The gap between new and used car loans hits a record high

Price gap widens between new and used cars
Price gap widens between new and used cars

Are you willing to borrow another $11,000?

That's the difference in the average loan for a new vehicle compared to the average loan for a used model, according to Experian, which tracks how consumers are paying for the cars and trucks they're buying.

In the fourth quarter, the average amount borrowed to pay for a new vehicle jumped more than $1,000 to hit a total of $30,621. That is, $11,292 more than the average loan for a used vehicle during the same period.

It's also a record gap between the amount that is borrowed for new and used auto loans, according to Melinda Zabritski, Experian's senior director of automotive finance. She blames the growing gap on the rising cost of new vehicles.

"This upward trend is causing many consumers to find alternative methods like extending loan terms, getting a short-term lease or opting for a used vehicle to get what they want while staying within their monthly budget," said Zabritski.

As it is, monthly payments continue to edge higher. Experian said the average new vehicle loan is now $506, up $13 compared to the same time a year ago. By comparison, the average used vehicle monthly loan payment climbed just $5 in the fourth quarter, to a total of $364.

With vehicle prices and monthly payments rising, consumers are taking out longer auto loans. In fact, in the fourth quarter, almost a third of the auto loans written were for a term of at least six years. By comparison, the number of borrowers scheduled to pay off their new car or truck in less than five years continues to drop, with just 18.7 percent of the loans having terms of 49 to 60 months.

All these increases in vehicle prices and auto loans has sparked renewed chatter that some borrowers may be getting over-extended.

Experian said 2.44 percent of borrowers were 30-days delinquent on repaying their loan in the fourth quarter, which is up slightly compared to the same time as 2015. By comparison, the percentage of loans with 60-day delinquencies edged up to 0.78 percent.

The slight increases have lenders being more selective with those getting auto loans, said Zabritski. Credit scores edged up in the fourth quarter, according to Experian.

"Overall, we are still looking at a very healthy lending market," says Zabritski.