pre-approved enables you to shop while knowing exactly what your budget is. It enables you to negotiate without the worry that you may be moving beyond the point where you can swing the deal. If you are approved for a $10,000 loan, then that is as high as you can go. It also prevents you from choosing a car that is unattainable, instead focusing your attention on cars in your price range.
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Jim Donaher
Answered on Mar 12, 2021
Jim Donaher is a freelance writer and manager with over 35 years' experience in the insurance, banking, and investment management businesses. He provides expertise on a range of topics and is able to explain complex industry information in layman's terms. Jim is the author of two books, including Call Him, He's Home: A Guide to Prayer for Regular People and Then Larry Smiled, a novel about life, death, accountability, and salvation. Taormina, Sicily is his happy place!
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