— The amount of your monthly car payment is a bit like the horsepower in your car: Absent more context, neither number gives the full story. That doesn't rule out comparisons, of course, and a new report gives a quarterly yardstick for just that.
Industry data provider Experian Automotive last week released its latest report, "State of the Automotive Finance Market," so compare away. Here are the takeaways:
- In the first quarter of 2017, the average monthly new-car payment was $509; the average lease payment was $410. Those are up just $5 and $4, respectively, versus the first quarter of 2016 — about 1 percent apiece.
- That's despite new-car loans averaging $30,534 in total, up $513 (1.7 percent) over the year-ago quarter.
- Interest rates averaged 4.87 percent — about the same as a year earlier — so how did shoppers keep payments down? Look at loan lengths. The average new-car loan was 68.5 months, up about half a month versus the first quarter of 2016. But more than a third of new-car loans were 73 to 84 months, up from 31.3 percent a year earlier. Most shocking: 1.3 percent of new-car loans — about 1 in 77— were 85 to 96 months. That's up to eight years of car payments.
- The average new-car buyer in the first quarter had a credit score of 717 (on a scale from 300 to 850), while the average used-car shopper scored 652. Those scores are important: In the first quarter, the vast majority of new-car sales — 85.5 percent — were financed, while 53.3 percent of used-car sales were financed.
Some other nuggets:
- The average lease term in the first quarter was 36.2 months. The average used-car loan was for 63.8 months and $19,126 total.
- The oft-discussed leasing boom has hit a plateau. About 31.1 percent of all new cars were leased in the first quarter. That's down a tad versus the year-ago quarter.
- Nearly 3 in 4 new-car loans and leases (74 percent) went to buyers with credit scores above 660, and about 29 percent went to borrowers with scores above 780. That ratio has increased a little over the past year, while loans and leases to the opposite group — subprime borrowers, or those at 600 or lower — have declined. Subprime borrowers accounted for about 8.8 percent of new loans and leases in the first quarter, down from 9.5 percent a year ago.