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Chattel mortgage vs hire purchase: how do they compare?

Chattel mortgage vs hire purchase: how do they compare?

As any Aussie business owner might know, purchasing vehicles outright isn’t usually the go-to option from either an accounting perspective or in terms of getting tax deductions.

Businesses often prefer a vehicle financing arrangement, but there are other choices to consider for any business owners looking to go down this path. For instance, you may be tossing up between a chattel mortgage or a hire purchase. The answer often depends on whether businesses want ownership of the vehicle.

Since chattel mortgages involve securing finance to purchase a vehicle, businesses own the vehicle and are responsible for maintaining it. This, however, is not the case with a hire purchase in which the company may not end up owning the vehicle and can include the cost of its upkeep in the loan amount.

How to choose between a chattel mortgage or a hire purchase

As the name might suggest, a chattel mortgage is essentially the equivalent of a home loan for cars. The word chattel refers to movable property, which in this case is the vehicle for which the loan is taken. Some lenders may allow businesses to opt for a balloon payment option, which may help to reduce your ongoing repayments until the final lump sum is due.

Chattel mortgages offer the additional advantage of being able to declare the vehicle as a business asset and claiming an asset write-off when filing business tax returns. Further, businesses can also claim a tax deduction on the depreciation, or loss in value, of the car.

At the same time, since the company is paying off the mortgage, the repayments can be included as a liability. Businesses need to remember that a chattel mortgage allows the lender to repossess the vehicle if they cannot repay the loan as per schedule.

Comparatively, a hire purchase usually involves leasing a vehicle for a fixed period, similar to a finance lease, but the repayments can be adjusted to include a balloon payment. While the business owns the car when taking out a chattel mortgage, in a hire-purchase, the lender is the owner from whom the car is borrowed.

In both cases, businesses can claim an input tax credit on the vehicle’s purchase price and interest payments if their cash accounting includes GST. With a hire purchase agreement, businesses using a non-cash accounting method can also claim input tax credits.

Before deciding whether to go for a chattel mortgage or a hire purchase, businesses should thoroughly discuss the accounting and tax implications with their accountants. They should also compare other options, including a chattel mortgage versus a finance lease, to make sure that all options have been considered.

Keep in mind there is more to a loan than its interest rates. Only comparing the interest rates offered by lenders won’t take into account potential tax benefits. Whichever option you choose, businesses need to ensure that the vehicle is largely used for business purposes. This requires keeping track of the hours the car was used for business-related activities.

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Fact Checked -

This article was reviewed by Personal Finance Editor Jodie Humphries before it was published as part of RateCity's Fact Check process.

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Learn more about car loans

Can an individual apply for a chattel mortgage?

Lenders offer chattel mortgages as a way to finance vehicles used for business purposes. Companies, as well as individuals, are eligible to apply for and receive chattel mortgages. The essential eligibility requirement is that the vehicle is used for business at least 51 per cent of the time. If you’re a tradesman and require a new utility vehicle to move equipment, you can apply for a chattel mortgage to finance the purchase.

A chattel mortgage for individuals is an option if you’re self-employed and have an Australian Business Number (ABN). You’ll also need to be registered for the Goods and Services Tax (GST) and have a clear credit history. Like all other loan types, you’ll have to prove your capability to service the loan to qualify for a chattel mortgage.

You’ll retain the ownership while the lender holds the vehicle as security for the loan in a similar way as they would a property with a home loan. You repay the borrowed amount in predetermined monthly instalments. Once you repay the entire loan amount, the lender will remove the mortgage.

What is a chattel mortgage fee?

A chattel mortgage fee is an amount you’ll pay the lender to procure the funds for a chattel mortgage.

You can use a chattel mortgage to finance vehicles used for your business at least 50 per cent of the time. It’s similar to a secured vehicle loan. The lender will give you the funds required to purchase the vehicle whilst you retain the ownership. The finance company then holds a mortgage on the vehicle, using the car as the security, until you repay the loan amount. At the end of the loan term or once you’ve paid it off, the lender will release the mortgage. Alternatively, you can opt to trade-in or refinance the residual value.

What is a chattel mortgage?

A chattel mortgage is a mortgage on a movable item. In the case of a car loan, the chattel is the vehicle. The lender maintains a mortgage over the chattel/vehicle until the loan is fully repaid.

What are the chattel mortgage tax benefits?

Buying a vehicle with a chattel mortgage can help to reduce your tax burden. The tax benefits you can get from a chattel mortgage include:

  • Goods and Services Tax (GST): GST is paid when you buy a new vehicle. You can claim the GST credit for vehicles and other goods or services used for commercial use. The GST paid when you buy the car is claimed as an Input Tax Credit if your business is registered for the GST in your Bank Activity Statement (BAS).
  • Interest payments: You can claim the interest paid on your chattel mortgage as a deduction in your annual tax returns.
  • Depreciation: The longer you own the vehicle, its value will depreciate, and you can claim this depreciation as a tax deduction.

