Bad credit car loans explained

A bad credit rating can be an obstacle if you’re looking to take out a loan to buy a car – but it doesn’t have to be the end of the world. True, some lenders may refuse to give you a loan or charge you higher interest rates. However, other lenders are comfortable with making bad credit car loans.

What is a bad credit car loan?

A bad credit car loan is a specialist car loan for borrowers with imperfect credit histories. Bad credit car loans can also be used by other borrowers who are regarded as high-risk, such as people who are self-employed or who are temporary residents of Australia. As always, lending policies differ from lender to lender.

Should I get a bad credit car loan?

A bad credit rating means that if you go to regular lenders, they will either not approve your loan request, or will offer a loan at a very high interest rate. However, a lender that specialises in bad credit car loans may be able to give you cheaper loans and with faster approval times.

They can also provide credit management suggestions to help you improve your credit rating. Additionally, opting for a bad credit car loan and paying it back as per the repayment schedule can help improve your credit rating, which might then allow you to escape the ‘bad credit’ category. 

How to maximise your chances of getting a bad credit car loan

  • Improve your financial situation and credit rating
  • Maintain stable employment
  • Be honest about your financial position
  • Avoid multiple car loan applications 

What should I consider before taking out a bad credit car loan?

If you’re thinking about taking out a bad credit car loan, use a car loan calculator to research different repayment scenarios. A car loan calculator will tell you whether or not you can afford a loan, based on variables such as loan size, loan term and interest rate.

If your monthly repayments are too high, you might be able to reduce them by opting for a longer loan term and/or a balloon payment at the end. Please note, though, that you’ll end up paying more over the life of the loan. (Conversely, a shorter loan term without a balloon payment would mean lower whole-of-loan costs.)

During your research, you should also weigh up whether you want a variable-rate loan or a fixed-rate loan. A variable loan could go up or down, which would either harm or help your financial position. A fixed loan, though, would never change, which would make it easier for you to budget.

Don’t forget that interest rates aren’t the only cost – there are also various fees and charges to consider. These may include loan establishment fees, loan account-keeping fees, car registration, car insurance. You may be allowed to take out a bigger loan to cover these costs – although that would mean you’d ultimately pay more in interest.

Finally, it’s often a good idea to put down a deposit on a bad credit car loan. The higher a deposit you can afford at the start of your car loan, the lower the principal you’ll be required to repay, and the more you’ll save on interest.

How do I get approval for a car loan with bad credit?

Getting a car loan with a poor credit rating can be difficult, but a bad credit car loan can help make your dream of owning a car a reality. Although these car loans are intended for people with bad credit ratings, there are a few things you might want to do to improve your chances.


1) Improve your credit rating 

  • Pay your bills on time 
  • Don't over-apply for credit 

2) Maintain stable employment

  • Bad credit car loan lenders generally prefer borrowers who have been in stable employment for at least 12 months.
  • Lenders like to know that you’re able to hold down a job, so you will have a consistent source of income for making timely repayments.

3) Be honest about your financial position

  • Describe your financial situation honestly to your bad credit car loan lender.
  • Discrepancies between what you say and what’s in your credit file will be easily spotted by a lender.
  • This can make you appear untrustworthy.

4) Avoid multiple loan applications

  • Lots of applications will reflect negatively on your credit file, as will any rejections.
  • Once you’ve found a preferred lender, have an honest in-depth chat with that lender about your position and your chance of securing approval.
  • If the lender gives you the green light, you’ll know your car loan application is likely to be approved.

What is a credit rating?

A credit rating (or credit score) is a number that summarises the credit-worthiness of a particular borrower, which may be an individual, business or government. A credit rating is a used to predict the borrower’s ability to pay back the loan, along with the chances of the borrower defaulting.

How is a credit rating determined?

A credit rating is calculated based on the borrower’s credit history, including factors such as payment history, the amount owed, types of credit, bankruptcy, payment defaults, etc. Though the precise algorithms followed by different lenders and rating organisations are not known, it is safe to say that a borrower’s credit rating depends on their past borrowing and repayment habits.

Who determines my credit rating?

Credit ratings are determined by credit reporting agencies like Dun & Bradstreet, Equifax (previously Veda Advantage), Experian and the Tasmanian Collection Service. Each agency uses its own assessment and scoring methodology. These ratings are then used by lenders to determine the credit-worthiness of prospective borrowers.

