CFPB Auto Loans
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 compare auto loans, understand the parts of an auto loan, and feel more prepared to walk into a dealership. The paper format was important to have users look and feel more confident about the auto loan process when walking into a dealership. The materials stressed focusing on 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.
We produced an auto loan worksheet that consumers could print out and bring to the dealership with them. The sheet includes simple definitions of each of the key terms or elements in the process that may be confusing to buyers. Negotiable items were marked with visually distinctive icons to remind consumers that there may be flexibility in the terms of these items. It was important to us that this worksheet be printable, because research suggests that looking and feeling prepared is critical in helping consumers find the right loan for them.
We made a series of webpages, broken down into the distinct steps of the process: planning to shop, exploring loan choices, knowing what is negotiable, and finishing the deal. Organizing the materials to fit with the sequence of events that consumers face 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 on the creation of the illustrations. Each of the bold circle illustrations conceptually ties a car concept with the main point of the section.
An important visualization clearly illustrated that longer loans, while they may have smaller monthly payments, result in more interest paid over the life of the loan.
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. After this, we made changes to the language, simplified the required math, increased the prominence of the “negotiable” icon, and simplified the directions. This type of engagement with our users is a central outcome that we were interested in to ensure the usefulness of our product. The ultimate result was a more usable product for our intended audience.
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.