If you’re searching for a cheap car loan, the interest rate is always important. But it pays to think about more than just the size of your repayments. Car loans are packed with different fees, features, payment schedules and add-ons. Some of which can really help, or hinder, your budget. So when looking for the best car loan, it pays to consider all of these factors … starting, of course, with the lowest interest rates:
Lowest rate car loans
The table below displays some of our referral partners’ car loan products for a three-year loan of $10,000 in Auckland (some may have links to lenders’ websites). The products are sorted by interest rate (lowest to highest) followed by company name (alphabetical). Use Canstar’s personal loan comparison selector to view a wider range of products on Canstar’s database. Canstar may earn a fee for referrals.
How to find the best car loan
When looking for the best car loan for your budget, it’s also important to:
When searching for the best cheap car loan, the most important thing to do is shop around. While it may be convenient to arrange finance through the dealership you’re buying your car from, it’s not always the best deal.
For example, even if the interest rate you are offered is competitive, you may be liable for extra fees, for example a commission for the dealer involved.
Also, having your finances in place before you start your search for a new car will give you a budget to work to. Plus, by being able to offer the dealer cash, you’ll have more leverage when negotiating the best price.
Compare interest rates
The interest rate isn’t everything, but it is the biggest factor to consider with a car loan. No matter how many add-ons and special benefits you are offered, if the interest rate is well above average, it probably isn’t the best car loan for you.
So first, always look for car loans with the lowest interest rates. However, as long as your loan has a competitive interest rate, it doesn’t necessarily have to be the lowest on the market. Remember, the interest rate isn’t everything.
Another factor to consider is that the interest rate on your loan can be fixed or variable. If you prefer certainty over the size of your repayments, choose a fixed rate. If you feel the market could favour you, and interest rates might fall, you might prefer a variable rate.
Your credit score can also impact the interest rate you are offered. Most lenders look at your credit history when determining what rate to offer you, and the lowest interest rates are reserved for those with the best credit scores.
You can easily check your credit score for free. If yours isn’t as high as you’d like, there are steps you could take to help improve it.
→Related article: How to Fix A Bad Credit Score
There’s a long list of fees associated with personal loans, including establishment fees, monthly service fees, missed payment fees, and ones for making extra repayments or paying off the loan early. When comparing loans with similar interest rates, it pays to look into their fees, as they can vary substantially.
Also some fees might directly impact your financial plans. For example, if you want to pay off your loan as quickly as possible, you might want to choose a loan that charges no fees for this facility.
But, ultimately, some fees are unavoidable and, if high, they can eat into any savings a low interest rate provides.
→Related article: Top Selling Cars in New Zealand
Features and flexibility
Loans come with varying features and levels of flexibility. As mentioned above, some loans charge for the freedom of making additional repayments, or paying off the loan early.
Typically, a loan with more flexibility will come with a higher interest rate. But, depending on your needs, the flexibility may be worth it, as long as the rate isn’t too high.
If you are able to make additional payments, you could pay off your loan early, reducing its overall cost. So, in this case, the flexibility of making extra payments could be worth it. Of course, as long as the interest rate makes it worthwhile.
Another handy feature available with some loans is a redraw facility. This allows you to make extra repayments, thus reducing your overall interest costs, but also allows you to redraw on the extra cash you’ve repaid, giving you instant access to your cash if needed.
Loan terms stretch from just a few months, to a few years. However, while a longer term might look attractive, because it comes with lower monthly repayments, you could end up paying a lot more in interest.
For example, the median car loan interest rate on Canstar’s database is around 14.95% p.a. For a loan of $15,000, over:
Three years, you’ll pay: $520 p/m. Total interest on loan: $3706
Five years, you’ll pay: $356 p/m. Total interest on loan: $6387
So while the repayments on the longer loan term look affordable, over the life of the loan, they add up to $2681 more than those of the three-year term.
Canstar’s best-rated personal loans
Every year, Canstar’s expert research panel analyses the best loans on the market and awards the ones that deliver the best value for money, in terms of interest rates and features. For our recent awards, we analysed over 50 loans from 12 providers, across car and personal loans, and awarded just three lenders our 5-Star Outstanding Value ratings.
The table below displays some of our referral partners’ unsecured personal loan products for a three-year loan of $10,000 in Auckland (some may have links to lenders’ websites). The products are sorted by Star Rating (highest to lowest) followed by company name (alphabetical). Use Canstar’s personal loan comparison selector to view a wider range of products on Canstar’s database. Canstar may earn a fee for referrals.
→Learn more: Canstar’s Car Loan Repayment Calculator
About the author of this page
This report was written by Canstar’s Editor, Bruce Pitchers. Bruce has three decades’ experience as a journalist and has worked for major media companies in the UK and Australasia, including ACP, Bauer Media Group, Fairfax, Pacific Magazines, News Corp and TVNZ. Prior to Canstar, he worked as a freelancer, including for The Australian Financial Review, the NZ Financial Markets Authority, and for real estate companies on both sides of the Tasman.