Key takeaways

  • Generally, you shouldn’t use a home equity loan or HELOC to buy a car.
  • Although they may offer longer terms and lower monthly payments, home equity loans currently carry higher interest rates than auto loans.
  • Because cars lose value over time, they’re not worth the risk of diluting your ownership stake in your home and risking foreclosure.
  • It might make sense to use home equity financing to buy a car and for another aim, like a big home improvement project.

The most common way to buy a new car is with a car loan, of course. But auto loans are not the only financing game in town. If you’re a homeowner, it might be tempting to tap into your equity to purchase those wheels, via a home equity loan or a HELOC, its credit-line cousin.

This approach, however, involves vastly different considerations than an auto loan. Here’s how to determine whether using a home equity loan to buy a car is the best option for you.

Should I use my home equity to buy a car?

Frankly, no. Avoid buying a car using home equity, if possible.

With a home equity loan, your home is the collateral for the debt. If you fall behind on repayment, the lender can foreclose on the home. Translation: You could lose it.

That goes for home equity lines of credit (HELOCs), too. Can you use a HELOC to buy a car? Sure. But should you? Probably not, and for the same reason: That line of credit uses your home as collateral, putting what’s likely one of your biggest assets at risk.

Generally, it’s best to tap your home equity if you’re going to spend the funds on projects or expenses that further your financial or professional well-being, such as renovating your house or paying college tuition. Because cars don’t hold their value well over time, it doesn’t make sense to tie your home up with financing for one — you’d be repaying a loan on an item that won’t be worth much when all is said and done. (In contrast, real estate generally appreciates over time, especially when money is spent to improve the property.)

Differences between home equity loans and auto loans

Auto loans Home equity loans HELOCs
Collateral required Car Home Home
Typical repayment terms 2 to 5 years 5 to 30 years 10 to 20 years (after 5-10 year draw period)
Usual rate type Fixed Fixed Variable
Repayment schedule Monthly Monthly Monthly interest-only repayments during the draw period (usually the first 5-10 years); monthly payments during the repayment period
Fees Origination fee (0.5-1% of loan amount); documentation fee Closing costs (avg. 1% of borrowing amount) Closing costs (avg. 1% of borrowing amount)

Home equity loans and auto loans are both types of secured debt: that is, they are backed by something that acts as collateral for the loan. While a car loan is secured by the car you purchase, a home equity loan is secured by your home. In both cases, if you fail to repay, the lender has the right to seize, respectively, the car or the house.

However, the repayment terms are very different: You could have as long as 30 years to repay a home equity loan, versus the typical two to five years associated with an auto loan. Depending on how much you borrow with the home equity loan, this longer timeline could mean you have much lower monthly payments compared to the payments on a five-year car loan.

Remember, however: A car is a depreciating asset. By the time you’re finished repaying a 15 or 20-year home equity loan or HELOC, your car won’t be worth nearly as much as what you borrowed (and paid in interest) to get it. A new car loses 23.5 percent of its value after about one year and 60 percent in the first five years, according to Edmunds.

If you’re hoping to save money on interest with a home equity loan, think again. While home equity loans did have lower interest rates compared to auto loans for some time, that trend has reversed. Now, many auto loan offers are lower or comparable to the rates on home equity products: As of December 2023, new car loan APRs were running more than a percentage point lower, on average, than home equity APRs.

In addition, you might need to pay closing costs for the home equity loan, which are typically 1 percent of the principal (though they can run you anywhere from 2 percent to 5 percent) — an expense you wouldn’t be on the hook for with an auto loan.

The pros and cons of using home equity to buy a car

Home equity loans and HELOCs were once more of a universal financing go-to, because their interest was tax-deductible — no matter what you used the funds for — provided you itemized deductions on your tax return. That changed with the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. It decreed the interest could only be deductible if the loan went towards improving, repairing or buying a home; it also made itemizing deductions less feasible in general.

So now, there are more risks than rewards when it comes to getting a home equity loan for a car. That said, let’s look at the pros and cons of ​​using a home equity loan vs. car loan to buy a vehicle.

Pros of using a home equity loan to buy a car

  • Longer term, lower payments: Home equity loans are structured in such a way that you can repay the money over a much longer period of time. Most car loans last between two and five years; a home equity loan lasts between five and 30 years. If you only borrow the amount you need for the car, this longer timeline might translate to lower monthly payments, all other things being equal.
  • Flexibility in using funds: If you take out a home equity loan or HELOC to buy a car, you don’t necessarily need to use all the money on your vehicle. If you take out $50,000 of your home’s equity, for example, you might use $20,000 to buy the car and $30,000 on a kitchen remodel. Since the larger chunk of money would go toward improving your home, money you’ll theoretically get back when you sell, this strategy makes better financial sense than using a home equity loan to buy a car alone. You might also be able to deduct the interest on the sum spent on the kitchen, if you itemize on your tax return.

Cons of using a home equity loan to buy a car

  • Decreased equity: By getting a home equity loan, you’re depleting some of your ownership stake, which has serious implications. For one, you might end up needing that equity in an emergency. For another, you might find you’ve taken on too much debt, in-between your first mortgage and the home equity loan. This could eat into your bottom line if you need or want to sell the home in the future (home equity loans must be repaid in full if a home is sold).
  • More onerous application: Applying for home equity financing is somewhat akin to taking out a mortgage and, in addition to your financials, the lender will consider the home’s value and the amount of your ownership stake. Bottom line: We’re talking weeks or even months for approval, vs. days with auto loans.
  • Foreclosure risk: If you can’t or don’t repay the home equity loan, you won’t lose the car, but you could lose your home — a much more important asset.
  • No financial gain: A car loses value over time, so, with a decades-long home equity loan term, you might be paying for an asset that isn’t worth much in the end. If your car is no longer usable, this could also put you in the unenviable position of repaying a home equity loan while financing a new vehicle.
  • Closing costs: Some home equity loans come with upfront closing costs. If you can afford to pay these, you might be better off putting some (or all) of those funds toward a down payment on an auto loan instead.

Bottom line on buying cars with home equity loans

It’s possible to use your home equity to take out a loan for a car, but it’s a risky move. With the interest rates on home equity loans and HELOCs creeping up, it makes more sense to compare auto loan offers first.

Of course, this assumes you’re taking out a home equity loan for a car purchase – and nothing else. If you plan to use only some of the funds to purchase a car and the rest for other, more investment-worthy aims — like, say, building a new garage to house those new wheels  — it can still make sense to tap your equity.