Car Finance – What You Should Know About Dealer Finance

Car finance has become big business. A huge number of new and used car buyers in the UK are making their vehicle purchase on finance of some sort. It might be in the form of a bank loan, finance from the dealership, leasing, credit card, the trusty ‘Bank of Mum & Dad’, or myriad other forms of finance, but relatively few people actually buy a car with their own cash anymore.

A generation ago, a private car buyer with, say, £8,000 cash to spend would usually have bought a car up to the value of £8,000. Today, that same £8,000 is more likely to be used as a deposit on a car which could be worth many tens of thousands, followed by up to five years of monthly payments.

With various manufacturers and dealers claiming that anywhere between 40% and 87% of car purchases are today being made on finance of some sort, it is not surprising that there are lots of people jumping on the car finance bandwagon to profit from buyers’ desires to have the newest, flashiest car available within their monthly cashflow limits.

The appeal of financing a car is very straightforward; you can buy a car which costs a lot more than you can afford up-front, but can (hopefully) manage in small monthly chunks of cash over a period of time. The problem with car finance is that many buyers don’t realise that they usually end up paying far more than the face value of the car, and they don’t read the fine print of car finance agreements to understand the implications of what they’re signing up for.

For clarification, this author is neither pro- or anti-finance when buying a car. What you must be wary of, however, are the full implications of financing a car – not just when you buy the car, but over the full term of the finance and even afterwards. The industry is heavily regulated in the UK, but a regulator can’t make you read documents carefully or force you to make prudent car finance decisions.

Financing through the dealership

For many people, financing the car through the dealership where you are buying the car is very convenient. There are also often national offers and programs which can make financing the car through the dealer an attractive option.

This blog will focus on the two main types of car finance offered by car dealers for private car buyers: the Hire Purchase (HP) and the Personal Contract Purchase (PCP), with a brief mention of a third, the Lease Purchase (LP). Leasing contracts will be discussed in another blog coming soon.

What is a Hire Purchase?

An HP is quite like a mortgage on your house; you pay a deposit up-front and then pay the rest off over an agreed period (usually 18-60 months). Once you have made your final payment, the car is officially yours. This is the way that car finance has operated for many years, but is now starting to lose favour against the PCP option below.

There are several benefits to a Hire Purchase. It is simple to understand (deposit plus a number of fixed monthly payments), and the buyer can choose the deposit and the term (number of payments) to suit their needs. You can choose a term of up to five years (60 months), which is longer than most other finance options. You can usually cancel the agreement at any time if your circumstances change without massive penalties (although the amount owing may be more than your car is worth early on in the agreement term). Usually you will end up paying less in total with an HP than a PCP if you plan to keep the car after the finance is paid off.

The main disadvantage of an HP compared to a PCP is higher monthly payments, meaning the value of the car you can usually afford is less.

An HP is usually best for buyers who; plan to keep their cars for a long time (ie – longer than the finance term), have a large deposit, or want a simple car finance plan with no sting in the tail at the end of the agreement.

What is a Personal Contract Purchase?

A PCP is often given other names by manufacturer finance companies (eg – BMW Select, Volkswagen Solutions, Toyota Access, etc.), and is very popular but more complicated than an HP. Most new car finance offers advertised these days are PCPs, and usually a dealer will try and push you towards a PCP over an HP because it is more likely to be better for them.

Like the HP above, you pay a deposit and have monthly payments over a term. However, the monthly payments are lower and/or the term is shorter (usually a max. of 48 months), because you are not paying off the whole car. At the end of the term, there is still a large chunk of the finance unpaid. This is usually called a GMFV (Guaranteed Minimum Future Value). The car finance company guarantees that, within certain conditions, the car will be worth at least as much as the remaining finance owed. This gives you three options:

1) Give the car back. You won’t get any money back, but you won’t have to pay out the remainder. This means that you have effectively been renting the car for the whole time.

