What is a Well-Qualified Buyer?

what is a well qualified buyerYou can find incredible deals on loan and lease offers for new cars, but many times these deals have one particular caveat. Typically, attractive deals are only eligible for "well-qualified" buyers, also referred to as "competitive lessees".

Many times that description is left vague and unanswered, making the process more frustrating for buyers. But what exactly is a well-qualified buyer? 

And what are your options if you aren't considered "well-qualified"?

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Why are Some Offers Only for Well-Qualified Buyers?

The most attractive loan and lease offers are often reserved only to competitive lessees. While the distinction is not always clear, there is a reason that manufacturers limit who qualifies for the deals. The manufacturer and dealership ultimately want to make sure they get paid for the vehicle, and buyers that are not "well-qualified" carry a higher risk of defaulting on payments, especially if it is no money due at signing or some other bonus.

What Credit Score Makes you a Well-Qualified Buyer?

Competitive buyers typically have a Tier 1 credit score, which is a very good credit score. The Tier 1 credit score is generally one above 720, but each bank has its own definition of a Tier 1 credit level. The offers for well-qualified buyers will use the manufacturer's bank to determine which tier your credit score is in.

Other Considerations to Determine Well-Qualified Buyers

A credit score is one key factor used to determine the buyer's qualification, but it is not the only one. The dealership/manufacturer's bank will also consider:

  • debt to income ratioDebt-to-income ratio. You can calculate your debt-to-income ratio by adding up all your monthly bills and dividing by your monthly income.
  • Credit history. The credit history is associated with how well the consumer repays debts. A solid credit history means you are reliable in making timely payments.
  • Price of the car vs your income. Some manufacturers will only make sure your monthly income will cover the payments of the vehicle.
  • The size of the down payment. The monthly payment of a vehicle gets lower as the down payment amount increases. Dealerships may be more flexible if you have the ability to put down a substantial cash down payment.

Alternatives for Shoppers That Are Not "Well-Qualified"

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All hope is not lost if you are not considered a competitive lessee. There are several alternatives to consider:

  • You can instead borrow from a bank or credit union to fund your purchase. While you still need good credit, it may be easier to qualify with your own bank than with the dealership.
  • You can use a specialized financing company.  Our partner Auto Credit Express specializes in loans for any type of credit including bad credit, bankruptcy, or no credit.
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  • Obtain a cosigner that is well-qualified. This option is well-suited for younger buyers with minimal credit history. Having a more financially established family member cosign can help. However, there must be a strong trust because the cosigner can be responsible for the entire loan if the borrower does not pay on time.
  • Negotiating can also help you get the best deal possible. You can negotiate a higher price with lower rates or vice versa. Cash buyers have more negotiating power, so consider a full cash offer or putting more cash upfront for your down payment if you have the means. Always make sure to get several quotes from different dealerships to help your negotiation.

While there are several ways to improve your buying status, you can still find a great deal on a car if you are not considered a competitive lessee.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a well-qualified buyer for a new car?

Well-qualified buyers or competitive lessees are typically buyers that have a Tier 1 credit score, solid credit history, and a high enough monthly income to comfortably cover the monthly payments of the new car.

What credit score is needed to be considered a well-qualified buyer?

Competitive buyers typically need to have a Tier 1 credit score, which varies depending on the financial institution, but it is generally above 720.

What factors determine a well-qualified buyer?

In addition to the credit score, dealerships may also consider your debt-to-income ratio, credit history, and even the amount you are willing to put down on the car's down payment.

Can I still buy or lease a car if I'm not a well-qualified buyer?

If you do not qualify as well-qualified buyer, you can try to take out a personal loan from your bank, get a cosigner that is considered well-qualified, or try negotiating with the dealership to get the best deal possible.

What kind of car deals can I get as a well-qualified buyer?

Typically 0% APR deals and low to no down payment lease deals require you to be a well-qualified buyer or competitive lessee.