As part of its mission to “make markets for consumer financial products and services work for Americans,” the CFPB created resources to educate the public about purchasing auto loans.

Project Goals

Buying a car is often are the second largest major financial purchase that a consumer will make. As with buying a house, cars are often purchased on credit. The auto loan process can be complicated and daunting. As part of its mission to “make markets for consumer financial products and services work for Americans” the CFPB was interested in educating consumers about how to purchase auto loans.

The goal of the project was to encourage consumers to shop around with confidence and be better informed. We created a worksheet to help users understand the part of an auto loan, comparison shop, and be more prepared to walk into a dealership with confidence. Users could take the paper form into the dealership to feel more confident about the process, and the materials focused on the total cost of the loan instead of just the down payment. The sheet had to be simple and short enough that people could do the math and wouldn't be intimidated by using the worksheet.


Worksheet Design

We produced an auto loan worksheet that consumers could print out and bring to the dealership with them. It includes simple definitions of key terms and steps in the process that can be confusing. Negotiable items were marked with visually distinctive icons to remind consumers of their potential flexibility. It was important to us that this worksheet be printable, as research suggests that looking and feeling prepared is critical in helping consumers find the right loan.

auto loan page 1
auto loan page 2


We made a series of webpages organized by each step in the process: planning to shop, exploring loan choices, knowing what is negotiable and finishing the deal. Organizing the materials to fit the sequence of events facing consumers made them more useful and accessible to our target audience. We placed a heavy emphasis on creating materials that would meet consumers’ real-world needs, and breaking things up into easily understandable chunks.

I worked with a fellow designer to create the illustrations. Each of the bold circles conceptually ties together a car concept with the main point of the section.

cfpb auto loan page

Data visualization

An important visualization clearly illustrated that longer loans—while they may have smaller monthly payments—result in more interest paid over the loan’s lifetime.


Key Outcomes

As a key part of creating these materials, we did user testing using a role-playing simulation where consumers had to navigate the car-buying process using the worksheet prototype. We made changes to the language, simplified the math, increased the prominence of the “negotiable” icon and simplified the directions.

These materials, which launched in 2016, are an unbiased product in the marketplace to help consumers negotiate auto-loans from a position of knowledge and confidence.