I came across this question, “Can I sue a car dealer for excessive hard credit inquiries?” when reviewing search terms on my blog and thought this is a good topic for further discussion.
First Of All, What Is A Hard Inquiry?
There are two types of credit inquiries, hard and soft.
A hard inquiry is a credit inquiry pulled for the purpose of obtaining credit. These types of inquiries are usually pulled for things such as a home, auto or personal loan. Landlords and tenant screen services credit inquiries are also considered hard inquiries.
A soft inquiry is a credit inquiry requested for informational purposes. If you request your own credit through a site such as AnnualCreditReport.com, this is considered a soft inquiry and does not deduct points off your score. Additionally, creditors whom you currently do business with can pull a soft inquiry to do an account review and evaluate your current credit worthiness. Offers for “pre-approved credit are not counted as hard inquiries. Credit inquiries for insurance and employment also fall into this category, as they are not made for the purpose of granting you credit.
How Many Points Can Be Deducted For A Credit Inquiry?
o Each “hard” credit inquiry (meaning the consumer has applied for some form of credit, prompting the creditor to check the credit report or score) that is counted normally subtracts no more than five points from a person’s score.
Auto Loan Inquiries
Auto loan and home loan inquiries are treated a little differently since 2004. Due to the fact that most folks like to shop around for both home and auto loans, the credit bureaus recognized the fact that each inquiry was having a negative impact on credit scores because of the multiple pulls. This practice was hurting the consumer’s credit score and not allowing the consumer to shop around for the best rates and terms.
So, Fair Isaac changed the rules a bit for Auto and Home Loan credit inquiries:
o The credit-scoring model recognizes that many consumers shop around for the best interest rates before buying a car or home and that their searching may cause multiple lenders to request their credit report. To compensate for this, multiple auto or mortgage inquiries in any 14-day period are counted as one inquiry.
o In the newest formula used to calculate FICO scores, that 14-day period has been expanded to any 45-day period. This means consumers can shop around for an auto loan for up to 45 days without affecting their scores. But the old 14-day rule might still apply at some lenders that aren’t using the new version.
o The newest FICO version went online at all three credit agencies — TransUnion, Equifax and Experian — in 2004, Typically it takes lenders months to adjust their processes so they can accommodate revised formulas — and some lenders never adjust.
o The FICO score ignores all mortgage and auto inquiries made in the 30 days before scoring. If you find a loan within 30 days, the inquiries won’t affect your score while you’re rate-shopping.
How To Avoid Multiple Hard Auto Inquiries
If you want to avoid multiple hits to your credit while you’re shopping for an auto loan, you’ll need to set aside a two week period to completely concentrate on getting your financing in place.
o Find Out What Your Credit Score Is:
In order to shop for a loan without being dinged for multiple credit inquiries, you’ll need to know what your credit scores are. This will also help you to determine whether you are “bankable” or if you’re going to have some difficulty getting financing.
You can get an estimate of your FICO Score to give you an idea of the current range of your scores, or you can purchase a 3-in-1 Report with FICO in one easy to read report for just $39.95 so you’ll know exactly what your credit scores are.
o Get Pre-Approved At A Bank:
Now that you know what your credit scores are, call around to local banks in your area and ask, “What is the minimum credit score one needs to have to be pre-approved for an auto loan?”
If you know that your credit scores fall into their “approval guidelines”, then ask what are their interest rates and terms, such as how much down payment are they going to require.
Once you’ve determined the lender with the most favorable terms, go into that bank and apply. Some banks even have an 800 Phone Loan Center or on-line application process available so you don’t have to go anywhere.
Once you have been pre-approved by the lender of your choice, you normally have 30 days before the pre-approval expires.
If you decide to go this route, not only are you getting the best interest rate around without generating multiple credit inquiries, but you’ll also find out how much you’re approved for, which will make shopping for an auto easier in the long run.
o Getting Auto Financing If You’re Not “Bankable”
If your credit scores fall below what you’ve found to be “bankable”, you’re going to need to find financing elsewhere. There are several ways you can do this.
1. You can go through an on-line Vehicle Financing Network. These networks have access to multiple lenders and their guidelines. They will have to pull your credit in order to find out what your scores are themselves, but then they have access to many auto loan financing companies specializing in consumers with “less than perfect credit”. Once they’ve determined which lender you have the greatest chance of being approved with, they’ll forward your application along.
2. Go auto shopping and when you find the car you want, the dealership will be more than happy to submit your loan application to multiple lenders. Remember, if you decide to go this route, you have 14 days of unlimited credit pulls to count as 1 pull.
If you continue to do this month after month, you’re going to see about 5 points deducted off your score every time your credit is pulled.
The Answer To The Original Question – “Can You Sue A Car Dealer For Excessive Hard Inquiries?”
Civil liability for knowing noncompliance: “Any person who obtains a consumer report from a consumer reporting agency under false pretenses or knowingly without a permissible purpose shall be liable to the consumer reporting agency for actual damages sustained by the consumer reporting agency or $1,000, whichever is greater.”
What this boils down to is…..READ WHAT YOU SIGN! If you applied for financing with a car dealership, then you must have filled out a loan application. Did the paperwork that you signed say that they would submit your application to multiple lenders?
If you did not grant them permission to pull your credit, then you may have a case to sue for $1,000, but in my view, it’s going to be way more hassle than it’s worth. The easiest way to handle the situation to your benefit, is to dispute the inquiries with the credit bureaus that are reporting them.
If the creditors that pulled your credit cannot prove “permissible purpose”, then the credit reporting agencies will remove these inquiries. If the creditors come back stating they had permissible purpose, you have every right to ask them for the documentation to prove it. Again, if they cannot come up with that documentation, the credit reporting agencies will have to remove the inquiry.
Once the inquiry or multiple inquiries are removed, you should see an increase in your credit scores. It’s a tiny bit of work on your part, but way easier than trying to sue for $1000.00.