I love the internet.  There are so many ways that the internet makes our lives so much better and easier than it used to be.  It’s especially awesome for introverts like me who hate talking to people.  I will bend over backwards to get as much information as possible without having to talk to a human being.  If I have to talk to a human for some reason, like if it will save me money, then I will do it, but I will still hate it.  The good news is that the internet is getting better and better, and there are more and more websites out there that show you the information you need without having to talk to humans!  OK, perhaps you’re not as repelled by the idea of talking to people as I am, but nonetheless, if you are in the market for a loan, and you aren’t shopping for the best loan rates on some of the websites out there, you could be leaving a lot of money on the table.

Shopping for Mortgage Loans

There are several mortgage loan comparison websites out there.  Bankrate.com was one of the first websites I ever checked out to compare mortgage rates.  At the time, they used to have a good number of major lenders listed on the website.  Now, it looks to me like they just have mortgage brokers’ listings, which is good and bad.  The good thing about mortgage brokers is that they have access to the rates of a number of major (and not-so-major) lenders, so their posted rates tend to reflect the best rates that area available with any lender.  The bad thing about mortgage brokers is that the rates posted are not “real” rates.  You might plug in with a mortgage broker and discover at some point thereafter that you really can’t get that rate you’re hoping for.  Or sometimes the mortgage brokers accidentally give you incorrect information about what forms of documentation the bank might require, or other things related to the loan process.  Because of that, I generally prefer to deal directly with lenders, but then again, I’ve been steered wrong by in-house loan representatives before, too.  The really great news is that Bankrate shows ratings for each of the lenders, too, which can really help you weed out the bad brokers/lenders.

LendingTree.com is another website that lets you compare mortgage lenders, although it seems like it might only list mortgage brokers as well.  I can’t recall seeing any rates posted directly by banks.  (Just a little tip: if you run a search and you see a bunch of lenders listed that you’ve never heard of before, those are most likely brokers.  I used to think they were independent private equity lenders, but when I contacted a couple of them when I was looking to refinance my home mortgage, both of the ones I contacted told me that they are mortgage brokers.)  Like Bankrate, LendingTree also has user reviews, which can be helpful when choosing a lender.  The one big negative about LendingTree is that they require you to list a phone number to get mortgage rates.  The reason they do this is so they can pass along your phone number to the lenders/brokers who come up in your search.  If you don’t want to be pestered by loan brokers calling your cell phone, you could either skip LendingTree, or maybe list a phone number that you won’t mind if they call.  You know, something like 867-5309?  Or something with a 555-prefix?  Thank goodness they haven’t refined their data entry fields to exclude those numbers yet.  Don’t ask how I know.  😀

If you’re shopping for a mortgage in Australia, you could try Rate City or Canstar.  In the UK, you might try CompareTheMarket.com or MoneySupermarket.com.  All four of those sites seem pretty similar to Bankrate.com, in that they don’t require a phone number.  Even better, it looks to me like they have direct listings for banks, although I admit I’m not as familiar with bank names in the UK and Australia as I am with U.S. bank names.

Shopping for Auto or Personal Loans

In doing the research for this post, I was surprised that there were some really good loan comparison websites for auto and personal loans.  I shouldn’t have been surprised, since there’s obviously a need for this sort of thing, but since I don’t normally go shopping for personal or auto loans, I wasn’t really aware of them.  It’s a good thing to know, though, since lots of folks obviously need these loans from time to time, and if I ever got stuck needing an emergency loan, now I know where to start looking.

For personal or auto loans in the United States, there are several sites to choose from, including Credit Karma, NerdWallet, and even Bankrate.com, although they each have their flaws.  I find the Credit Karma website to have a fairly clunky interface.  After doing a search on their website, it lists each of the lender results in a separate box, making it more difficult to visually compare the loans.  At least it has user ratings for the lenders, though.  I think user reviews are especially important for things like personal loans, because they tend to be less straightforward than home loans, and because there is such a wide variety of banks who offer personal loans.  A borrower might have a general idea of whether they prefer Bank of America, Wells Fargo, or Chase, but if you’re comparing a dozen or more private lenders for a small personal loan, there’s really no telling which is better than the others without looking at other users’ reviews.

NerdWallet seems okay, except that for personal loans it makes you choose what the loan is for, and as far as I can tell, the rates are exactly the same no matter which loan purpose you choose.  That’s not a huge deal, but it is a time-waster to go through the different options to see if there is a rate difference, and I hate that.  Also, NerdWallet doesn’t have user reviews of each lender, it just has editor reviews, which are generally far less helpful than the collective experiences of hundreds of borrowers over time.

Bankrate.com won’t show you rates unless you give them your email address, which I wouldn’t do.  I can’t tell you much about the information they show, since I didn’t go past that crucial step.

For personal or auto loans in the United Kingdom, you have several choices again.  CompareTheMarket appears to have a very long list of potential lenders, but it has no user reviews of the lenders at all.  That’s a big negative in my book.  A better choice might be Readies, which has an equally long list of potential lenders and includes user reviews of those lenders.  It also has information on a wide variety of loan types (personal loans, auto loans, bad credit loans, etc.).  In Australia, you have a lot of choices again, with Rate City and Canstar making the top of the list, although only Canstar has user reviews to help you screen lenders.

Find the Best Loan Rates to Dig Yourself Out of Debt

Now that you have an idea of where to start looking for the best loan rates, make sure you’re making the right decision by taking out a loan.  Just because you are able to borrow doesn’t mean you should.  But if you’ve already got debt that you’re working on eliminating, there’s no harm in checking to see if you might be able to refinance your existing debt at a lower interest rate.  Just make sure that once you refi, you keep making our old loan payment amounts so the loan gets paid off faster.   It’s all about keeping up that momentum!