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What is a novated lease’s balloon payment?

What is a novated lease’s balloon payment?

Unlike other car leasing arrangements, a novated lease involves an employee and their employer, in addition to the financier. The employee uses and maintains the car while the employer deducts the lease payments from the employer’s salary to repay the financier. 

According to the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) rules, the last such repayment is called the residual value or balloon payment and is calculated as a percentage of the lease amount. If the terms of the novated lease do not specify a balloon payment, the lease may not be considered legitimate. However, employees can refinance the novated lease as an alternative to making the balloon payment.

How does refinancing a novated lease affect the balloon payment?

Typically, employees who’ve arranged novated leases with their employer have several options when the lease term is about to expire. They can pay the residual value and take ownership of the car, which can have tax implications. Also, the residual value can be a significant percentage of the lease value. For this reason, the standard course of action involves renegotiating the lease to cover this residual value. The new lease will also be novated, but it’ll have a lower residual value.  Note that the employer should agree to refinance the novated lease.

Employees can also choose to trade in the leased vehicle for a newer one, in which case the balloon payment can become part of the new lease arrangement. Alternatively, employees can sell the car to cover the residual value and make fresh arrangements to lease a different car. Calculating the residual value factors in the car’s depreciation over the lease term and, as a result, the balloon payment may equal the market value of the vehicle at that time. However, if the market value is lower, the employee will have to pay the difference between the residual value and the market value.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of a balloon payment in a novated lease?

While the balloon payment depends on the lease amount and term, it is usually larger than other lease repayments. Therefore, not having a balloon payment could mean having to make higher repayments over the lease term and potentially lower the employee’s take-home income. 

On the other hand, depending on the size of the balloon payment, finding the funds may not be easy for the employee. Even if they can afford the novated lease’s balloon payment, their salary would be more heavily impacted at the time the balloon payment is due. 

Without making the balloon payment, the employee can neither own the car nor sell it and even arranging for a trade would depend on the financier agreeing to it. One workaround for employees is checking if they can choose a novated operating lease instead of a novated finance lease, which gives them the option of returning the car at the end of the lease instead of worrying about the balloon payment. 

Employees may also want to calculate the long-term impact, in terms of both taxes saved and potential balloon payments, before choosing a novated lease over a car loan.

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

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Learn more about car loans

What is a novated lease?

A novated lease is a car lease that is ‘novated’, or transferred from one party to another. Novated leases are often used when companies provide a car as part of a salary package. The employer signs for the lease and makes the lease payments, but the employee assumes the responsibility of looking after the car. While most car leases involve two parties, novated leases involve three – employer, employee and financier.

What is a car lease?

A car lease, also known as an asset lease or finance lease, 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. At the end of the lease, you can either buy the car or hand it back. 

What is an asset lease?

An asset lease, also known as a finance lease or car lease, 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. At the end of the lease, you can either buy the car or hand it back.

What is a finance lease?

A finance lease, also known as an asset lease or car lease, 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. At the end of the lease, you can either buy the car or hand it back. 

What is an operating lease?

An operating lease is an arrangement by which a company leases a car from a vehicle fleet supplier for a set period. It’s a bit like a long-term car rental in that the company gains access to the car but the supplier retains ownership. Companies like operating leases because they are tax-deductible and because they save the company from having to make a large upfront payment to buy a car.

What is residual value?

The residual value of a car is how much it will be worth at the end of a lease period. Finance companies need to calculate a car’s residual value before they can know how much to charge during the lease period. For example, if a financier calculates that a $30,000 car will have a residual value of $16,000 at the end of a five-year lease, the financier will know that it must charge $14,000 to break even on the lease – and more to make a profit.

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. 

What is a balloon payment?

Some lenders will offer borrowers reduced monthly repayments in return for a one-off lump sum – or balloon payment – that the borrower has to pay at the end of the loan. Generally, the total repayments on a loan with a balloon structure will be higher than a loan without.

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 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 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.

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.

What is trade-in value?

The trade-in value is the price you could realistically charge if you were to sell your car to a dealer while buying a replacement vehicle. Generally, a car’s trade-in value is less than its market value. That’s because the dealer has no interest in buying your car unless it can make a profit – which can only be done if the dealer has room to increase the price.

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!