Bad credit car loans explained

A bad credit rating can be an obstacle if you’re looking to take out a loan to buy a car – but it doesn’t have to be the end of the world. True, some lenders may refuse to give you a loan or charge you higher interest rates. However, other lenders are comfortable with making bad credit car loans.

What is a bad credit car loan?

A bad credit car loan is a specialist car loan for borrowers with imperfect credit histories. Bad credit car loans can also be used by other borrowers who are regarded as high-risk, such as people who are self-employed or who are temporary residents of Australia. As always, lending policies differ from lender to lender.

Should I get a bad credit car loan?

A bad credit rating means that if you go to regular lenders, they will either not approve your loan request, or will offer a loan at a very high interest rate. However, a lender that specialises in bad credit car loans may be able to give you cheaper loans and with faster approval times.

They can also provide credit management suggestions to help you improve your credit rating. Additionally, opting for a bad credit car loan and paying it back as per the repayment schedule can help improve your credit rating, which might then allow you to escape the ‘bad credit’ category. 

How to maximise your chances of getting a bad credit car loan

  • Improve your financial situation and credit rating
  • Maintain stable employment
  • Be honest about your financial position
  • Avoid multiple car loan applications 

What should I consider before taking out a bad credit car loan?

If you’re thinking about taking out a bad credit car loan, use a car loan calculator to research different repayment scenarios. A car loan calculator will tell you whether or not you can afford a loan, based on variables such as loan size, loan term and interest rate.

If your monthly repayments are too high, you might be able to reduce them by opting for a longer loan term and/or a balloon payment at the end. Please note, though, that you’ll end up paying more over the life of the loan. (Conversely, a shorter loan term without a balloon payment would mean lower whole-of-loan costs.)

During your research, you should also weigh up whether you want a variable-rate loan or a fixed-rate loan. A variable loan could go up or down, which would either harm or help your financial position. A fixed loan, though, would never change, which would make it easier for you to budget.

Don’t forget that interest rates aren’t the only cost – there are also various fees and charges to consider. These may include loan establishment fees, loan account-keeping fees, car registration, car insurance. You may be allowed to take out a bigger loan to cover these costs – although that would mean you’d ultimately pay more in interest.

Finally, it’s often a good idea to put down a deposit on a bad credit car loan. The higher a deposit you can afford at the start of your car loan, the lower the principal you’ll be required to repay, and the more you’ll save on interest.

How do I get approval for a car loan with bad credit?

Getting a car loan with a poor credit rating can be difficult, but a bad credit car loan can help make your dream of owning a car a reality. Although these car loans are intended for people with bad credit ratings, there are a few things you might want to do to improve your chances.


1) Improve your credit rating 

  • Pay your bills on time 
  • Don't over-apply for credit 

2) Maintain stable employment

  • Bad credit car loan lenders generally prefer borrowers who have been in stable employment for at least 12 months.
  • Lenders like to know that you’re able to hold down a job, so you will have a consistent source of income for making timely repayments.

3) Be honest about your financial position

  • Describe your financial situation honestly to your bad credit car loan lender.
  • Discrepancies between what you say and what’s in your credit file will be easily spotted by a lender.
  • This can make you appear untrustworthy.

4) Avoid multiple loan applications

  • Lots of applications will reflect negatively on your credit file, as will any rejections.
  • Once you’ve found a preferred lender, have an honest in-depth chat with that lender about your position and your chance of securing approval.
  • If the lender gives you the green light, you’ll know your car loan application is likely to be approved.

What is a credit rating?

A credit rating (or credit score) is a number that summarises the credit-worthiness of a particular borrower, which may be an individual, business or government. A credit rating is a used to predict the borrower’s ability to pay back the loan, along with the chances of the borrower defaulting.

How is a credit rating determined?

A credit rating is calculated based on the borrower’s credit history, including factors such as payment history, the amount owed, types of credit, bankruptcy, payment defaults, etc. Though the precise algorithms followed by different lenders and rating organisations are not known, it is safe to say that a borrower’s credit rating depends on their past borrowing and repayment habits.

Who determines my credit rating?

Credit ratings are determined by credit reporting agencies like Dun & Bradstreet, Equifax (previously Veda Advantage), Experian and the Tasmanian Collection Service. Each agency uses its own assessment and scoring methodology. These ratings are then used by lenders to determine the credit-worthiness of prospective borrowers.

If you want to find out your credit rating, you can contact one of those credit reporting agencies to request access to your credit file. Your credit file contains your credit history – what loans you’ve applied for, what loans you’ve been granted and your record of repayments. Your credit file also contains biographical information.  

