High interest rates could increase car prices by several thousand dollars

An ABC 7 I-Team Investigation

Jason Knowles Image
Friday, April 21, 2017
High interest rates increase car prices by several thousand dollars
Sky-high interest rates on auto loans could end up tracking several thousand dollars on the cost of a car.

MARKHAM, Ill. (WLS) -- Sky-high interest rates on auto loans could end up tacking several thousand dollars on the cost of a car.

One woman told the I-Team she didn't realize she'd end up paying almost double the price of the car.

She said that a costly car loan, which she agreed to, ending up trapping her into a nightmare situation -- stuck with a car that she couldn't trade in.

Shirley Shaw-Brown: "They said, 'Can you afford $379 a month?' I said, yes I can."

Jason: "And you said 'I can do it.'"

Shaw-Brown: "I did, because I was in need of a car."

Shirley Shaw-Brown thought it was the solution to her transportation and credit problems, getting in a car for $379 a month.

She bought a 2008 Saturn Aura from Route 6 Auto Max in Markham, but said she didn't realize her loan was for 20.49 percent.

"Their finance charge is so extreme," said Shaw-Brown. "And I feel so stupid that I did not read the contract"

The contract said the "cash value" of the car is under $11,000. Add in sales tax, other fees and that 20.49 percent interest rate, and the total sales price: $21,681.

Jason: "Would you have ever paid that amount for a 2008?"

Shaw-Brown: "I would never. For that type of money I could have gotten a 2015-16 or something."

Shaw-Brown said she recently discovered she was "underwater" on the vehicle when she tried to trade it in and no other dealership would take it. She admits that she then stopped payments and it was repossessed.

Route 6 Auto Max told the I-Team it helps people like Shaw-Brown with bad credit get into vehicles through third party financing. They said Shaw-Brown was informed about the interest rate, and pointed out the Illinois Attorney General closed her complaint because nothing was wrong or illegal about the deal.

Some states like New York have limits on interest rates for vehicle loans. In Illinois, there is no law capping those rates.

"It's like signing a blank check," said Steve Bernas of the Better Business Bureau. "And unfortunately, sometimes we've seen 20 percent, 30 percent."

The president of the Chicago area Better Business Bureau said even if you have questionable credit you should first research other loan opportunities before getting quick credit line at a dealership.

"Check your banks, because you might get a lower interest rate. But look at the contract, because sometimes you pay 3, 4 times the amount of the vehicle," Bernas said.

If you can only get a high interest rate, experts said you should try to get the lowest monthly payment, then pay extra on it every month to lower your principal balance.

And read the payment agreements. Just because you are told you could have the car for an affordable monthly price, doesn't mean it will be a deal in the long run.