Friday, March 25, 2016


Just in case you forgot the first time we heard the sound was 2008 when the housing market bubble popped and Middle Class Americans found themselves being served with foreclosure notices from the very same Wall Street banks that screwed them.

Well, fast forward to 2016 and here they are again; only this time it's those big shinny SUVS that they got for nothing down and payments that will double the cost while it's value will be reduced by almost 70% in the first 5 years.

Americans with lower credit scores are falling behind on auto payments at an alarming pace.

The rate of seriously delinquent subprime car loans soared above 5% in February, according to Fitch Ratings. That's worse than during the Great Recession and the highest level since 1996.

It's a surprising development given the relative health of the overall economy. Fitch blames it on a dramatic rise in loans with lax borrowing standards that have helped fuel the recent boom in auto sales. More Americans bought new cars last year than ever before and the amount of auto loans soared beyond $1 trillion.

What this means is that Americans a driving on borrowed time and are again at great risk in losing their second most valuable asset to the real owners; the banks.

Car buyers now owe $1 trillion on their car loans, the first time they've ever owed that much.

The loan balances have been driven up by a combination of three factors -- strong car sales, rising car prices and low interest rates.

Interest rates are low. Borrowers with top credit scores can get loans for less than 3%.

"There are a lot of lending choices for consumers, a lot more competition," said Jason Laky, automotive business leader at credit agency TransUnion, which reported the record level of car loans. "That's made financing more widely available and very attractive."

New car sales are up nearly 6% so far this year, according to sales tracker Autodata.

Overall, the industry is in a position to sell a record number of cars to U.S. consumers this year.

Related: Americans buying more cars than ever

But the amount owed is up 11%, a sign of the increase in the size of car loans due to rising prices.

The average amount borrowed is about $21,700, and buyers owe nearly $18,000 on average. The average new car purchase price now stands at $32,529, according to sales tracker TrueCar. The average car loan balance is rising faster than it is for mortgage loans, according to TransUnion.