What is a bad credit rating?

A bad credit rating means that a credit reporting agency has assessed you as a high-risk borrower with a greater chance of defaulting. Each credit reporting agency uses its own algorithm to calculate a credit rating and to differentiate a good credit rating from a bad one.

What are the causes of a bad credit rating?

There are several possible ways you can damage your credit rating, including:

  • Falling behind on your repayments
  • Missing repayments altogether
  • Defaulting on a loan
  • Making too many credit applications
  • Getting rejected for credit applications
  • Exceeding credit limits on your credit card
  • Declaring bankruptcy

What is comprehensive credit reporting?

In the past, credit files only contained negative credit events (such as late payments). Because they omitted positive events (such as on-time payments), they did not provide a fully accurate view of a borrower’s credit history. That meant even a small negative event, like a late bill payment, could damage a person’s credit history.

Hence the introduction, in March 2014, of comprehensive credit reporting, which includes both positive and negative events. That means that consumers have the chance to cancel out isolated negative events with a history of positive events, such as paying off without being late on a single repayment. 

How to improve a bad credit rating?

Having a bad credit rating isn't good. But it doesn't have to be a permanent state. As a general rule, fixing a bad credit rating takes time and requires effort, but it can be done. Here are a few things you can do to help fix a bad credit rating:

1) Order a free copy of your credit report

  • Check your history for accuracy.
  • If you find any errors in the file, bring them to the attention of the appropriate authority to be corrected.

2) Make all future repayments on time

  • Thanks to comprehensive credit reporting, such positive events can help to cancel out the negatives.
  • An obvious way to cancel out a history of late payments is to build up a record of on-time payments.

3) Consider debt consolidation

  • If you have multiple outstanding debts, you can roll several higher-interest debts into a new lower-interest product, paying off the debt will become both cheaper and simpler.

4) Consider setting up direct debit payments

  • Automating loan repayments for credit cards and personal loans can be an effective way of ensuring you never miss a payment

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.

What is a bad credit car loan?

A bad credit car loan is a car loan for borrowers who have ‘bad credit’ or a bad credit history.

Some lenders refuse to offer bad credit car loans, because they believe there is an excessive risk that bad credit borrowers will not repay their loans. However, other lenders are willing to provide bad credit car loans.

Generally, these lenders charge higher interest rates for bad credit car loans than ‘prime’ car loans, reflecting the higher level of risk. Bad credit car loans may also have higher fees than prime car loans.

However, the big advantage of a bad credit car loan is that it allows borrowers with bad credit to access finance. Another advantage is that it could help bad credit borrowers improve their credit rating, assuming they make all their repayments on time.

Do I need good credit to get a car loan?

You don’t need good credit to get a car loan, although the worse your credit history, the harder and more expensive it’s likely to be.

Some lenders will do business only with borrowers who have good credit. However, there are other lenders that are willing to offer car loans to borrowers who don’t have good credit. The catch, though, is that they may charge higher interest rates and fees, and also require more paperwork.

If you don’t have good credit and want a car loan immediately, you can search for lenders that work with bad credit borrowers. If you are able to wait, you can work to improve your credit score and then apply for a car loan once you have good credit.

Are bad credit car loans legit?

Bad credit car loans are legit, although not all lenders and products are created equal.

Some car loan lenders refuse to do business with borrowers who have bad credit histories, but there are others that are willing to provide bad credit. There is a catch, though: some bad credit lenders are disreputable, while some bad credit loans have extremely high interest rates and fees.

That’s why it’s important to do your research and compare bad credit car loans before you submit an application.

 

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.

Can I get a no credit check car loan?

Even if you have bad credit or no credit history there are loans that are available to you through specialised lenders. Some lenders in Australia advertise car loan offers without running credit checks, however, the Australian National Consumer Credit Protection act requires lenders to loan money responsibly, so credit checks are normally required by all responsible lenders. 

What is credit history?

Your credit history is a record of the dealings you’ve had with credit providers such as banks, credit card companies, mobile phone companies and internet companies. Your credit history records how successfully you’ve managed your repayments. It also records how many credit applications you’ve made and how many of those were rejected.

Credit providers refer to your credit history when deciding whether or not to extend you credit. Missing repayments is a bad sign; making too many applications or having applications rejected can also be a bad sign.

Credit infringements can remain on your credit history for five years – or seven years for serious infringements.

Do low interest no credit check car loans exist?