If you want to find out your credit rating, you can contact one of those credit reporting agencies to request access to your credit file. Your credit file contains your credit history – what loans you’ve applied for, what loans you’ve been granted and your record of repayments. Your credit file also contains biographical information.  

What is a bad credit rating?

A bad credit rating means that a credit reporting agency has assessed you as a high-risk borrower with a greater chance of defaulting. Each credit reporting agency uses its own algorithm to calculate a credit rating and to differentiate a good credit rating from a bad one.

What are the causes of a bad credit rating?

There are several possible ways you can damage your credit rating, including:

  • Falling behind on your repayments
  • Missing repayments altogether
  • Defaulting on a loan
  • Making too many credit applications
  • Getting rejected for credit applications
  • Exceeding credit limits on your credit card
  • Declaring bankruptcy

What is comprehensive credit reporting?

In the past, credit files only contained negative credit events (such as late payments). Because they omitted positive events (such as on-time payments), they did not provide a fully accurate view of a borrower’s credit history. That meant even a small negative event, like a late bill payment, could damage a person’s credit history.

Hence the introduction, in March 2014, of comprehensive credit reporting, which includes both positive and negative events. That means that consumers have the chance to cancel out isolated negative events with a history of positive events, such as paying off without being late on a single repayment. 

How to improve a bad credit rating?

Having a bad credit rating isn't good. But it doesn't have to be a permanent state. As a general rule, fixing a bad credit rating takes time and requires effort, but it can be done. Here are a few things you can do to help fix a bad credit rating:

1) Order a free copy of your credit report

  • Check your history for accuracy.
  • If you find any errors in the file, bring them to the attention of the appropriate authority to be corrected.

2) Make all future repayments on time

  • Thanks to comprehensive credit reporting, such positive events can help to cancel out the negatives.
  • An obvious way to cancel out a history of late payments is to build up a record of on-time payments.

3) Consider debt consolidation

  • If you have multiple outstanding debts, you can roll several higher-interest debts into a new lower-interest product, paying off the debt will become both cheaper and simpler.

4) Consider setting up direct debit payments

  • Automating loan repayments for credit cards and personal loans can be an effective way of ensuring you never miss a payment

Can I get a car loan with bad credit?

Yes, you can get a car loan with bad credit, although you’ll probably find the process trickier and dearer than that experienced by people who have good credit histories.

You can find a number of lenders that specialise in bad credit car loans. However, make sure you compare bad credit car loans before you sign on the dotted line, because not all car loans are alike and having bad credit may mean you are more likely to be hit with higher fees and interest rates.

If you have bad credit, it’s important not to take out a car loan unless you can afford the repayments because a default could further damage your credit rating. Conversely, if you make all the repayments and repay the loan successfully, your credit rating might improve.

What is a bad credit car loan?

A bad credit car loan is a car loan for borrowers who have ‘bad credit’ or a bad credit history.

Some lenders refuse to offer bad credit car loans, because they believe there is an excessive risk that bad credit borrowers will not repay their loans. However, other lenders are willing to provide bad credit car loans.

Generally, these lenders charge higher interest rates for bad credit car loans than ‘prime’ car loans, reflecting the higher level of risk. Bad credit car loans may also have higher fees than prime car loans.

However, the big advantage of a bad credit car loan is that it allows borrowers with bad credit to access finance. Another advantage is that it could help bad credit borrowers improve their credit rating, assuming they make all their repayments on time.

Are bad credit car loans legit?

Bad credit car loans are legit, although not all lenders and products are created equal.

Some car loan lenders refuse to do business with borrowers who have bad credit histories, but there are others that are willing to provide bad credit. There is a catch, though: some bad credit lenders are disreputable, while some bad credit loans have extremely high interest rates and fees.

That’s why it’s important to do your research and compare bad credit car loans before you submit an application.

 

Who provides bad credit car loans?

Lenders that provide bad credit car loans tend to be smaller challenger lenders rather than the bigger banks.

Bad credit car loans are a niche product. The bigger banks tend to focus on mainstream car loan finance for borrowers with better credit histories. That’s why smaller lenders tend to be the ones that provide bad credit car loans.

Bad credit car loans can have high interest rates and fees, so it’s important to compare options before submitting an application.

Can I get a no credit check car loan?

