Although credit scoring models have been updated in recent years to accommodate the comparison shopping that any prudent borrower does before taking out a loan, it's still a good idea to avoid adding lots of unnecessary inquiries to your credit file.
It may take some persistence on your part, because lenders are often eager to close a deal (they are, after all, in the business of lending money), but it is possible to shop around for a loan product without authorizing credit checks with every credit grantor at which you inquire. Explain that you are doing some preliminary comparison shopping, describe your credit situation accurately, mentioning that you understand they can't make any firm offers until they check your credit report, and ask for an estimate or range in which they think your loan would fall based on what you've told them. Remember that they cannot legally check your credit without your permission—and don't provide them with all of the information they need to check it (e.g., your Social Security number) until you are relatively confident that you've found the right place and are ready to actually apply for the loan.
To see your free credit report, visit Experian, the preferred credit report provider for AutoTrader.com.
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