When you’re married, you tend to do more things from a “we” perspective, including merging finances and being co-applicants on major loans. However, just because you’re married doesn’t necessarily mean you must -- or should -- mingle every bill.
How Co-signing Works
Co-signing an auto loan with a spouse makes you equal and joint owners of the financial responsibility of loan repayment. It’s also a way to establish and build credit if one of you doesn’t have much of a borrowing history or has a skewed debt-to-income ratio because of other bills or loans.
The Stronger Spouse
If one of you has sketchy credit or doesn’t earn as much as the other, co-signing can help you get a decent interest rate and good terms, provided the spouse has a solid credit history. A loan officer can help you evaluate who should be the primary borrower on a loan based on credit and income. Make every payment on time, and both of your credit scores improve. Miss payments, and you both get credit dings.
If you’re newly married, you may still be finding your way with your spouse in terms of figuring out who is responsible for what in the union. Some spouses prefer financial autonomy or may feel one spouse isn’t as responsible as the other would like when it comes to household monies. If you don’t feel as if you can count on your spouse to be an equal payer on a car loan, go it alone; it’s a major financial obligation that needs to be taken seriously.
In Case of Divorce
If you and your spouse split at any point and you still have the car loan together, you’re both still responsible for the debt. This can get dicey in the face of animosity or squabbles over finances and bills. If you have a car in your name only, you and only you are responsible for the payments. This can make things more clear-cut when it comes to dividing the finances in the event of a separation.
If you and your spouse are committed to sharing every aspect of your lives, including your finances, applying for loans together can keep you on the same page about your budget, how you spend money and how you make major buying decisions. If you prefer more autonomy and independence, and can swing a loan without your spouse on the application, you may be more comfortable being a single-signer buyer.
Lisa McQuerrey has been a business writer since 1987. In 1994, she launched a full-service marketing and communications firm. McQuerrey's work has garnered awards from the U.S. Small Business Administration, the International Association of Business Communicators and the Associated Press. She is also the author of several nonfiction trade publications, and, in 2012, had her first young-adult novel published by Glass Page Books.