New car, new reality: Auto loan borrowing hits fresh highs – CNBC

Posted: Thursday, June 02, 2016

What’s noteworthy about Experian’s report is the data that show consumers are adjusting to the reality of what it costs to buy a new vehicle.

For example, loan payments topping $500 is significant because consumers have long expressed a desire to keep their monthly bill under $500 if possible. It’s the reason leasing, where the average monthly payment was $406 in the first quarter, has become more popular in recent years.

“Five-hundred dollar monthly payments could change the psychology for [the] auto buyer,” Zabritski said. “Buyers want that monthly payment as low as possible.”

That’s the reason consumers are stretching out auto loans farther than ever to a new record of 68 months. The longer the term, the lower the monthly payment. In the first quarter, almost a third of all auto loans came with repayment terms of 73-84 months, which was the most popular term among new vehicle buyers.

Zabritski says the growth in auto loans is worth watching to make sure consumers don’t wind up going “upside down” on auto loans, but she feels the auto loan market is generally healthy.

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