Americans tend to pay their car loans before their mortgages or credit cards each month, says Steve Chaouki, group vice president in credit bureau TransUnion’s financial services business unit. Consider: Among consumers with auto loans, mortgages and credit cards, the 30-day delinquency rate for auto loans was just 0.88% last year, while the rate for credit cards was 1.82% and the rate for mortgages was 1.91%. While overall, those rates have improved since 2009, when the 30-day delinquency rate for auto loans was 1.34%, credit cards 2.82% and mortgages 3.83% — the priorities are still clear: cars, then credit cards, then mortgages. And, says, Chaouki, autos are likely to again lead the pack for 2013.
So what’s behind the priority we give to our rides? “Some of this is about freedom,” says Kimberly Foss, the founder and president of Roseville, Calif.-based financial planning firm Empyrion Wealth Management. “They feel stuck if they don’t have a car, so they pay it first.” Joel Ohman, a certified financial planner and founder of CarInsuranceComparison.com, says that this may also have to do with media headlines. “People hear about others who have been late on their mortgage and still kept the house, so they think they can do it too.”