The latest TransUnion Industry Insights Report found that 80 million consumers held a vehicle lease or retail installment contract as of the close of 2016. Analysts determined the figure marked the highest level TransUnion has observed since at least the third quarter of 2009, as approximately 4.3 million additional consumers last year took out what can be clearly classified as vehicle financing.
However, SubPrime Auto Finance News asked TransUnion’s Jason Laky to consider whether the funds consumers are using to acquire a vehicle are coming from other sources such as personal loans, which reached a new milestone at the conclusion of 2016 with total balances topping $100 billion for the first time ever.
Laky is senior vice president and automotive and consumer lending business leader for TransUnion, so his jurisdiction is both the auto finance and personal loan markets. Laky approached this difficult question by first explaining the primary reasons personal loans exist.
“For the prime or better consumers, the biggest use of the personal loan but not the only one is debt consolidation,” Laky said. “A lot of lenders are promoting to use a personal loan to pay off credit cards or other high interest loans you have at a lower interest rate and a predictable monthly payment that an installment gives.
“The second use that’s more prevalent in the non-prime and subprime areas where consumers don’t have as much financial security, those loans tend to be used for more immediate needs, whether it’s large repairs or a bridge loan for some education, something like that. The loan sizes are a little smaller and the use tends to be much more utilitarian,” he continued.
Laky explained that TransUnion’s data cannot shed specific light on what purpose consumers use personal loans; if they are in fact the monies used by a consumer to make the necessary down payment for an auto finance company to complete underwriting of the contract. But Laky also acknowledged there has been rumblings of this practice happening more often.
“One thing we’ve certainly started to pay attention to is we have heard it mentioned out the marketplace this idea of using the personal loan to make the down payment or to cover negative equity,” Laky said. “We don’t see in the TransUnion credit file the actual use of the personal loan. We don’t know where the funds go, but it’s certainly a possibility.
“We’ve heard a couple of lenders mention that it may be going on out there. It’s certainly something we may go ahead and look at studying,” he continued. “From a lender’s perspective, I’m sure that whenever you have a consumer that takes out a personal loan in order to cover some gap in the auto financing, it’s probably a flag that’s a higher risk consumer than maybe you think.”
The amount of risk finance companies, banks and credit unions are already holding in the auto finance market still is growing significantly. TransUnion reported total auto financing balances climbed to $1.11 trillion at the close of 2016. Analysts indicated the total balance grew 8.3 percent during 2016, slower than the average growth rate of 11.0 percent between 2013 and 2015.
The average vehicle financing balance per consumer also rose slightly to $18,391, up from $18,004 in Q4 2015.
“For the second consecutive quarter, total auto balances had a year-over-year growth rate below 10 percent, reflecting the slower growth that we are seeing in new car sales,” Laky said in a news release from TransUnion.
“In the third quarter, auto originations declined year-over-year for the first time in six years,” he continued. “Prime plus and super prime originations continued to grow in Q3 2016, indicating lenders are beginning to shift their focus away from the riskiest segments, where we’ve seen strong competition among lenders that has put pressure on risk adjusted margins.”
TransUnion determined that originations declined 0.8 percent to 7.46 million in Q3 2016, down from 7.52 million in Q3 2015. Subprime originations experienced the largest decline (down by 3.2 percent), and prime plus (up 1.8 percent) and super prime (up 1.7 percent) originations grew in the third quarter of 2016.
Analysts went on to mention the auto delinquency rate reached 1.44 percent to close 2016, a 13.4-percent increase from 1.27 percent rate in Q4 2015. They added auto delinquency is at its highest level since the Q4 2009 reading of 1.59 percent.
More details about personal loans
As mentioned previously, TransUnion’s Industry Insights Report confirmed personal loans reached a new milestone at the end of last year with total balances topping $100 billion for the first time ever. While younger consumers have played a major role in the growth of these lending products, analysts found that, contrary to popular belief, mature borrowers are leading the charge on these loans.
TransUnion added that total personal loan balances grew $14 billion between year-end 2015 and year-end 2016, reaching $102 billion. The number of consumers with a personal loan continued to climb steadily and ended 2016 at the highest level since at least Q3 2009. In Q4 2016, 15.82 million consumers had a personal loan.
TransUnion noted baby boomers comprised 32.8 percent of all consumers with a personal loan when 2016 ended, followed by Gen X (31.6 percent) and millennials (26.6 percent). In Q4 2013, millennials were just 23.5 percent of personal loan users, but their share has grown over the past three years to reach 26.6 percent at the end of 2016.
“There is a perception that personal loan growth has been driven by younger consumers, but our data clearly indicate that these loans are appealing to older borrowers,” Laky said in the same release. “We believe some of this growth is occurring because interest rates may be lower than other type of loans for certain baby boomer segments.”
Analysts went on to mention the personal loan delinquency rate was 3.83 percent in Q4 2016, the highest Q4 reading since Q4 2013 and up from 3.62 percent in Q4 2015. Originations, viewed one quarter in arrears, declined for the second consecutive quarter. Originations dropped 5.7% from 3.75 million in Q3 2015 to 3.54 million in Q3 2016.
“We’ve observed a decline in non-prime lending that we attribute to mid-year FinTech funding challenges and regulatory uncertainty in advance of the election,” Laky said. “We believe that the personal loan market is stabilizing, and have seen balances grow across risk tiers through the end of the year.”