Is car finance the same as a personal loan?

Roman Danaev

25 April 2022

If you’re considering purchasing a new car, you may wonder if car finance is a personal loan? You may have heard these terms flung around without feeling sure of the differences. If so, this article is for you.

Ultimately, the answer to this question is no; car finance is not the same thing as a personal loan. Read on to discover the differences between these two options to help you decide how you should finance a car purchase.

Is car finance classed as a personal loan?

Put simply; car finance is not classed as a personal loan. A personal loan, whether from a bank or other lender, can be used for many different purposes. How you spend the money is entirely at your discretion, meaning you can put it toward almost anything, not just a new car. By contrast, car finance can only be used to pay for a car.

Is car finance secured?

There are certain types of loans called secured loans. This term means that the loan is tied to a particular asset—which, in this case, would be the vehicle you’re purchasing. Your car acts as collateral for the loan, meaning that it could be repossessed by your lender and sold to settle your debt if you fail to pay back your loan on time.

Whether or not your car finance can be described as a secured loan depends on the type of car finance you choose. Hire Purchases (HP), Personal Contract Hires (PCH), and Personal Contract Purchases (PCP) are all secured loans.

Car finance vs personal loan: what’s the difference?

This article has already covered a couple of significant differences between car finance and personal loans. But there are others that you should be aware of before you decide how you want to finance a new vehicle purchase.

The table below outlines a few of the main differences between car finance and personal loans.

FeatureCar FinancePersonal Loan
Will the vehicle belong to you from the beginning of the deal?NoYes
Can you make a deposit upfront?YesYes
Is the date and cost of each monthly payment fixed?YesYes
If you miss or are late with loan payments, is there a chance your car could be repossessed?YesNo
Can you purchase your vehicle from a dealership?YesYes
Can you purchase your vehicle from private sellers?NoYes
Can you pay less expensive monthly repayments?Yes (PCP)No
Can you own the vehicle once you’ve paid the money back?YesYes
Can you return the vehicle after you’ve paid the money back?Yes (PCP)No
Is there an annual mileage limit placed on your vehicle?Yes (PCP)No
Can you make modifications to your vehicle while the deal is ongoing?NoYes

Pros of car finance and personal loans

When trying to decide whether you should go for car finance or a personal loan, you are the only person who can determine whether or not either option has all the features you need. To help you make your decision, here is a list of the benefits of each option.

Car financePersonal loan
You are under no obligation to purchase the vehicle at the end of the agreement (though you can if you wish through a PCP).The moment you drive your vehicle away from the seller or dealership, it’s yours.
There are numerous finance types for you to choose from, depending on what suits you best. Your main options are HP, PCP, and PCH deals.With personal loans, there are no restrictions placed on mileage, modifications, or usage.
If you wish, you can end your car finance agreement early.You can sell your vehicle whenever you like, even before you’ve finished paying back your loan. You can keep the sale money for yourself or use it to pay off the remainder of the loan.

Cons of car finance and personal loans

As well as thinking about the respective pros of car finance and personal loans, it’s important to consider the cons of each option. This section will lay out a few negatives you may want to consider.

Car FinancePersonal Loan
If you pay for a vehicle through car finance, it doesn’t legally belong to you until you’ve completely paid off the loan and the agreement is concluded.Until you’ve supplied your final payment, you are tied to the loan.
With car finance, you may have to contend with restrictions on your mileage. There are also potential you may have to pay on this front.During the term of your agreement, you may not be able to get another personal loan. If you do not pay the funds back as agreed, it may be difficult for you to take out other loans in the future.
At the end of the deal, you may be charged for general wear and tear and other miscellaneous costs.You may not be able to take advantage of money-saving dealership offers.

Lines of credit available

Different kinds of finance products have differing levels of risk associated with them. Because of this, lenders usually put an upper limit on how much money you can borrow with any given product. While it may not be a problem getting a few hundred thousand pounds for a mortgage, you will find it a great deal more difficult to secure a personal loan for the same amount.

Your lender will decide these limits based on your particular circumstances. Generally speaking; however, secured loans have a relatively high upper limit, since the risk associated with them is not as great.

Which option for car payments has the lowest monthly payments?

Cost is another important factor in choosing between car finance and personal loans. If you’re looking for the car payment option with the lowest monthly payments, it may be worth considering a PCP finance plan. With a PCP agreement, you’re not paying the full value of the vehicle; rather, you’re paying the cost of how much the car is expected to depreciate. Because of this, your monthly payments are kept relatively low.

When you reach the end of your deal, you can choose to either trade in the car or pay a larger ‘balloon ’ payment to take ownership of it.

Which car payment option is the cheapest?

People who are looking to buy a new car usually try to find deals with low-interest rates. However, your interest rate is dependent on your credit score and credit history. If you do not have a favourable credit score, you’ll find you’ll have to pay higher rates than you would otherwise. People with especially bad credit scores may have to rely on car finance, as many lenders will not grant people with low credit scores personal loans.

The table below shows how your credit score can impact your interest rates and overall cost paid. It shows that for individuals with a fair credit score, car finance—hire purchase, in this particular example—tends to be the cheaper option, while for individuals with excellent scores, personal loans are usually the cheaper option.

Personal Loan (Fair Score)HP Car Finance (Fair Score)Personal Loan (Excellent Score)HP Car Finance (Excellent Score)
Car Price£15,000£15,000£15,000£15,000
Representative APR26.9%13.9%2.9%7.9%
Monthly Payments£489.53£403.05£331.30£363.58
36 Monthly Repayments£23,498£19,347£15,893£17,452
Total Credit Cost£8,498£4,357£892.90£2,462

Is a personal loan better than car financing?

Whether or not a personal loan is a better choice for you than car finance depends entirely on your financial situation. Personal loans do have some benefits over car finance plans; for example, you’ll own your vehicle on the day of purchase and will face fewer restrictions than you would buying a car on finance.

On the other hand, for some people, personal loans are less than ideal. The best interest rates are reserved for those with good credit scores, and your monthly repayments may end up steeper than they would with a car finance plan.

Is it easier to get car financing than a loan?

Again, whether car finance is easier to get than a personal loan depends on your financial circumstances. Generally speaking; however, it may be less expensive for those with low credit scores to use a car finance plan over a personal loan. Due to the secured nature of car finance options, they can be a cheaper option for people with bad credit.

What’s the best way to finance your car?

When deciding between car finance plans and personal loans, it’s important that you carefully weigh the pros and cons of each. Consider your monthly budget and credit situation. Also, make sure that you’re fully aware of any restrictions or criteria you’d have to meet for a particular loan.

You should also decide whether you want to purchase a car from a dealership or a private seller and determine whether you want to own the vehicle at the end of the finance deal or not.

You should ask yourself all these questions before reaching a final decision.

Reach out to our brokers for advice and assistance

If you have any more questions about financing a new car, or if you’d like assistance in finding the right finance scheme for you, reach out to our expert brokers here at Carplus! We’ve helped hundreds of people finance their dream cars and can help you with the same.