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Is it cheaper to own a car or give it up?

Is it cheaper to own a car or give it up?

Cars offer freedom and convenience. But those benefits come at a cost – insurance, registration, maintenance, finance.

For some people, it can be hard to know which is greater – the benefits of owning a car or the costs.

So we’ve decided to do a quick cost-benefit analysis to help answer that question.

Let’s start with fuel. The average Australian driver uses 1,798 litres per year, according to Australian Bureau of Statistics data. That adds up to $2,697 of petrol per year, if we assume a price of $1.50 per litre.

Let’s also assume $1,500 in compliance costs – $500 for registration and $1,000 for comprehensive car insurance.

Finally, let’s assume that the typical car owner spends $1,000 per year on new tyres, spare parts and visits to the mechanic.

That adds up to $5,197 per year. To keep things neat, let’s round it up to $5,200.

How much would it cost to give up your car?

The question, then, is whether you’d spend less than $5,200 per year if you replaced your car with a mixture of walking, public transport, taxis and car-sharing services?

Or to put it another way, would you spend less than $100 per week?

If we assume that public transport to and from work would cost $50 per week, that would leave you with another $50 to…

  • Do the weekly grocery shop
  • Take the kids to Saturday sport
  • Go out on the weekend
  • Run errands throughout the week

Even if you were determined to walk and use public transport whenever possible, it’s likely you’d need access to a car several times per week. That would mean hailing a taxi or using a ride-sharing service – which would quickly eat up that remaining $50.

So for many people, it would be cheaper to own a car than to give it up.

Is your car a vital expense or unnecessary luxury?

Of course, all these numbers will vary significantly from person to person.

You might spend a lot more or less than $5,200 per year, depending on where you live, the age and model of the car you drive, and how much you drive it.

It’s not hard to find out. Just go through a year’s worth of bank and credit card statements to find out how much it costs to run your car. Don’t forget to include any car loan repayments as well.

Once you’ve done that, divide the figure by 52 to calculate your weekly car expenditure.

Finally, have a look at all the ways you use a car in a typical week, and how much it would cost to switch to alternative modes of transport.

Now you can make an informed decision about whether your car is a vital expenses or an unnecessary luxury.

Did you find this helpful? Why not share this article?

This article was reviewed by Property & Personal Finance Writer Nick Bendel before it was published as part of RateCity's Fact Check process.

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Learn more about car loans

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.

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:

  • Age
  • Condition
  • 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.

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 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!

What is depreciation?

Depreciation is the reduction in the value of your car. Almost every car loses value each year, although at different rates. As a guide, cars depreciate on average by 14 per cent per year in the first three years and then eight per cent per year after that.

What is the luxury car tax?

The federal government imposes a luxury car tax of 33 per cent on the value of a car above a threshold. As of the 2017-18 financial year, that threshold was $75,526 for fuel-efficient vehicles and $65,094 for other vehicles. So a fuel-efficient car worth $80,000 would be taxed only on the difference between the threshold and the value of the car ($4,474), rather than taxed on the entire $80,000. Similarly, an ordinary car worth $70,000 would be taxed on the $4,906 above the threshold, rather than the entire $70,000. The luxury car tax is paid by dealers that sell or import luxury cars, and also by individuals who import luxury cars.

What is resale value?

The resale value is the price you could realistically charge if you were to sell your car. Almost every car loses value each year, although at different rates. As a guide, cars depreciate on average by 14 per cent per year in the first three years and then eight per cent per year after that.

What is an LVR?

The LVR, or loan-to-value ratio, 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 an LVR of 75 per cent. LVRs 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 LVR would now be 67 per cent.

Does my insurance cover other cars I drive?

If you’re driving someone else’s car, say your friend’s, and you’re involved in an accident, whose insurance is responsible, yours or your friend’s? Does car insurance cover driving other people’s cars?

The short answer is yes. A few car insurance providers offer insurance cover for people to drive someone else’s car. It’s always better to double-check this before you get behind the wheel.

If you’re not covered, you can opt for non-owner car insurance which lets you drive someone else’s car and be protected against liability. However, you will not benefit from other coverage such as damage to the vehicle, replacement rental or medical expenses.

Getting comprehensive insurance driving other cars can be done with temporary insurance. It’s recommended that you do this if you plan to drive someone else’s car, even for a short duration. You can choose between policies that cover you for a fortnight, a month or even a pay-as-you-drive option with temporary insurance.

Alternatively, you can ask the car’s owner to check with their insurer if you can be added to the policy. This will ensure that you are covered fully with comprehensive car insurance driving other cars. Do note that adding you could increase the annual premium for the owner.

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.

What is a secured car loan?

A secured car loan is a loan that is connected to a form of security, or collateral. Generally, the security for a car loan is the car itself. If you fail to repay the loan, the lender might seize your car, sell it and then use the proceeds to recover their debt.

How to apply for pre-approval of a car loan from RACV?

If you’re planning to apply for a car loan with RACV, the best way to start is by having a clear picture of your requirements. By getting pre-approval on your car loan, you’ll be able to go shopping for your new car with a definite budget that will help you narrow your search. Once you’ve decided to buy a car with the help of a loan, you may have even identified the type of car you would like to purchase, you can seek pre-approval on a car loan from RACV. 

You can apply for pre-approval by filling out a form online and uploading the relevant documentation regarding your identification, income, debt and credit history. Once you submit your application, RACV will review and verify the documents. If you meet their eligibility criteria, you will get pre-approval for the amount they are willing to lend to you. With this pre-approval, you can go car shopping with the confidence of knowing what you can afford.

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 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.