Ann Carrns:

It used to be that a car loan lasted three or four years. After 36 or 48 months of payments, you could drive debt-free for a few more years, before deciding if you wanted to get a new vehicle.
 But times have changed in the automobile buying world.
 Six-year loans are now typical, and terms stretching as long as 96 months — eight years — are available at some lenders.
 Experian Automotive, which tracks consumer buying data, says the average length of a new-car loan was a record 66 months, or five and a half years, in the second quarter, the most recent period for which data is available. About 41 percent of loans were for five to six years and about a quarter were for six to seven years. Less than 1 percent of loans were for longer than 84 months, said Melinda Zabritski, senior director of automotive finance for Experian.