Do you need a VIN # for a *new* car loan?

Okay, background first:

The GF wants to buy a new car (Mazda CX-7, she loves it, MSRP is ~$32K).

She applied online for a loan through her bank, Wells Fargo. Her credit ain’t stellar, but she ended up getting approved for $25K (the rest of the car will be paid off via down payment). But there was no interest rate with the approval. (The website advertised about 6% average, but I’d be surprised if she got that-- again, credit isn’t great).

Anyway, when she spoke with Wells Fargo this morning, they told her they wouldn’t give her the interest rate to the loan without getting a VIN from the dealer.

I’ve never heard that before—why would she need the VIN for a new car loan? Yeah, to buy it, sure, but to figure out the interest rate?? They wouldn’t even give her a ballpark rate.

Now, this isn’t a terrible problem for us, as we’ll be emailing dealers to get car info, including VINs. But if we didn’t do that, we’d walk into a dealership blind, unknowing what we’d get for a rate until the dealer gave us the VIN… we’re not going to do that, obviously. But still, how the heck does that make any sense?

Is this normal? Last time I bought a car I did dealer financing, so I’ve never had to get a new car loan from a bank/credit union.

Times, people and circumstances change. When did you last obtain a car loan? What was your credit score at the time? Did you own a house at the time? What type of car were you buying? What was your driving history at the time? What was your insurance risk at the time? What was the economic climate at the time?

My point in the questions is there are too many variable between what you perceived, at the time, your ease in obtaining a car loan, and your girlfriend’s current perception she has right here, right now. FWIW, it always been my experience that producing a VIN number was a requirement so an appropriate level of risk could be assigned to a car loan, and with that, the interest rate. For my first new car loan it took two weeks from the day I wanted to buy a particular car to the day I was able to drive it off of the lot. Today, I can do the same thing in a matter of hours, and at an interest rate of my own choosing.

The VIN can give details about a car like the exact model, transmission type, etc. but I don’t know why that would matter for an interest rate.

Speculating…

If a car has multiple trim levels with significantly different price points (that is pretty much all cars, no?), then lending $25K will represent loaning a different portion of the car’s value. I could understand a bank wanting more interest for writing a 95% loan-to-value as compared to a 70% LTV.

What is a vehicle identification number number? Seems like having a number for another number would be confusing. I think you just may need the vehicle identification number.

Alright, I’m leaving now…

That actually makes some sense to me. That said, she gave them the rough dollar value ($32K), so I figured they could at least give a general estimate for what rate she’d get. As it stands, could be 6%, could be 22%, who knows?

Insurance requires a VIN for a quote so they know EXACTLY what car it is (sedan vs. 2 door, options, etc.). I suspect that this is the same sort of thing.

Get a Capital One blank check. They approved me within minutes for any car up to $33K at 4.27% and I got the check in a couple days. Of course, Honda was offering 1.9%, so I didn’t actually use the check…

It appears the CX-7 somes in about 6 styles:
i SV FWD
i Sport FWD
s Touring FWD
s Touring AWD
s Grand Touring FWD
s Grand Touring AWD

If you could narrow it down to one of those for the lender I’m not sure what else the VIN# is going to tell them.

Also, even if she gets approved for the loan don’t sign for it just yet. Go into the dealer knowing what rate her bank will give her and once she’s done negotiating the final price of the car see if the dealer’s financing depatment can beat the rate. 9 times out of 10 they can.