2) Pay out the remaining amount owed (the GMFV) and keep the car. Given that this amount could be many thousands of pounds, it is not usually a viable option for most people (which is why they were financing the car in the first place), which usually leads to…

3) Part-exchange the car for a new (or newer) one. The dealer will assess your car’s value and take care of the finance payout. If your car is worth more than the GMFV, you can use the difference (equity) as a deposit on your next car.

The PCP is best suited for people who want a new or near-new car and fully intend to change it at the end of the agreement (or possibly even sooner). For a private buyer, it usually works out cheaper than a lease or contract hire finance product. You are not tied into going back to the same manufacturer or dealership for your next car, as any dealer can pay out the finance for your car and conclude the agreement on your behalf. It is also good for buyers who want a more expensive car with a lower cashflow than is usually possible with an HP.

The disadvantage of a PCP is that it tends to lock you into a cycle of changing your car every few years to avoid a large payout at the end of the agreement (the GMFV). Borrowing money to pay out the GMFV and keep the car usually gives you a monthly payment that is very little cheaper than starting again on a new PCP with a new car, so it nearly always sways the owner into replacing it with another car. For this reason, manufacturers and dealers love PCPs because it keeps you coming back every 3 years rather than keeping your car for 5-10 years!

What is a Lease Purchase?

An LP is a bit of a hybrid between an HP and a PCP. You have a deposit and low monthly payments like a PCP, with a large final payment at the end of the agreement. However, unlike a PCP, this final payment (often called a balloon) is not guaranteed. This means that if your car is worth less than the amount owing and you want to sell/part-exchange it, you would have to pay out any difference (called negative equity) before even thinking about paying a deposit on your next car.

Read the fine print

What is absolutely essential for anyone buying a car on finance is to read the contract and consider it carefully before signing anything. Plenty of people make the mistake of buying a car on finance and then end up being unable to make their monthly payments. Given that your finance period may last for the next five years, it is critical that you carefully consider what may happen in your life over those next five years. Many heavily-financed sports cars have had to be returned, often with serious financial consequences for the owners, because of unexpected pregnancies!

As part of purchasing a car on finance, you should consider and discuss all of the various finance options available and make yourself aware of the pros and cons of different car finance products to ensure you are making informed decisions about your money.

Five Tips To Start Fixing Your Credit Today

Let’s face it – we live in a society that is completely dependent on credit. Whether you want to buy a house, lease a car, or even get a job, you need credit. Unfortunately, there is very little information available on how to maintain a good credit standing. Is it any wonder that so many Americans have gotten themselves hopelessly in debt? With the small amount of information available on how to rebuild bad credit, many people take actions that seem like the right thing to do, but only wind up hurting their credit score even more.

So how do we break this cycle? Well, whether you have horrible credit or just want to increase your score, there are a few easy steps you can take right now that will help increase your credit score. Below, you’ll find five quick actions that will get your score back where it belongs:

#1: Check Your Credit Report For Errors

A very common source of low credit scores is reporting errors. Once you’ve checked for very obvious errors, something else to look for is whether or not your credit limits are being reported correctly. Your credit score is affected by your utilization rate, which is based on the percentage of your credit limit that you use each month. If your limits are not being correctly reported to the credit bureaus, your utilization rate will not be correct, and that could significantly affect your credit score.

Another thing to check for is multiple active notices on a collection account. These accounts will often be transferred between different collection agencies, and once the account is transferred, it should be marked as such. If more than one agency is reporting the account as active, you have a problem, because the amount owed is reported as two separate accounts, contributing to a lower credit score.

#2: Begin Taking Steps To Reduce Your Credit Card Debt

This should seem like an obvious step, but many people don’t understand where their credit should be in relation to their limits. I like to call this tip the 30/30 rule. 30 percent of your credit score is based on your outstanding debt, and if your credit balance is more than 30 percent of your credit limit, your score is going to drop. If you’re more than 30% over your limit, your score is going to be affected, even if you’re making payments on time each month. In order to raise your credit score, you need to follow the 30/30 rule.

