Negative Equity On Car Finance Explained: Impacts & Solutions

Getting a car is an exciting experience, but it can also be a financial burden if you’re not careful. One issue that can cause a headache for car buyers is negative equity. This situation can make it difficult to refinance, trade in, or sell your car, and might even lead to increased monthly payments. In this article, we’ll explore negative equity in car finance, its impact on your financial situation, and how to avoid and deal with it.

What is Negative Equity?

Negative equity occurs when the outstanding balance on a loan is greater than the current value of the asset being financed. In the context of car finance, it means that you owe more on your car loan than your car is worth.

Negative equity can arise for various reasons, including depreciation of the car, loan terms that don’t align with the car’s value, or a combination of both.


Related Reading: 10 Fastest Depreciating Cars In The UK 2023: Top Models To Avoid


Car Finance and Negative Equity


Cars depreciate in value over time, and this depreciation can be rapid, especially for new vehicles. As a result, the value of the car might decrease faster than the loan balance, leading to negative equity.

Loan terms

If your loan term is too long, it might not keep pace with the rate of depreciation. Consequently, you’ll find yourself in a situation where the outstanding loan balance is higher than the value of the car.

Upside-down loans

When negative equity occurs in car finance, it is often referred to as being “upside down” on your loan. This means you owe more on the loan than the car is worth.

The Impact of Negative Equity on Car Finance

Difficulty refinancing or trading in

Negative equity makes it challenging to refinance your car loan or trade in your car for a new one. Lenders may be hesitant to approve a new loan if they believe the car is not worth the outstanding balance.

Increased monthly payments

If you’re in a situation with negative equity and want to refinance, the new loan may come with higher monthly payments to compensate for the gap between the car’s value and the outstanding balance.

Inability to sell the car

If you want to sell your car but have negative equity, you’ll need to cover the difference between the sale price and the outstanding balance. This can be financially burdensome and may even prevent you from selling the car altogether.


Related Reading: The Least Depreciating Cars For New Drivers In The UK: Get The Best Value For Money


How to Avoid Negative Equity in Car Finance

Make a larger down payment

By making a larger down payment, you can reduce the loan amount and minimise the risk of negative equity. The smaller the loan, the less likely it is to exceed the car’s value over time.

Shorter loan terms

Choosing a shorter loan term can help you pay off your loan more quickly, reducing the risk of negative equity. While this may result in higher monthly payments, it will ensure that your loan balance decreases faster than the car’s depreciation.

Opt for a car with better resale value

Some cars have better resale values than others. By choosing a vehicle known for retaining its value over time, you can decrease the likelihood of negative equity car finance.

Dealing with Negative Equity on Your Car Loan


If you’re already experiencing negative equity, refinancing your loan could be an option. However, keep in mind that this may come with higher monthly payments to cover the gap between the car’s value and the outstanding balance.

Trading down

Another option is to trade your current car for a less expensive one. While this may require you to pay the difference between your loan balance and the new car’s value, it can help reduce your overall debt and lower your monthly payments.

Paying off the loan faster

You can also choose to pay off your loan faster by making extra payments or increasing your monthly payments. This can help you reduce your negative equity car finance deal and eventually eliminate it.

Government Programs to Help with Negative Equity

In some cases, government programs may be available to assist those dealing with negative equity car finance loans. These programs can offer financial support, counselling, or other resources to help borrowers navigate their financial challenges.


Negative equity on car finance can be a significant financial burden, making it difficult to refinance, trade in, or sell your car. To avoid this situation, consider making a larger down payment, opting for a shorter loan term, and choosing a car with a better resale value. If you’re already dealing with negative equity, options like refinancing, trading down, and paying off the loan faster can help you get back on track. Be sure to research any available government programs that may offer assistance.


Related Reading: How To Add Value To Your Car


Negative Equity On Car Finance Frequently Asked Questions

What is negative equity in car finance?

Negative equity car finance occurs when the outstanding loan balance on a vehicle exceeds its current market value. This situation is also known as being “upside down” or “underwater” on a car loan. Key factors contributing to negative equity include rapid depreciation, high-interest rates, and extended loan terms.

How does negative equity affect car finance deals?

Negative equity can negatively impact car finance deals because it increases the risk for both the borrower and the lender. Borrowers with negative equity may find it difficult to refinance, trade-in, or sell their vehicle, leading to potential financial strain. Lenders face the risk of not recovering the full amount owed in case of default or repossession.

