Subprime Car Loans At Highest Level Since Before Recession

TTAC Staff
by TTAC Staff

Subprime borrowers have accounted for more than 27% of new car and light truck loans this year, the highest level since 2007, according to Bloomberg. A year ago, a buyer with a credit ranking in the bottom percentile would not likely have been able to buy a car. This year people with credit stores as low as 500 or lower have qualified for loans.

After the Federal Reserve has kept interest rates near zero for five years now, the subprime car loan market is now being described as “frothy”. With interest rates so low, investors are willing to purchase the riskier bonds that back subprime car loans in pursuit of higher returns. A number of financial companies have entered that market. Citigroup reports that 13 loan backers have accessed the asset-backed market to fund subprime auto loans this year.

Experian Automotive says that subprime car loans are at their highest level since they started tracking loan data in 200y, over 27 percent. That’s up two percent from last year and 9 percent from 2009, when lenders became more conservative with their loans during the recession.

In dollar figures, so far this year issuance of bonds backing subprime auto loans are up to $17.2 billion, more than twice the amount of debt backing subprime car loans during the same period in 2010, though it’s down from the 2005 high of $20 billion.

Subprime car loans are seen as less risky than backing real estate mortgages because cars’ value can be more accurately assessed and they are easier to repossess than a house. Also, people who need to get to work prioritize their car payments.

Fifty-eight percent of loans taken out to buy Dodge brand vehicles in October were above the industry average of 4.2 percent annual percentage rate, according to Edmunds. The average loan to buy a Dodge came with an APR of 7.4% and nearly a quarter of Dodge loans were charging more than 10% interest. Dodge is the brand with the highest percentage of loans exceeding 10% interest, followed by Chrysler and Mitsubishi.

Though subprime auto loans have increased, late payments on them have been contained. Delinquencies in August were at 3.1% of the debt, compared to 13.3% in 2009. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York, in an Aug. 14 report, said it didn’t see evidence that a “disproportionate or unusual” volume of new loans are being made to high risk borrowers.

Industry observers say that U.S. auto sales, having their best year since 2007, are increasingly being fueled by borrowers with imperfect credit. “Perhaps more than any other factor, easing credit has been the key to the U.S. auto recovery,” Adam Jonas, an analyst for Morgan Stanley, wrote last month.

TTAC Staff
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  • Dash riprock Dash riprock on Nov 13, 2013

    We have experienced a brutal recession. Unemployment went up by a very significant amount. The unemployed are much more likely to have suffered damage to their credit. Now when they go shopping to replace their 12 year old beater, they carry damage credit to the dealership with them. It will take time for those whose credit was damaged to repair it. The subprime market will probaly be larger for a while just based upon that alone. It is not a sign of lenders going crazy necessarily.

  • APaGttH APaGttH on Nov 13, 2013

    This only tells half the story. Not only easy credit, but ridiculous low lease rates from resale value losers like Dodge and Chevy all the way to BMW, and Lexus that when you do the math, there is no way on earth, or any other parallel universe, that the residual value is going to be covered. I don't know if it was TTAC or LLN that reported on the Corolla, as one example, that Toyota changed the lease math that instead of basing it on 53% of sticker, it is now 63% of sticker - when the current math doesn't even add up at 53%. You can point out the same thing almost certainly on the BMW 320i, the Mercedes CLA, the Cadillac ATS, and a long list of other cars with give away leases. Yes, your credit needs to be better to get these deals - but it is going to hurt the used car market, and someone is going to have to eat those gaps in residual value. The finance situation is a feckin' mess again - we didn't learn a whole lot. Sure, delinquency is only "3.1%" but we're an economic downturn away from 13% plus again. The most I every paid in interest on a car loan was 13% - and that was in the Reagan years, when 13% was pretty darn good. If I look back I believe since 1998 its been 0%, 0.9%, 0% and 0% - the other three cars in the mix were bought cash leafy greeny money.

  • ToolGuy Honda is dreaming. And resting on its 'laurels' (French for 'posterior').
  • SCE to AUX Here's some advice - slow down. That's a great way to arrive home safely, without a ticket, with lower blood pressure, and more economically.
  • Dartdude They need to rebrand the models, The standard model should be Wagoneer and long version should be Grand Wagoneer. There should offer the Ram Rev powertrain in these
  • Irvingklaws Seems more like they're adopting Honda styling queues. Now if they would just adopt their reliability...
  • FreedMike "Obsidian Edition."Oooooh, obsidian is really, really hard stuff.