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How to choose between fixed and variable rate car loans
Before you buy a new set of wheels, it helps to explore your financing options and choose the right type of car loan to get the maximum value out of the deal. Unfortunately, there's no formula to decide which car loan is the best for you, but learning more about the available options can help you make an informed choice.
Personal Finance Editor
Georgia Brown is a Personal Finance Editor and journalist for RateCity. Before venturing into the world of personal finance, she worked as a reporter for realestate.com.au and Smart Property Investment. She now works truly amongst personal finance, while also writing about other areas, such as sustainable finance and super.
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Frequently asked questions
What is dealer finance?
Dealer finance is a car loan organised through a car dealer – as opposed to car loans organised by a finance broker or directly by the lender.
What is a car loan?
A car loan, also known as vehicle finance, is money that a consumer borrows with the express purpose of buying a vehicle, such as a car, motorbike, van, truck or campervan. Car loans can be used for both new and used vehicles.
What is vehicle finance?
Vehicle finance, also known as a car loan, is money that a consumer borrows with the express purpose of buying a vehicle, such as a car, motorbike, van, truck or campervan. Vehicle finance can be used for both new and used vehicles.
What is a dealership?
A dealership is a car yard or a place where cars are sold.
How do you get a car loan?
There are four different ways you can get a car loan. You can go straight to a lender. You can get a finance broker to organise a car loan for you. You can get ‘dealer finance’ – which is when the car dealer organises a car loan for you. Or you can organise your own car loan through a comparison website, like RateCity.
Whichever method you choose, you will need to provide proof of identification, proof of income and proof of savings. So you may be asked for any combination of passport, driver’s licence, bank statements, payslips, tax returns and utility bills. You might also be asked to provide proof of insurance.
What is a loan-to-value ratio?
The loan-to-value ratio, or LVR, is a percentage that expresses the amount of money owed on the car compared to the value of the car. For example, if you take out a $15,000 loan to buy a $20,000 car, you have a loan-to-value ratio of 75 per cent. Loan-to-value ratios change over time as you pay off your loan and your car depreciates in value. For example, two years later you might now owe $10,000 on your car, which might now be worth $15,000. In that case, although there would still be a $5,000 difference between the size of the outstanding loan and the value of the car, the loan-to-value ratio would now be 67 per cent.
What is a loan term?
The loan term is the amount of time the lender gives you to repay the car loan. For example, if you take out a $20,000 car loan with a five-year loan term, you would be expected to pay off the entire $20,000 (plus interest) within five years.
Can you refinance a car loan with the same lender?
You may be looking to refinance your car loan to get lower interest rates or reduce the total monthly amount you have to pay. Often, this leads to the question ‘can I refinance a car loan with the same bank?’
While it’s always worth shopping around for a better deal or at least to compare offers from other lenders, you can sometimes refinance to a different loan with the same lender. It may be simpler, as the lender already has your details and knows your repayment history.
Having said that, knowing the terms offered by other lenders may help you negotiate a better deal with your current lender.
Should I service my own car?
There are also costs associated with vehicle ownership, such as paying for petrol and the obligatory ongoing maintenance. But should you cut down on costs by servicing your own vehicle?
If you’re considering getting out the tool box, spanner, and grease-laden towel, you need to carefully weigh up the risks and benefits. A trained mechanic will need to complete certain tasks, while you may be perfectly capable to handle other aspects yourself.
If you’re short on time, it may be worth paying for the convenience of a full vehicle service. However if you’re trying to slash your expenses, there are some basic maintenance tasks that you can complete yourself.
You should call a mechanic if you’re unsure about a vehicle maintenance task you’re about to take on. However there are a number of maintenance tasks that you may be able to complete with your own two hands including:
- Replacing your car battery
- Changing the oil
- Replacing worn windscreen wipers
- Replacing blown fuses
Remember to keep your car’s body in good condition, by washing and applying a protective wax on a regular basis, too.
Always check your car warranty agreement as some new car purchases come with an extended car warranty provided your services are conducted at the vehicle service centre where you purchased the car. In these circumstances, you may find the service fee is capped, alleviating some of the maintenance woes.
Where can I find lenders who offer no credit check car loans?
One thing to bear in mind is that lenders who offer no credit check car loans are likely to charge higher interest rates and higher fees than on car loans that include a credit check. Also, lenders who no credit check car loans might expect you to pay a higher deposit. You might also be expected to provide security.
Lenders regard no credit check car loans as riskier than other car loans, which is why it’s a niche product that often features special conditions.
Where can I find lenders who offer no credit check car loans?
You might be better off finding a specialist lender who will look at your credit history and income, who will decide whether or not you are able to responsibility pay back the loan. Alternatively, you could contact a car finance broker.
Can I get a no credit check car loan?
You may be able to get a no credit check car loan in certain circumstances, although it’s important to weigh up your options before doing so.
