Citizens One Auto Finance Review
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Whether you’re buying a new or used vehicle, chances are good that you’re going to take out a car loan. If you end up financing your loan through a dealership, it could be issued and administered by Citizens One.
About Citizens One auto financing
Citizens One is the brand name for auto loans that Citizens Bank offers through a network of car dealers across the U.S. Citizens Bank, which is the 13th-largest retail bank in the U.S., partners with a network of more than 6,700 car dealerships to offer loans for new and used cars and trucks.
While Citizens Bank has been offering auto loans through Citizens One for more than three decades, it’s not necessarily the right source of financing for every car buyer. Rather than just accepting a loan that your dealer facilitates through Citizens One, it’s imperative you shop around to explore all the financing options available to you.
Citizens One auto financing: At a glance
Since Citizens One doesn’t offer auto loans directly, the company doesn’t provide much information on its website. While you can manage your auto loan online, including making payments, you cannot find out details about Citizens One loans when you’re shopping for financing.
This means you can’t easily find out the APR for Citizens One auto loans, nor can you look online to find out about any fees, the length of the loan repayment terms or other details of the financing Citizens One offers. You’ll need to find out all this info from the financing department of the dealership from which you’re buying your vehicle.
Dealers have increasingly moved toward offering loans with longer repayment terms, in part because this results in a lower monthly payment. Unfortunately, if you take out one of these loans, you’ll be paying it off for much longer, so you’ll pay more in interest over time. And, because cars depreciate in value quickly, you could end up underwater on your loan or owing more than your car is worth since your monthly payments are small.
Don’t focus just on the monthly payments your dealer offers you when you’re considering a loan from Citizens One or other partner lenders. Look at the loan term, the APR and the total costs of the loan, including fees, to determine if the loan is a good deal.
How to apply for financing
Some companies that offer auto financing, such as Capital One and M&T Bank, allow you to apply online for an auto loan.
Citizens One isn’t one of those companies. It doesn’t offer auto loans directly. Rather, it makes loans available through the network of dealers you secure financing from when you buy your car. There are many dealers across the country that work with Citizens One.
Some of these dealers — like Central Maine Motors Auto Group — specifically list Citizens One among their financing sources. But with many other dealers, the financing department of the dealership will explain your options only at the time you apply for financing.
While each dealer may have a slightly different process for applying for credit, typically you’ll need to submit an application that includes your name, Social Security number, date of birth, current and past addresses, current and past employers, and details about your income and other debts. Dealers will also check your credit to see if you can qualify for an auto loan with Citizens One or other partners — and to see the rates for which you qualify.
The fine print
The website for Citizens One Auto Finance provides few details, which serves as another reminder to make sure you always shop around when buying a vehicle.
Pros and cons of financing through Citizens One
There are both advantages and disadvantages to consider when you finance your vehicle through Citizens One.
Highlights of Citizens One auto financing
- You can obtain a Citizens One loan directly through a dealer. This can simplify the car-buying process rather than dealing with a direct lender that allows you to apply for a loan through its website. When you get financing through a dealer, you can pick out the car, negotiate the price and take care of getting your financing that same day so you can drive your vehicle off the lot right away. You don’t need to wait for the financing company you’ve applied for on your own to provide your funds after you find a car.
- Citizens One makes it easy to manage your auto loan. You can use online tools to pay your bill, find out loan details, update your title or request a duplicate title. You can also get customer service help via the phone at 877-265-3278. And, because Citizens Bank is such a large retail bank, chances are good you’ll have a local branch where you live and can get in-person assistance.
- Citizens One offers a vast network of dealers. With more than 6,700 dealers across the country that partner with Citizens One, chances are good that you can easily find a dealer offering a Citizens One loan.
- You can get loans for new and used vehicles. That versatility makes it more likely that you can access a Citizens One loan if you want one.
Lowlights of Citizens One auto financing
- You can’t apply online and get preapproved by Citizens One. You won’t find out what kind of financing deal Citizens One offers you until you visit your dealer. By working with a direct lender like Capital One or M&T, you can get preapproved before you hit the car lot so that you’ll know exactly how much you can borrow, and on what terms.
- You don’t know which dealers offer financing through Citizens One. Not all car dealers disclose their financing partners upfront. Since there’s often no way to know which dealer partners with which financing companies, there’s no guarantee the dealer you’ll buy from will allow you to borrow through Citizens One.
- Citizens One has been the subject of consumer complaints. In 2015, Citizens Bank was ordered to pay $18.5 million to consumers for failing to properly credit deposits made to their bank accounts. While this problem was related to its consumer banking arm rather than its auto loan arm, it still raises concerns about the company’s business practices. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s complaint database also has many complaints from Citizens One auto loan customers, including customers who said payments weren’t properly applied.
The bottom line: Who is Citizens One best for?
If you want to secure financing through a dealer and you’re looking for financing from a large retail bank with branches across the country, Citizens One Auto Finance may be right for you. Easy access to Citizens One financing through car dealers, combined with the ability to easily manage your loan and modify title information online, also makes Citizens One a good choice when convenience is a priority.
But if you’re looking for a lender that allows you to apply for financing before you head to a dealer, consider competitors such as Capital One or M&T instead. You should always price out loans from direct lenders before considering dealer financing, and you should bring loan offers with you to the dealership.
Then, you can compare the APR and terms these lenders offer with the financing available through dealer partners such as Citizens One. That will allow you to compare the broadest range of loan offers to find the most affordable financing for your situation.