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What is a Credit Score and How is it Calculated?

Aug 29, 2023

When it comes to securing an auto loan, your credit score plays a pivotal role in determining whether you’ll get approved and what interest rate you’ll be offered. But what exactly is a credit score, and how is it calculated?

What is a Credit Score?

A credit score is a three-digit number that represents your creditworthiness and financial history. It serves as a snapshot of your ability to manage debt responsibly. Lenders, including those offering auto loans, use your credit score to assess the risk associated with lending you money. A higher credit score generally indicates a lower risk, making you a more attractive borrower.

How is a Credit Score Calculated?

Credit scoring models, such as FICO (Fair Isaac Corporation) and VantageScore, use complex algorithms to calculate your credit score. While the exact formulas are proprietary, we can break down the key factors that influence your credit score:

  1. Payment History (35%): Your payment history is one of the most significant factors in your credit score. It reflects whether you’ve paid your bills on time and in full. Late payments, collections, and charge-offs can significantly lower your score.

  2. Credit Utilization (30%): Credit utilization measures the percentage of your available credit that you’re currently using. High credit card balances relative to your credit limits can negatively impact your score.

  3. Length of Credit History (15%): The length of your credit history considers how long you’ve had credit accounts. A longer credit history can positively affect your score, so it’s important to keep older accounts open if they’re in good standing.

  4. Credit Mix (10%): Lenders like to see a mix of different types of credit, such as credit cards, installment loans, and mortgages. A diverse credit portfolio can boost your score.

  5. New Credit Inquiries (10%): Each time you apply for new credit, a hard inquiry is recorded on your credit report. Multiple inquiries within a short period can lower your score, as it may indicate a higher risk to lenders.

Tips for Improving Your Credit Score

If you’re planning to apply for an auto loan and want to improve your credit score, here are some practical tips:

  1. Pay bills on time: Consistently making on-time payments is the most effective way to boost your credit score.

  2. Reduce credit card balances: Aim to keep your credit card balances below 30% of your credit limit to maintain a healthy credit utilization ratio.

  3. Avoid opening unnecessary new credit accounts: Limit new credit applications to only those you truly need.

  4. Maintain older accounts: Keep older accounts open to demonstrate a longer credit history.

  5. Monitor your credit reports: Regularly check your credit reports for errors and discrepancies, and dispute any inaccuracies.

Understanding your credit score and how it’s calculated is essential when seeking an auto loan or any other form of credit. By responsibly managing your finances and following the tips mentioned above, you can work toward improving your credit score, increasing your chances of securing a favorable auto loan with competitive interest rates. Remember that building and maintaining good credit is a long-term process, so start early and stay committed to financial responsibility.

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