Most lenders refuse to provide no credit check car loans, because they don’t want to give loans to borrowers without first confirming that they have a track record of repaying debts. So any lenders that do provide no credit check car loans would take measures to protect themselves against the risk of default.
That’s why no credit check car loans have higher interest rates than other car loans. Also, borrowers often have to provide security and put down a larger deposit.
Who provides bad credit car loans?
Lenders that provide bad credit car loans tend to be smaller challenger lenders rather than the bigger banks.
Bad credit car loans are a niche product. The bigger banks tend to focus on mainstream car loan finance for borrowers with better credit histories. That’s why smaller lenders tend to be the ones that provide bad credit car loans.
Bad credit car loans can have high interest rates and fees, so it’s important to compare options before submitting an application.
Where can I get a guarantor car loan?
There are multiple lenders who are willing to provide loans secured by guarantors.
If someone is willing to go guarantor for you and they meet the requirements set out by lenders, you can apply for guarantor finance online, over the phone, or in person.
Some banks also provide guarantor car loans, though because they’re larger banks, they may have higher interest rates than smaller lenders.
You may want to compare guarantor car loans at RateCity, and find a guarantor car loan ideal for your purposes.
How much is your car worth?
If you already own a car, you could potentially bring down the cost by selling your car in the process. Before that happens, though, you’ll need to find out how much your car is worth.
One of the first places to find this value is to research the value of your current car, giving you an idea of roughly how much it’s worth in its peak condition.
There are plenty of websites that offer a free online valuation, allowing you to enter your car’s make, model, year, badge and description, with results listing a price guide based on both selling your car privately and through a dealership.
Of course, dealerships will try to profit on your trade-in by buying it for less than they can sell it, making it highly unlikely that you’ll get the same price selling a car to a dealer as you would selling a car privately.
However, private car sales can be costly and can take months to sell, making car trading more convenient with a guaranteed return, even if you may not be able to realise the total value of your car’s worth.
Remember that everything is negotiable. If the dealership is offering you less for your trade than you wanted, try to negotiate elsewhere to gain that money back. Start by negotiating on the price of the trade and then ask them if they can give you a further discount on your new car.
Can I buy a car as a student?
Buying a car is a huge financial decision, and shy of marriage and purchasing a house (or perhaps around the world travels), it may be the biggest financial decision you make. But if you’re looking at your empty pockets, don’t despair! Your dream of owning your own car could become a reality, if you look for and compare the right car loans for your circumstances.
Can I get a car loan with bad credit?
Yes, you can get a car loan with bad credit, although you’ll probably find the process trickier and dearer than that experienced by people who have good credit histories.
You can find a number of lenders that specialise in bad credit car loans. However, make sure you compare bad credit car loans before you sign on the dotted line, because not all car loans are alike and having bad credit may mean you are more likely to be hit with higher fees and interest rates.
If you have bad credit, it’s important not to take out a car loan unless you can afford the repayments because a default could further damage your credit rating. Conversely, if you make all the repayments and repay the loan successfully, your credit rating might improve.
How to find a great car loan
Historically, finding a great car loan would require excess research ranging from visiting an excess of websites or making phone calls, but technology has moved on. Using RateCity, Australia’s leading financial comparison service, you can check out great deals from a range of lenders on the one site.
To start, select the amount you want to borrow and the length of the loan, narrowing your search to show just fixed or variable interest rate results.
Once you’ve indicated your search criteria, you’ll see an immediate list of lenders, ranked by interest rate or application fees. You’ll also be able to view the monthly repayment amount for each result, helping you to know what you can afford.
Up to six products can be compared side-by-side, complete with more information about each car loan, giving you more information about your options.
When comparing your car loan options, it’s ideal to keep in mind some points find a great car loan for your needs. Consider the following:
- Choosing a low interest car loan can reduce costs
- Selecting an option with low fees and charges is ideal, because these can really add up
- Be aware of penalties, such as early exit penalties if you pay off the loan sooner than expected
- Consider the features that best suit your situation
There are many ways to ensure that you get a great car loan. Ultimately, you’ll end up with the best deal by doing your research and selecting the most suitable product for you.
How much is my car worth?
If you own a car, it may be something that can help you bring down the cost of your next vehicle purchase through its sale. However, before you can do that you’ll want to find out how much your car is worth.
Your car’s worth can depend upon various aspects, including:
- Model and make
A great starting place for aspects of this includes websites that offer online valuations, allowing you to enter your car’s make, model, year, badge and description, with the listed results displaying a price guide based on both selling your car privately and through a dealership.
Both have pros and cons, as cars can be very profitable, something that will no doubt impact any chance you have to make the most of your car’s value upon sale. Dealerships will try to profit on your trade-in by buying it for less than they can sell it for, so you shouldn’t expect the same price selling a car to a dealer that you would necessarily get selling a car privately.