Ever since some consumer-advocate commentators latched onto one piece of recent auto-finance data, experts from the automotive world replied with context to counter thoughts that thousands soon would be walking because they no longer had a vehicle.
While vehicle affordability and delinquent volume continue to make headlines, new findings from Experian’s Q4 2018 State of the Automotive Finance Market report released on Thursday show these trends may not be as dire as they seem.
In fact, Experian found the percentage of 30-day delinquent contracts improved year-over-year, while the percentage of 60-day delinquencies saw only a minimal uptick over the same time period.
The report shows 30-day delinquencies dropped to 2.32 percent from 2.36 percent a year ago, while 60-day delinquencies increased to 0.78 percent from 0.76 percent the previous year. The percentage of delinquent loans continues to remain stable even as more and more consumers rely on automotive financing.
In Q4 2018, the report indicated 85.1 percent of all new-vehicle purchases were financed compared to 81.4 percent in Q4 2010.
“While delinquencies can be an indicator of automotive finance market health, it’s important to examine these trends within the larger industry context,” said Melinda Zabritski, Experian’s senior director of automotive financial solutions. “With more car shoppers using automotive financing options, it’s natural to see an uptick in the volume of delinquent loans.
“Lenders need to factor in additional historical trends, such as the percentage of subprime loan originations and shifting payment options, to gain a more complete picture and make the right lending decisions,” Zabritski continued.
Experian acknowledged that much of the conversation surrounding delinquency rates is driven by questions of vehicle affordability, specifically the average financed amounts and monthly payments.
Experian reported the average amount financed for a new vehicle was $31,722 (up $623 from the previous year), while the average amount financed for a used vehicle surpassed $20,000 (up $488 from the previous year).
The report also mentioned the average monthly payment for a new vehicle was $545 (up $30 from the previous year) and the average for a used vehicle was $387 (up $16 from the previous year).
Another component of the conversation around vehicle affordability is interest rates — which for new-vehicle financing was 6.13 percent, up from 5.11 percent a year ago. For used-vehicle financing, the average interest rate was 9.59 percent, according to Experian’s information.
“As loan amounts, monthly payments and interest rates continue to rise, there are a number of factors for consumers to consider as they research their car-buying options,” Zabritski said.
“While consumers appear to be doing their due diligence when making borrowing choices that fit their budget, lenders also play a large role,” she continued. “Every consumer deserves access to quality credit, and lenders should leverage all available data to offer the most comprehensive financing options to car shoppers.”
Additional findings for Q4 2018 from Experian included:
• Total outstanding automotive balances in Q4 2018 was $1.178 billion.
• The percentage of outstanding balances held by subprime and deep subprime consumers remained below 20 percent (19.69 percent).
• Loan originations to super prime consumers grew 3.3 percent to 20.54 percent of total originations.
• Leasing grew year-over-year. The percentage of new vehicles that were leased reach 28.76 percent compared to 28.28 percent a year ago.
• Eight of the top 10 new leased models in Q4 2018 were crossover utility vehicles and trucks.
• The gap between the average new and used monthly payments continued to widen, reaching $158.
Experian is hosting a webinar to discuss the entire State of the Automotive Finance Market report. Registration for the event can be completed here.
And ahead of Thursday’s report release, Zabritiski shared her thoughts on the finance space for an episode of the Auto Remarketing Podcast recorded during the Vehicle Finance Conference hosted by the American Financial Services Association in San Francisco this past January.
The episode is available below.