#3: Not Having Credit Is Just Like Having Bad Credit

Your credit score is based on your credit history. If that history is non-existent, there’s nothing on which the credit bureaus can base your score. Unfortunately, this isn’t a case of innocent until proven guilty. By not having a credit history, you’re not giving lenders a clear picture of whether or not you are a good investment. The credit bureaus think the same way. If you have no history, you’re considered high risk. To prove that you can handle multiple lines of credit responsibly, you should have three to five credit cards and you should also have an installment loan.

#4: Become An Authorized User

If you’re in a situation where you don’t have a lot of credit, or have fairly bad credit, you may want to consider getting added as an authorized user. As an authorized user, you get added to a relative’s (preferably one with the same address) credit account. This allows you to basically piggy-back on their good credit standing and reap the benefits. However, this only works if the credit card company reports your status as an authorized user to the credit bureaus and if the outstanding debt on the card never exceeds 30 percent of the credit limit. Keep in mind that while this is a great way to improve your score, if the account falls into poor standing your score will also be affected negatively.

#5: You Can’t Build Credit Without Using It

It’s a natural reaction for you to want to steer clear from something that has caused you harm in the past. In fact, it seems to make perfect sense that if you are having credit issues, you probably don’t want to keep using credit. Unfortunately, this way of thinking couldn’t be further from the truth. The only way to rebuild your credit is to use it, so don’t be afraid. Just follow the 30/30 rule and make sure to keep your debt under control, and your credit will be back in good standing in no time.

Factoring Vs A-R Financing – What’s the Difference?

In today’s tight credit environment, more and more businesses are having to turn to alternative and non-bank financing options to access the capital they need to keep the gears of their business running smoothly.

There are a number of different tools available to owners of cash-strapped businesses in search of financing, but two of the main ones are factoring and accounts receivable (A/R) financing. Sometimes, business owners lump these two options together in their minds, but in reality, there are a few slight differences that result in these being different financing products.

Factoring vs. A/R Financing: A Comparison

Factoring is the outright purchase of a business’ outstanding accounts receivable by a commercial finance company, or “factor.” Typically, the factor will advance the business between 70 and 90 percent of the value of the receivable at the time of purchase; the balance, less the factoring fee, is released when the invoice is collected. The factoring fee-which is based on the total face value of the invoice, not the percentage advanced-typically ranges from 1.5-5.5 percent, depending on such factors as the collection risk and how many days the funds are in use.

Under a factoring contract, the business can usually pick and choose which invoices to sell to the factor-it’s not usually an all-or-nothing scenario. Once it purchases an invoice, the factor manages the receivable until it is paid. The factor will essentially become the business’ defacto credit manager and A/R department, performing credit checks, analyzing credit reports, and mailing and documenting invoices and payments.

A/R financing, meanwhile, is more like a traditional bank loan, but with some key differences. While bank loans may be secured by different kinds of collateral including plant and equipment, real estate and/or the personal assets of the business owner, A/R financing is backed strictly by a pledge of the business’ assets associated with the accounts receivable to the finance company.

Under an A/R financing arrangement, a borrowing base of 70 to 90 percent of the qualified receivables is established at each draw against which the business can borrow money. A collateral management fee (typically 1-2 percent) is charged against the outstanding amount and when money is advanced, interest is assessed only on the amount of money actually borrowed. Typically, in order to count toward the borrowing base, an invoice must be less than 90 days old and the underlying business must be deemed creditworthy by the finance company. Other conditions may also apply.

Features and Benefits

As you can see, comparing factoring and A/R financing is kind of tricky. One is actually a loan, while the other is the sale of an asset (invoices or receivables) to a third party. However, they act very similarly. Here are the main features of each to consider before you decide which one is the best fit for your company:

Factoring:

· Offers more flexibility than A/R financing because businesses can pick and choose which invoices to sell to the factor.

· Is fairly easy to qualify for. Ideal for newer and financially challenged companies.

