How to get the best car loan rate before you visit the dealership

How to get the best car loan rate before you visit the dealership

Australia’s appetite for new and used vehicles is at a high, as we take to the roads to travel locally and avoid public transport this year thanks to COVID-19 restrictions and border closures.

According to the latest FCIA data, new vehicle sales reached historic levels in April after six consecutive months of growth. This comes despite widespread new car delivery delays of up to six months or more for some Aussie consumers off the back of factory shutdowns and component shortages worldwide.

The used car market is also experiencing a boom, with wholesale used-vehicle prices 37 per cent higher in March 2021 than pre-pandemic February 2020. This is also being influenced by delays across new vehicle deliveries.

As our desire for a new set of wheels grows, Aussies looking to drive away in a new or used vehicle may be wondering what they can do to nab a competitive car loan rate.

Here are RateCity’s tips for improving your chances of getting your best car loan:

  • Be prepared

Before you visit a car dealership, you’ll want to ensure you’ve prepared your finances and ensured you’re in the best place financially to apply for a car loan. This is because lender’s will assess your personal finances to ensure you can not only service the loan, but you showcase a level of creditworthiness that means you’re unlikely to miss repayments or default on the loan.

This means you’ll want to check your credit score before taking out a car loan. Borrowers with ‘Excellent’ credit scores are more likely to be approved for the most competitive car loans a lender can offer. If your credit score does not fall into this category, consider boosting it before you apply.

  • Pay down your debts

Speaking of presenting yourself as being in the most ideal place financially to service a loan, you may also want to consider getting on top of your outstanding debts before applying for a car loan. This includes considering paying off credit card debts and other personal loans that you feel may be adding to your ongoing expenses.

Car loan lenders will look at your income and expenses, as well as recent bank statements, to paint a picture of how much you can afford to service in a loan. If a huge chunk of your income is going towards multiple other debts, the lender may not approve you for the loan amount you need.

  • Don't feel pressure to commit

If you’ve ever been to a car dealership, you’ll know how pushy dealers can be about trying to get you to sign up to their loan financing service. Before you begin looking for a car loan, hop online and do your own research. It should only take a few minutes, and by being armed with alternative car loan rates you may qualify for, you’ll feel less pressure to commit at the dealership.

Plus, if you come to a dealership with a range of car loan rates from a comparison table, the dealership may be able to negotiate with you an even lower rate or lower fee offering. Doing your own research and shopping around is one of the easiest ways to ensure you’re getting the best car loan on the market for your financial situation and needs.

Thankfully, RateCity has done the hard work of researching the most competitive car loans for you. This is where RateCity’s leaderboards. Come in. Our leaderboards rank some of the most competitive car loans in the marketplace with our Real Time RatingsTM system.

Unlike other rating systems that grade their products once or twice a year, Real Time RatingsTM results are calculated in real time. This means you get the most up-to-date rating for your comparison. Each car loan is given a score out of five stars, based on loan costs and flexibility.

(Rankings are correct at the time of publishing. Please note lenders may trade places on the list as interest rates and fees change and RateCity’s tracker reflects these movements.)

RateCity's top rated new car loans

RateCity's top rated used car loans

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Learn more about car loans

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.

What is a loan term?

The loan term is the amount of time the lender gives you to repay the car loan. For example, if you take out a $20,000 car loan with a five-year loan term, you would be expected to pay off the entire $20,000 (plus interest) within five years.

Should I service my own car?

There are also costs associated with vehicle ownership, such as paying for petrol and the obligatory ongoing maintenance. But should you cut down on costs by servicing your own vehicle?

If you’re considering getting out the tool box, spanner, and grease-laden towel, you need to carefully weigh up the risks and benefits. A trained mechanic will need to complete certain tasks, while you may be perfectly capable to handle other aspects yourself.

If you’re short on time, it may be worth paying for the convenience of a full vehicle service. However if you’re trying to slash your expenses, there are some basic maintenance tasks that you can complete yourself.

You should call a mechanic if you’re unsure about a vehicle maintenance task you’re about to take on. However there are a number of maintenance tasks that you may be able to complete with your own two hands including:

  • Replacing your car battery
  • Changing the oil
  • Replacing worn windscreen wipers
  • Replacing blown fuses

Remember to keep your car’s body in good condition, by washing and applying a protective wax on a regular basis, too.

Always check your car warranty agreement as some new car purchases come with an extended car warranty provided your services are conducted at the vehicle service centre where you purchased the car. In these circumstances, you may find the service fee is capped, alleviating some of the maintenance woes.

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 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.

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.

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.

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.

What is a guarantor car loan?

A guarantor car loan is a type of loan that features a guarantor on the agreement. The guarantor is a third-party individual, often a friend or relative, who guarantees the loan will be repaid if the borrower defaults on the car loan.

Guarantor car loans are often geared at people who might otherwise struggle being accepted for a secured car loan when purchasing a vehicle. Some of the reasons might include a lack of credit history such as with a student or young person, if there’s bad credit, or age as a factor such as with pensioners.

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.

Can I get a discounted student car loan?

Being a student is tough enough, and while you might find the odd student discount on movies and technology, the same can’t be said about car loans, as you can’t really get a discounted student car loan.

Lenders make money on the interest and fees that they charge with loans, and the lowest interest and fees are given to the most reliable credit holders: people with excellent credit history.

As a student, you are unlikely to have enough on your credit report to warrant an excellent history. There are however, ways of getting a lower interest car loan if you can’t get an interest-free loan from the bank of mum and dad. One way of doing this may be through getting a guarantor car loan, which can get you a secured car loan by setting your parents up as guarantors.