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Season of luxury autos, numbers don't lie

A gold Ferrari drives through the Knightsbridge section of London, Aug. 8, 2014.
Getty Images
A gold Ferrari drives through the Knightsbridge section of London, Aug. 8, 2014.

As you watch the commercials showing luxury models parked in driveways with a big bow on top, the question is a natural one.

Who's buying these high-end cars and SUV's?

Turns out, a lot of people are lining up for luxury models. Experian, which tracks auto loans and leases has crunched the numbers to paint a portrait of the average buyer and how much they are spending at the dealership.

According to Experian:

  • The average luxury auto loan is $42,876. That's almost $14,000 more than the typical loan for all types of vehicles.
  • The average monthly payment for a luxury buyer is $755, almost $300 higher than the average overall new vehicle monthly loan payment.
  • Luxury buyers take out shorter loans. On average, payments are spread out over 61 months compared with the overall average for new vehicle loans of 67 months.
  • People earning over $100,000 annually are 66 percent more likely to buy a luxury vehicle.

"Given the increased price for luxury vehicles compared with other vehicle segments, it's understandable that the average buyer has a more affluent background," said Melinda Zabritski, Experian's senior director of automotive finance.

With the U.S. auto industry on pace for a record sales this year, most luxury brands have been unable to grow sales as fast as the overall market.

But one segment where business is booming is luxury SUVs, where sales are up 17 percent this year, according to the research firm autodata. Those figures are likely to move even higher after December, which is the best month of the year for luxury vehicle sales.

And in case you are wondering, Experian says most people driving a new luxury model home before the end of the year will do so with a lease. In fact, 54 percent of luxury models sold in the third quarter were financed with a lease. Thirty percent of buyers took out an auto loan and 16 percent paid cash.

"While some consumers may be intrigued by the seasonal deals, others may be driven by the enjoyment of attaching the big red bow to the car as a gift. Either way, December is considered — by far — to be luxury vehicle month," said Brad Smith, Experian's director of automotive statistics.

Questions? Comments? BehindTheWheel@cnbc.com.