· Simple fee structure helps the company track total costs on an invoice-by-invoice basis.

A/R financing:

· Is usually less expensive than factoring.

· Tends to be easier to transition from A/R financing to a traditional bank line of credit when the company becomes bankable again.

· Offers less flexibility than factoring because the business must submit all of its accounts receivable to the finance company as collateral.

· Businesses will typically need a minimum of $75,000 a month in sales to qualify for A/R financing, so it may not be available for very small companies.

Transitional Sources of Financing

Both factoring and A/R financing are usually considered to be transitional sources of financing that can carry a business through a time when it does not qualify for traditional bank financing.

After a period typically ranging from 12-24 months, companies are often able to repair their financial statements and become bankable once again. In some industries, however, companies continue to factor their invoices indefinitely-trucking is an example of an industry that relies heavily on factoring to keep its cash flowing.

Alternative Financing

Alternative bank financing has significantly increased since 2008. In contrast to bank lenders, alternative lenders typically place greater importance on a business’ growth potential, future revenues, and asset values rather than its historic profitability, balance sheet strength, or creditworthiness.

Alternative lending rates can be higher than traditional bank loans. However, the higher cost of funding may often be an acceptable or sole alternative in the absence of traditional financing. What follows is a rough sketch of the alternative lending landscape.

Factoring is the financing of account receivables. Factors are more focused on the receivables/collateral rather than the strength of the balance sheet. Factors lend funds up to a maximum of 80% of receivable value. Foreign receivables are generally excluded, as are stale receivables. Receivables older than 30 days and any receivable concentrations are usually discounted greater than 80%. Factors usually manage the bookkeeping and collections of receivables. Factors usually charge a fee plus interest.

Asset-Based Lending is the financing of assets such as inventory, equipment, machinery, real estate, and certain intangibles. Asset-based lenders will generally lend no greater than 70% of the assets’ value. Asset-based loans may be term or bridge loans. Asset-based lenders usually charge a closing fee and interest. Appraisal fees are required to establish the value of the asset(s).

Sale & Lease-Back Financing. This method of financing involves the simultaneous selling of real estate or equipment at a market value usually established by an appraisal and leasing the asset back at a market rate for 10 to 25 years. Financing is offset by a lease payment. Additionally, a tax liability may have to be recognized on the sale transaction.

Purchase Order Trade Financing is a fee-based, short-term loan. If the manufacturer’s credit is acceptable, the purchase order (PO) lender issues a Letter of Credit to the manufacturer guaranteeing payment for products meeting pre-established standards. Once the products are inspected they are shipped to the customer (often manufacturing facilities are overseas), and an invoice generated. At this point, the bank or other source of funds pays the PO lender for the funds advanced. Once the PO lender receives payment, it subtracts its fee and remits the balance to the business. PO financing can be a cost-effective alternative to maintaining inventory.

Non-Bank Financing

Cash flow financing is generally accessed by very small businesses that do not accept credit cards. The lenders utilize software to review online sales, banking transactions, bidding histories, shipping information, customer social media comments/ratings, and even restaurant health scores, when applicable. These metrics provide data evidencing consistent sale quantities, revenues, and quality. Loans are usually short-term and for small amounts. Annual effective interest rates can be hefty. However, loans can be funded within a day or two.

Merchant Cash Advances are based on credit/debit card and electronic payment-related revenue streams. Advances may be secured against cash or future credit card sales and typically do not require personal guarantees, liens, or collateral. Advances have no fixed payment schedule, and no business-use restrictions. Funds can be used for the purchase of new equipment, inventory, expansion, remodeling, payoff of debt or taxes, and emergency funding. Generally, restaurants and other retailers that do not have sales invoices utilize this form of financing. Annual interest rates can be onerous.

Nonbank Loans may be offered by finance companies or private lenders. Repayment terms may be based on a fixed amount and a percentage of cash flows in addition to a share of equity in the form of warrants. Generally, all terms are negotiated. Annual rates are usually significantly higher than traditional bank financing.

Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) usually lend to micro and other non-creditworthy businesses. CDFIs can be likened to small community banks. CDFI financing is usually for small amounts and rates are higher than traditional loans.

Peer-to-Peer Lending/Investing, also known as social lending, is direct financing from investors, often accessed by new businesses. This form of lending/investing has grown as a direct result of the 2008 financial crisis and the resultant tightening of bank credit. Advances in online technology have facilitated its growth. Due to the absence of a financial intermediary, peer-to-peer lending/investing rates are generally lower than traditional financing sources. Peer-to-Peer lending/investing can be direct (a business receives funding from one lender) or indirect (several lenders pool funds).

Direct lending has the advantage of allowing the lender and investor to develop a relationship. The investing decision is generally based on a business’ credit rating, and business plan. Indirect lending is generally based on a business’ credit rating. Indirect lending distributes risk among lenders in the pool.

Non-bank lenders offer greater flexibility in evaluating collateral and cash flow. They may have a greater risk appetite and facilitate inherently riskier loans. Typically, non-bank lenders do not hold depository accounts. Non-bank lenders may not be as well known as their big-bank counterparts. To ensure that you are dealing with a reputable lender, be sure to research thoroughly the lender.

Despite the advantage that banks and credit unions have in the form of low cost of capital – almost 0% from customer deposits – alternative forms of financing have grown to fill the demand of small and mid-sized businesses in the last several years. This growth is certain to continue as alternative financing becomes more competitive, given the decreasing trend seen in these lenders’ cost of capital.

How To Avoid Mistakes On Your Credit Report

We have developed eight effective strategies for preventing mistakes on your credit report. We wish you much success.

1) Beware Of Debts & Credit You Don’t Use

Just as it is very easy to apply for a store credit card, it is also easy to forget you have it. It is important to remember that the account will remain on your report and affect your score as long as it is open. Don’t make the mistake of having credit lines and cards you don’t need. It makes you look more risky from a lenders point of view.

Also, having many accounts you don’t use increases the odds that you will forget about an old account and stop making payments on it, resulting in a lowered credit score. Keep only the accounts you use regularly and consider closing your other accounts. Having fewer accounts will make it easier for you to keep track of your debts and will increase the chances of you having a good credit score.

However, realize that when you close an account, the record of the closed account remains on your credit report and can affect your credit score for some time. In fact, closing unused credit accounts may actually cause your credit score to drop in the short-term, as you will have higher credit balances spread out over a smaller overall credit account base.

For example, if your unused credit limits amount to $2,000, and your regularly used accounts also have a credit limit of $2,000, you have $4,000 of available credit. If you close your unused accounts and owe $1,000 on the accounts you use regularly, you have gone from using one-fourth of your credit ($1,000 owed on a possible $4,000) to using one-half of your credit ($1,000 from a possible $2,000). This will actually cause your credit risk rating to drop. In the long term, though, not having extra temptation to charge, and not having credit you don’t need will help you budget.

2) Avoid Having Many Credit Report Inquiries

An inquiry is noted every time someone looks at your credit report. Don’t make the mistake of allowing too many inquiries on your credit report, as it may appear that you have been rejected by multiple lenders. This means that you should be careful about who looks at it. If you are shopping for a loan (finding the lowest interest rate based on your credit), shop around within a short period of time, as inquiries made within a few days of each other will generally be lumped together and counted as one inquiry.

You can also cut down the number of inquiries on your account by approaching lenders you have already researched and are interested in doing business with. By researching first, and approaching second, you will likely have only a few lenders accessing your credit report at the same time, which can help save your credit score.

3) Don’t Mistakenly Over-Use Online Loan Rate Comparisons

Online loan rate quotes are easy to obtain. Just type in some personal information and within seconds you can receive a quote on your car loan, personal loan, student loan, or mortgage. This is free and convenient, leading many people to compare several companies at once in order to get the best possible loan rate. The problem is that since online quotes are a fairly recent phenomenon, credit bureaus count each quote as an inquiry. This means that if you compare too many companies online, your credit score will suffer.

