Jamie L. LaReau
- Average APR on a new financed vehicle is now at 7% vs. 4.4% a year ago, the highest level since 2008.
- The average monthly payment for a new vehicle rose to $730 in the quarter, from $656 a year earlier.
- Nearly 17% of car buyers who financed a new vehicle in the quarter agreed to a whopping monthly payment of $1,000 or more, an all-time high.
Analysts at car shopping site Edmunds released data Monday that showed the average annual percentage rate (APR) on a new financed vehicle in the first three months climbed to 7%, compared with 4.4% in the year-earlier period. It is the highest level Edmunds has recorded since the first quarter of 2008.
The average monthly payment for a new vehicle rose to $730 in the quarter, from $656 a year earlier.
Nearly 17% of car buyers who financed a new vehicle in the quarter agreed to a whopping monthly payment of $1,000 or more, also an all-time high.
Last year at this time, 10.3% of car buyers committed to that amount.
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Auto loan APR
There is some good news. March was the first month the APR for a new car remained at 7% after 14 consecutive months of increases.
The industry has faced severe shortages of parts over the past 24 months, which constricted inventory. The tight inventory drove up prices, creating a need for bigger down payments. In the quarter, the average down payment on a new vehicle increased to $6,956 from $6,083 a year earlier.
“It takes money to save money in today’s market,” said Ivan Drury, Edmunds’ director of insights. “Although more automakers are offering to subsidize auto loans with lower interest rates, the catch is that most of these offers require that consumers agree to shorter 36- or 48-month loan terms — which might put people off at first glance.”
New car inventory is rebounding, but the Federal Reserve continues to raise short-term interest rates to cool inflation, making rates now the biggest obstacle for automakers to move metal this year, said Jessica Caldwell, Edmunds’ executive director of insights.
“Since interest rates are at the forefront of consumers’ minds, any automaker or dealer that can advertise incentives related specifically to interest rates will likely get more attention,” Caldwell said.
Length of auto loans, down payment matter
According to Kelley Blue Book, the average transaction price for a new vehicle in February was $48,763, up 5.3% from a year earlier.
Car buyers are increasingly choosing extreme ends of the finance spectrum to afford the high prices. Data showed that 12.3% of consumers opted for 36- or 48-month loans and a majority of consumers are extending loan terms further.
In the quarter, 36% of auto loans taken were for 67- to 72-month terms. For a car buyer who put $6,005 down and financed $41,937 at 7.7% APR, that was a monthly payment of $730. At the end of that loan, a person would pay $10,563 in interest.
About 7.6% of loans were for 43 to 48 months. With an average down payment of $11,240 and financing a balance of $28,919 at 4% interest, the monthly payment is $655. A person would pay $2,423 in interest.