cheap personal car loans

Cheap Personal Car Loans

Borrow at 2.8% for £7.5k+

Personal loan rates are near all time lows. But the coronavirus crisis has caused almost all lenders to tighten acceptance criteria. So, using a Loans Eligibility Calculator to find which lenders are most likely to accept you is more important than ever. If you know what you're doing, go straight to the calc to find a loan. But, if you need a bit more help, our guide has full info on how personal car loans work, and what to watch out for.  

What is a personal loan?

Personal loans, also known as unsecured loans, are where you borrow a sum of money from a lender, and agree to pay it back over a set time period in fixed monthly repayments.

The lender will charge you interest as its fee to lend money to you, so you repay the amount you borrowed plus interest. The advantage is you get cash upfront, but can spread the cost of a purchase over several months or years.

If you’re buying a new or used car and NEED to borrow (ie, your car is a wreck and must be replaced yet you don't have enough in savings to cover it and can't wait until you would) a personal loan can be a cheap way to do so, as rates are currently at near to all-time lows. 

This guide has details of the cheapest personal loans, plus our Loans Eligibility Calculator will show you which lenders are likely to accept you before you apply.

  • Loans are similar to most other types of car finance as you'll pay back a set amount each month over an agreed term, for example three years. 

    However, other types of car finance usually use the vehicle as security, meaning the lender often owns the car until you make the final payment – and has a right to take it back if you don't pay. An unsecured loan works differently as you'll use the loan as full payment for the car, so you'll be the legal owner of the car from day one. Your agreement is then with the lender to repay the loan. 

  • Before jumping straight into a loan, first consider if you could get a credit card for a smaller amount. The most important factor here, however, is your credit limit. Unless you've a large income and a good credit score, credit cards won't usually give you more than £3,000-£5,000. So if what you need to buy's more expensive than this, you're probably better off looking for a £5,000+ loan.

    But if you can buy whatever it is for £5,000 or less, you have several other options. See if any of these scenarios fit you...

    • I can use a credit card and can clear it in 20 months. You can get up to 20 months at 0% interest on purchases on a credit card – only useful if you can budget to pay off your debt in that time, or you're super-organised and can balance-transfer the debt to another card before the 0% period ends.

      This technique's also only useful if the retailer takes credit cards, and some car dealerships don't. But there's still a way to use a card to beat a loan...
    • I can't pay directly on a credit card. Don't worry, even if you can't pay the retailer directly on a credit card, you can still pay by card, it's just slightly more complex.

      You'll need a specialist money transfer card. These work by transferring cash from the new card to your bank account, so instead you owe the card (though there is a fee). Once there, you can spend it as you would a loan.

      The longest deal at the moment is a card which gives you a 0% period of up to 18 months (with a 2.99% to 3.49% fee). If you can pay the debt off in that time, or balance-transfer it once the 0% is over, this could be a good replacement for a loan.

    With all these techniques, make sure you recreate the rigidity of paying off a loan. Work out how much you need to pay off each month to clear the card within the 0% period, then set up a direct debit for that amount each month. This way you're not tempted to skip months and end up owing debt at the end of the 0% (unless you're happy to keep rolling the debt on to new balance transfer cards each time).

  • To understand whether a loan offers the cheapest way to buy your car (as opposed to Hire Purchase (HP), Personal Contract Purchase (PCP) or other forms of finance such as a credit card) always ensure you're comparing the APR. Simply put, this is the overall cost of the debt including all charges and fees, so enables you to compare different finance products on a like-for-like basis.

    Provided all the deals you're comparing are over the same number of months or years, the one with the lowest APR should offer the cheapest deal.

passing keys to new owner
how buying a car works

How does it work when buying a car?

Once you’ve found a car you want to buy, you’ll know the amount you want to borrow. Ideally this should be based on the price of the car minus any amount you have in savings to contribute, minimising the amount you need to borrow at a cost.

With a personal loan, you borrow an agreed sum, then repay it in fixed monthly payments, at a fixed interest rate, usually over a period of one to five years. The rate you get will depend on how much you want to borrow and other factors such as your credit score. We list the cheapest rates below and our eligibility calculator will show you which loans you've the best chance of getting, in your own personal best-buy table. 

Note that these rates are 'representative', meaning only 51% of successful applicants have to get them. So you could apply and be offered a more expensive rate.