Even if you have bad credit or no credit history there are loans that are available to you through specialised lenders. Some lenders in Australia advertise car loan offers without running credit checks, however, the Australian National Consumer Credit Protection act requires lenders to loan money responsibly, so credit checks are normally required by all responsible lenders. 

Can I get a car loan with poor credit?

Poor credit doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t be able to get finance for your car purchase, though your options aren’t likely to be the same as someone with good credit.

In fact, a number of specialist lenders exist offering car finance for customers with poor credit, able to provide access to bad credit car loans.

However having a history of poor credit will likely mark you as a potential risk to lenders, so your car financing needs could see higher fees and interest rates. Alternatively, consider a secured car loan, which is a type of loan that uses the car you purchase as collateral, reducing the risk.

Other options include getting someone close to act as a guarantor for your car loan, or to talk to a broker about a personalised rate specific to your circumstances.

I’ve been denied a car loan before; can I still get car finance?

Even if you’ve been denied a car loan before, you might still be able to get car finance. The key is to make the right application to the right lender.

The ‘right’ application is one that makes you look like an acceptable risk, which might include things like improving your credit score, increasing your savings rate and accumulating a bigger deposit.

The ‘right’ lender is one that deals with borrowers like you. For example, while some car loan lenders only deal with good credit borrowers, there are others that specialise in bad credit or poor credit borrowers.

Do I need good credit to get a car loan?

You don’t need good credit to get a car loan, although the worse your credit history, the harder and more expensive it’s likely to be.

Some lenders will do business only with borrowers who have good credit. However, there are other lenders that are willing to offer car loans to borrowers who don’t have good credit. The catch, though, is that they may charge higher interest rates and fees, and also require more paperwork.

If you don’t have good credit and want a car loan immediately, you can search for lenders that work with bad credit borrowers. If you are able to wait, you can work to improve your credit score and then apply for a car loan once you have good credit.

What is credit history?

Your credit history is a record of the dealings you’ve had with credit providers such as banks, credit card companies, mobile phone companies and internet companies. Your credit history records how successfully you’ve managed your repayments. It also records how many credit applications you’ve made and how many of those were rejected.

Credit providers refer to your credit history when deciding whether or not to extend you credit. Missing repayments is a bad sign; making too many applications or having applications rejected can also be a bad sign.

Credit infringements can remain on your credit history for five years – or seven years for serious infringements.

Do low interest no credit check car loans exist?

Some companies will advertise no credit check car loans, however under the Australian National Consumer Credit Protection act, credit checks are required by all responsible lenders, so such lenders are likely to have high interest rates. Depending on your income and credit history, you may qualify for a low interest StepUP loan from Good Shepherd Microfinance.

What is a credit score?

Your credit score is a number that represents how credit-worthy you are. The higher your credit score, the more credit-worthy you are and the more likely you are to receive loans from credit providers.

There is no industry standard for credit scores – different credit reporting bodies use different methodologies. For example, Equifax gives consumers scores between 0 and 1,200; Illion (through the Credit Simple service) gives scores between 0 and 1,000; and Experian gives scores between 0 and 999.

When it comes to car loans, lenders tend to offer lower interest rates to borrowers with better credit score. There are steps you can take to improve your credit score, including paying bills on time and paying off existing loans.

What is a dealership?

A dealership is a car yard or a place where cars are sold.

How to get pre-approval for your ANZ car loan?

Getting pre-approval on your car loan can give you a good idea of how much you may be allowed to borrow. This will help you set your limits while selecting your car. You can apply for pre-approval for an ANZ car loan by filling out a simple online application form, where you’ll have to submit relevant identity, employment and income documentation. 

ANZ will then conduct a credit check based on your application and documentation. It’s important to note that this could have an impact on your credit history. Based on your credit and income documentation analysis, ANZ will provide an amount they are willing to give you as a loan. After this, you can find the right car that matches the proposed loan amount and send it through your final loan application. 

It’s important to remember that pre-approval gives you an indication of how much you can borrow from ANZ to purchase your car, but it doesn’t guarantee the final approval. 

What is a chattel mortgage used for?

A chattel mortgage is usually used to buy an asset - such as a car - for your company for business use. Relatively similar to regular mortgages, a chattel mortgage structure is based on a lender providing you with funds to purchase an asset while registering their security interest on the Personal Property Securities Register (PPSR) for the life of the loan. In this case, the asset is known as the chattel. After the loan has been repaid, you will have full ownership of the asset. 

