Is paying off a car loan early a good idea? The pros and cons

man driving car purchased with car loan

Paying down your car loan early can be a great idea, but it also might not be. 

The truth is, in some cases clearing car loan debt can be a savvy option and can improve your financial situation. However, in others it can have the opposite effect and impact your ability to afford things or pay off other forms of debt. 

Essentially, it’s all about you and where you financially stand. 

So what’s the right choice for you? That’s where our pros and cons list comes in handy! Read on as we weigh up the advantages and disadvantages of paying off a car loan ahead of time… 

Paying off your car loan early: The Pros 

There are plenty of benefits to paying off your car loan ahead of time, here are some: 

  • Cleared debt: At the end of the day, clearing any sort of debt is a good thing as it means you don’t owe money to a bank or lender. By paying back what you owe, you can turn your attention to your savings or even borrowing for something else, such as taking out a home loan
  • Improves your credit score: Paying down your debt ahead of time can look good on your credit report as it lowers your debt-to-income ratio. By improving your credit you not only are helping the chances of you being approved for future lending, but you may also be able to receive lower interest rates through risk-based pricing. 
  • Vehicle no longer collateral: Because most car loans are secured personal loans, the car you purchased with the loan is likely being used as collateral. By paying off your car loan early, you don’t owe any more money to your lender therefore they no longer need to hold your asset (the car) against the loan as security. 

Paying off your car loan early: The Cons

The truth is, there are also some disadvantages to clearing your car loan debt early, these include: 

  • Early repayment fees: Some car loan lenders charge hefty exit and early repayment penalties for borrowers that pay down their debt before their loan term is up. In some cases, these types of charges can cost hundreds of dollars. 
  • Impact your budget: While clearing debt is an important part of financial healthiness, it’s also important to remember that paying off a loan shouldn’t come at the expense of throwing out your budget. Weigh up whether you can actually afford to pay off your loan early, it may be a matter of delaying how early you pay it off or even just sticking to your regular repayment plan and making extra contributions occasionally. 
  • Other debt may cost you more: By prioritising paying off your car loan early, you may actually risk yourself being charged interest on other high interest products you haven’t paid off, like a credit card. It’s important to look at all your financial products and prioritise which debt to clear first by determining which will cost you more. 

So, what are the take-home messages when finding the right car loan first up?  

1. Prioritise flexible repayments: Look for a loan with the option to make weekly, fortnightly or monthly repayments, as well as the choice to make extra repayments too. A redraw facility can also be handy in case you need to dip into your additional contributions later on. 

2. Avoid early repayment penalties: As mentioned, lenders can charge early repayment fees, so try and find an option that doesn’t come with this charge in case you clear your debt ahead of time. 

3. Secure a low interest rate: The lower the interest rate you get the better as this can reduce the cost of your loan over all (as you pay less in interest). By getting a low interest rate car loan, you can also pay down your debt quicker as more of your repayment goes towards the amount you borrowed rather than what you owe the lender in interest. 

4. Choose a short loan term if you can: If paying down your loan early may not seem like an option for you, by choosing a shorter loan term you’ll pay the loan off quicker than if you chose a longer term. This way your regular repayments would be higher but it would mean you pay less in interest as you are being charged interest over a shorter period of time.  

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