If you don’t have the greatest credit score, getting a loan for a big-ticket item like an automobile can be difficult. But with reliable transportation being a basic necessity for many Americans, there are some potentially painful steps on the path back to good credit.

Shop around for a lender

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See what interest rate you can get from various dealers and credit unions, and choose accordingly. Also consider swallowing your pride and accepting some help from a family member, either to co-sign the loan or to lend some of the money to you at a better interest rate. Where the money comes from can easily represent a difference of thousands of dollars in the total price of your car.

Boost your credit

Identify reasons your credit score is low and see if there are any that you can resolve before you try to get a car loan, even if it means cutting back elsewhere to catch up on a few bills. Some low scores may even just be an error on the part of the reporting companies. Anything you can do to raise your score will help you get a better interest rate.

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Choose a cheap car

It’s always tempting to get something fancy or to avoid something that’s small or junky-looking. But that’s a luxury that you may have to sacrifice if you don’t have good credit. You don’t want to get something so cruddy that you’ll be dumping your paycheck into repairs, but $5,000 should buy you a fuel-efficient and decently reliable economy car like an eight-year-old Ford Focus or Hyundai Accent. Spend a little bit more for a Kia Optima or Nissan Versa if you really need a roomy interior.

Note that there are sometimes better low-credit financing deals on new cars instead of used, to the point at which a new car is actually going to be no more expensive than a used one, but the same advice applies. You may qualify to buy an expensive car, but settle for something cheap until your credit score improves. The Nissan Versa and Hyundai Accent are among the best new cars for a very tight budget.

Brady Holt, a Washington D.C. newspaper reporter, has had a lifelong interest in cars in the automotive world, and he’ll share his thoughts at every available opportunity. Brady has written for Examiner.com since 2008, publishing hundreds of car reviews, automotive news pieces and other features. His work can be found on Examiner.com.

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