Find out how to get the most out of your business vehicle finance.
If you need to buy a car for business purposes, whether for a company or sole trader, you have a range of finance options available. As opposed to loans that help you purchase a vehicle for personal use, business vehicle loans may have tax benefits and lease options.
Find out what vehicle finance options are available for businesses in this guide and discover what’s right for you.
What options do I have for business vehicle finance?
- Finance lease. This option allows your business to enjoy the use of a commercial vehicle and the benefit of ownership, while the financier retains vehicle ownership. The lender purchases the vehicle on your behalf, or supplies it to you from their fleet of vehicles and leases it to you. You make fixed monthly payments until the term of the lease is up, at which time you can choose from the following options: extend the the lease for a further period; take out a new lease with an updated vehicle; buy the vehicle from the lender or return the vehicle.
- Commercial hire purchase. Under this arrangement, you hire a car from a financier for an agreed period and you have to make fixed monthly repayments. While you do not own the vehicle during the hire term, you take ownership once the hire term is up and you have paid off the total price of the vehicle and any interest or fees.
- Chattel mortgage. A chattel mortgage involves a financier lending you the money you need to purchase a vehicle. You are the owner of the vehicle once it has been purchased, but the financier takes out a mortgage on the vehicle (chattel) as loan security. Once the term of the loan is complete, and provided any outstanding payments are made, the mortgage is removed and the vehicle belongs to you.
- Novated lease. A form of salary sacrificing, a novated lease involves an agreement between an employer, an employee and the financier. It involves the employee entering into a finance lease with the financier, but in this case, the employer takes on the employee’s role of making the repayments. The vehicle is available for the employee to use, and the employer pays the financier by deducting the amount from the employee’s pre-tax income. A “fully maintained novated lease” is also available, where the employer repays the lease and the vehicle upkeep from the employee’s pre-tax income.
- Business loan. You can also use conventional business finance to fund the purchase of a vehicle, and have a range of options available with business finance, including a term loan and a line of credit.
How do I decide which car finance option is right for me?
As there is a range of finance available to help you purchase a business vehicle, it can be tricky to work out which is best. To help narrow down your choices, consider the following:
- Do you want to retain ownership of the vehicle? Certain finance options give you ownership of the vehicle when you start repaying the loan, but some only grant ownership at the end of the term. Others, such as a finance lease, do not grant ownership at all. Consider whether you want to claim the vehicle as a business asset when weighing up your finance options.
- What is the purpose of the vehicle? If the vehicle will cover a lot of miles, you may want to consider an option that gives you a new vehicle at the end of the term (finance lease). This is also the case if you plan to replace the vehicle within that time frame.
- What is your business situation? Whether you are part of a company or a sole trader will affect the choices you have available. For example, a novated lease is for employees to purchase a vehicle with the assistance of their company , so isn’t an option for sole traders.
Tips to get the most out of your business vehicle finance
- Chat with an accountant before you apply. There are many car finance options available to businesses and an accountant can help you decide which one will work best. Accountants can also explain which part of the finance, eg the interest, the rental payments are tax-deductible, so this may help inform your decision.
- Negotiate your repayments structure. Lenders may offer monthly, quarterly, half-yearly or annual repayment terms, or even repayments structured around your cash flow. See how flexible the lender is before you apply and negotiate terms based on your business needs.
Factors to consider when comparing business vehicle loans
- Terms. The length of the term of the finance arrangement can influence how much money you have to pay to gain ownership of a commercial vehicle. For loans that give you ownership upfront, the term is also important to consider for forward planning, especially if there is a balloon payment required at the end of the term. Many finance options allow terms of between 12 months and five years, so compare the terms available and find an option that suits your budget and needs.
- Interest rate. What is the interest rate under your vehicle finance arrangement? Is the rate fixed, which offers the security of knowing what your repayments are, or variable, which means you can take advantage of falling rates?
- Repayment options. Look for a vehicle finance option that allows you to tailor repayments to suit your cash flow.
- Tax requirements. Claiming the expense of buying a vehicle as a tax deduction varies depending on which vehicle finance option you choose. For example, if you choose to lease a vehicle you can claim back the GST part of the lease payment each month.
- Fees and charges. As with any financial product, it pays to familiarise yourself with the fees and charges attached to a vehicle finance option. It may not seem much at first, but these expenses can add up to a lot of money in the long run.
What are the benefits and drawbacks to consider?
- A wide range of options. There are vehicle finance options available to suit a wide range of businesses.
- Possible tax benefits. Depending on how much you spend and the business car loan option you select, your business may benefit in terms of tax deductions.
- Flexible repayments. Choosing the right finance option means you can select a repayment schedule that suits your needs and budget.
- Tax issues. Navigating tax issues can make choosing the right loan complicated and may require the help of an accountant.
- Vehicle ownership. Not all options allow you to retain ownership of the vehicle, which means you will pay for an asset without the ability to claim business ownership.
Are there any risks involved with business car loans?
As with any finance option, the most important thing is to not take on a car finance option that is too expensive for your business. Factor in the cost of the vehicle, regular repayments and the length of the loan term. You also need to consider a dip in cash flow when deciding whether repayments are feasible.
Another common pitfall is not understanding the range of vehicle finance options available and selecting one that doesn’t suit your business’ needs and budget. Enlisting the services of an accountant can help.
Have more questions about business vehicle finance?
What’s the difference between a novated lease and a fully maintained novated lease?
A novated lease is where an employee enters into a finance lease with a financier, but your employer makes the monthly lease repayments from your pre-tax income. Under a fully maintained novated lease, your employer uses your pre-tax income to pay the lease repayments and the vehicle’s operating expenses.
Should I lease or buy?
A wide range of factors can influence the answer to this question, but here is a guide that weighs up the pros and cons.
How can I work out the best choice tax-wise?
This is where an accountant can help. The right choice depends on your business and your business finances, so getting expert help is the way to go.