The subject of car finance comprises the different financial products which allows someone to acquire a car with any arrangement other than a single lump payment. The provision of car finance by a third party supplier allows the acquirer to provide for and raise the funds to compensate the initial owner, either a dealer or manufacturer.
Car finance is required by both private individuals and businesses. All types of finance products are available to either sector, however the market share by finance type for each sector differs, partly because business contract hire can provide tax and cashflow benefits to businesses.
Personal Car Finance is a complete subsector of personal finance, with numerous different products available. These include a straightforward car loan, hire purchase, personal contract hire (car leasing) and Personal Contract Purchase. Therefore car finance includes but is not limited to vehicle leasing. These different types of car finance are possible because of the high residual value of cars and the second hand car market, which enables other forms of financing beyond pure unsecured loans.
Car finance arose because the price of cars was out of the reach of individual purchasers without borrowing the money. The funding for personal car finance is provided either by a retail bank or a specialist car financing company. Some car manufacturers own their own car financing arms, such as Ford with the Ford Motor Credit Company and General Motors with its GMAC Financial Services arm, which has now been renamed and rebranded as Ally Financial.
The funding supplier may retain ownership of the car during the period of the contract for certain types of financing. This interim ownership by a third party and subsequent leasing to the acquirer is far more typical for business assets than private ones, with the option of vehicle leasing being the major exception for private consumers.
The finance is arranged either by the dealer which provides the car or by independent finance brokers who work on commission. Individual brokers will provide any solution for which the individual can get credit approval, but their own particular lifestyle and cost considerations that should determine the choice of finance option.
The leasing share of the US consumer automotive industry expected to grow by 18-25%  though this is growing again after the credit crisis cause major leasing companies to exit the market in the US. The credit crisis of 2008 and subsequent recession saw the second hand car market collapse and funding companies had to sell their returning cars at much lower prices than expected. Some major providers stopped offering private contract hire during this period.
In the UK the FCA (Financial Conduct Authority) took over from the OFT (Office of Fair Trading) in April 2012. All companies who sell, advise, or promote financial products must be regulated and licensed under new FCA legislation.
The Finance and Leasing Association represents the asset, consumer and motor industry in the UK, which includes car finance. The FLA has a neutral website which explains all aspects of car finance for the private individual in the UK.