Industry Analysis



Further research found that Australians purchase personal loans for a variety of reasons. The majority of Australians who take out a personal loan do so in order to buy a car. Other popular causes include home renovation, weddings, education and travel. However, due to closed borders as a result of the global pandemic, travel loans declined almost 100% in 2020. Additionally, consumers tend to purchase personal loans throughout the year but data from 2019 shows that the biggest spending months were January, February, September and October.

Why Consumers Borrow

  • Statistics from Australian finances comparison site Finder found that the majority of Australians (88%) take out personal loans for planned purchases.
    • Planned purchases include buying a car, home renovation, holiday travel, weddings and education costs.
  • The remaining 12% of Australians have taken out personal loans for unplanned expenses.
    • Unplanned expenses include medical bills, household emergencies and emergency car repairs and maintenance.
  • Providing slightly more detail, in 2019, Finder research found that almost 50% of all personal loan customers used it to purchase a car followed by a holiday (9%), home renovation (9%), education (5%) and wedding (5%).
  • According to Mozo Banking Expert, Peter Marshall, the most common reasons for personal loan applications by Australians include a new car, holiday, wedding, renovation and debt consolidation.
  • The latest breakdown from the Australian Bureau of Statistics for the period March – May 2020 (as affected by the COVID-19 pandemic) is shown in the chart below. The main reasons for personal loan commitments and their percentage of the total personal loan amount in May were:
    • Road vehicles — 61.6%
    • Personal investment (excluding housing) such as education and medical — 14.4%
    • Purchase of household and personal goods — 6.64%
    • Other transport vehicle and equipment — 3.16%
    • Travel and holidays — 0.14%Personal Loan Commitments from March-May 2020 in Australia, Australian Bureau of Statistics
    • It must be noted that the biggest year-on-year change is in the travel and holidays category which experienced a drop of 94.7% from 2019 levels due to closed borders. In a typical year that is not affected by a global pandemic, many Australians would use personal loans to fund holiday celebrations and vacations.
  • The two graphs below are from the Australian Bureau of Statistics for data collected monthly from 2004 to July 2020. The first graph shows new loan commitments for personal fixed term loans (seasonally adjusted) while the second graph shows a more detailed breakdown highlighting smaller purposes of fixed term loans for personal finance. From the graphs, we can see that personal loans for purchase of road vehicles accounts for the largest value, followed by personal investments (excluding housing) and external refinancing. New loan commitments, personal fixed term loans (seasonally adjusted), values, AustraliaNew loan commitments, personal fixed term loans (seasonally adjusted), values, Australia for smaller purposes

When Consumers Borrow

  • The first graph above is most useful to determine when consumers purchase personal loans across the calendar year. Looking at the line for “Total purpose excluding refinancing“, the peaks representing higher amounts purchased tend to occur in half-year cycles around July and January so we can assume consumers are most likely to take out personal loans during these months.
  • In 2019, there was increase of $30 billion in outstanding personal loan amounts between June and August according to the Reserve Bank of Australia.
  • A Finder survey of more than 11,000 Australians found that 23% plan to purchase a personal loan in the next six months, as of August 2020.
  • Furthermore, those in the Northern territory are most likely to have a personal loan within six months, with 32% of residents saying so, followed by 23% of residents in New South Wales.
  • The attached spreadsheet gives the new loan commitments for personal finance taken out in Australia during 2019, as recorded in the Australian Bureau of Standards’ Lending Indicators publication. Due to new data collection methods that took effect from October 2019 as explained in this document, the absolute values for January through September look markedly different from those for October through December. However, the monthly and year percent changes are calculated in the same way for all the data and can give some indication of the most recent calendar year purchases, prior to COVID-19.
  • Based on the trend data (as opposed to the seasonally adjusted data), it can be said that in absolute amount most consumers purchase personal loans in January and February which coincides with the Australian summer and the time of most travel. Additionally, the data shows the highest monthly increase of 1% in the value of new loan commitments in the months of September and October.
  • Lastly, research has shown that 46% of those aged between 24 and 38 (that is, the Millennial generation) have signed up for at least one personal loan which is more than any other age cohort.

Research Strategy

To calculate the percentage of the total personal loan amount in May for each of the categories listed in the table above, we followed the calculation:(Amount of loan category in May 2020/Total personal loan amount (excluding refinancing) in May 2020)*100For example, for road vehicle loans — (882,000,000/1,430,000,000)*100 = 61.6%In terms of research regarding when consumers purchase personal loans throughout the calendar year, there were no high level trends to be found in other industry reports, research studies, white papers, or news articles except the study published by Plenti that was referenced in the initial hour of research. Therefore, we used the value of new loan commitments for personal finance as reported by the Australian Bureau of Statistics for 2019 and 2020 to give an indication of the most recent purchase trends over a calendar year period, in terms of the absolute amount borrowed and the monthly percent change in commitment values.

Glenn is the Lead Operations Research Analyst at Simple Manifestation with experience in research, statistical data analysis and interview techniques. A holder of degree in Economics. A true specialist in quantitative and qualitative research.


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