What Is A Title Loan, And Should You Get One?
Victoria Araj7-minute read
UPDATED: August 30, 2023
If you have an emergency and need cash fast, short-term loans can help you in a pinch. One option is a title loan, which at first may sound like what you need, but there’s actually a lot to consider.
Let’s take a look at the ins and outs of title loans, how they work and the risks involved in getting one.
What Is A Car Title Loan?
A title loan, specifically a car title loan, is a short-term secured loan that often has few or no credit requirements to borrow. The loan is secured using the title of your car or vehicle as collateral, which the lender holds until you pay the loan off completely.
The loan amount you can borrow will depend on your lender and your car’s value. Lenders typically set the loan limit to 25% – 50% of your vehicle’s value, so you could reasonably borrow anywhere from $100 – $10,000.
Getting a title loan is also dependent on where you live, as most state laws don’t allow title loans at all. Find out if title loans are legal in your state before going any further in the process.
How Do Title Loans Work?
Applying for a title loan is relatively fast and easy, and its status as a same-day loan means you can be approved and receive your funds the same day you apply. When you meet with a lender for the application process, you’ll need to bring the following:
- Your car or vehicle
- A title that proves your ownership of the vehicle
- Your photo ID or driver’s license
- Proof of insurance
Some lenders may still run a credit check, but your title will typically be enough to secure the loan. Once approved, you’ll hand over your title to the lender, and they’ll hold onto it for the duration of the repayment period, typically 15 – 30 days. However, it can be longer depending on the repayment terms.
Although you’re giving the lender your title, you can still drive your car or vehicle for the length of the loan term and – assuming you repay the loan in full – continue driving the car once you’ve paid off the loan. But if you can’t make your payments or default on the loan, the title lender can legally take your vehicle.
How Much Do Title Loans Cost?
A major drawback of title loans is how much they can cost in interest rates and fees.
Most title lenders will charge a 25% monthly rate for the loan, amounting to an annual percentage rate (APR) of about 300%. If you can’t repay the loan in 30 days and have to roll the loan over into the next month, you’ll be charged an additional 25% of your loan amount as a finance fee. So if you borrow $1,000, that’s an additional $250 for the loan. If you have to roll over the loan, that’s another $250, making your balance $1,500.
Because of the exorbitant fees and short repayment periods, you could become trapped in a cycle of debt.
On top of these additional costs, you can lose your car if you default on your loan. And if you depend on your car to get to work, this can further jeopardize your financial situation.
Should You Get A Title Loan?
As a type of emergency loan, car title loans are often sought out by those who need fast cash. However, in most cases, borrowers tend to lose more than they gain when taking out title loans.
A 2016 study by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) found that one in five borrowers have had a vehicle seized by a lender after failing to repay their loan. Additionally, a 2019 survey revealed that over 80% of borrowers had rolled over or borrowed again soon after paying off a title loan.
If you’re considering a title loan, it’s important to weigh the benefits and drawbacks. Let’s review some below.
The upsides to car title loans include:
- Fast approval and funding: Title loans can be approved and funded the same day you apply, which is good if you need immediate cash.
- No or few credit requirements: Since your car title secures the loan, the strength of your credit score isn’t as much of a factor with title loans compared to other types of loans.
Title loans have the following downsides:
- High interest and fees: The high interest rates, plus rollover fees, can cost you even more when you’re already short on Constant rollovers can also trap you in a cycle of debt.
- Short loan terms: A repayment period of 15 – 30 days may not be enough time for some people, forcing them to roll over the loan and pay another 25% financing fee.
- Risk of losing your vehicle: Ultimately, the greatest risk with a title loan is the lender seizing your vehicle, leaving you without transportation.
Alternatives To Car Title Loans
Depending on your situation, a title loan may not be your only option for a loan. Consider these financing alternatives before committing to a car title loan.
You can borrow a personal loan from a traditional bank, credit union or online lender, and it will be disbursed in a lump sum for you to repay in monthly installments. Personal loans are typically unsecured – meaning they don’t require collateral – and you can use them for various reasons.
