A car equity loan is a type of loan where you use your car as collateral to borrow money. This means that the lender will hold the title of your car until the loan is fully paid off. The amount you can borrow is based on your equity in the car, which is the difference between what you owe on the car and its current value.
Car equity loans are generally only used as a last resort for people who need quick access to cash as they typically come with high interest rates and fees, although rates are usually lower than online personal loans and payday loans. Car equity loan lenders typically target people with bad credit or those who cannot qualify for traditional loans. You usually won't find car equity loans offered by major banks or credit unions in Canada, but rather by alternative lenders such as online lenders.
Car equity loans work by putting up your equity in the car as collateral, similar to home equity loans and home equity line of credit (HELOCs). The main difference is that with a car equity loan, the lender will hold onto your car title instead of having a lien on your home. Since cars are a depreciating asset, and they are moveable, the lender will also charge higher interest rates to offset the higher potential risk.
Car equity loans are only meant to be used on a short-term basis, with car equity loan terms typically being for a few months. However, some lenders might offer loan terms for up to five years.
While you’ll have to hand over your car title to the lender, you won’t be handing over the car itself to the lender. You can still use and drive your car even with it put up as collateral for a car equity loan.
Your lender will need to register your car, known as personal property, as an asset used for collateral in your province's personal property registry system. These are publicly accessible databases that can be used to see if there is an outstanding lien on an asset.
In Ontario, the Personal Property Security Act (PPSA) registration system is through the Personal Property Security Registration (Access Now). It’s a good idea to search through your province’s personal property registry system when buying a used car or other personal property to make sure there are no claims against it.
Your car equity is the difference between what you owe on your car, if you have a car loan or other debts secured by it, and its current market value. For example, if your car is worth $40,000 and you still owe $15,000 on it, you have $25,000 in equity. If you have repaid all car loans and fully own the car outright, then your car equity is equal to its current value.
You don’t need to have your car fully paid off to borrow with a car equity loan, similar to how you don’t need to have paid off your entire mortgage to borrow more money with a home equity line of credit (HELOC). However, the more equity you have in your car, the more funds you may be able to borrow.
In some cases, it’s possible to have negative car equity. That’s when you owe more on the car than the car is worth. You won’t be able to get a car equity loan if you have negative car equity.
Under certain circumstances, car equity loans can have some benefits:
While car equity loans can provide quick access to cash, there are some drawbacks to consider before taking out this type of loan:
To qualify for a car equity loan, you will typically need to meet the following requirements:
The amount you can borrow with a car equity loan will depend on the value of your vehicle. To determine this, your lender may conduct a vehicle inspection. This can include checking for any damages or modifications that may affect the car's worth.
Other online lenders that don’t require a physical inspection of your car might require you to send pictures, and they may use services such as Kelley Blue Book (KBB) or Canadian Black Book to assess the car’s value. KBB values are based on factors such as make, model, year, mileage, and condition of the vehicle.
If you are required to send pictures, this usually includes pictures of the front, back, and sides of the car, as well as the car’s odometer showing mileage, the driver's side door with the VIN sticker, and the interior of the car.
Once the lender has determined the value of your vehicle, they will typically offer you a loan amount based on a percentage of that value, less outstanding debt that is currently secured by your car.
Before applying for a car equity loan, it's important to research and compare multiple lenders to find the best option for your specific needs. Some factors to consider when evaluating lenders include:
These are unsecured loans that can be used for various purposes, such as consolidating debt or paying for unexpected expenses. Banks and credit unions may offer personal loans with lower interest rates compared to car equity loans. However, personal loans aren’t usually available to those with poor credit history, or they might have high interest rates in the case of online personal loan lenders.
Depending on your credit score, you may be able to qualify for a credit card with a low interest rate or a balance transfer offer. This can be a more cost-effective option than taking out a car equity loan. If you only need a small amount of money, using a credit card may be a more affordable option. However, applying for and receiving a credit card can take weeks, but if you already have one, you can quickly borrow money with cash advances.
If you are a homeowner, a home equity loan may be a more cost-effective option as it typically offers lower interest rates compared to car equity loans. However, keep in mind that your home is used as collateral for the loan.
If you are struggling with debt, negotiating with your creditors for a lower interest rate or extended payment plan may be a better solution than taking out another loan. Debt relief alternatives include consumer proposals, debt settlement, or a debt management plan (DMP).
Car equity loans are often confused with car title loans. While both use your vehicle as collateral, there are some key differences to consider between car equity vs. car title loans.
Car title loans require there to be no other loans secured by the car. This means that you need to fully own the vehicle in order to qualify for a car title loan.
Car equity loans use the value of your vehicle minus any existing loans as collateral. This means that you can still have an outstanding car loan and potentially qualify for a car equity loan.
Car title loans also typically have very high interest rates, much higher than car equity loans.
While car equity loans can provide quick access to cash, they shouldn’t be one of your first options due to their possibly higher interest rates and fees. It's important to carefully research and consider alternative options first before committing to this type of loan. Remember, your vehicle is used as collateral for the loan, so failing to make payments can result in losing your car.