Go to www.annualcreditreport.com and enter your name, address, birth date and Social Security number to get a free credit report from each of the three monitoring bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion). Read each report to make sure there are no errors. If there are, file a dispute with the bureau, and contact the lender in question.
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Sign up for a free account at www.credit.com. You'll get two measures of your credit score, plus a report card that tells you how you're doing in five key areas that make up your score.
Most lenders use the FICO score (720 or above is considered good), so if you're in the market for a loan, it makes sense to get that number. Go to www.myfico.com. FICO Standard gives you one bureau's report and score for $19.95. For an auto loan, one score is probably enough. If you're applying for a home loan, you might want to ante up for all three: Mortgage lenders typically take the middle of your three scores.
You'll know where you stand before you apply for a loan.