Once accepted for a loan, the cash is usually deposited into your nominated bank account, so you're then able to pay the full amount for your car.

Pay just a penny with a credit card to get greater protection

If the seller accepts payment by credit card, pay even a penny towards the car on it and you'll get powerful Section 75 protection (provided the car costs between £100 and £30,000). The credit card provider is then jointly liable with the car dealer should anything go wrong, so means it should be a lot easier to sort out any issues with the car further down the line.

What happens at the end of the loan?

Once all the repayments have been made, that's it. The lender marks the loan as settled on your credit file, and you have nothing left to pay.

Is a personal car loan the right option for me?

options when buying a car

There are so many different options when it comes to buying a car, it can be difficult to choose. Here are the main benefits and pitfalls of choosing a personal car loan:

Pros

Unless you can get 0% finance from the dealer, personal loan rates tend to be cheaper than dealer finance.

It's simple to arrange and understand.

It's flexible – with terms from 1-7yrs (the longer the term, the more interest you’ll pay).

You can use our eligibility calculator before you apply to find out which loans you're likely be accepted for.

You'll own the car as soon as you've transferred the cash to the dealer. This means you're able to modify it exactly how you want.

You're not tied to just buying from a dealer, you're able to buy a car from a private seller if you choose to. Prices here are often cheaper plus you can haggle on top. 

Cons

Unless you've an excellent or good credit score, you may not be offered any loan.

Monthly payments are higher than for some other forms of car finance (as you're repaying the balance).

You won't get a manufacturer's contribution that's sometimes offered if you take out its finance.

As you own the car outright, you're responsible for all repairs.

The car's value will usually depreciate, so it'll be worth a lot less than you paid when you sell it.

If you want a new car every few years, it'll be a hassle to do it this way as you need to sell the car and buy a new one every time. Leasing or Personal Contract Purchase (PCP) is much more suited if you'll want to keep trading up.

Different car finance options compared

Broadly speaking, there are six different ways to pay for a car. The table has the key differences at a glance.

Finance type Typical length of agreement? Initial deposit required? Who owns the car? Mileage restrictions?
None – cash savings N/A N/A You No
0% credit card Up to 20 months No You (though you'll still need to repay the debt) No
Personal loan 1-7 years No You (though you'll still need to repay the debt) No
Personal Contract Purchase 1-5 years Yes (i) The finance company, unless an optional final balloon payment is made Yes
Hire purchase 1-5 years Yes (i) The finance company, until the final repayment is made No
Leasing/Personal Contract Hire 1-4 years Yes (i) The finance company, at all times Yes

(i) In most circumstances, though sometimes you can get a deposit contribution from the dealer or structure a lease deal to pay nothing upfront.

So which wins?

Sadly, there is no one-size fits all answer to this (as much hangs on whether you want to own the car and other factors). However, we've included more information on each option below, to help work out which is right for you.

  • The outright winner if you want to fully own the car from day one, as you'll avoid paying any interest and be debt-free. Though if you're looking to buy a brand new car – which on average loses about 40% of its value by the end of the first year – and are likely to change it in the next few years, it's worth considering a leasing or personal contract purchase deal below as the overall cost of ownership can work out cheaper.

    • Pay something towards your car on a credit card, and you get powerful extra protection if something goes wrong down the line. This is because you're then covered by Section 75.

      Provided that the total cost of the car you're buying is between £100 and £30,000, paying anything towards it by credit card means the card company (or finance company in some cases) is equally liable along with the dealer if things go wrong.

      However, this isn't always straightforward. Some dealers don't accept credit cards and some may only allow you to pay a limited amount by card. So figure out how important this is, and ask your chosen dealer if it can accept cards before deciding how to pay.

  • Depending on the price of your new car, a 0% spending credit card could be the next cheapest way to borrow. Like paying in cash, you'll own the car outright, plus you'd be covered by Section 75 protection. However, you'd need to check whether the car dealer accepts payment by credit card, as not all do.

    Sadly you usually won't know what credit limit you'd get before applying, and you should budget to pay it off before the 0% period ends as the interest rate rockets. The current longest offers 20 months at 0% – see our 0% Spending Cards guide for more information.

