NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Having bad credit -- and these days, lenders see that as any credit score of 660 or lower -- can really crimp your ability to buy a new car.
That said, having bad credit doesn't mean you can't a buy a new car, SUV or truck. It just means you have to be diligent and creative.
According to a report from Edmunds.com, with the right preparation and expectations subprime buyers can secure a new car loan responsibly and even develop smart financial habits to help improve their credit scores for future purchases.
"Contrary to popular belief, there are a number of reasons why a lender would help somebody with a troubled credit history to buy a new car," says Ronald Montoya, consumer advice editor at Edmunds. "If you do your credit homework, shop within your price range and make all of your payments, you'll not only improve your credit score but you'll also practice positive finance habits that will serve you well for years to come."
Edmunds offers the following to tips to help consumers with low credit scores slip behind a new set of wheels:
Start by knowing your credit score. Yes, every journey begins with a first step -- and your first step here is knowing where you stand with credit. Go to annualcreditreport.com where you can get one free copy of your credit report once a year. It's good to spot so-called "risk factors" such as unpaid debts that you can square away, ultimately hiking your credit score. Do this at least 90 days before you start looking for a car.