Apart from a home, a car is one of the single biggest purchases
you are likely to make. Don't let the excitement of buying a car
get in the way of making good financial decisions.
What can you afford?
Before you get a car loan, save as much as you can so don't have
to borrow as much.
Before you start looking for a car, use our budget planner to
work out what you can afford and what you are willing to pay. Start
by doing a budget.
Include all the costs of owning and running a car. This can
include annual registration fees, insurance, roadside assistance,
petrol, repairs, maintenance, and road tolls. See buying a
car for more information.
Our MoneySmart Cars app can also help you work out the real
costs of buying and running a car.
MoneySmart Cars app
Once you know how much a car will cost, decide how much you want
to spend. For example, if you decide you want to spend $15,000,
then stick to it. The dealer may offer accessories for the car and
insurance products. However, these can really add up, and leave you
with a bigger debt.
If you can't pay for a car from savings, you will have to borrow
money. The type of car you buy will determine how much you need and
what your repayments will be.
Consider getting a good second-hand car. This can save you money
and you'll have more cash for other things like insurance. Before
you buy, do an ownership check for as little as $3.40 using the
Australian Government's Personal Property
Securities Register (PPSR) to make sure the car won't be
repossessed because the owner still owes money on it.
Choosing a car loan
A car loan is a personal loan for
the specific purpose of buying a new or used car.
Personal loan calculator
You borrow an amount of money that you have to repay within a
certain period of time (called 'the term'). You will have to sign a
contract that specifies the amount borrowed and how you will
The term can vary, but is usually between 12 months and 5 years.
If you don't pay off the full amount of the loan by the end of the
term, or if you can't afford to make equal payments over the life
of the loan, the final payment must be made as a lump sum. While
this makes repayments affordable, you may be left with a large
amount of money to pay off or refinance when the term
Fixed and variable rate loans
If you shop around you can choose between a fixed or variable
rate loan. In a fixed rate loan, the interest rate is locked in for
the term of the loan. This means that your repayments will be set,
so you know exactly how much you have to repay each month.
But if you make extra payments from time to time and pay out the
loan early, you may be charged an early
termination fee. You will also have to pay account fees and
With secured loans you offer an asset, such as the car you are
buying, as security for the loan.
If you don't make repayments, the credit provider can repossess
and sell your asset to get its money back. The age of your car will
affect its resale value. If your car is sold for less than you owe,
you will still have to pay the credit provider the difference.
Unsecured loans are typically taken out for used cars. You don't
need to offer an asset as security however you may not be able to
borrow as much.
Interest rates are also usually higher for unsecured loans
because the credit provider is taking a bigger risk. If you don't
repay the loan, the credit provider can take you to court to
recover its money.
Peer to peer loan
You might be able to get a car loan without going through a
traditional lender such as a bank, building society or credit
union. See peer to peer lending for more
Warning about loan scams
Be suspicious if you are contacted out of the blue by a company
offering loans with low interest rates, as they could be operating
a loan scam. Also be cautious if you come across a website offering
loan applications online as you will need to check they are
legitimate before apply for a loan. See our tips on how to pick a
Get value for your money
Just as important as getting the best price on a car is getting the best credit
deal. By shopping around for credit before you go shopping for
a car, you can find a loan that suits your budget and
Many credit providers will give you 'in principle approval' for
a loan, so you know exactly how much you can borrow and won't be
tempted to spend beyond your means.
If you buy from a car yard, the dealer might offer to arrange
finance for you. While dealer finance might seem convenient you may
get a better deal by shopping around. Banks, building societies, credit unions and specialist
lending and leasing companies all offer car loans, so check out
what's on offer before you go for dealer finance.
A car lease allows you to rent a car for an agreed period of
time, but you don't have the right to buy the car. At the end of
the period, the lease is terminated and the car is sold.
You could make an offer for the car, but you will usually need
to come up with a large sum of money to buy it and the credit
provider does not have to accept your offer. If you want to own the
car, getting a lease is not the right option for you.
Warning about business declarations
Only sign a business purpose declaration if you are really using
the car for business and can claim your payments as a valid
business expense for tax purposes. By signing a business purpose
declaration, you may lose valuable rights under the National
You must take out compulsory third party (CTP) insurance before
you are allowed to take your car on the road. If you borrow
money and a lender takes security over the loan they will usually
require you to pay for comprehensive insurance. This insurance
covers damage to your own car and other people's property if your
car is in an accident (including fire), as well as covering you if
the car is stolen.
insurance for more information.
Extra insurance offered by car dealers
If you are arranging finance for your car you may also be
offered add-on insurance products like loan protection, gap cover
or tyre and rim insurance. Think twice before you take up these
offers - they may not be good value for money, or only pay in
limited circumstances and they also add to the cost of your loan.
Find out more about add-on insurance.
Buying a car involves important financial
decisions. Be prepared and research your options before shopping
around for the loan and the car insurance as well as the car.
Last updated: 10 Oct 2016