The Mistakes People Make When Looking for Car Finance in the UK


Car financing is a popular method in the UK for purchasing a vehicle, as it allows buyers to spread the cost over a period, making used cars more affordable. However, the process is fraught with potential pitfalls that can turn what seems like a great deal into a financial burden. Here are the common mistakes people make when looking for car finance in the UK, and how to avoid them.

1. Not Understanding Credit Scores

Woman Contemplating Car Finance Options

One of the biggest mistakes is not understanding the importance of credit scores. Many people don’t check their credit score before applying for car finance, which can lead to disappointment if they are rejected or offered less favorable terms. A poor credit score can result in higher interest rates or even denial of credit.

Solution: Check your credit score before you start looking for car finance. There are several free services available, such as Experian, Equifax, or ClearScore. Understanding your credit score can help you gauge what kind of finance deals you are likely to be offered.

2. Focusing Solely on Monthly Payments

It’s easy to be drawn to a finance deal with low monthly payments. However, low monthly payments often mean a longer loan term or higher interest rates, which can significantly increase the overall cost of the car.

Solution: Look at the total amount payable over the term of the loan, not just the monthly payments. Consider the loan term and the interest rate. Sometimes, paying a bit more each month can save you a substantial amount in interest over the life of the loan.

3. Ignoring the Annual Percentage Rate (APR)

The APR represents the true cost of borrowing, including interest and other fees. Many buyers make the mistake of ignoring the APR and only looking at the headline interest rate.

Solution: Always compare the APR of different finance deals, as it provides a more accurate picture of what you’ll end up paying. A lower APR typically means a cheaper loan.

4. Not Shopping Around

Some buyers go with the first finance offer they receive, often from the car dealership. While dealer financing can be convenient, it’s not always the best deal available.

Solution: Shop around and compare offers from different lenders, including banks, credit unions, and online lenders. Getting pre-approved from multiple sources can give you a better bargaining position when negotiating with dealers.

5. Failing to Consider Other Financing Options

A woman sitting at a desk, looking stressed and concerned while reviewing her poor credit car finance options.

Many people don’t explore all their financing options, such as personal loans, hire purchase agreements, or leasing, and instead stick to traditional car loans. If you’re struggling, a lot of dealerships will offer some form of bad credit car finance, so ask!

Solution: Evaluate all your financing options. For example, personal loans can sometimes offer lower interest rates than car loans. Hire purchase agreements might suit those who plan to own the car eventually, while leasing could be beneficial for those who prefer changing cars every few years.

6. Overlooking Additional Costs

The total cost of owning a car includes more than just the purchase price. Many people fail to consider additional costs such as insurance, maintenance, road tax, and fuel when budgeting for a car.

Solution: Calculate the total cost of ownership, including insurance premiums, expected maintenance and repairs, road tax, and fuel costs. This comprehensive approach will help you determine a realistic budget and avoid financial strain.

7. Neglecting the Impact of Depreciation

Cars typically lose value over time, and the rate of depreciation can significantly impact your finances, especially if you plan to sell or trade in the vehicle before it’s paid off.

Solution: Research the depreciation rates of different makes and models. Consider the long-term value of the car and how it fits into your financial plans. Some cars retain their value better than others, which can be a crucial factor if you plan to upgrade in the future.

8. Not Reading the Fine Print

Finance agreements are often filled with jargon and terms that can be confusing. Many buyers sign agreements without fully understanding the terms and conditions, leading to unexpected costs or restrictions.

Solution: Take the time to read and understand the fine print of any finance agreement. Pay attention to clauses related to early repayment penalties, mileage limits (if leasing), and conditions for returning the car. If something is unclear, ask the lender to explain it in simple terms.

9. Ignoring the Benefits of a Larger Down Payment

While it might be tempting to put down the smallest possible deposit, this can lead to higher monthly payments and more interest paid over the life of the loan.

Solution: If possible, make a larger down payment. This reduces the amount you need to finance, lowering your monthly payments and the total interest paid. It also gives you a better chance of securing favourable loan terms.

10. Failing to Account for Life Changes

Smiling family with their new car finance deal

Circumstances can change over the course of a car finance agreement. Job loss, health issues, or other financial pressures can make it difficult to keep up with payments.

Solution: Choose a finance plan with flexible terms or the option to adjust payments if necessary. Consider insurance products like payment protection insurance (PPI) that can cover your payments in case of unforeseen events, though make sure to understand the terms and costs of such insurance.


Securing car finance in the UK doesn’t have to be a daunting task. By understanding your credit score, comparing APRs, exploring all financing options, and thoroughly reading the fine print, you can avoid the common mistakes that many car buyers make. Taking a comprehensive approach to budgeting, considering the impact of depreciation, and planning for life changes can ensure that your car finance decision supports your financial well-being both now and in the future.

Choose My Car have some fantastic deals on used cars and offer flexible payment options to nearly everybody. Get in-touch today and drive away in your dream car.

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