Consumers continue to use longer-term loans to reduce the costs of monthly payments when they purchase a new vehicle with almost one third opting for loans of between six and seven years, according to new data from Experian, the credit monitoring service.
Experian, in its latest report on the State of Automotive Finance Market, also found the average loan amount for a new vehicle reached a record high of $30,621 in the fourth quarter 2016. The average loan amount for a used vehicle also reached record levels, jumping from $18,850 in fourth quarter 2015 to $19,329 in in the fourth quarter of 2016.
Total open automotive loan balances reached a record high $1.072 trillion in the fourth quarter of 2016, up from $987 billion the same period in 2015 but the growth in loan balances has slowed, the report said.
The report also showed the number of consumers opting for auto loans with terms of 73 to 84 months on their new vehicles increased from 29% in the fourth quarter 2015 to 32.1% in fourth quarter of 2016. In the used car market, there was an increase in 73- to 84-month loans from 16.4% in fourth quarter 2015 to 18.2% during the same period in 2016.
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“With the average loan amount for new and used vehicles hitting all-time highs, we are seeing the need for affordability drive consumer purchasing behavior,” said Melinda Zabritski, Experian’s senior director of automotive finance.
“Our latest research shows an $11,000 gap between the average loan amount on a new and used vehicle — the widest we have ever seen. This upward trend is causing many consumers to find alternative methods like extending loan terms, getting a short-term lease or opting for a used vehicle to get what they want while staying within their monthly budget,” she added.
For consumers who still want to drive something new, leasing a new vehicle costs an average of $92 less per month compared with financing. The average monthly payment for a new leased vehicle is $414, versus $506 per month for a new vehicle purchase. The number of consumers who chose to lease a new vehicle increased slightly from 28.87% in Q4 2015 to 28.94% in the final quarter of 2016.
Another key finding in the report is the increase in delinquency rates year-over-year.
Thirty-day delinquencies inched up slightly from 2.42 in the fourth quarter of 2015 to 2.44% in the fourth quarter of 2016, while 60-day delinquencies increased from 0.71% to 0.78%.
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In response to these increases in delinquencies, lenders continue to adjust their lending strategies by shifting more loans toward customers with better credit.
For new vehicle loans, the average credit score moved from 712 in the last quarter 2015 to 714 in in the same period 2016. For used vehicle loans, the average credit score jumped five points from 649 in the fourth quarter 2015 to 654 in in the same period in 2016.
Overall, lending to deep-subprime and subprime customers decreased from 22.05% of the total lending market in the fourth quarter 2015 to 20.82% in the final quarter of 2016. Lending to prime and super prime customers jumped nearly two points to 59.41% in the fourth quarter of 2016.
“Delinquencies are always an important indicator of the overall health of the automotive lending market, but it’s equally important to watch how lenders react when they see a rise,” Zabritski said.
“The shift to a higher percentage of prime and superprime customers is a natural consequence of the slight growth in delinquencies. Overall, we are still looking at a very healthy lending market,” Zabritski said.
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The report also showed that used vehicle financing grew to 41.85% in the super prime consumer segment, an increase of 5.4% year over year. Moreover, used franchise and independent vehicle dealers saw their biggest year over year increases in super prime consumer lending, with 5.91% and 13.8%, respectively.
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