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Vehicle Loan Amounts Reach Record Highs

Perhaps Experian Automotive found another part of what is the "new normal" in auto financing as analysts determined that the average dollar amount for both new- and used-vehicle loans reached all-time highs in the third quarter.

According to the latest State of the Automotive Finance Market report, the average loan amount for a new vehicle was $27,799 in Q3, up $1,080 from the previous year. Used-vehicle loans increased $676, reaching $18,576 over the same time period.

The report indicated leasing accounted for 29.1 percent of all new-vehicle financing in Q3, up 7.1 percent from a year ago. New-vehicle loans in the 73- to 84-month range grew by 23.7 percent in Q3 compared with the previous year, while used loans in the same range grew by 18 percent from a year ago.

"Car buyers tend to shop with a monthly payment in mind. As a result, we are continuing to see them turn to leasing and longer loan lengths as strategies to keep payments down and make vehicles more affordable," said Melinda Zabritski, senior director of automotive finance for Experian.

"As car values continue to reach new heights, these insights will help dealers, lenders and consumers become more aware of the options available to them to keep people buying cars, all while staying within their budgets," Zabritski continued.

Furthermore, the report found that the average monthly payment for new and used-vehicle loans increased from the previous year. The monthly payment for a new-model loan reached $470, up $12 from a year ago, while the monthly payment for a used-vehicle loan reached an all-time high of $358, an increase of $8 over the same time period.

Additional findings from the report showed that interest rates for new-vehicle loans increased slightly in the third quarter, climbing 4.7 percent from a year ago. However, despite the growth, these rates have decreased each quarter in 2014. Interest rates for used-vehicle loans decreased to 8.5 percent in the quarter.

"As consumers explore the different options available to them to keep their monthly payments low, they have to remember interest rates often can play a factor. Making timely payments and becoming a low credit risk are the easiest ways to ensure a low interest rate," Zabritski said.

"For example, the average interest rate for super-prime consumers on a new loan was 2.6 percent, compared with 12.7 percent for deep subprime consumers. Understanding how on-time payments influence credit scores, can help consumers improve their financing experience," she went on to say.

Experian also highlighted five other notable trends, including:

-The average credit score for a new-vehicle loan was 713 in Q3, down 3 points from a year ago.

-The average credit score for a used-vehicle loan rose 2 points in Q3, reaching 650.

-Captives were the only lender type to see an increase in market share year over year, up 28.9 percent.

-A record-high 54.1 percent of all used vehicle transactions were financed, up from 52.6 percent in Q3.

-For new vehicles, 84.8 of all transactions were financed in Q3 2014, which was unchanged from the previous year.