Credit scores & car finance: What credit score do you need to buy or lease a car?

Thinking of getting a new car? It’s a big purchase. And for most of us, paying upfront isn’t possible.

Car finance gives you some affordable options, such as buying with a loan or entering a lease.

But what credit score is needed to finance a car? Is there a car finance credit check? What if you’ve struggled with repayments in the past? Will that affect your chances of enjoying that new car smell?

So many questions. And you’ve not even got to the make, model and colour scheme yet! Sure, car finance isn’t the sexiest part of driving off into the sunset, but without it the whole plan can stall. Here’s how you can smooth out some of the bumps in the road.

What credit score do you need for car finance in the uk?

Simply put, having anything over a “good” credit score with the three main credit reference agencies (CRAs) will give you the best chance.

  • On Experian, that’s a rating of 881

  • With Equifax it’s 531

  • And with TransUnion you’ll want to be over 604

But of course, there’s more to it than that. First, you need to decide whether you’re going to buy or lease your car. That’s going to affect your options. So, let’s get into it:

What credit score is needed to buy a car?

To buy a car with a personal loan or a personal contract purchase (PCP), higher credit scores will offer more favourable interest rates. That makes the overall purchase kinder to your pocket. So a “good” to “excellent” rating will get you the best offers. 

But you can still stay in the game with a lower credit score. You’ll just have to make higher repayments. If you can’t afford that, maybe looking at a lease might be an option.

What credit score is needed to lease a car?

Understanding the credit score needed to lease a car is a little more complicated. There aren’t score numbers from CRAs that automatically approve you. But a “good” to “excellent” rating will normally get you over the line.

Lower credit scores will sometimes be considered, but your lease payments may still be higher. Generally speaking, however, leasing a car is usually cheaper than taking out a loan. So even with a lower credit score, this route could save you more money.

Is there a minimum credit score to lease a car in the UK?

Technically, no. Leasing companies use their own scoring systems.

These are based on things like your payment history, your other finance agreements, County Court Judgments (CCJs) and affordability. They will also do a car lease credit check using CRAs like Experian, Equifax and TransUnion.

All of this will be taken into account when accepting or declining your lease. So, while your credit score isn’t the be-all-end-all, getting it in the best shape possible is definitely worth it.

What other factors will decline my car finance?

It’s tricky to point to  one specific factor that will decline your car finance. The decision is made up of a lot of moving parts. We know that the biggest turn-offs for leasing companies are things like recent repayment issues, bankruptcies, defaults and CCJs.

Unfortunately, if you know that you have any of these on your record it is likely that your application will be declined. But it isn’t possible to know which individual issue will automatically decline it.

It’s good to know that if you do have any of these issues on your credit report, they will only stay there for six years. And the good news is that as time passes, they become less important to the decision making process.

What if I am declined for car finance?

While your credit score might mean that you’re unable to be accepted for car finance, a lot of the leasing companies will be able to offer you some other options. You can pay more upfront to reduce the risk to the lender. You can find somebody with a “good” or “excellent” credit score who is willing to act as a guarantor for your monthly payments should you ever have difficulty meeting them. 

It is also possible to take out a joint lease, where the credit scores of two partners or family members will be considered. If you live with somebody who has a better credit score than you, you might be able to improve your options.

So, can I really get car finance with a low credit score?

The short answer is yes. It’s possible. But maybe the bigger question is whether you’re going to be comfortable with the interest rates and repayments. You might find that the overall cost is more than you want to commit to. In that case, the best thing to do is get your credit score up. And that’s going to be great for more than just car finance. Not to mention your general wellbeing! 

How can I improve my credit score?

OK, it’s going to take some time. You’ll probably need six to 12 months to see big improvements to your credit score, depending on your situation. Of course, the sooner you start, the sooner you’ll be getting your hands on those keys.

You can check out our blog to find out more about what is a credit score, how it is calculated and what affects it. But here is a quick summary of some things you can do right now.

Check your credit score

A good place to start is by checking your credit score for free and without harming it by using one of these services:  ClearScore (uses Equifax data)*

Experian App (uses Experian data)

Intuit Credit Karma (uses TransUnion data)

*Just so you know, if you decide to sign up to ClearScore after clicking this link, we’ll receive a small commission.

Check your address history

Your address needs to be up to date and perfect across all the CRAs. This needs to be as accurate as possible, so take a little time to make sure it’s all in order.

Register to vote

Equifax, Experian and TransUnion check your current address against the electoral roll. Being registered to vote, if you aren’t already, should give your credit score a nice boost.

Remove any old financial connections

You might have an ex-partner, housemate or family member linked to your credit score via joint accounts. If their credit score is poor, it could affect yours as well. Ask the CRAs to remove any old financial associations, and be mindful with who you share joint utility bills with going forward.

Prevent missed payments

Never missing your repayments does wonders for your credit score. Make them automatic payments from your bank so there’s no chance of forgetting.

Clear any errors

Check your Experian, Equifax and TransUnion reports. If you see any out-of-date information, missed payments over six years old, or fraudulent activity — flag those with the agency.

Pay off debts

OK, you might not be in a position to do this right now. But if you can start to clear any debts you hold, your credit score needle will start swinging towards the green.

Get started with Loqbox Save

A quick and easy way to build your credit score is to just choose how much you want to save every month and let Loqbox do the rest. Find out how Loqbox Save works.

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A letter that reads "Your special delivery of financial know-how"
Give your credit score a boost
For just £2.50 a week, you could see your credit score rise by up to 300 points in the first three months
Get started
Improvements to your credit score are not guaranteed
Two lightning bolts
A letter that reads "Your special delivery of financial know-how"
Subscribe to Loqbox Inbox
Sign up for our monthly emails and we’ll do our best to help you find your way on your journey with money
Two lightning bolts
Give your credit score a boost
For just £2.50 a week, you could see your credit score rise by up to 300 points in the first three months
Get started
Improvements to your credit score are not guaranteed