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Expert tips for car buying in lockdown, as new car sales continue to climb

Expert tips for car buying in lockdown, as new car sales continue to climb

New vehicle sales figures saw considerable growth in August, despite Covid-19 related lockdowns restricting access to showrooms in many states and territories.

According to the latest data from the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI), sales of new vehicles in Australia were up 33 per cent on the same month last year.

A total of 81,199 new vehicles were sold during the month, with Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory all recording growth greater than 30 per cent year on year. Meanwhile, Victorian sales rebounded, resulting in an increase of over 150 per cent, while the ACT and NSW recorded declines.

FCAI chief executive Tony Weber said that uncertainty around lockdowns meant car buyers and manufacturers were having to remain agile in the ways they liaise.

“With access to showrooms limited, vehicle makers are working to engage customers in their homes and other places of isolation,” Mr Weber said.

So, for those who won’t be able to visit a car yard anytime soon, what’s the secret to safely buying a new vehicle remotely?

“Don’t wait,” said Zaheer Jappie, founder and CEO of car loan provider CarClarity.

“The biggest challenge facing the local motor vehicle financing market is the lack of new stock coming in at the moment.

“The global semiconductor shortage will continue to cripple vehicle production in the second half of the year and into 2022.

“This means there is an increased demand for cars, so you need to get ahead of the queue to ensure you get your dream vehicle.”

Mr Jappie’s top tip for ensuring a safe purchase when you’re restricted from seeing the car in person is to ask for evidence that it’s in stock and ready to go.

“If someone says they have a car, ask for photos. Dealers will suck you in stating they have a vehicle in stock, and when you hand over your money, the car is actually three months away,” he said.

When it comes time to look for finance, Mr Jappie recommends always starting with the figures.

“Start by figuring out your budget, what the vehicle is intended for, what your capacity is for repayments, and how you are going to finance your vehicle with an achievable term for repayments,” he said.

“By taking your time and learning about all your options, you can make a better-informed decision.”

If you’re in the market for a new set of wheels and you’re keen to get the ball rolling, RateCity’s car loan comparison tools can help you in your search for the right finance option.

Our car loan comparison tables allow you to filter down your results to find what works best for your needs.

To help get you started with your research, RateCity has put together some of the top-rated car loans for September 2021, based on our leaderboard rankings.

(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.)

Top-rated new car loans

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Top-rated used car loans

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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 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 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.

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.

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 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.

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.

Can you refinance a car loan with the same lender?

You may be looking to refinance your car loan to get lower interest rates or reduce the total monthly amount you have to pay. Often, this leads to the question ‘can I refinance a car loan with the same bank?’

While it’s always worth shopping around for a better deal or at least to compare offers from other lenders, you can sometimes refinance to a different loan with the same lender. It may be simpler,  as the lender already has your details and knows your repayment history. 

Having said that, knowing the terms offered by other lenders may help you negotiate a better deal with your current lender.

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!

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 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.