  • This usually allows you to borrow higher amounts than a 0% credit card would offer, though you'll pay interest. However, repayments will be structured to clear the debt at the end of the term, which is usually between one and five years.

    Once approved you'll receive the funds into your bank account, which you can then use to buy the car, so you'll own it outright. See our Cheap Loans guide for best buys and full help.

    • Pay something towards your car on a credit card, and you get powerful extra protection if something goes wrong down the line. This is because you're then covered by Section 75.

      Provided that the total cost of the car you're buying is between £100 and £30,000, paying anything towards it by credit card means the card company (or finance company in some cases) is equally liable along with the dealer if things go wrong.

      However, this isn't always straightforward. Some dealers don't accept credit cards and some may only allow you to pay a limited amount by card. So figure out how important this is, and ask your chosen dealer if it can accept cards before deciding how to pay.

  • A popular way to get a new car, especially if you frequently change car and want to pay for it monthly. It's basically a loan, though usually cheaper each month as you won't be paying off the full value of the car. You also won't own it at the end, unless you choose to.

    You set a term for the agreement and pay a deposit (eg, a three-year term with a £2,000 deposit). The finance company then provides a final value that the car will be worth at the end of the agreement (eg, £6,000). These are then subtracted from the cost of the car to work out how much the loan will be (eg, you'd owe £12,000 over three years for a £20,000 car).

    There's usually a mileage allowance (eg, 8,000 miles a year), but provided you stick to that and don't damage the car, you can return it and walk away at the end of the agreement. Alternatively, you have the option to pay the final value to own it, also known as a balloon payment.

    As the dealer will be making money from the finance deal, you may find it offers larger discounts or contributions to the deposit on new cars. For used cars, it may mean you can haggle more off the sale price. Always be careful and make sure to calculate the total cost you'll need to repay after all interest has been added. This will then show the 'true' value of the discount.

  • This works in a similar way to a loan – as you're borrowing and paying off the full cost of the car – though you won't own it until you've made the final payment. Instead the car is owned by the finance company as it uses it as security against the loan (like a mortgage), so if you fail to pay it can seize the car.

    This can mean it's easier to get than normal loans, though you'll usually need to pay a deposit (often 10% or more of the car's price). You'll therefore need to consider how to fund that. However, if you're buying a brand new car from a dealer, it's worth checking if it offers a promotional contribution towards this.

    As the dealer will be making money from the finance deal, you may find it offers larger discounts or contributions to the deposit on new cars. For used cars, it may mean you can haggle more off the sale price. Always be careful and make sure to calculate the total cost you'll need to repay after all interest has been added. This will then show the 'true' value of the discount.

    See our Hire Purchase guide for full information.

  • This is a way to get a brand new car for a monthly payment, though this is essentially a long-term rental, so you'll never own the car – or ever have the option to buy it.

    Instead you'll pay an initial deposit followed by a monthly amount for the duration of the contract, which is usually over one to four years. As with PCP, you'll need to choose a mileage allowance (eg, 8,000 miles a year) and you're responsible for its upkeep.

    At the end of the agreement, you simply return the car (though you could be charged if you've exceeded the mileage or damaged the car).

    To help find a cheap lease deal, there are a host of lease comparison sites, such as Leasing.com and Lease Loco, which scan hundreds of offers from dealers across the UK. See our Car Leasing guide for full information.

Where can I get a loan?

If you're looking for a loan, check out the best buy rates below, though remember, the advertised rate isn't necessarily the one you'll be offered. Up to 49% of people accepted for the loan could be given a different – usually higher – interest rate.

The rate will also depend on your credit score, with the cheapest often for those with higher scores. See our Credit Scores guide for full information on how to check yours for free, including help and tips to boost it.  

We list loans by 'bands' as the rate you could get differs depending on how much you want to borrow. 


Cheapest loans under £3,000

As we warn above, while you should only borrow what you NEED, a peculiar quirk means you can sometimes pay less by getting a slightly bigger loan. Rates of loans under £3,000 are the most expensive, so always check if it's actually cheaper to borrow slightly more.

Specialist Money Transfer credit cards are also far cheaper than the loans below, if you can repay the full balance over 12-18mths.


