What is the best car loan? 

No one can point to one car loan and declare it to be the ‘best’ of the lot. After all, the best loan for your financial situation may not be ideal for other borrowers. At RateCity, you can compare car loan features, fees and more to help you find a car loan that suits you. Read our guide and compare car loan offers from different lenders before choosing your car loan.

How to get the best car loan rate in Australia

There is no one “best” car loan rate that applies to everyone all the time. Instead, there are three ways to find the best car loan rate for you.

  • Shop around: comparison websites like RateCity let you quickly compare Australian car loan products from dozens of lenders. By filtering using your preferred interest rates, upfront fees and more, you can work out which car loans may be best for you.
  • Get professional advice: to find the true value of a car loan, it’s not enough to look just at its interest rates and fees. You also need to look at its features. Because car loans can be hard to understand, you may want to get advice from a finance professional.
  • Become a more credit-worthy borrower: if a lender is confident that you can afford to repay a loan, they’re more likely to lend you money on favourable terms. Lenders are more likely to offer lower interest rates if you have a good credit history, a reliable income, high savings and a significant deposit.

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What you should know before you get a car loan

How much can you borrow with a car loan? 

There are two ways to approach car loans. The first is to decide what car you want, compare its cost to your savings, and calculate how much you’ll need to borrow. The second is to calculate the maximum you can afford to borrow and search for a car that fits your budget. 

Either way, you might want to borrow more to cover add-on costs, such as application fees and insurance. Just remember that if you increase your loan amount or loan term, you will pay more money in total for your car loan.

Do you need a deposit for a car loan? 

Making a deposit or down payment on a car loan may help you get better terms from the lender, pay off the loan faster and pay less in interest.

Some lenders will let you take out a car loan even if you don't have a deposit. However, no-deposit car loans, also known as 100 per cent LVR (loan-to-value ratio) loans, may have higher interest rates than 80 per cent LVR loans, where you put down a 20 per cent deposit and borrow the rest.

How much are car loan repayments? 

When you compare car loans, working out how much you can afford to pay each month can help you find car loans that may be better for you. One way to do this is to use a car loan calculator

If you choose a car loan with a variable interest rate as opposed to a fixed interest rate, your repayments could rise or fall from month to month. So, if you’re planning your budget in advance, it’s worth leaving some wiggle room in case of surprise interest rate rises.

If you’d rather avoid the risk of rate rises, you could choose a fixed-rate loan, where the loan interest rate always stays the same. The downside is that you won’t enjoy any savings if interest rates fall.

One way to lower your fortnightly or monthly repayments is to add a “balloon payment” to your car loan. This is a one-off lump sum paid at the end of the loan period. While a balloon payment can lower your costs from month to month, you could end up paying more in total for your car loan, depending on how you handle your balloon.

Another way to lower your monthly repayments is to increase your loan term. However, making a larger number of lower monthly instalments means you’ll be charged more in total interest over the life of your loan.

When researching car loans, look at each loan’s comparison rate, which is likely to be higher than the advertised rate. The comparison rate includes both the interest rate and any monthly fees and other ongoing fees, to give you a better idea of the car loan’s true cost.

What are secured and unsecured car loans? 

When you apply for a secured car loan, you need to offer something as security, or collateral, to the lender. If you don’t repay the loan, the lender will seize your collateral. Car loans are often secured by the car you’re buying itself. 

Unsecured car loans don’t have any collateral attached. This is riskier for lenders, so unsecured car loans often carry higher interest rates.

Should you buy a new car or a used car? 

There are pros and cons to buying new or used cars with a car finance.  

Loans for new cars often have lower interest rates than loans for used cars. This is because lenders feel more confident they can resell a new car for a decent price if you default on your payments.

However, new cars tend to cost more than used cars. This means you’ll need a bigger loan to buy one, which comes with its own risks.

Used cars tend to have more wear and tear and older technology, which can affect their resale value. That said, they’re often cheaper to buy, and depreciate more slowly than new cars, which lose value the moment they leave the dealership.