This does not mean you shouldn’t seek online quotes for loan. In fact, online loan quotes are a great resource that can help you get the very best rates on your next loan. It just means that you should carefully research companies and narrow down your choices to only a few lenders before making inquiries. This will help ensure that the number of inquires on your credit report is small, and your score will remain strong.

4) Don’t Make The Mistake Of Thinking You Only Have One Credit Report

Most people mistakenly speak of having a “credit score” when in fact credit reports often include three or more credit scores. There are three major credit bureaus in the United States that develop credit reports and calculate credit scores, as well as a number of smaller credit bureau companies. In addition, some larger lenders calculate their own credit risk score based on information in your credit report. When improving your credit report, you should not focus on one number. You should contact the three major credit bureaus and work on improving all three credit scores.

5) Don’t Close Multiple Credit Accounts

Many people make the mistake of closing multiple credit accounts in an effort to improve their credit score. If you close an account you need (for example, if you close all your credit card accounts), then you may find yourself in the position where you need to reapply for credit. Not only is this inconvenient, but the inquiries from credit companies can actually hurt your credit report. Additionally, credit bureaus will actually look favorably upon your credit report if they can see that you have a (good) long-term credit history. For example, don’t make the mistake of closing a credit card account you have had for the past 10 years, as this may actually hurt your credit report.

lf you have credit accounts that you don’t use, or if you have too many credit lines, then by all means pay off some and close them. Doing so may help your credit score, as long as you don’t close long-term accounts you need. In general, close your newest accounts first, and only when you are certain you will not need that credit in the near future.

Closing your accounts is a bad idea if:

A) You will be applying for a loan soon. The closing of your accounts will make your score drop in the short-term and will not allow you to qualify for good loan rates.

B) Your debt to credit ratio increases. For example, you owe $10,000 now and have access to an extra $5,000. However, after closing some accounts you are only left with $1,000. This brings you closer to maxing out your credit and in turn hurts your report.

6) Don’t Assume Only One Action Will Improve Your Credit Report

An example of a common mistake that some debtors make is believing that paying off a credit card bill will boost their score by 50 points, while closing an unused credit account will result in 20 more points. Improving your credit report is certainly not this simple. How much any one action will affect your credit score is impossible to gauge. It will depend on multiple factors, including your current credit score, and which credit bureau is calculating it. In general, the higher your credit score, the more small factors – such as one unpaid bill – will affect you. When repairing the score on your credit report, you should not equate specific credit repair actions with numbers. The idea is to do as many things as you can to improve your credit report.

7) Having No Loans & No Debt Will Not Improve Your Credit Report

Some people make the mistake of believing that owing no money, having no credit cards, and avoiding the whole world of credit will help improve the score on their credit report. In reality, the opposite is true. Lenders want to know about your past ability to handle credit, and the only way they can tell is by the score on your credit report. Having no credit at all can actually be worse for your credit score than having a few credit accounts that you pay off on time. If you currently have no credit accounts at all, opening a low balance credit card can actually boost your credit score.

Think of your credit report like a basketball game. The player who scores many points in every game is considered to be a great player, and will receive higher financial rewards than those who only score a few points. Those who don’t even play basketball have no scores to “report” to the game officials. In the world of credit reports, the debtor who scores the most points is someone who pays off their credit accounts every month. They will receive financial rewards through easier access to loans and lower interest rates, while those who have no credit accounts have a very low credit score.

8) Never Do Anything Illegal To Repair Your Credit Report

It seems pretty obvious, but plenty of people make the mistake of lying about their credit score or even falsifying their loan applications because they are ashamed of a bad score. Not only is this illegal, but it is also completely ineffective at repairing your credit report. Your credit score is easy to check and, not only will you not fool lenders by lying on your credit report, but you may actually face legal action as a result of your dishonesty.