Zero Percent Financing: A Consumer Benefit Or A Marketing Trick?

In recent years, zero percent financing has become an increasingly popular financing option offered by most car manufacturers on new cars and trucks. While it does sound great and is extremely appealing to many car buyers, there are few things attached to it that may diminish the benefits.

Commonly, car dealers offer an alternative of a zero percent financing or a cash rebate on the vehicle purchase price. Let us say, that you are confronted with an offer of getting a cash rebate of $3,000 or a zero percent financing. While you are going to have no interest to pay, you will end up paying $3,000 more for a vehicle that you may have saved otherwise. Should you pay off your loan early, the advantage of taking zero percent financing would become null.

It is important to keep in mind that any car is a quickly depreciating asset. Taking a rebate instead of a zero percent financing incentive may help you to reduce the gap between the loan balance and the vehicle fair market value. Since your car depreciates most in the first year of use, having it totaled or stolen may leave you upside down on your zero percent auto loan since your insurance company would not cover extra $3,000 you paid for your vehicle. That means that you would have to come up with the difference to cover the remaining loan balance.

It is important to remember that nothing is truly free in this life. Financing incentives, typically coming from the corporate offices of car manufacturers, are most commonly hidden in the vehicle selling price. Car dealers, sometimes offering zero percent financing on their own, follow the same strategy.

How Does It Work?

While it is somewhat understandable how financing incentives offered by auto manufacturers work, zero percent financing offered solely by a dealer may raise your eyebrows. Obviously, banks are not going to finance you at no interest, no matter how good your credit is, since they have to make money off you to stay in business.

What usually happens is that auto dealers rebate the bank upfront for the interest charges that a customer would accrue and pay to the bank otherwise. In simple terms, your dealer pays your interest for you. Since they are not going to make it a money-losing proposition, they have to compensate these expenses somehow. That is why these costs are built into the vehicle purchase price.

Typically they are offset by a rebate that a car manufacturer would give you on a new car purchase and/or an incentive that an automaker gives a dealer for higher volume sales. What this also means to you that there is less negotiation power on your side, since a dealer would be less eager to go down on a vehicle price in this case.

Financing Incentive or a Cash Rebate?

What this means to you is that a simple mathematical equation needs to be solved. When approached with a choice between the rebate and a zero percent financing, calculate how much interest you would normally pay on a car loan and compare it to the amount of rebate. If your interest charges are going to be greater, it may be time to consider zero percent financing. Should they be not, take the rebate and run away from the zero interest deal!