Can you repay a car loan early?

If you find yourself with extra money in your budget, you could make extra repayments on your car loan. This can help you pay your loan off sooner and pay less total interest. But some lenders don’t like missing out on interest – particularly for fixed loans – and charge penalty fees such as early repayment fees if you make additional repayments or close your loan early.

Some car loans come with a redraw facility, which lets you withdraw any extra repayments from your car loan if you need the money. Check the terms and conditions, because there may be fees involved.

How can I find the top car loans?

Finding the best car loan for your individual needs is easy with RateCity’s comparison rate table and car loan calculator.

Compare the top car loans on RateCity’s database by using the comparison table to filter down the options to what’s most important to you. This might be the loan security type, interest rate type, or perhaps features such as a redraw facility or flexible repayments.

Narrowing down your search to see the types of car loans that are best suited to you will make it easier to not only find the most competitive options with desirably low rates, but also ensure they tick all the boxes on your list.

Once you’ve made a shortlist of your preferred finance options, it’s a good idea to check available documentation, such as the Product Disclosure Statement, so that you can make a well-informed decision.

Before submitting a loan application for your chosen loan, ensure you meet the eligibility criteria and consider reaching out to the loan provider if you have any questions. This can help to minimise the risk of having your application rejected and in turn damaging your credit score.

RateCity’s Car Loan Calculator can also come in handy when determining how factors such as the loan amount, interest rate and loan term will affect your repayments and the total cost of the loan.

For information specific to your personal circumstances, consider talking to a financial advisor.

Frequently asked questions

What are the pros and cons of guarantor car loans?

Like all things, there are positives and negatives to guarantor car loans, though one may outweigh the other depending on your needs.

Guarantor car loan pros may include that you’re more likely to be approved for a long if you have no credit or a history with bad credit, that you’re more likely to secure a car loan with a lower interest rate, and that because your guarantor car loan is based on a relationship, you will be more inclined to meet your repayment schedule.

However, there are negatives, as well. Guarantor car loan cons may include leaving a detrimental mark on a personal relationship with added strain if you don’t meet your repayments, and you may take out a loan that you can’t actually afford.

Weighing these pros and cons will give you a greater understanding of whether a guarantor loan is ideal for your circumstances.

Can you get a car loan as a single mum?

Getting a car loan can be tricky if you’re a single mum, but it’s not impossible. Juggling your finances can be difficult, particularly if you are reliant on a sole income or on Centrelink payments (or a combination of the two), and having a car is a necessity rather than a luxury for many who have to look after children. Luckily there are specialist providers and services that can help you get the loan you’re after, even if you’re in a tough spot financially.

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.

Can you get a car loan as a single mum?

Getting a car loan can be tricky if you’re a single mum, but it’s not impossible. Juggling your finances can be difficult, particularly if you are reliant on a sole income or on Centrelink payments (or a combination of the two), and having a car is a necessity rather than a luxury for many who have to look after children. Luckily there are specialist providers and services that can help you get the loan you’re after, even if you’re in a tough spot financially.

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 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.

Can I get a car loan if I am on disability benefit?

Yes, there are some lenders who will consider your application if you are on a disability pension. As long as you have an income, usually of over $400 a week, there are lenders that are willing to supply you with a loan. There are also microfinancing charitable organisations that provide low interest loans for people on low incomes for certain necessary amenities, such as cars, if they match the specified criteria.

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 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 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 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 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.

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 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 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 green slip?

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

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.

Where can I get a student car loan?

Student car loans are not a necessarily a product in and of themselves, but what you may be looking for is a guarantor car loan.

A guarantor car loan has a third-party act as a form of guarantee for your loan application, telling the bank or lender that if you default on your loan, someone will pay the loan repayments.

Going guarantor on a car loan is no new thing, and before internet-based credit scores, guarantor car loan applicants would apply for loans with a guarantor or property owner who could vouch for the person borrowing the loan.

To get a guarantor car loan, you’ll need someone willing to act as a guarantor for your car loan.

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 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.