First, do your homework

Can you get an auto loan with bad credit?  Yes, but first: are you sure you have bad credit?  This is the perfect time to find out what your credit score actually is and address any discrepancies in it, which can help raise your score.  After all, your score determines the auto loan and car you can afford.  

Know Your Score

The government has a website that offers a free credit report, and you should take advantage of it. It's a good idea to print your report out and use it when you do go car shopping.  

No running

Every time your credit is run, it goes down, so, unless you're seriously considering a particular car, don't have your credit run.  This is especially important if your credit is marginal, since it may lower you into the bad score range.

Don't Just Drop In

Whether you have good or bad credit, always go through the dealership Internet department. They offer better pricing and transparency than if you just walk into a showroom.  When you're ready, simply have them give you a quote with the credit information you've provided. 

If your credit is so-so

A credit score of about 620-680 is considered marginal credit. You may be surprised to hear that this isn't a bad credit score. You've missed some payments, but in general, you pay your bills on time. If you haven't recently switched jobs, there is some leeway regarding the loan you can get.  

If you do have bad credit

If you have bad credit, you can still finance that car, you just have to be a more creative.  Have you previously paid off a car?  That helps a lot.  Do you have a stable work history? Also a plus. Shop around.  Go to your bank and the local credit unions, and talk to the loan officers.  Visit a local company like Interstate Special Finance that specializes in car loans for those with bad credit. There are some online lenders that will try to work with you as well.  Check whether your employer offers an employee car loan program.

Some money down

The more you can save for your down payment, the better.  Because of your bad credit, your financing won't be favorable to you.  Creditors are taking a chance and that will be reflected in the terms you are given. The solution is to take out a smaller loan.  If you don't have much saved up, wait until you do.  A little patience now will be well worth it.

Read the fine print very carefully

You know where you stand and you have a down payment.  Now see what financing you qualify for.  Look at the APR that's offered, as well as the life of the loan.  These are more important than monthly payment amounts.  The longer the loan and APR, the higher the car's price tag will be in the long run.

It's about the loan, not the car

Remember, you want to start re-establishing your credit rating.  Be honest with yourself and pick the car and financing terms that you can handle. It may not be your dream car, but by making the payments on time every month, you'll be able to buy the car you want in the future.