Americans owed more than $987 billion in outstanding auto loans in the last quarter of 2015, according to the latest report from Experian Automotive. It's the highest amount of outstanding auto loan debt since the company first started publicly reporting the data in 2006.
Auto loans as a whole grew 11.5% from 2014 to 2015, and so did loans to subprime and deep subprime borrowers (i.e. buyers with bad credit scores). In the fourth quarter of 2014, subprime and deep subprime auto loans made up 20.3% of all open auto loans, increasing year over year to 20.8% in 2015. That could be a good sign for people with low credit scores who need a vehicle. Getting a car loan with bad credit limits some of your options, but it's still important to shop around for the best terms. Many common credit scoring models will allow consumers to apply for multiple auto loans within two weeks and count them as a single hard inquiry, to encourage people to search for the best deal.
It helps to start the process by getting an idea of where your credit stands. The better your credit scores, the more likely you are to get approved and receive favorable loan terms. An auto loan can even help you improve your credit, as long as you consistently make your car payments on time.
"[W]hile loan balances continue to rise and funding may be more easily attainable, it is critically important for consumers to stay on top of their monthly payments to keep the automotive market running on all cylinders," said Melinda Zabritski, senior director of automotive finance for Experian, in a news release on the data.
While 30-day delinquencies were down in the final quarter of 2015 from the same time in 2014 (from 2.62% to 2.57% of all loans 30 days past due), 60-day delinquencies were up slightly, from 0.72% to 0.77%. Remember that your payment history has the greatest impact on your credit score, and you can see how your auto loan affects your credit by viewing two of your free credit scores every month on Credit.com.
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