A personal loan is a simple financial product for individuals in which the finance company lend the money directly to you, the consumer. Personal loans are available over a range of terms. The interest rate payable might depend on a range of factors, including credit history and whether or not the loan is secured by a physical asset.
A car loan is similar to a personal loan but might achieve a lower interest rate because the loan is secured by a financial interest in the vehicle being purchased.
A chattel mortgage is a business use loan product, available over a range of terms, and with a range of different 'balloon' payment options at the end of the term. The business owns the vehicle (the 'chattel') from day one, and the financier uses it as security (the 'mortgage') over the loan. The interest is generally deductible, depending on the proportion of business use, and if the business is registered for GST, the full GST component of the purchase is claimable as an input tax credit in the first BAS following the acquisition.
Commercial hire purchase agreements have fallen dramatically in popularity because of changes made to the GST treatment relating to them. They are therefore less attractive to companies and employees with a car allowance. Most people and businesses in this position prefer the greater financial benefits of a chattel mortgage (see above).
A novated lease is one of the most cost-effective and tax-effective ways for ordinary Australian employees to achieve car ownership. Basically, a novated lease is a three-way agreement between you, your employer and a finance company. The employee allows the employer to make deductions from their pre-tax salary to make the payments. The employer makes the deductions, and the finance company sets up the novated lease and manages it. Because the payments are made from the employee's pre-tax salary, some of the money that would normally be paid in tax is used to pay for the vehicle. So a novated lease increases the employee's buying power. It's also a great way to purchase a new car GST-free, even if you're not registered for GST.
Many deals sound too good to be true - generally because they are. Most zero percent car finance offers certainly fall into that category. They are definitely a good marketing strategy - because they increase inquiry rates at dealerships - but they are seldom a good deal for customers.
Zero percent finance is actually a form of 'sub-vented finance' - where the interest is actually paid indirectly to the financier. In practise, how this works is the dealer pays the interest to the financier from the profit out of the sale of the new car. This is why, when a purchase is completed using a zero percent offer, there is little room, if any, to negotiate on the price of the vehicle.
When choosing finance it is essential to look at the overall deal rather than do what the marketers want - which is to see you focus exclusively on the zero.
Generally, it is almost always cheaper to negotiate a significant discount on the price of a new car, and arrange the most affordable independent finance available.