Applying for a new loan will always affect your credit score. However, to keep the impact of
car loan shopping to a minimum, simply restrict your shopping to a 14-day window.
Credit bureaus consider a 14-day window a reasonable time frame to search for a lender. You could apply for multiple loans during these two weeks, but you’ll only get one hard inquiry on your report.
Of course, one hard inquiry may drop your score 5-10 points, but if you apply for loans over more than 14 days, you’ll get an additional 5-to-10 point hit for any applications that fall outside of that initial window.
To minimize the impact to your credit score and increase your chances of approval, you should also avoid applying for other types of credit, like credit cards, before and during your shopping window.
Once you do get approval, you generally have 60 to 90 days to sign, so don’t rush into buying a car. Do your research of specific makes and models and consider test driving a few.