Independent, impartial advice for car buyers and car owners

Find an Expert Rating: 

What will higher interest rates mean for car finance customers?

Interest rates have gone up yet again this month. What does that mean for your current car finance agreement, or a car you're looking to buy? We have the answers.

Our Expert Partners

Looking for specialist finance solutions or an alternative to dealer finance on a new or used car?
We Finance Any Car 400x200

New and used car finance solutions from We Finance Any Car
Find out more

Blue Motor Finance

New and used car finance solutions from Blue Motor Finance
Find out more

Happy Motor Finance 600x300

New and used car finance solutions from Happy Motor Finance
Find out more

The Bank of England once again increased the official base rate for borrowing in the UK today, which will have a knock-on effect for interest rates on almost all new finance agreements and some existing agreements.

The base rate was increased by half a percentage point to 5%, which is the thirteenth rate rise in in the last 19 months, and it’s entirely possible that there may be more increases to come. It means that rates are now almost to the point where they were before the 2008 banking crisis (peaking at 5.75%).

The rate rises are in response to ever-increasing inflation and are designed to slow down spending. We’re not going to go into the politics of the situation, as we’re only interested in explaining what it means for you.

Given that most cars are heavily financed, there is naturally a lot of concern from car buyers and car owners about what today’s interest rate increase means for their finance agreements. So here’s what you need to know:

If you have a car finance agreement already

Car finance agreements in the UK are almost always set with a fixed interest rate for the life of the contract. So if your APR (annual percentage rate) when you signed up was 6.9%, then it will remain at 6.9% for the whole agreement.

That also means that your monthly payments won’t change from what you originally signed up for, regardless of whether the Bank of England puts its rate up or down.

However, if you enter into any re-financing agreement with the finance company, that’s actually a new contract so your current interest rate won’t necessarily apply.

If you have signed a contract but haven’t taken delivery of the car

Once you sign a car finance agreement, the rate will be fixed. So if you have already signed your finance contract but are still waiting to collect your car, you shouldn’t be affected.

In theory, a finance company could cancel the agreement and ask you to sign a new one at a higher rate, but in reality they’re unlikely to try it. For any extra income they may get by doing so, it’s probably not worth annoying – and potentially losing – a customer.

If you are currently shopping for a car

If you’ve been shopping around and mulling over finance quotes on a new or used car, you will need to check with the dealership or finance provider that any quote you were given previously is still valid.

For used car finance, interest rates for car finance will start going up immediately. Any quote you were previously given – even if it was just a few days ago – is probably no longer available and you will get a fresh (and probably more expensive) quote.

For new car finance, any written quote you have may still be offered for a very short period of time to help convince you to sign up right now rather than putting it off.

If you are looking to buy a car in coming weeks/months

Any given car is likely to be more expensive to finance tomorrow than it was yesterday. Car finance companies will start to pass on increased interest rates immediately, so if the car remains at the same price then the monthly payments will be higher than what they would have been previously.

For new cars, there may be a small delay (a week or two at best) as car companies will still be trying to get as many cars out the door before the end of the month as they possibly can. Dealers will also use any window of time before rates go up to scare customers into buying a car today “before the rate rise kicks in”.

How much will prices go up?

For most buyers, the latest interest rate hike is likely to only make a new finance agreement a few pounds per month dearer. But this is the thirteenth rate rise in the last 19 months, so rates will now be noticeably higher than they have been at any point in the last decade. If it adds a few pounds a month each time rates go up, it quickly starts to make a noticeable difference.

Combined with cars getting ever-more expensive, chances are high that your next car will cost a chunk more per month than your last car.

What sort of finance agreements does this appy to?

New customers taking out any regulated car finance agreement are likely to be affected. This includes:

Personal loans from your bank or building society will also be affected, although these are usually fixed rate agreements like car finance contracts, so won’t affect existing customers. Credit cards interest rates will go up, too, which will affect both your existing credit card debt and any new purchases you make with your card.

What about leasing?

The rate hike will also affect leasing payments for new customers, including contract hire, salary sacrifice and subscription agreements, although there is less transparency around rates for leasing so it’s not as obvious. Again, this won’t apply to existing contracts and will only affect new contracts signed after today.

These contracts don’t display interest rates as you’re not actually borrowing money to buy a car like you are with a PCP, HP or other types of car finance. However, higher interest rates will affect the companies leasing you the vehicle, so they’ll certainly be passing on any increased costs. So you’ll be hit in exactly the same way, but with less explanation.

This article was originally published in September 2022 and was most recently updated in June 2023 after the latest Bank of England rate rise.


Latest car finance features and advice

Stuart Masson
Stuart Massonhttps://www.thecarexpert.co.uk/
Stuart is the Editorial Director of our suite of sites: The Car Expert, The Van Expert and The Truck Expert. Originally from Australia, Stuart has had a passion for cars and the automotive industry for over thirty years. He spent a decade in automotive retail, and now works tirelessly to help car buyers by providing independent and impartial advice.