Car Finance: Your Options Explained

Buying a car: it's a biggie. Chances are the only thing that you'll ever spend more money on is your house. And with so many routes to go down when it comes to paying for it, it can be a complex and confusing experience. Our car finance guide below sets out your options. 

Pay With Savings?

Interest rates for savers are now at an historic low for saver and chances are that if you're not moving accounts regularly (a pain in itself), you'll be seeing a minimum return on what you have in the bank or building society. 


  • Could you make your money work harder by putting your savings into a high interest account rather than spending them on a car? Are you buying new and if so, is there 0% finance on offer?

  • Can you use a chunk of those savings for a deposit on a loan? A larger deposit often opens up cheaper interest rates – if you go down the hire purchase route - and therefore makes the loan cheaper.

  • Can you pay for at least part of the car purchase on credit card? This will give you additional protection under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974. But, make sure the card is paid off at the end of the month or you're on a 0% finance deal, otherwise this will significantly increase the cost of your loan. Credit cards are ALWAYS and expensive way of borrowing money.


Pay With A Personal Loan?

Traditionally these have been offered by banks and building societies, but recent years has seen the market open up to other finance organisations (including the Post Office and supermarkets) and most recently online finance aggregators. 

One of the big advantages of going for a personal loan is that you can shop around – and that's the first thing you should do. Online comparison tools make it easy, but don't stop there, make sure you know what's on offer from your local bank and building society too. Many have special offers for account holders that come in below what the aggregators offer. Don't forget, you can use a mix of savings, a 0% credit card and personal loan to pay for a car, so don't feel that you have to take a loan to cover the full cost of the car. 

What you need to bear in mind is that there can be a delay between you applying for the loan, getting approved and actually receiving the money. This has improved vastly in the past few years and it is now substantially quicker than it once was – though it's never an instant process. You should also bear in mind that taking out a loan may make it more difficult to obtain credit for something else, should you need it. 

If you're looking at cheaper cars, it may be tempting to consider a payday loan – especially if it's an emergency. These should be treated with extreme caution. APRs are high and it can be expensive. Borrowing £1000 will often mean that you will need to pay back £1300 after 28 days. 

There are two forms of personal loans: secured and unsecured. Unsecured are judged on your credit history, whereas secured loans have a form of collateral against them (usually your house) and therefore take longer to set up.

Some loan providers have structures that means the more you borrow, the lower the APR. So if you're on the cusp of a boundary, it may be worth opting to borrow a little bit more to save.


Pay with Hire Purchase?

This is the kind of finance that you'll typically see being offered by dealers to get YOU into a new car and commonly referred to as “HP”. It's in the dealer's interest to help you get finance and it's another opportunity for them to earn commission. You make monthly payments over a fixed period (typically two, three or four years) like a secured loan, but you usually need to put down a deposit (anything from £1 to 50% of the car's value). Unlike a personal loan, the a hire purchase loan is secured against the car, so you won't own it until it's paid off in full. That means you need to let the finance company know if you're planning to sell the car. An HPI check will show that the car still has finance outstanding (and therefore not really yours to sell...)

Hire Purchase is one of the easier ways of obtaining credit and lenders are generally happier to give loans to those without sparkling credit histories. The downsides are that they can be more expensive than a personal loan and the best deals are often on cars that are soon to be replaced.

The market for new car finance is much more competitive than that for used cars, so finance from dealers for used cars can be more expensive than opting for a personal loan. 


Take a Contract Hire Plan instead?

You'll often hear these called “PCPs”. They're a spin on traditional hire purchase and started to become popular in the early 1990s. There are a couple of very big differences to HP. Firstly the monthly payments are much lower. That means you may suddenly be able to afford a car that you thought was out of your reach. However, instead of paying for the car outright you agree that you will pay the difference between the car's original price and its resale value at the end of your finance term. This is commonly known as a balloon payment. 

Payments are typically shorter – over a term of 12-36 months and at the end of the contract you can do one of three things:


  • Give the car back to the dealer and pay nothing

  • Start again and take out a new PCP

  • Pay the balance and keep the car.


PCPs tend to have lower monthly payment, smaller deposits and more flexible repayment periods. 

There are a couple of downsides that mean it's not for you. Firstly, it can be a much more expensive than hire purchase, there can be restrictions on the mileage that you cover and, if you jump from PCP to PCP, you will never have an asset to show for your monthly payments.


How about Personal Leasing?

This is one of the simpler methods of finance a car, with one catch: you will NEVER own the car. But, on the flipside servicing and maintenance is usually included in the monthly payments, so that's one less outlay to worry about. 

It means that you have fixed-cost monthly motoring, you don't need to worry about depreciation and you can change your car every year if you wish. However, those monthly costs can be higher than other forms of finance, a deposit is required and you will be charged if you exceed mileage limits.


Pay with finance from a specialist broker?

In recent years specialist brokers have begin to offer finance purely for car purchases. The difference between this and a standard personal loan is that the finance is designed specifically for buying a car. There are a number of brokers who offer this service, works in affiliation with CarFinance247, a car finance specialist. Use the tool below to calculate your monthly payments.

What should I bear in mind?

  • It's easy to get swept-up in the excitement of buying a new car. Always ask yourself whether you can afford the monthly payments. Many buyers report that if the payments are too high, then the honeymoon period with the new car only lasts until the first repayment.

  • Have you shopped around for the best APR. If you've dropped into a dealership on the off-chance or you're there because your own car is being serviced, don't be talked be talked into buying a new car without shopping around first.

  • Consider GAP insurance, which covers the difference between the finance you have outstanding and the car's value. There are many tales of owners still having to make repayments on cars that have been written off.

  • Many schemes have repayment charges if you re-pay the loan early. Make sure you are aware of these in advance.


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