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Since You Asked: What is a 'well-qualified' buyer?

The advertisements for purchasing a new car states 0 percent interest for "well qualified" buyers. What is the criteria for a well-qualified buyer and who actually qualifies for these special deals?

­— Kathleen W., Medford

Unless you've been down Bankruptcy Road or piled up late payment notices, chances are you will be among the "well-qualified" at one point or another.

We tracked down Derek DeBoer and Doug Pfaff at Town & Country Chevrolet in Ashland to figure out the definition of a well-qualified buyer.

"Most consumers are pretty skeptical and think nobody gets 0 percent," DeBoer says. "But when a manufacturer has something out there like 0 percent, they're actually pretty aggressive about who they will finance."

Instead of a typical interest rate, based on low risk-, medium-risk and high-risk customers, who might get three different rates, buyers might have a better chance during such promotions to get the best rate.

Pfaff says buyers with a checkered credit history, including lender charge-offs, bankruptcy and late-payment paper trails, will have a hard time getting good interest rates.

"It's a big stretch for a lender when someone has shown they can't pay bills," Pfaff says.

Ultimately it's banks, or other lending institutions, that make the call on a buyer's credit worthiness. He says credit scores run between 380 and 880 and more typically buyers at or above the 720 mark gain automatic qualification, as long as they fall into a bank's criteria.

"If you've got great credit, you can finance the dealer mark-up, the full kit and caboodle," he says.

Send questions to "Since You Asked," Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by e-mail to youasked@mailtribune.com. We're sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.