Car loans

Green carFinancing your dream car

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?

Smart tip

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.

Budget planner

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.

Video: Craig Lowndes introduces ASIC's MoneySmart Cars

Video about ASIC's MoneySmart Cars app

V8 Supercar driver Craig Lowndes explains some of the features of ASIC's MoneySmart Cars app.

Transcript: Craig Lowndes introduces ASIC's MoneySmart Cars

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 credit contract that specifies the amount borrowed and how you will repay it.

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 ends.

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 charges.

Secured loan

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 loan

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 information.

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 loan scam.

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 circumstances.

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.

Dealer finance

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.

Car leases

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 Credit Law.

Car insurance

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.

See car 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.


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Last updated: 31 Aug 2016