A popular finance option, a chattel mortgage is usually preferred by self-employed or small business owners, due to flexible options available for repayment. In some cases, you may get 100 per cent of the cost of the asset, which means that no upfront deposit needs to be put down.

However, it’s important to note that a chattel mortgage is not regulated under the National Consumer Credit Protection Act. It’s therefore important to seek advice about the product and fully understand the agreement terms before signing.

What is proof of income?

Before giving you a car loan, lenders will ask for proof of income – documentary evidence that you earn as much as you claim you earn. Lenders will typically want some combination of tax returns, pay slips and bank statements. The reason lenders want proof of income is because they want to be sure you have the means to repay the car loan.

How to apply for pre-approval of a car loan from RACV?

If you’re planning to apply for a car loan with RACV, the best way to start is by having a clear picture of your requirements. By getting pre-approval on your car loan, you’ll be able to go shopping for your new car with a definite budget that will help you narrow your search. Once you’ve decided to buy a car with the help of a loan, you may have even identified the type of car you would like to purchase, you can seek pre-approval on a car loan from RACV. 

You can apply for pre-approval by filling out a form online and uploading the relevant documentation regarding your identification, income, debt and credit history. Once you submit your application, RACV will review and verify the documents. If you meet their eligibility criteria, you will get pre-approval for the amount they are willing to lend to you. With this pre-approval, you can go car shopping with the confidence of knowing what you can afford.

How to get pre-approval for a car loan from Westpac?

You can easily apply for pre-approval on your Westpac car loan over the phone, in the branch or online. A fast way to apply for pre-approval is by applying online as the application process only takes around 10-15 minutes to complete.

While filling out the application, you’ll need to answer specific questions about your financial situation, like your income, assets, debts, and expenses. You’ll also have to provide supporting documentation, especially if you’re not an existing customer.

Once you’ve submitted the application, and meet the eligibility criteria, Westpac will likely take up to 2 days to provide pre-approval. After you get pre-approval, you’ll know the size of the car loan Westpac is willing to offer you. You’ll then have 30 days to find your new car within the pre-approved amount.

What do I need to apply for a chattel mortgage?

Chattel mortgages are a form of secured car loan for businesses. The lender will set up a mortgage, while you take the car’s ownership. When the mortgage is paid off, you own the car. The borrowed amount is repaid through regular installments over a fixed period of time.

To qualify, you’ll have to meet the following chattel mortgage requirements:

  • The car should be used for business purposes at least 51 per cent of the time.
  • You must hold a valid Australian Business Number (ABN).
  • You must show you can service the loan on time
  • Identity proof
  • Financial records, such as profit and loss account and balance sheet
  • Details of the vehicle you want to buy
  • Bank statement for your business

What is CTP insurance?

CTP insurance, also known as compulsory third-party insurance or a green slip, is compulsory if you want to register a vehicle in Australia. If you’re responsible for a car accident, your CTP insurance will be used to pay any compensation due to anyone who might be injured or killed. However, CTP insurance doesn’t cover you for vehicle damage or theft.

What is a chattel mortgage fee?

A chattel mortgage fee is an amount you’ll pay the lender to procure the funds for a chattel mortgage.

You can use a chattel mortgage to finance vehicles used for your business at least 50 per cent of the time. It’s similar to a secured vehicle loan. The lender will give you the funds required to purchase the vehicle whilst you retain the ownership. The finance company then holds a mortgage on the vehicle, using the car as the security, until you repay the loan amount. At the end of the loan term or once you’ve paid it off, the lender will release the mortgage. Alternatively, you can opt to trade-in or refinance the residual value.

Final thoughts

Think carefully about your options before getting a bad credit car loan. If you don't think you can keep up the repayments, you may want to reconsider.

For more support managing your personal finances, check ASIC's Moneysmart, or contact the National Debt Helpline on 1800 007 007.

Before you apply:

The following car loan offers are not specifically bad credit car loans. We’ve shown you these car loans to help you compare what’s available in the Australian market, and make a more informed financial decision.  

Before you apply for a car loan, consider checking your credit score and contacting the lender to discuss your situation. A financial counsellor may also be able to provide more specific advice.