Since personal loans are unsecured, your eligibility and rates will depend heavily on your credit score and debt-to-income (DTI) ratio. Bad credit won’t necessarily disqualify you from getting a personal loan, but your rate will be better with a higher credit score.
Getting a personal loan involves a prequalification, multiple credit checks and a full application before you can be approved. It can take 1 – 7 business days to approve your loan and disburse your funds. Some lending platforms, like Rocket Loans℠, can offer same-day funding to certain applicants.1
Home Equity Loans Or HELOCs
Similar to personal loans, home equity loans are lump-sum installment loans you can use for almost anything. However, you secure this loan by borrowing against the equity built up in your home, meaning your house is your collateral. If you fail to make your monthly payments, you could lose your home.
You can also borrow against your equity with a home equity line of credit (HELOC). Instead of a lump sum, you’re granted a line of credit to borrow money from and repay over time. But again, your home is on the line and at risk of foreclosure if you can’t keep up with payments.
Like title loans, payday loans can be approved and funded the same day you apply. They also carry few (if any) credit requirements, making them ideal if you have bad credit, and they don’t require any collateral.
Payday loans come with even shorter terms than title loans, but they have repayment periods of 1 – 2 weeks or whenever you receive your next paycheck from your employer. Many payday lenders allow rollovers but with fees similarly high as title loans.
Credit Card Cash Advance
With a cash advance, you can use your credit card to make an immediate cash withdrawal from a bank or ATM, and the borrowed amount gets added to your credit card balance. This doesn’t make it free money, unfortunately, as a credit card issuer may impose a 3% – 5% service charge for a cash advance. Another downside is that a cash advance starts accruing interest the moment you make a withdrawal, allowing for no grace period.
Title Loan Military Regulations
Military service members and their dependents can receive some protection from the high APR of a title loan. The Military Lending Act limits the APR a lender can charge to 36% for loans with terms of 181 days or fewer. The law also prevents title lenders from accessing your bank account and requires them to inform you of your borrower’s rights, as well as the full costs of the loan upfront.
FAQs About Car Title Loans
Have more questions about title loans? We’ve answered the most common questions below.
What does “title” mean in a loan?
“Title” refers to one’s legal ownership of a piece of personal property or real estate. A title loan is called so because you’re offering your vehicle’s title as collateral for the loan. If you can’t repay the loan, the lender keeps your title, effectively taking ownership of your vehicle through repossession.
What is the maximum you can get from a title loan?
You can borrow as much as 50% of your vehicle’s value through most lenders, so the maximum amount depends on your vehicle’s valuation. If your car’s valued at $10,000, you could potentially borrow up to $5,000.
Do title loans affect your credit score?
Most title loans don’t require a hard inquiry, which would normally lower your score slightly. However, title loans can affect your credit score if you can’t pay them back. Missed payments and loan default are reported to the credit bureaus and will negatively impact your credit score. Plus, a loan default can stay on your credit history for up to 10 years.
What's the difference between a title loan and a personal loan?
The biggest difference between a title and personal loan is that the latter generally won’t require collateral. Personal loans are also more reliant on your credit score when determining approvals and interest rates, and they typically have longer terms to repay the loan.
In an emergency, you may have to act quickly to secure funding. While a title loan can get you cash fast, it could cost you much more if you default or have to roll over the loan. With such financial risk attached to title loans, plus the possibility of losing your vehicle, it may be best to consider other options – but it really depends on your situation and individual borrowing needs.
If a personal loan sounds like it might work better for you, you can apply online today with Rocket Loans to find the rates and terms for which you may prequalify for.
1Same-day funding is available for clients completing the loan process and signing the Promissory Note by 1:00 p.m. ET on a business day. Also note, the ACH credit will be submitted to your bank the same business day. This may result in same-day funding, but results may vary, and your bank may have rules that limit our ability to credit your account. We are not responsible for delays that may occur due to an incorrect routing number, an incorrect account number or errors of your financial institution.
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