Can I trade-in my car with negative equity?

Yes, it is possible to trade-in a car with negative equity. However, the outstanding loan balance must be addressed, either by rolling the negative equity car finance agreement into a new loan or paying the difference upfront. Keep in mind that rolling negative equity into a new loan could result in higher monthly payments and increased overall debt.

How can I avoid negative equity on car finance?

To avoid negative equity car finance, consider the following strategies: make a substantial down payment, choose a shorter loan term, negotiate a lower interest rate, and select a vehicle with a strong resale value. Regularly monitoring your loan balance and market value can also help you stay aware of your equity situation.


Related Reading: Gap Insurance vs Car Insurance: Getting Cover You Didn’t Know You Need


What options are available for dealing with negative equity on car finance?

Dealing with negative equity on a car finance agreement may involve several options, including refinancing the loan, making extra payments to reduce the principal balance, or selling the vehicle privately to cover the outstanding debt. In some cases, it may be more beneficial to continue making payments and wait for the vehicle’s value to increase or the loan balance to decrease.

Can I refinance my car loan with negative equity?

Refinancing a car loan with negative equity can be challenging, as most lenders prefer vehicles with positive equity. However, some lenders may consider refinancing if you have a strong credit score, stable income, and a demonstrated ability to make consistent on-time payments. Refinancing with negative equity may not always result in lower monthly payments or reduced interest rates.

How can I calculate my car’s equity situation?

To calculate your car’s equity situation, subtract the current market value of your vehicle from the outstanding loan balance. If the result is positive, you have positive equity; if it is negative, you have negative equity. Check online resources or consult a professional appraiser to determine your vehicle’s current market value.

How does depreciation affect negative equity in car finance?

Depreciation plays a significant role in negative equity in car finance, as it refers to the decline in a vehicle’s value over time. New cars typically experience rapid depreciation in the first few years of ownership, which can contribute to negative equity if the loan balance doesn’t decrease at the same pace.

Is it possible to get out of negative equity on car finance early?

Yes, it is possible to get out of negative equity on car finance early by paying down the principal balance more quickly. Making additional or larger payments towards the loan balance can help you reach positive equity sooner. However, ensure that your loan doesn’t have prepayment penalties before adopting this strategy.

Can I sell my car with negative equity?

You can sell a car with negative equity, but you must address the outstanding loan balance. If you sell the vehicle privately, you’ll need to cover the difference between the sale price and the loan balance out of pocket. In some cases, it might be more financially viable to continue making payments until you reach positive equity or the vehicle’s value increases.

Can negative equity on car finance impact my credit score?

Negative equity on car finance, in itself, does not directly impact your credit score. However, if negative equity leads to financial strain and causes missed or late payments, your credit score may be adversely affected. Maintaining consistent on-time payments is crucial to protecting your credit score, regardless of your equity situation.

How can GAP insurance help with negative equity in car finance?

Guaranteed Asset Protection (GAP) insurance can help with negative equity in car finance by covering the difference between your vehicle’s current market value and the outstanding loan balance if your car is stolen or declared a total loss after an accident. GAP insurance provides financial protection, ensuring you’re not left with an unpaid loan for a vehicle you no longer own.

There are several different types of Gap insurance, with each one providing specific cover depending on your personal situation and the way you financed your car (purchase or lease).


Related Reading: Click4Gap Ranked #1 On MoneySavingExpert For Gap Insurance


What are your options for extended UK car warranty cover?

We don’t want to complicate this, so we’ve kept it nice and simple. Here’s three great options for mechanical breakdown or electrical failure car warranty cover, that’ll give you all you need, including cover for wear & tear.

3-Star Car Warranty

Select this option if you want affordable cover for a long list of covered components. Gives you up to £7,000 claim limit towards the cost of parts, labour and VAT for the mechanical breakdown or electrical failure of covered parts.

4-Star Car Warranty

Select this option to cover a wide range of components on your vehicle, and get up to £7,000 claim limit towards the cost of parts, labour and VAT in the event of mechanical breakdown or electrical failure, or imminent failure identified during an MOT or service.

5-Star Car Warranty

Looking for comprehensive warranty protection? Our 5-Star warranty covers an extensive range of parts and offers up to £7,000 claim limit towards the cost of parts, labour and VAT for the mechanical breakdown or electrical failure of covered parts on your vehicle.