Late auto-loan payments fall in 2Q

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — More Americans are making their car payments on time, a trend that has sent the rate of overdue auto loans to the lowest level on records dating back more than a decade.

The rate of U.S. auto loan payments at least 60 days overdue fell in the second quarter to 0.33 percent. That’s down about 25 percent from the same period last year and 8 percent from the first three months of this year, credit reporting agency TransUnion said today.

The latest rate marks the lowest level since TransUnion began tracking auto loan data in 1999. The highest rate recorded by the company was 2.39 percent in the first quarter of 2000.

All told, the auto loan delinquency rate has fallen on an annual basis for 11 consecutive quarters. Among the factors contributing to the decline: lower interest rates that help more car buyers qualify for financing, and a strong market for used cars, which has provided more of an incentive for borrowers to avoid falling behind on payments by increasing the market value of their investment.

The trend, however, also is due to a shift in car owners’ mindset since the last recession.

That’s when many borrowers made keeping up with their car payments a priority over other types of financial obligations, including credit cards and home loans.

“You need your car to get to work, or if you have to seek employment, you need a car to get to the interviews,” said Peter Turek, a vice president of TransUnion’s financial services business unit.

While borrowers are being more diligent about their auto loan payments, they also are carrying larger balances.

The average amount of auto loan debt owed by borrowers in the second quarter rose nearly 6 percent from a year earlier to $13,427, TransUnion said.

Banks are making more auto loans and that’s helping drive up average auto debt per borrower, said Turek.

That’s because new loans tend to have higher balances early on, as it typically takes several years for borrowers to pay them down.

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