Cheapest loans £3,000 - £4,999

LENDER REP APR
(1-5 years or stated)
CHECK ELIGIBILITY + APPLY
Important. Specialist Money Transfer credit cards are far cheaper than the loans below, provided you can get a credit limit big enough.
Hitachi 8.4% rep APR (2-5 years) Check eligibility
Apply*
Tesco Bank 8.5% rep APR Check eligibility
Apply*
Hastings Direct 8.7% rep APR
Check eligibility
Apply*
AA 8.8% rep APR (AA members)
8.9% rep APR (Non-members)

Check eligibility
Apply*
Post Office 8.9% rep APR Check eligibility
Apply*


Cheapest loans £5,000 - £7,499

LENDER REP APR
(1-5 years or stated)
CHECK ELIGIBILITY + APPLY
Tesco Bank 3.4% rep APR (1-3 years)
Check eligibility
Apply*
MBNA 3.5% rep APR  Check eligibility
Apply*
Hitachi 3.5% rep APR (2-5 years) Check eligibility
Apply*
John Lewis 3.6% rep APR Apply (not in eligibility calc)
Sainsbury's Bank 3.6% rep APR - Must have had a Nectar card for 6mths+, sadly not open to anyone self-employed Check eligibility
Apply*


Cheapest loans £7,500 - £15,000

LENDER REP APR
(1-5 years or stated)
CHECK ELIGIBILITY + APPLY
Cahoot 2.8% rep APR Check eligibility
Apply*
TSB 2.8% rep APR Check eligibility
Apply*
M&S Bank (i) 2.9% rep APR (1-7 years) Check eligibility
Virgin Money 2.9% rep APR (1-7 years) Check eligibility
Apply*
Tesco Bank 2.9% rep APR Check eligibility
Apply*
MBNA 2.9% rep APR Check eligibility
Apply*

See all official APR examples. (i) Important: M&S Bank has asked we direct people to our eligibility calculator, so only those more likely to be accepted will actually apply, reducing demand and enquiry calls, as it's already over capacity and needs to prioritise coronavirus help for vulnerable people. 


Cheapest loans £15,001 - £20,000

LENDER REP APR
(1-5 years or stated)
CHECK ELIGIBILITY + APPLY
Cahoot 2.8% rep APR Check eligibility
Apply*
TSB 2.8% rep APR Check eligibility
Apply*
Tesco Bank 2.9% rep APR (1-3 years) Check eligibility
Apply*
Sainsbury's Bank 2.9% rep APR - Must have had a Nectar card for 6mths+, sadly not open to anyone self-employed Check eligibility
Apply*
Virgin Money 3% rep APR (1-7 years) Check eligibility
Apply*


Cheapest loans £20,001 - £25,000

LENDER REP APR
(1-5 years or stated)
CHECK ELIGIBILITY + APPLY
TSB 2.8% rep APR Check eligibility
Apply*
Tesco Bank 2.9% rep APR (1-3 years) Check eligibility
Apply*
Sainsbury's Bank 2.9% rep APR - Must have had a Nectar card for 6mths+, sadly not open to anyone self-employed Check eligibility
Apply*
Virgin Money 3% rep APR (1-7 years) Check eligibility
Apply*
MBNA 3% rep APR Check eligibility
Apply*


Cheapest loans over £25,000

Important. Certain lenders offer personal loans up to £50,000, though it's a huge commitment, so think very carefully before getting such a large amount. Be VERY sure you can repay it. 

If you do plan to borrow, first check with your own bank, as cheap rates for such large borrowing are often for existing customers only. If your bank can't help, next look at the cheapest open market rates.

LENDER REP APR
(£25k-£35k, 1-5 yrs or stated)
APPLY
First Direct
£25k-£30k: 3.3% rep APR (1-7 years) Existing Customers only
Apply (not in eligibility calc)
£30k-£50k: 6.7% rep APR (1-7 years)
Halifax 5.8% rep APR  Existing Customers only
Apply (not in eligibility calc)
Virgin Money 6.9% rep APR (1-7 years) Apply (not in eligibility calc)

If the above doesn't work, you could combine smaller personal loans or remortgage, though that usually means extending the term, more interest and securing the debt on your house.

Coronavirus help if you're struggling

If you're struggling to pay an existing loan due to coronavirus, your provider should give you a payment holiday of up to three months, or offer an alternative way to help. 

