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First Car Loans in 2024 | How To Finance Your First Car

Your guide to getting finance for your first car.

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There’s a lot to think about when buying your first car – the colour, the model, the accessories, whether to buy new or used – but one thing many people are unsure of how to properly plan for is how they will finance it, and which type of finance is best.

There are a lot of costs that can add up beyond the sticker price, from stamp duty to insurance. If you are looking at getting a loan it’s important to research your financing options and find a loan that will work for you.

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How can you pay for your first car?

There are a few different types of first car loans that can suit most borrowing needs. Depending on what kind of car you’re buying and your own personal financial situation, you may want to consider one of the following loans:

  • A car loan. These loans can be offered by banks, dealerships and standalone lenders. Rates are competitive because the car you're buying acts as security for the loan. You can generally find car loans for both new and used vehicles. Take a look at the comparison table above for some car loan options.
  • A secured loan. The difference between a secured loan and a car loan is that you can also use assets other than a car to secure the loan. These include boats, motorbikes or even equity in property. Rates are still competitive because the loan is secured. You can find out more about secured personal loans on this page.
  • Unsecured loan. If your car doesn't meet the requirements for a secured or car loan, you'd prefer not to use it as a guarantee, or you want to use part of the loan amount for something else in addition to financing the car, you can consider an unsecured personal loan. Keep in mind the rates for these loans are generally higher, but the repayment terms are generally more flexible.

Finder survey: How do Australians in different states pay for their car?

ResponseWAVICSAQLDNSW
Unsure34.75%35.49%44%39.39%32.19%
My bank33.05%35.15%36%33.77%38.46%
Cheapest rate on the market24.58%23.89%14.67%19.91%22.22%
A big 4 lender5.08%4.78%5.33%6.49%6.55%
Peer-to-peer lender2.54%0.68%0.43%0.57%
Source: Finder survey by Pure Profile of 1113 Australians, December 2023
Data for ACT, NT, TAS not shown due to insufficient sample size. Some other states may also be excluded for this reason.

Comparing your options can help you find the right loan

When looking at financing options for your first car, it’s important to know how to compare loans to make sure you choose the right one for you. When comparing, keep the following points in mind:

  • How much is the interest rate? Comparing the interest rates on car loans is generally a good place to start when it comes to finding the best car loan. However, while finding the lowest rate possible can give you an idea of how much you'll pay over the life of the loan, there are other considerations to bear in mind. You can also use a car loan repayment calculator to check the loan's affordability.
  • What fees will you be charged? There are a few different fees you may be charged for a car loan, and it’s important to be aware of them all. You may be charged upfront fees for setting up the loan, monthly or account keeping fees, annual fees and fees for extra repayments. You may also be charged a fee for paying off your loan early.
  • Should I opt for a fixed or variable interest rate? Fixed rate car loans will keep your repayments the same for the duration of your loan term. These loans can help you budget, but they also come with certain restrictions, such as charging you for paying the loan out early or for making additional repayments. Variable rate loans generally do not come with these restrictions but your interest rate may change if market conditions take a turn for the worse.
  • How flexible is the loan? Some loans are more flexible than others, so it’s important to see how flexible your loan can be. Look for things such as whether you will be able to make additional repayments or whether you can take advantage of any discounts for bundling additional financial products with the lender. As mentioned, fixed rate loans are generally more restrictive when it comes to making repayments.
  • How much can you borrow? It's always important to check the minimum and maximum loan amounts when looking for a car loan, to ensure that the amount you need is available with that particular loan.
  • How long do I have to repay? Most car loans have between 1 and 7 years to repay, but this will depend on factors such as your credit rating, how much you need to borrow, and the price and age of the car in question. Please note that the longer the loan term you opt for, the lower your repayments will be. However, loans with longer terms will cost more money over the life of the loan.
  • What is the eligibility criteria? Meeting the eligibility criteria on a car loan is absolutely crucial. If you don't meet the minimum criteria, you won't be approved for the loan, and a rejected application will negatively affect your credit rating.

What's a comparison rate?

A comparison rate is essentially a more accurate representation of the cost of a loan than the interest rate. This is because it takes into account any mandatory fees that are included in the loan. For example, an interest rate on a loan could be 9%, but the comparison rate 11.7%. This would mean that there are fees attached such as an establishment fee or monthly fees. Please note that comparison rates do not take into consideration late fees or early repayment fees, as they are not mandatory.

Should I get a secured or an unsecured car loan?

Whether you need a secured or an unsecured car loan will depend on your financial circumstances, preferences and the age of the car you are purchasing. Secured car loans tend to be cheaper than unsecured car loans, as there is less risk to the lender. This is because if you default on a secured car loan, the lender has the right to repossess your loan security (usually the car in question) to cover the cost of the loan.

However, secured car loans usually have restrictions, such as a minimum loan amount and the age of the car. So, if you want to buy a used car, it might be more difficult to procure a secured car loan.

Unsecured loans on the other hand, while generally more expensive than secured loans, are more flexible. They are also more easily accessible if you are looking to buy a used car. However, you will likely be required to have at least a fair credit score in order to qualify for an unsecured loan, as there is a greater risk to the lender.

For more information on secured vs unsecured car loans, please refer to our guide.

Should I buy a new car, used car or demo car?

Buying a new, used or demo car all have their advantages and disadvantages. See below to find out the pros and cons of buying each type of car.

