Average loans for new cars jumped by $756 to $26,719 in the third quarter from a year ago, the highest increase in five years, according to Experian Automotive, which collects registration data from motor vehicle departments and financing data from lenders – an essential cog in the perfect surveillance society. Despite the jump in loan balances, the average monthly payment rose only 1.3% to $458, due to two factors:
Magically lower interest rates. Though interest rates elsewhere in the economy rocketed higher in Q3, auto lenders just ignored them, and average rates actually dropped to 4.27% from 4.53% a year earlier.
Dizzyingly long terms. The average term grew by one month to 65 months. A stunning 19% of all new-car loans were stretched to over 72 months, up from 16% last year.
Used vehicles saw similar dynamics. The average amount financed rose 1.8% to $17,900, but the average monthly payment remained flat at $350, thanks lower interest rates and longer terms.
Leasing – a fancy word for “long-term renting,” something dealers, lenders, and automakers love because they get to extract more money out of you, and you don’t even know it because the monthly payments are deceptively low – made up 27.2% of all new financing in Q3, up from 24.4% a year ago, up from 14.2% in 2009, and up from the mid-single digits back when I was still in the business (and we loved, loved, loved leases!).