The Debt Panel: 'Can freelancers apply for a car loan in the UAE?'

An Abu Dhabi resident is struggling to find financing for a new vehicle without proof of salary for two years

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I moved to the UAE from the UK in April on a freelance visa through a free zone in Abu Dhabi.

I have a fairly consistent income of Dh35,000 a month. I was surprised that I was unable to have access to any financing to buy a car given the salary certificate requirements that almost all banks, including my own, require.

I inquired about self-employed car finance but this requires a business certificate — which, for some banks, needs to have been in place for at least two years.

While I can buy a used car outright, I am a bit worried that I will be forced to buy an older vehicle with a higher mileage that will inevitably incur higher maintenance costs than if I were able to finance a newer car in the usual way.

When I try to speak with banks, I am usually met with a blanket “no” as my mode of employment does fit their normal lending practices. Can you advise me if any institutions offer car financing to freelancers? AJ, Abu Dhabi

Debt panellist 1: R Sivaram, executive vice president and head of retail banking products at Emirates NBD

As you may well know from your experience in the UK, it is important for any bank that is offering a loan to ascertain the consistency of a customer’s monthly income stream — this is an essential aspect when assessing a loan application.

This becomes all the more important as you are new to the UAE and have not yet established a history with Al Etihad Credit Bureau (AECB) to ascertain your credit standing.

In the UAE, banks typically look to have proof of between six and 12 months of income in your bank account. The bank would also want additional documentary evidence, such as a trade licence, to ascertain the nature of business activity you are involved in.

Given that you have a consistent monthly income, you can also consider providing contracts or other similar documents that can prove future cash flow as some banks may be willing to review your application for a car loan.

I would recommend that you approach the bank with proof of income from when you moved into the UAE, along with proof of future cash flow. This will at least give the bank a basis to evaluate your application for extending credit.

I wish you the very best in your new venture and efforts to successfully obtain a car loan.

Debt panellist 2: Jaya Ratnani, managing partner at Freed Financial Services

Availing a car loan in the UAE requires fulfilling the criteria set by the UAE Central Bank, combined with a bank's internal policies. While lending requirements vary depending on the lender, you will generally need to verify your income for the past two years.

Securing a car loan isn't impossible for a freelancer but you may encounter a few hurdles in your quest to funding. Because a freelancer's income can fluctuate, lenders are far more cautious in the underwriting process. However, you can explore alternative means of financing.

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Alternative lenders are more relaxed in their lending requirements. There are certain car dealers in the market that can assist you on financing a new car based on a steady income.

Most of these dealers do not depend on the length of service, so it does not affect your loan approval. The process is also quick and easy and is the best way to support you considering your situation.

However, the interest rate could be higher than a bank’s lending rate for this type of financing.

You can also visit the car markets in UAE and check out the options they offer. Before making a decision on which car to buy, it is important that you check the vehicle’s history through Roads and Transport Authority-approved centres as they offer certified mechanic inspections.

Debt panellist 3: Alison Soltani, founder of Leap Savvy Savers

It can be more challenging to obtain a car loan as a freelancer than as a salaried individual. However, you have a few options to increase your eligibility for a loan. Standard practices may dictate that salaried individuals fit the criteria for a loan; however, there are banks that will cater for different situations.

Ask to speak to the relationship manager at your bank branch to discuss a more personalised plan. The bank will assess your risk level to ascertain whether to approve the loan.

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Securing a car loan isn't impossible for a freelancer but you may encounter a few hurdles in your quest to funding
Jaya Ratnani, managing partner at Freed Financial Services

As your income is consistent, you may be able to secure a loan with six months of bank statements and income records. It might be worth asking a trusted person to be a guarantor and offering that as an added layer of security.

To ensure you pose a low level of risk, it could be useful to build your credit score. You can check this through the AECB's website and improve it by ensuring all bills are paid on time and not using all your available credit.

It can also be helpful to use a credit card and pay it off in full every month to build your credit score and increase your likelihood of being accepted for a loan.

It may also help if you offer to put a large deposit down on the car, thus further reducing the risk of defaulting on the loan. If you choose to apply to an alternative institution for a car loan, ensure that their practices are compliant with the Dubai Financial Services Authority for your personal safety and protection.

Alternatively, buying a used car is a viable option. Approach car garages directly as they often have deals on near-new models with low mileage.

There are certain times of the year that are optimal for buying a car. If you can wait until Ramadan or other public holidays, you will often see deals at car dealerships. At the end of the year, there may be offers on older models of cars as newer models are introduced.

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Also, during the summer months, many residents leave and you may see a sharp rise in sales of relatively new cars. This will increase substantially during June and July.

Try websites such as yallamotor.com, Dubizzle and buyanycar.com to search for used cars or ask your neighbours and clients. Many deals are made by word of mouth in the UAE.

Finally, depending on your location and the nature of your work, you could consider the option of public transport. There are numerous transport options available for residents in Dubai, such as the Metro or car rentals if you need to go further afield for work or other commitments.

The Debt Panel is a weekly column to help readers tackle their debts more effectively. If you have a question for the panel, write to pf@thenational.ae

Updated: September 07, 2022, 5:00 AM
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