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Friday 14th June 2024

Uncovering hidden costs in UK car finance amidst a national scandal 

Tolu Frimpong navigates UK car finance, revealing hidden costs in popular options like Hire Purchase, Personal Contract Purchase, and Leasing.


Embarking on the journey to car ownership in the UK often involves choosing the right financing option.

While the prospect of having your own set of wheels is thrilling, it’s imperative to understand the hidden costs that might be concealed beneath the surface.

In this guide, we’ll navigate the different car financing choices available in the UK, shedding light on the often-overlooked expenses associated.

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Additionally, we’ll delve into a recent scandal that has added another layer of complexity to the world of car finance. 

1) Hire Purchase (HP) 

Hire Purchase is a widespread financing option that allows you to pay a deposit followed by monthly instalments until you own the car outright. However, beneath the seemingly straightforward structure lie hidden costs. 

a. Interest charges 

When opting for Hire Purchase to finance your car, the monthly payments typically consist of the principal amount (the actual cost of the car) and the interest charged by the lender.

The interest is the cost you pay to borrow money to purchase the car. While the monthly payment amount may seem reasonable, it’s crucial to understand the cumulative impact of interest charges over the entire loan term.

The longer the loan term, the more interest you’ll end up paying, significantly influencing the overall cost of the car. 

b. Early repayment fees 

One attractive feature of HP is the option to settle the outstanding balance before the agreed-upon term, allowing you to own the car outright sooner.

However, this seemingly advantageous move may have an unexpected drawback – early repayment fees. Lenders impose these fees to compensate for the interest they would have earned had you continued with the agreed-upon payment schedule. 

2) Personal Contract Purchase (PCP) 

Personal Contract Purchase offers lower monthly payments and a choice at the end – either buy the car or return it. Yet, hidden costs abound in this seemingly flexible option. 

a. Excess mileage charges 

 Personal Contract Purchase (PCP) offers flexibility with lower monthly payments and a choice at the end of the agreement. However, an essential consideration is the agreed-upon mileage limit set at the beginning of the contract.

This limit is an estimation of the distance you are expected to drive over the term of the contract. Should you exceed this mileage limit, excess mileage charges come into play. 

b. Condition charges 

Returning the car at the end of a PCP agreement is standard practice, but returning it in a condition that meets the predefined standards is essential.

While normal wear and tear are usually accepted, damages beyond that threshold may incur additional condition charges. 

3) Personal Car Leasing 

Leasing provides the freedom to drive a car for a set period, with monthly payments and the option to return the vehicle at the end of the lease. However, as with the other two financing options mentioned earlier, hidden costs still lurk in the details. 

a. Excess mileage charges 

One of the potential drawbacks of personal car leasing is the limitation on the annual mileage allowed within the lease agreement. This predetermined mileage is agreed upon at the beginning of the lease term.

Should you exceed this limit, excess mileage charges come into play. These charges can accumulate and become a significant additional cost. 

b. Early termination fees 

Personal car leasing comes with the advantage of driving a new vehicle without the long-term commitment of ownership. However, terminating the lease before the agreed-upon term can result in early termination fees.

These fees are designed to compensate the leasing company for the financial loss incurred when you end the lease prematurely. 

Regardless of how a car is financed, it undergoes a natural process of depreciation, and its value decreases over time. This depreciation is influenced by factors such as age, mileage, and market demand.

The consideration here lies in the potential misalignment between the car’s resale value and the outstanding loan amount. 

The car finance scandal 

Prior to January 2021, some car finance lenders engaged in ‘discretionary commission arrangements’ with brokers. This allowed brokers to adjust customers’ interest rates, potentially incentivising them to maximise rates for higher commissions. 

In January 2021, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) outlawed discretionary commission arrangements, sparking over 10,000 consumer complaints. The FCA is actively investigating historical motor finance commission arrangements to address potential industry exploitation. 

The ongoing investigation focuses on instances where consumers bought cars under a finance scheme before January 28, 2021, with a discretionary commission arrangement between their lender and broker. 

The FCA has yet to determine the extent of potential compensation, urging consumers to remain vigilant and informed about their rights in the aftermath of the scandal. 

While the allure of car ownership in the UK is undeniable, it’s crucial to acknowledge the hidden costs that may accompany different financing options. Understanding the intricacies of each method empowers consumers to make informed decisions, ensuring that the excitement of car ownership remains untarnished by unforeseen financial challenges.

The recent scandal serves as a stark reminder of the importance of scrutiny in the world of car finance, prompting consumers to navigate these complexities with vigilance and awareness. 

Photo credits: Pexels

Tolu Frimpong

Mouthy Blogger

Tolu is a Money Coach and Content Creator, passionate about helping others break the payday-to-payday cycle and achieve their financial goals, through the power of intentional budgeting, saving and investing. When she’s not talking about money you can find her spending time with her 3 boisterous boys.

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