Some companies will advertise no credit check car loans, however under the Australian National Consumer Credit Protection act, credit checks are required by all responsible lenders, so such lenders are likely to have high interest rates. Depending on your income and credit history, you may qualify for a low interest StepUP loan from Good Shepherd Microfinance.

Can I get a car loan with poor credit?

Poor credit doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t be able to get finance for your car purchase, though your options aren’t likely to be the same as someone with good credit.

In fact, a number of specialist lenders exist offering car finance for customers with poor credit, able to provide access to bad credit car loans.

However having a history of poor credit will likely mark you as a potential risk to lenders, so your car financing needs could see higher fees and interest rates. Alternatively, consider a secured car loan, which is a type of loan that uses the car you purchase as collateral, reducing the risk.

Other options include getting someone close to act as a guarantor for your car loan, or to talk to a broker about a personalised rate specific to your circumstances.

What is a credit score?

Your credit score is a number that represents how credit-worthy you are. The higher your credit score, the more credit-worthy you are and the more likely you are to receive loans from credit providers.

There is no industry standard for credit scores – different credit reporting bodies use different methodologies. For example, Equifax gives consumers scores between 0 and 1,200; Illion (through the Credit Simple service) gives scores between 0 and 1,000; and Experian gives scores between 0 and 999.

When it comes to car loans, lenders tend to offer lower interest rates to borrowers with better credit score. There are steps you can take to improve your credit score, including paying bills on time and paying off existing loans.

What is proof of income?

Before giving you a car loan, lenders will ask for proof of income – documentary evidence that you earn as much as you claim you earn. Lenders will typically want some combination of tax returns, pay slips and bank statements. The reason lenders want proof of income is because they want to be sure you have the means to repay the car loan.

What is CTP insurance?

CTP insurance, also known as compulsory third-party insurance or a green slip, is compulsory if you want to register a vehicle in Australia. If you’re responsible for a car accident, your CTP insurance will be used to pay any compensation due to anyone who might be injured or killed. However, CTP insurance doesn’t cover you for vehicle damage or theft.

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 dealership?

A dealership is a car yard or a place where cars are sold.

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. 

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 car loan calculator?

A car loan calculator is an online tool that helps consumers understand how much they would have to repay under different scenarios. Consumers can create these different scenarios by entering different borrowing amounts, interest rates, loan terms and repayment schedules into the car loan calculator.

What is a refinance?

A refinance is when you swap one car loan with another. For example, you might take out a car loan with Lender X because it is the best on the market at the time – but two years later, you might switch to Lender Y because you discover that it now has the best loan. Conditions and fees often apply when you refinance.

Who can go guarantor for me on a car loan?

Anyone who knows your circumstances and trusts you to meet your repayments is someone who could potentially go guarantor for you on a car loan, providing that they have an excellent credit history and/or are a home owner.

Parents are the most likely to be accepted by lenders as guarantors, but immediate family such as grandparents, adult children, siblings and de facto partners are also accepted. If you want a friend of colleague to go guarantor for you it is possible but may require a specialist lender and may incur a premium fee.

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.

What is collateral?

Collateral, or security, is an asset you agree to surrender to a lender if you fail to repay a loan. Generally, the collateral for a car loan is the car itself. So if you fail to repay the loan, the lender might seize your car, sell it and then use the proceeds to recover their debt.

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.

What is a redraw facility?

A redraw facility allows you to re-borrow any funds you may have repaid ahead of schedule – although conditions and fees often apply. Not all car loans come with a redraw facility.

What is compulsory third-party insurance?

Compulsory third-party insurance, also known as CTP insurance or a green slip, is compulsory if you want to register a vehicle in Australia. If you’re responsible for a car accident, your compulsory third-party insurance will be used to pay any compensation due to anyone who might be injured or killed. However, compulsory third-party insurance doesn’t cover you for vehicle damage or theft.

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.

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 an unsecured car loan?

An unsecured car loan is a loan that is not connected to a form of security, or collateral. Not all lenders provide unsecured car loans – and if they do, they generally charge higher interest rates for their unsecured car loans than their secured car loans.

What is the principal?

The principal is the value of the loan that is still outstanding. So if a borrower takes out a $20,000 loan, the principal is $20,000. If the borrower repays $5,000 in the first year, the principal is now $15,000.

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 a variable-rate loan?

A variable-rate loan is one where the lender can change the interest rate whenever it wants. For example, if you sign up for a variable-rate loan at 8.75 per cent, the lender might change the interest rate to 8.90 per cent the month after and then 8.65 per cent the month after that. By contrast, if you take out a five-year fixed-rate loan at 8.75 per cent, the lender is obliged to leave your interest rate at 8.75 per cent for at least five years.