New car

  • Access to the newest and most advanced technologies
  • No mileage on the car means the car is more reliable
  • You're protected by factory warranties
  • You can usually take advantage of lower rate loans
  • You can usually take advantage of specials and incentives
  • Much more expensive
  • Pay more in sales tax
  • Pay higher insurance premium
  • New vehicles lose up to 20% of their value as soon as you drive away from the dealership

Used car

  • Considerably lower cost
  • Your car won't depreciate as much as if it were new
  • You'll pay lower tax
  • You'll pay a lower insurance premium
  • Access high-quality cars at a lower cost
  • Higher mileage means the car is less reliable
  • Depending on the age of the car, you may not be able to access certain types of finance
  • Depending on the age, you may not qualify for manufacturer warranty
  • Fewer choices when it comes to interior/exterior specifics

Demo car

  • You can often access the newest and most advanced technologies
  • Cheaper than new cars
  • Based on the mileage, you have certain negotiating power with the dealership
  • Still in excellent condition with high reliability
  • Access lower cost loans
  • Higher mileage than new cars
  • Higher cost than used cars
  • Less warranty than new cars
  • Less interior/exterior options than new cars

What's PPSR?

PPSR is the Personal Property Securities Register. It is the official database of secured property. When it comes to purchasing a car, it is the only way of making sure you are purchasing the full title and ownership of that vehicle, and not unknowingly buying something that someone else already has a claim to. Therefore, it's important to do a PPSR search when buying a used car.

To do a PPSR search on a used vehicle, you need only the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) or chassis number of the car you are searching. You can do a PPSR search at https://transact.ppsr.gov.au/.

A PPSR search tells you:
  • The make, model and colour of the car
  • Its written-off status
  • Its stolen status
  • If it is part of the faulty Takata airbag recall and has not been recorded as repaired

You'll also get a search certificate which you can use as a legal record of your results. For more information on PPSR, please refer to our guide.

Which of the costs involved with a car purchase can be covered by a car loan?

When considering the cost of a car, there's more to consider than just the purchase price. Some common additional costs that you may have to pay when buying your first car include:

  • A deposit

  • Inspection costs

  • GST (where applicable)

  • Registration

  • Stamp duty

  • Registration fees

  • Dealership fees

  • Accessories

  • Compulsory third-party insurance

  • Compulsory credit insurance

  • Comprehensive car insurance

  • GAP/motor equity insurance

Whether you will be required to pay some or all of these costs will depend on whether you get a new or used car, and where you make the purchase. For example, if you buy from a dealership, the stamp duty and registration will usually be sorted for you (but you may be required to pay dealership fees). If you buy from a private seller, you can avoid the dealership fees, but will likely have to sort out the stamp duty and registration yourself.

Whether you can cover these costs using your car loan will largely depend on the deal you opt for and whether the loan is secured or unsecured.

An unsecured car loan can be used to cover any of the above costs, provided that you can qualify for a large enough sum. However, as mentioned above, an unsecured car loan will usually be more costly. If you are opting for a secured loan, speak to your lender to see which additional costs can be covered with your loan.

Should I consider balloon payments?

A balloon payment is a feature available with some car loans that allows you to make a single, lump sum payment at the end of your loan term to cover the remaining cost of your loan. It has certain benefits, such as reducing your repayments over the life of the loan. For more information on balloon payments, and whether they're right for you, please refer to our guide.

First car loan checklist

Getting your first car loan can be a daunting prospect. However, if you ensure that you check everything off this list, you can ensure that you'll get the best possible loan for your circumstances:

  1. Make a budget. What can you afford? Consider the cost of the car you want to buy, but also consider the cost of the loan repayments. Work out exactly what you can afford to repay each month, and from that, you can more easily discern the kind of loan that will suit your budget. You can use a car loan calculator to help you with this.

  2. Compare your financing options. It's important to do your comparison work when looking for car loans. For this, you can use a comparison website like finder.com.au. Our comparison tables can clearly show you the interest rate, fees, loan term, and minimum and maximum loan amounts available with each lender product. You can also do your own research within the market.

  3. Check your credit score. Before you start applying for loans, it's important to understand where you stand in regards to your eligibility in terms of your credit score. Your credit score is essentially an evaluation of your creditworthiness based on your financial history, such as your payment history, any debts you owe, the types of credit you are using, etc. Luckily, you can check your credit score for free with Finder.
  4. Check your eligibility for a car loan. If you don't meet the minimum eligibility criteria for a loan product, chances are that you won't be approved for that loan. If the eligibility criteria is unclear, or you're not sure about whether you meet certain requirements, it's best to contact the lender to discuss it with them, prior to submitting a loan application.

  5. Learn more about car loans. Research, research, research. The more you understand something, the better the deal you can likely strike up. Luckily, we have numerous handy car loan guides at your disposal. Some of our most popular include:

  6. Apply for a car loan. Once you've done your research and are sure of the loan that's right for you, it's time to apply. Applications are usually online and only take a few minutes to complete.

Is there anything else to consider?

Before you apply for a loan for your first car, do your research and compare your loan options. This loan may be with you for a few years and you’ll be glad that you spent some time finding the right loan for you. You should not only look at the interest rate on offer but also the fees and charges you may incur over the life of the loan. Calculate your repayments and make sure they will be manageable on your budget.

How you can apply for your first car loan

Compare your options using the comparison table above. Once you have found a loan you are happy with, click the "Go to site" button to be securely transferred to the lender’s website. You will generally need to be over the age of 18 and be a permanent Australian resident. You will also need to provide the following details:

  • Personal details including name and proof of ID
  • Financial details including income, credits, debts and liabilities
  • Information about the car including make, model and value for a secured car loan

Buying your first car? Make sure you compare your options

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