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By Kerry Close
March 3, 2016

Looking to buy a new car? Be prepared to hand over about $500 each month in loan payments.

A new report from Experian Automotive found that, in the fourth quarter of 2015, the average American paid a record high $493 in monthly payments on new vehicle loans. The news was not much better for lessees, who have been paying an average $412 a month. Leases also accounted for a record high 33.6% of new vehicles sold—mostly due to lower monthly prices.

There are other indications that people are buying pricier cars and borrowing more to drive them. The average amount financed for the purchase of a new vehicle in the fourth quarter of 2015 was $29,551, up $1,170 compared to the same period the year before. Longer-term financing—defined as more than 73 months—also grew to 29% of new-vehicle financing, an increase of 12% from 2014.

These rising figures are compounded by the fact that many people are finding it more difficult to make their monthly car payments, increasing the stakes for those who fall behind. Delinquency and default rates are at their highest levels since 2010, when the country was emerging from the recession. That may be because lending practices have been getting lax, and loans are being made to risky borrowers who might not be able to make good on them.

However, the average credit score of those taking out a loan on a new car stayed flat, at 711, from 712, in 2014. That’s a dip from its peak of 736 in 2009, at the height of the recession.

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