Having a prime credit score is the key to getting the car you want at the price you can afford. A prime credit score indicates that you are a low credit risk to lenders, making it easier for you to get an attractive interest rate that can potentially save you thousands of dollars in interest.

FICO Determination

The most widely used credit scoring formula comes from the Fair, Isaac and Company (FICO). Your score is a numeric history that is derived from the three major credit bureaus, Equifax, Trans Union, and Experian. However, your credit score for each of the bureaus can be different. Your FICO score ranges from 300 to 850 points, with a higher score indicating a better rating.

Prime Categories

According to Experian, super prime scores are 740 and above. Prime scores range from 680 to 739. Nonprime scores are 620 to 679. Subprime scores range from 550 to 619 while deep subprime scores are less than 550. A person can look at how their credit score compares to other applicants for credit. Generally, an applicant needs to fall within the top 50th percentile to get the best scores.

Optimal Range

While excellent credit scores fall at the 720 range or higher, a score of 740 or higher is truly optimal for the best auto loan rates. Scores at this range yielded an average interest rate of 3.2 percent for an auto loan, as of March 2013. For consumers with a credit score between 680 and 739, an average interest rate of 4.5 percent for auto loans during this same time period. Individuals with a sub-prime credit score had an interest rate between 6.5 percent and 12.9 percent.

Improving Your Score

If you have some time before you plan to take out the auto loan, measures are available that can help you improve your credit score. One effective method to improve your credit score is to decrease the ratio between the amount of debt you have accumulated and your credit limit. Don't close out unused credit cards as this may decrease your overall credit limit and increase your debt to credit ratio. Getting a copy of your credit report and correcting any mistakes can also help.

Considerations

Lenders look at other factors when deciding whether to loan you money for an auto loan, such as your income, your length of employment and the type of credit you are seeking. Paying a larger down payment may help you get loan approval.