You should consult an experienced tax professional for more information about chattel mortgage tax benefits.

What is a chattel mortgage used for?

A chattel mortgage is usually used to buy an asset - such as a car - for your company for business use. Relatively similar to regular mortgages, a chattel mortgage structure is based on a lender providing you with funds to purchase an asset while registering their security interest on the Personal Property Securities Register (PPSR) for the life of the loan. In this case, the asset is known as the chattel. After the loan has been repaid, you will have full ownership of the asset. 

A popular finance option, a chattel mortgage is usually preferred by self-employed or small business owners, due to flexible options available for repayment. In some cases, you may get 100 per cent of the cost of the asset, which means that no upfront deposit needs to be put down.

However, it’s important to note that a chattel mortgage is not regulated under the National Consumer Credit Protection Act. It’s therefore important to seek advice about the product and fully understand the agreement terms before signing.

What do I need to apply for a chattel mortgage?

Chattel mortgages are a form of secured car loan for businesses. The lender will set up a mortgage, while you take the car’s ownership. When the mortgage is paid off, you own the car. The borrowed amount is repaid through regular installments over a fixed period of time.

To qualify, you’ll have to meet the following chattel mortgage requirements:

  • The car should be used for business purposes at least 51 per cent of the time.
  • You must hold a valid Australian Business Number (ABN).
  • You must show you can service the loan on time
  • Identity proof
  • Financial records, such as profit and loss account and balance sheet
  • Details of the vehicle you want to buy
  • Bank statement for your business

How to get a chattel mortgage?

Both businesses and individuals may use a chattel mortgage, provided that the car is being used predominantly for business purposes. 

To apply for a chattel mortgage, you need to first consider your options and choose a suitable lender that meets your requirements. Once you have selected a lender, you can apply for the loan online by filling out a form. If the lender doesn’t offer an online application process, you can either call them or visit their nearest branch. 

After you’ve applied, the lender will ask you to supply documents that confirm your identification, income, job profile, etc. If everything is in order, most lenders will arrange the loan’s settlement, so all you need to do is pick up your car!

Can you get a chattel mortgage with bad credit?

Getting approval for a chattel mortgage with bad credit may be possible, given ‘chattel’ (usually a piece of equipment or car) is put up as security for the loan. That means if you fail to repay the loan, the creditor can recover the loaned amount by repossessing and selling the car or piece of equipment. This differs from unsecured car loans, where the asset is not tied to the loan and cannot be taken if you don’t meet the repayments. 

How does a chattel mortgage work?

A chattel mortgage is a loan issued to a person or a corporation for movable property. The movable property could include automobiles, yachts or boats, mobile homes, caravans or trailers. The term chattel in chattel mortgage refers to the movable property  used as collateral or security for the loan.

In a chattel mortgage, the loan is backed by 'chattel,' which the lender retains ownership of until the full loan has been repaid. Usually, the interest rate charged on such mortgages is lower. Repayments can also be fixed, which means you know exactly how much you’re repaying each month.

The most significant benefit for the lender is that the properties held as insurance are movable and can be sold easily if the borrower defaults.

Can you terminate your chattel mortgage early?

Some lenders might provide you with an option to terminate your chattel mortgage early by repaying the full amount before the term is over. This way, your overall loan term decreases, therefore reducing the interest you need to pay.

It’s important to note that some lenders might charge a fee for you to pay off your chattel mortgage early. So, if you’re planning to terminate your chattel mortgage early, make sure you check if your lender allows you to do this. You should also determine if there are any additional fees or charges that you would need to pay to do this.

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 commercial hire purchase?

A commercial hire purchase, or CHP, is an arrangement by which a finance company buys a car on your behalf. You get to borrow the car in return for making regular payments to the financier. Once the final payment is made, you take ownership of the car. 

What is a CHP?

A CHP, or commercial hire purchase, is an arrangement by which a finance company buys a car on your behalf. You get to borrow the car in return for making regular payments to the financier. Once the final payment is made, you take ownership of the car. 

What is a guarantor on a car loan?

A guarantor on a car loan is a third party, usually a relative or friend, who guarantees to meet the repayments of a loan for the purchase of a car, if the borrower/owner of the car defaults on the loan.

Guarantor car loans can be useful for people who would otherwise struggle in being accepted for credit to purchase a vehicle. These may include people with bad credit, students and young people who may have no credit history, as well as some pensioners.

Many lenders offer guarantor car loans, guarantor personal loans and guarantor home loans, because of the significantly reduced risk to the lender.