How are car loan interest rates calculated?
Car loan interest rates are set by the lender, but they are based on the official cash rate set by the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA).
Each month the RBA meets and announces whether they have increased, decreased or kept the official cash rate steady. Changes to the rate may be a result of things like inflation, employment stats, economic growth and spending. Simply put, higher rates slow borrowing, economic activity and inflation, while lower rates encourage them.
Australia's lenders generally make changes to their loan products after an RBA announcement.
What types of car loan interest rates are there?
Like other loan products, car loans come with either a fixed or variable interest rate. Ultimately, the type of interest rate you choose can impact what you pay each repayment period. There are pros and cons to each option, so here's a breakdown of how they work.
A fixed rate car loan is where you receive the same interest rate over the entire life of the loan term. Essentially, if you stick to your regular repayments, you will pay exactly the same amount to your lender each payment cycle. Plus, if interest rates spike during your loan period, your loan won't be affected as you've locked in your lower rate.
The downfall of fixed interest rates is that you won't benefit from any market changes if rates are reduced. Some lenders also charge early repayment penalties on fixed rate car loans - meaning if you pay off your entire loan in full before your loan term is up, you could face a hefty fee.
The other option is a variable rate car loan. Unlike a fixed car loan, a variable interest rate can go up or down during your loan term, typically in line with benchmark interest rates set by the Reserve Bank Of Australia. On the one hand this could work in your favour, but on the flip side, it could end up costing you more if the rate goes up.
There is one solid benefit of a variable rate car loan though, you rarely will pay an early repayment penalty if you square things away ahead of time. So if you plan to throw a little extra cash towards your car loan, and don't mind the risk of a rate spike, a variable loan may be the option for you.
The truth is the interest rate on your car loan is unlikely to be the only cost you face. There may be a range of other additional fees and charges that you need to factor in. This is where the comparison rate comes in.
According to the National Credit Code, Australian lenders must display comparison rates when advertising loan products. The comparison rate incorporates things like the interest rate, fees and charges, so that you, the customer, has a more rounded view of what the loan is going to cost. Make sure you check the comparison rate on a car loan before applying, it may be a lot higher than the headline rate.
If you'd like to compare the difference between a fixed or variable interest rate car loan, check out our car loan comparison calculator.
How are my car loan interest repayments calculated?
Your car loan repayments and how much you pay in interest depends on a few things, like the rate you receive, how often you make repayments and the length of your loan term. In short, your repayments are split between paying down your principal (what you borrowed) and paying back interest (what the bank charges).
When you first take out the loan, a larger portion of your repayment will go towards paying interest. As the principal on your loan lessens so does the amount of interest you pay on it. This means towards the end of your loan term, the majority of your repayment will go towards your principal rather than interest.
If you want to figure out how much your car loan might cost you each week, fortnight or month, crunch the numbers with our car loan repayments calculator.
How can I get the best interest rate on a car loan?
When it comes to the best car loan interest rate, there are plenty of options for you to choose from as most banks and lenders in Australia will have a car loan option. So, it's a good idea to do some research, shop around and find the right rate for your budget.
Here are Mozo we have a range of great tools that can help you find a car loan to suit you:
- Car loan comparison page - weigh up a range of car loan options from the big four to smaller banks, credit unions and online lenders.
- Car loan calculators - find out how much your repayments might be, how much you can afford to borrow and compare car loan products.
- Car loan guides - get the whole car loan picture with the ins and outs of loan features, how to apply and what to watch out for.
Don't forget there's also a bunch of general interest rate guides, with all you need to know about how they work across all loan products.