What is borrowing capacity?

Borrowing capacity is the amount of money that a consumer is able to borrow from a lender. Each consumer’s circumstances are unique, so different people will have different borrowing capacities. Lenders use their own in-house formulas to calculate borrowing capacity, so the same consumer might have different borrowing capacities at different lenders.

What is comprehensive insurance?

Comprehensive insurance protects you in the event you’re responsible for a car accident. Policies vary from provider to provider, but comprehensive insurance generally covers you for damage to your car and property, as well as the other parties’ cars and property. A comprehensive insurance policy may also protect you from theft, vandalism and natural disasters.

What is proof of residence?

Before giving you a car loan, lenders will ask for proof of residence – documentary evidence that you live where you claim you live. Lenders will typically want some combination of utility bills, bank statements, mortgage documents or driver’s licence. The reason lenders want proof of residence is to verify your identity and credit history.

What is an interest rate?

The interest rate is the price you have to pay for borrowing money. The interest rate is expressed as an annual percentage of however much of the loan remains to be paid. For example, if you took out a $10,000 car loan with an interest rate of 8.75 per cent, you would be charged 8.75 per cent of $10,000, or $875 of interest per year. But if you then reduced the outstanding loan to $9,000, your annual interest bill would be 8.75 per cent of $9,000, or $787.50.

How much can I borrow with a car loan?

There’s no set number. That’s because borrowing capacity differs from person to person, as well as lender to lender.

Lenders don’t give out car loans unless they’re confident they’ll be repaid. Each person is different, so the amount of money one person can successfully borrow will differ from another person’s number. Also, each lender uses its own formulas to calculate borrowing capacity – so Mr & Mrs Smith might find that while Lender X will give them a car loan for $20,000, Lender Y will offer only $18,000.

What is stamp duty?

Stamp duty, or motor vehicle duty, is a tax you pay when you transfer a car into your name. Stamp duty applies to both new and used cars. Stamp duty is a state tax, so rates and conditions vary from state to state: New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia, Tasmania, ACT and Northern Territory.

What are repayments?

Repayments are the regular payments you make to pay off your car loan. Repayments generally occur on a monthly basis, although many lenders will also give you the option of making fortnightly or weekly loan repayments.

What are loan repayments?

Loan repayments are the regular payments you make to pay off your car loan. Loan repayments generally occur on a monthly basis, although many lenders will also give you the option of making fortnightly or weekly loan repayments.

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.

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 an early termination fee?

Some lenders will make you pay a penalty, or early termination fee, if you pay off your loan ahead of schedule. This is to compensate them for the interest payments they don’t get to collect.

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 a finance broker?

Finance brokers help borrowers organise car loans with lenders – that is, they act as middlemen between borrowers and lenders. While lenders will only recommend their own products, finance brokers recommend products from a range of lenders. Finance brokers need to be accredited with a lender to do business with that lender; a typical broker will be accredited with between 10 and 30 lenders. Finance brokers generally don’t charge consumers; instead, they receive commission payments from lenders.

What is salary packaging?

Salary packaging is an arrangement you can make with your employer that can allow you to buy a car from your pre-tax salary. The advantage of salary packaging is that it will redue your taxable income.

What is an establishment fee?

Some lenders will charge you an establishment fee, or one-off upfront fee, to cover the cost of setting up your car loan.

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 an upfront fee?

An upfront fee is a one-off fee that many lenders charge when you take out a car loan.

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 pre-approval?

A pre-approval is a formal document that indicates how much a lender is willing to lend to a consumer – once that person has found the car they want to buy. A lender will assess a borrower’s credit history and financial circumstances before issuing a pre-approval. However, lenders are under no obligation to follow through on pre-approvals, so pre-approvals should be seen as statements of intent rather than rock-solid guarantees.

Final thoughts

Think carefully about your options before getting a bad credit car loan. If you don't think you can keep up the repayments, you may want to reconsider.

For more support managing your personal finances, check ASIC's Moneysmart, or contact the National Debt Helpline on 1800 007 007.

Before you apply:

The following car loan offers are not specifically bad credit car loans. We’ve shown you these car loans to help you compare what’s available in the Australian market, and make a more informed financial decision.  

Before you apply for a car loan, consider checking your credit score and contacting the lender to discuss your situation. A financial counsellor may also be able to provide more specific advice.