Vehicle debt is piling up, driven by demand for SUVs, trucks
U.S. auto loan originations rose by the most in four years in the final quarter of 2019, driven by demand for light trucks and SUVs.
Loan originations for new and used vehicles rose by 7.5 million accounts – a 4.3% quarterly jump – bringing the total to 83.8 million. A majority of the increase came from the purchase of new trucks and SUVs – a category which now accounts for 71% of the new financed vehicle market compared with 68% a year earlier, according to data released Tuesday by TransUnion, a consumer report provider.
Borrowers have been increasing the time needed to repay. The average pay-back period for new vehicles grew to 69 months in the third quarter compared with 68 months the same period a year earlier. Additionally, consumers taking out car loans increasingly purchased used vehicles. Used vehicle financing accounted for 53.3% of the loan-origination market, up from 52% four years earlier.
Meanwhile, 60-day delinquency rates for vehicle loans have been rising – reaching 1.5% at the end of 2019 from 1.44% a year earlier – though the level remains “well managed,” TransUnion said.
“Used vehicles can be an attractive alternative for consumers, especially those who are in the market for pricier vehicles such as a truck or SUV,” said Satyan Merchant, senior vice president of TransUnion. “On average, they can save approximately $13,000 by opting for a used vehicle over a new one.”
Car buyers are paying more for high-tech features such as voice-activated entertainment systems and semi-autonomous driver-assist technology that steers wandering cars back into their lane and automatically brakes to avoid read-end collisions.
Overall, U.S. consumers added $18 billion in auto debt in the third quarter, according to the latest data from the New York Federal Reserve.
The average monthly payment for new vehicle loans rose to $561 in the third quarter, up by about $20 per month from a year earlier.