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As Car Prices Hit the Roof, Shoppers Hope to Keep Payments at Ground Level

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Financing my first car was a bittersweet feeling. I was thrilled at the thought of purchasing a new vehicle, yet I was dreading haggling the price with the dealer. As a millennial, I feared the rising prices for new cars, and knew that I needed to find a way to make the vehicle more affordable. That said, I decided to look at used cars.

Clearly, I’m not the only car shopper going through this experience. Many consumers are exploring new options to keep their monthly payments down, whether it’s extending the length of their loan, or turning to leases. Sometimes it’s both.

According to Experian Automotive’s Q2 2015 State of the Automotive Finance Market report, the average loan amount for a new vehicle reached $28,524, while the average loan amount for a used vehicle hit $18,671, a second quarter high and an all-time high, respectively. Subsequently, the increasing loan amounts also caused the average monthly payment for new ($483) and used ($361) vehicles to increase. Interestingly, the $122 difference in average monthly payment was also a second quarter high, furthering the need to make car payments affordable.

As such, consumers continued to take out leases. During the second quarter, leasing accounted for 26.9 percent of all new vehicle transactions, reaching an all-time high. While leasing continues to be a popular option among car shoppers to keep monthly payments down, we’re beginning to see these consumers take it a step further. Sure 36-month term leases are still the most popular, however the percentage of leases extending past the 36 months into the 37- to 48-month range has increased by 18 percent. Furthermore, the average lease payment dropped $13 from a year ago, reaching $394.

Findings from the report also showed that consumers continued to lengthen their loan terms, especially for used vehicles. The percentage of used vehicles financed for 73- to 84-months increased by 14.8 percent from Q2 2014 to reach 16.1 percent – the highest percentage of record. New vehicles financed for the same term length climbed 19.7 percent from the previous year to reach 28.8 percent.

If the trend continues, we can only expect vehicles to become more expensive and harder to keep within budget. That said there are ways to keep monthly payments within reason. Just as I did, consumers will need to explore the different options available and work with the financing tool that best meets their needs. If they can do that, it will just be the sweet feeling of purchasing a car.