How to Save Money on your Car Payments

Published by The National Debt Review Center on

Discover effective strategies to reduce your car payments in South Africa. This guide offers practical tips on choosing the right vehicle, negotiating purchase prices, understanding finance options, and more, to help you save money and ease the financial burden of owning a car.

By The National Debt Review Center
How To Save Money On Your Car Payments

How to Save Money on Your Car Payments in South Africa

In a country like South Africa, where mobility is key to accessing opportunities, owning a car is often a necessity rather than a luxury. However, the financial burden of car payments can be substantial. This article explores practical strategies for South Africans to save money on their car payments, helping to ease the financial load while maintaining their mobility.

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Understanding Car Finance in South Africa

Before diving into saving strategies, it’s crucial to understand the basics of car finance in South Africa. Most car purchases are financed through a bank or financial institution, involving interest rates and terms that can significantly impact the total cost.

Strategies to Save Money

  1. Choose the Right Vehicle: Opt for a car that meets your needs but isn’t overly luxurious. Cars with good fuel efficiency, lower insurance costs, and a reputation for reliability can reduce overall expenses.
  2. Shop Around for Finance Options: Don’t settle for the first finance offer. Compare rates from different banks and financial institutions. Sometimes, smaller banks or local credit unions offer better rates than the big players.
  3. Negotiate the Purchase Price: A lower purchase price means lower monthly payments. Hone your negotiation skills and don’t hesitate to shop around or wait for sales and promotions.
  4. Consider a Substantial Deposit: If possible, put down a larger deposit. This reduces the loan amount, which in turn lowers both the monthly payments and the total interest paid over time.
  5. Select the Right Loan Term: While a longer loan term can reduce monthly payments, it often leads to higher total interest. Aim for the shortest term that you can comfortably afford.
  6. Refinance Your Car Loan: If interest rates have dropped or your credit score has improved since you took out your car loan, refinancing can be a smart move. This could lower your interest rate and monthly payments.
  7. Make Extra Payments: When you have extra cash, consider making additional payments on your car loan. This can reduce the principal faster and shorten the loan term, saving on interest.
  8. Maintain Your Vehicle: Regular maintenance can prevent costly repairs and help retain the car’s value, offering better resale or trade-in value in the future.
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Answers to Financial and Car Finance Questions

1. What is the best way to reduce car payments?

The best way to reduce car payments is through a combination of tactics:

  • Negotiate the Purchase Price: A lower purchase price leads to lower monthly payments.
  • Choose a Shorter Loan Term: While this may increase monthly payments, it reduces the total interest paid.
  • Make a Larger Down Payment: This reduces the loan amount, hence lowering the monthly payments.
  • Refinance the Loan: If interest rates have dropped or your credit score has improved, refinancing can secure a lower interest rate.

2. Is it better to split car payment into two payments?

Splitting a car payment into two payments per month doesn’t necessarily reduce the amount paid, but it can have benefits:

  • Lower Interest: If your lender calculates interest daily, more frequent payments can reduce the interest accrued.
  • Budget Management: Smaller, more frequent payments may be easier to manage within your monthly budget.

3. Is it better to pay off a car loan early?

Paying off a car loan early can be beneficial:

  • Interest Savings: You save on the interest that would have been paid over the life of the loan.
  • Financial Relief: It frees up monthly income that was previously dedicated to the car payment.
  • Credit Score Improvement: It can potentially improve your credit score by lowering your debt-to-income ratio.

4. How can I lower my car loan interest rate?

To lower your car loan interest rate:

  • Refinance Your Loan: If market rates have decreased or your credit score has improved, refinancing can secure a lower rate.
  • Improve Your Credit Score: A higher credit score can qualify you for lower rates, so focus on paying bills on time and reducing debt.

5. How can I reduce my car installment in South Africa?

To reduce your car installment in South Africa:

  • Negotiate the Sale Price: A lower purchase price leads to lower installments.
  • Shop Around for Financing: Compare offers from different banks to find the best rate.
  • Opt for a Longer Loan Term: This will reduce the monthly installment, but be aware of the higher overall interest cost.

6. How can I pay my car off faster in South Africa?

To pay off your car faster in South Africa:

  • Make Extra Payments: Whenever possible, make additional payments towards the principal.
  • Round Up Payments: Rounding up your payments can shorten the loan term.
  • Allocate Bonuses or Tax Refunds: Use any extra income like bonuses or tax refunds to make additional payments.

7. What are the disadvantages of paying off a car loan early?

The disadvantages of paying off a car loan early include:

  • Prepayment Penalties: Some loans have penalties for early repayment.
  • Opportunity Cost: The money used for early repayment could have been invested elsewhere with a potential for higher returns.
  • Liquidity Impact: Using savings to pay off a loan early may reduce your liquid assets, which might be needed for emergencies.

8. Should I pay off car or invest?

The decision to pay off your car or invest depends on various factors:

  • Interest Rates: Compare the interest rate on your car loan to the potential return on investment. If the investment’s return is higher, it might be more beneficial to invest.
  • Financial Security: If having debt is stressful or risky for you, paying off the car might be preferable.
  • Loan Terms: Consider the terms of your car loan, including any penalties for early repayment.

9. Should I pay off car or credit card first?

Generally, it’s advisable to pay off credit card debt first due to several reasons:

  • Higher Interest Rates: Credit card debts typically have higher interest rates than car loans.
  • Credit Score Impact: High credit card balances can more negatively affect your credit score.
  • Unsecured Debt: Credit card debt is unsecured and can be more financially burdensome.

10. Can you return a financed car back to the dealer in South Africa?

Returning a financed car to the dealer in South Africa is not straightforward. This usually falls under “voluntary surrender,” where you return the vehicle to the financier, not the dealer. However, this can have financial and credit implications, and you may still owe money after the car is sold by the financier.

11. Can MFC repossess my car?

Yes, MFC (Motor Finance Corporation) can repossess your car if you default on your loan payments. Repossession is typically a last resort after all other attempts to rectify the payment situation have failed.

12. How can I clear my debt fast?

To clear debt fast:

  • Prioritize High-Interest Debts: Pay off debts with the highest interest rates first.
  • Extra Payments: Make additional payments whenever possible.
  • Budget Adjustments: Cut unnecessary expenses to allocate more funds towards debt repayment.
  • Debt Consolidation: Consider consolidating multiple debts into one with a lower interest rate.

13. Can I move my vehicle finance to another bank?

Yes, you can move your vehicle finance to another bank through a process known as refinancing. This is done to secure a lower interest rate or better loan terms. However, ensure you understand any fees or penalties associated with refinancing.

14. What happens if I buy a second-hand car and it breaks?

If a second-hand car breaks down after purchase, your course of action depends on several factors:

  • Warranty: If the car is still under warranty, repairs may be covered.
  • Consumer Protection Act: In South Africa, the Consumer Protection Act may offer some recourse if the car was bought from a dealer.
  • As-Is Purchase: If the car was bought privately “as is,” you might have limited options unless you can prove the seller knowingly hid serious faults.

15. Can I give car back to car finance?

Giving a car back to the finance company, known as voluntary surrender, is possible. However, it can negatively impact your credit score and you may still owe money if the sale of the car doesn’t cover the full loan amount. It’s usually considered a last resort and should be approached with caution.


In South Africa, where economic dynamics can be challenging, finding ways to reduce monthly expenses is crucial. By employing these strategies, car owners can make more informed decisions, leading to significant savings on car payments. The key is to balance affordability with the need for reliable transportation, ensuring that your vehicle remains a tool for mobility and opportunity, not a financial burden.

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