U.S. Auto Loan Credit Scores Rise as Lenders Cut Risk-Taking

(Bloomberg) -- Average credit scores on U.S. car loans rose to a six-year high in the fourth quarter, a report said Tuesday, a sign that lenders are raising their standards as more borrowers fall behind on their bills.

The median credit score for car loans made in the quarter rose to 707, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s report on household debt. That’s up two points from the third quarter and the highest level since 2011, when lenders were ratcheting up lending standards in the wake of the Great Recession. 

The credit score for loans in the 10th percentile, or those that are weaker than 90 percent of borrowers, rose two points to 575, the highest since 2010. Consumer credit scores typically range from 300 to 850, and borrowers below 620 are often viewed as subprime.  

U.S. Auto Loan Credit Scores Rise as Lenders Cut Risk-Taking

The data jibe with other indications that auto lenders are tightening their standards. According to the Federal Reserve’s latest Senior Loan Officer Survey, about 12 percent of large banks canvassed are somewhat raising their standards, compared with just 3 percent that are loosening. Most are keeping their standards unchanged. S&P Global Ratings has reported that some subprime auto lenders, which are usually not banks, are growing stricter as well.

The tightening comes as 2.33 percent of auto loans were seriously delinquent in the last quarter, a level slightly below the third quarter’s 2.36 percent but one that has been rising since 2013, according to the New York Fed data.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.

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