Wells Fargo auto loans review: Loans available only through dealerships, unless you refinance

Man driving in his car, smiling Image:

In a Nutshell

Wells Fargo offers new- and used-car loans through its network of participating dealers. It offers competitive starting interest rates and 100% financing — but you can only apply for a loan through a dealer. Wells Fargo also offers auto refinance loans, which you can apply for directly with the bank.

Editorial Note: Credit Karma receives compensation from third-party advertisers, but that doesn’t affect our editors' opinions. Our marketing partners don’t review, approve or endorse our editorial content. It’s accurate to the best of our knowledge when it’s posted.
Advertiser Disclosure

We think it's important for you to understand how we make money. It's pretty simple, actually. The offers for financial products you see on our platform come from companies who pay us. The money we make helps us give you access to free credit scores and reports and helps us create our other great tools and educational materials.

Compensation may factor into how and where products appear on our platform (and in what order). But since we generally make money when you find an offer you like and get, we try to show you offers we think are a good match for you. That's why we provide features like your Approval Odds and savings estimates.

Of course, the offers on our platform don't represent all financial products out there, but our goal is to show you as many great options as we can.

Pros Cons
Wide dealer network No ability to apply for a new- or used-car loan directly with the bank
No fees No relationship discounts
Considers people with lower credit scores for refinance loans No private party or lease buyout loans

What you need to know about Wells Fargo auto loans

Until mid-2019, Wells Fargo offered a range of auto loan options that you could apply for directly with the bank. But Wells Fargo recently shifted its lending to a largely indirect model, meaning that if you’re making a new car purchase, you’ll need to apply for a Wells Fargo auto loan through one of its partner dealerships. Wells Fargo partners with more than 11,000 dealerships. The only type of loan you can apply for directly through Wells Fargo is a refinance loan.

Limited car loan options

Wells Fargo offers new- and used-car loans that you can apply for at a participating dealer and refinance loans that you can apply for directly with the bank. But if you’re looking for a loan to purchase a car from a private party or buy out a lease agreement, you’ll need to find vehicle financing elsewhere because Wells Fargo no longer offers these types of auto loans.

Since Wells Fargo no longer offers auto loans directly to consumers, there’s no way to apply before you visit the dealership. Applying for a loan through a bank, credit union or online lender rather than a dealership could allow you to get a lower interest rate.

Competitive starting interest rates

Based on information we got from Natalie M. Brown, communications senior manager with Wells Fargo, the bank offers a low interest rate to those who qualify that’s competitive with the starting interest rates that some other banks offer.

But Brown noted that Wells Fargo no longer offers an interest rate discount to its checking account customers who make automatic payments.

Considers people with lower credit scores

Wells Fargo considers people with scores across the credit spectrum for its refinance loans. But if your credit’s a little shaky and you get approved for an auto loan, you might pay a higher interest rate than someone with higher credit scores.

Depending on your financial situation, you may consider applying with a co-applicant, which could help improve your chances of approval. Even if you qualify for a loan on your own, a co-applicant with a solid credit and financial profile could help you score a lower interest rate.

A closer look at Wells Fargo auto loans

Here are some of the finer details that will help you compare Wells Fargo with other auto lenders.

  • Loan amounts for purchase loans start at $2,500, and the minimum amount for a refinance loan is $7,500.
  • Repayment terms can be as long as 75 months on purchase loans, and refinance loan terms range from 24 months to 72 months. Just remember that while a longer loan term could mean lower monthly payments, you’ll end up paying more in interest over the life of the loan.
  • Wells Fargo may not refinance loans for vehicles with more than 100,000 miles or that are eight years or older.
  • Some vehicles aren’t eligible for Wells Fargo financing, including commercial vehicles, salvage vehicles, conversion vans and vehicles that manufacturers have discontinued.
  • The lender doesn’t offer car loans in Alaska, Arkansas, Hawaii, Louisiana, North Dakota or Washington, D.C.
  • Wells Fargo may offer 100% financing on a new- or used-car loan, which means you wouldn’t need to make a down payment, Brown said. But keep in mind that if you don’t make a down payment, your chances of becoming upside down on your auto loan increase.
5 reasons to make a car down payment

Is a Wells Fargo auto loan right for you?

If you’re applying for an auto loan through a dealership, Wells Fargo may be just one of many lenders that offer a loan for your new- or used-vehicle purchase. If that happens, talk to the dealer about all of the offers you’ve received so that you can compare their rates and terms.

And remember that Wells Fargo doesn’t offer any special benefits on its auto loans to existing customers. So unless your priority is to keep all of your financial dealings with the same bank, pick the loan that will give you the best terms for your situation.

If you hope to get preapproved for an auto loan before you head to the dealership, you’ll need to consider other lenders who offer new- or used-car loans directly and the ability to apply for preapproval ahead of time. (Just remember that preapproval isn’t a guarantee that you’ll be approved for a loan, and if you’re approved, you may see different loan terms on a final offer than a preapproval.)

If you want to refinance your existing auto loan but have an older vehicle, Wells Fargo may not be a good fit. But if you and your vehicle meet the bank’s eligibility requirements and you’re approved, consider comparing rates and terms from at least a few other lenders to ensure you’re getting the best loan for your needs.

How to apply for a loan from Wells Fargo

If you want a purchase loan from Wells Fargo, you’ll need to visit one of the dealers in its network to apply. Unfortunately, the bank doesn’t provide a list or map of participating dealers on its website. If you really want to apply for a Wells Fargo auto loan, you may need to call and find out which dealers in your area work with the bank.

If you’re interested in refinancing your current auto loan with Wells Fargo, note that you must be at least 18 years old, your vehicle must be for personal use only and your current auto loan must be at least six months old.

You can apply online or call 1-800-289-8004 to speak with an auto specialist.

Before you apply for a refinance loan with Wells Fargo, it’s a good idea to check your credit and compare other loan offers. Understanding your credit can help set expectations — in general, lower credit scores will result in higher interest rates. And shopping around can help you find the best loan rate and terms for your needs. Read our article on how to refinance a car loan to learn more about the refinance process.

Not sure if Wells Fargo is right for you? Consider these alternatives.

If you’re not sure whether a Wells Fargo auto loan is right for you — or you live in a state where the bank doesn’t offer loans — here are some other options to consider.

  • Capital One Auto Finance: This lender could be good for someone who wants to apply for prequalification before heading to the dealership. Just keep in mind that prequalification isn’t a guarantee of loan approval.
  • LightStream: This lender could be ideal if you want to buy a used car from a private party or buy out your lease.