Can a 19-Year-Old Get a Car Loan without a Cosigner?

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Megan Foukes is a recent graduate from Indiana University who graduated with a bachelor’s in journalism. Megan works as a content writer for Auto Credit Express and contributes to several automotive and finance blogs.

, - July 1, 2019

It’s very possible for a 19-year-old to get a car loan without a cosigner, but they need to have good credit, a steady job that earns them enough income to qualify, and possibly a substantial down payment. Not every 19-year-old has all three, especially if they’re a first-time buyer. Buying a vehicle does take time and effort, but with some careful planning, a cosigner may not be needed.

First-Time Car Buyer Tips

What does it take to get approved as a first-time car buyer? If you’re looking to buy a vehicle without a cosigner, you should start preparing for an auto loan a few months ahead of time so you can save up, improve your credit (if needed), and rate shop for the best deal.

While you’re doing your prep work, make sure you follow these four tips:

  1. Know your credit – You should know where your credit stands and what’s on your credit reports. You can get a free copy of your credit reports every 12 months from each of the three major credit bureaus by visiting Make sure all information is correct, and dispute any negative errors immediately. As for your credit score, most lenders use your FICO score, so that’s the one you’re going to want to look at. If your bank, credit card company, or credit union doesn’t offer free access to your FICO score, you can visit and get your scores for a fee.
  2. Research cars – Look up the current interest rates for your credit score range, as well as the types of vehicles you’re interested in. Look up customer reviews, prices, safety ratings, and specifics like trim levels, among other things. To make it easier, you can use our new and used car sections to browse and compare models.
  3. Try for pre-approval – You should first try to get pre-approved for an auto loan through your bank or credit union. Even if they turn you down, you have a better idea of what types of lenders you need to be working with.
  4. Have all documents ready – If you’ve been turned down for pre-approval, you may need to work with a subprime lender through a special finance dealership. These lenders ask for additional documentation such as proof of income and residency, a working phone, and a list of personal references. Have all of these documents ready before you head to a special finance dealership so you can keep the financing process moving along.

CarsDirect Tip: Have a down payment ready ahead of time, as well. If this is your first time buying a vehicle, you probably don’t have a trade-in, so make sure you have enough cash to cover the typical subprime lender minimum down payment requirement: $1,000 or 10% of the car’s selling price, whichever is less.

Cosigner’s Role

Depending on the lender you’re working with, you may need a cosigner if this is your first time purchasing a vehicle. Besides helping you get approved, a cosigner offers the potential to qualify you for a lower interest rate – which saves you money in the long run.

A cosigner’s main role is to help you – the primary borrower – get approved for auto financing by letting you “borrow” their good credit. They aren't an owner of the car, but their name is on the loan and it’s listed on their credit reports. This means that any action, positive or negative, affects your cosigner’s credit.

In order for someone to be a cosigner, they must qualify for the loan on their own by having good credit and enough available income.

The Bottom Line

You can still get approved for an auto loan without a cosigner if you’re 19 or a first-time car buyer. However, some lenders may require you to have one, and won’t finance you without a cosigner on the loan.

If you’re looking to buy your first vehicle, but worry your credit is in the way, we want to help. At CarsDirect, we work with a nationwide network of dealers that have the lending resources available to help people in unique credit situations. Our process is free of cost and obligation. Get started by filling out our online auto loan request form today.


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Megan Foukes is a recent graduate from Indiana University who graduated with a bachelor’s in journalism. Megan works as a content writer for Auto Credit Express and contributes to several automotive and finance blogs.

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