More People Are Missing Car Payments in Another Ominous Sign for the Economy


  • A record number of subprime borrowers are behind on auto loan payments by more than 60 days.
  • The rate hit 6.11% in September, per figures from Fitch Ratings reported by Bloomberg.
  • Vehicle repossession rates are also on the rise, leaving many without transportation.

A record number of subprime borrowers are behind on their auto loan payments by 60 days or more, according to figures from Fitch Ratings reported by Bloomberg.

The rate hit 6.11% in September – the highest since records began in 1994, and was up from the 5.93% recorded at the start of the year.

Analysts predict that auto loan delinquencies will continue to rise into 2024 and peak at about 10% before they start to fall, per CNN.

The high rates of delinquencies indicate that many lower-earning workers in particularly are struggling amid ongoing high inflation, a rough jobs market, and the resumption of federal student loan payments following a pandemic-era freeze.

High interest rates are also having an impact, with many turning to borrowing to cope. In the second quarter of this financial year, credit card debt surpassed $1 trillion for the first time in the NY Fed survey’s history.

Though delinquency rates do not necessarily mean a recession will happen, they are often reflect a struggling economy.

Margaret Rowe, senior director at Fitch, told Bloomberg: “The subprime borrower is getting squeezed. They can often be a first line of where we start to see the negative effects of macroeconomic headwinds.”

More than a third of Americans are considered subprime borrowers, according to an Experian study, meaning they have lower credit scores and are deemed less likely to meet their repayments on loans. As a result they usually have to pay considerably higher interest rates.

For subprime borrowers, rates for new cars average 11.5% and 18.5% for used autos, according to Experian. Prime borrowers are charged far less – 6.4% and 8.75% respectively on average.

Those that can’t meet their payments face having their cars repossessed and often have great difficulty getting to work. In 2022, only 11% of commuters in the US used public transport, according to the World Economic Forum.

Cox Automotive, a leading auto organization, predicts that 1.5 million cars will be repossessed this year – 300,000 more than in 2022.

The rising number of delinquencies on auto loans is not putting off some consumers, however. A record number of new car buyers took out loans with monthly payments of $1,000 or more in the three months to June, according to data from Edmunds.

Car payments have become the highest expense for some Gen Zers and millennials, even exceeding their rent.



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