DON'T just stop paying – you must arrange a break with your lender first (you've until 31 October to request it). Provided you've agreed it with your lender, these payment holidays then can't hurt your creditworthiness and won't come with any penalties or charges.

You'll still be charged interest during the payment holiday though, so will likely pay more overall. It's therefore best to only do this if you need to – if you can afford to pay, it's better to keep doing so. 

If you have a loan from a peer-to-peer lender, such as Zopa or Ratesetter, the measures above don't currently apply, so it's down to each company to determine the help it offers. See our lender-by-lender loans help for the latest updates, full information and how to apply.

The Loan Calculator

We've designed a unique calculator to help you work out the cost of your car loan. It'll tell you how much interest you'll pay, and how much you'll pay back per month. Try raising and lowering the number of months and see the effect on the monthly payment you need to make.

Personal loans Q&A

  • For this, find the loan with the lowest interest rate possible.

    You can also lower the monthly payment by borrowing less – so paying a larger deposit from savings if you're able to – or by choosing to take the loan over a longer time period. Do this and your monthly payment will be lower, though you'll pay more interest overall.

    Another way to lower payments is to choose a cheaper car; the cheaper the car, the cheaper the repayments.

  • You can do this at any time. Some lenders allow you to do this penalty free, but most will charge you a fee to do this of between one and two months' interest.

    To settle a loan early, call your lender and ask for a 'settlement figure'. This is the amount you have to pay to completely clear the loan.

  • If you miss a payment, it's likely the lender will contact you to see what's wrong. If you keep missing payments, they'll mark you 'in default', which will appear on your credit file, likely preventing you from getting any further credit.

    If you find you're not able to make repayments, always contact the lender - ideally before the next payment is due. If it knows you're struggling, it should help you by offering an alternative and affordable repayment plan.

    If you don't let it know, and continue to miss payments, the lender can take you to court. This could involve anything from asking the court to allow bailiffs to come and take your car (or other assets you own to the value of the car), or in the worst case, ask the court to make you bankrupt over the debt.

  • No. Personal loans aren't covered under Section 75, as the lender pays the money to you, so there's no creditor-supplier relationship between the lender and the car dealer. However, if you're able to pay even a part of the car's cost using a credit card, then you would be covered, even if you then used a loan to pay the rest.

    If you have a complaint about a car bought using a personal loan, try to resolve it with the dealer. It has obligations under the Supply of Goods Act which means that it needs to make sure the car it's supplying is fit for purpose, as described and lasts a reasonable length of time.

    Sadly, though, there's less protection if you're using the loan to buy a used car from a private individual. See Buying a Used Car for what consumer protection rules apply.

  • Yes. When you apply, a credit check will be done to see if the lender trusts you'll pay it back.

    Likewise, if you fail to keep up repayments, this could leave a mark on your credit file, which could affect your ability to get a mortgage or other credit. See our Credit Scores
    guide for more info.

  • Once you've applied for the loan, it's already on your credit report. So assuming you applied for the cheapest loan for you, there's no point in not accepting that cash because it's not the amount you need. 

    You may be able to apply for another loan elsewhere to fill the gap, though the new lender will take your loan into account when deciding, and may decide that you can't afford the extra borrowing. 

  • If you buy a car using a loan and realise it's faulty, you'll need to take it back to the dealer, and ask it to repair the problem. The dealer has a responsibility under the Consumer Rights Act to ensure the car is as described and fit for purpose.

    If there's something obviously wrong with the car, avoid taking delivery. If the fault develops later, contact the dealer and ask for a repair or replacement.

    However, if you've bought from a private seller, then you've fewer rights, so ensure you take the car for a test drive before committing to buying it. Our Buying a Used Car guide can help with what you should be looking for.

  • Almost every personal loan is at a fixed rate, so the rate and repayments you are given at the outset are fixed over the life of the loan, regardless of what happens to the base rate. Thus there's no impact whatsoever, whether rates rise or fall.

    But a change in the base rate will affect those looking to get a new loan, although it's not an exact relationship. As loans are borrowed over the long term, the rates lenders set depend more on the City's predictions of long-term interest rates rather than the actual UK base rate.

  • This depends on the lender. If it's an online application, which you can sign digitally, you could have the cash within a couple of hours. 

    If you need to wait for the lender to send documents in the post, it could take up to a week.