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What’s Happening with Subprime Auto Loans?

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Auto loans have shot past the $1 trillion mark in the United States and now make up a significant component of the overall consumer debt picture.

Subprime auto loans – which are riskier loans made to customers with poor credit – have helped to drive the market since the Great Recession. However, with auto loan delinquencies ticking up in recent months, investors have been searching for answers about the sector.

Are we in for some sort of subprime auto loan crisis, or is there another explanation for what is going on?

Subprime Auto Loans: a Shifting Market

The data and perspective in today’s infographic comes from consumer credit reporting agency Equifax, and it helps to explain what is potentially going on in today’s auto loans market.

What's Happening with Subprime Auto Loans?

Does the recent uptick in auto loan delinquencies represent the unhinging of the market, or is it just standard fare?

Auto Loan Segmentation

The auto loan market is surprisingly diverse, and it’s comprised of many different types of lenders.

Each lender has a unique set of criteria for their ideal customer. For example, banks want very little risk and typically only lend to customers with prime credit scores (620 or higher). Dealer finance companies, on the other hand, are willing to take on more risk in their portfolios, and usually key in on subprime customers.

In fact, there are six different types of lenders in the auto lending space:

  1. Banks: Depository institutions that loan money to third-parties
  2. Credit Unions: Member-owned financial cooperatives
  3. Captive Auto Finance: Financing arm of an auto brand (i.e. Ford Motor Credit Company, etc.)
  4. Dealer Finance Companies: Associated with a dealerships or dealer chains
  5. Monoline Finance Companies: Focus on auto loans through multiple dealers/platforms
  6. Independent Finance Companies: Offer auto loans and other loan types

Because they each approach the market differently, there is strong segmentation in the market. The following chart from Equifax shows a snapshot of loans made in Q1 of 2015 and their cumulative non-performance after 18 months on the books:

Non-performance of auto loans vs. credit score

However, let’s look at this again by plotting the median credit score for new loans originated in Q1 of 2006, 2009, 2012, and 2015.

Non-performance of auto loans vs. credit score, longer time series

After the financial crisis, banks tightened credit standards until performance improved. Monoline and dealer finance companies, on the other hand, continued to lend to high-risk borrowers – and it is these companies that are seeing non-performance rates shifting higher.

In other words, it is the market share and relative performance among lenders that are the change drivers for aggregate loan statistics.

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U.S. Debt Interest Payments Reach $1 Trillion

U.S. debt interest payments have surged past the $1 trillion dollar mark, amid high interest rates and an ever-expanding debt burden.

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This line chart shows U.S. debt interest payments over modern history.

U.S. Debt Interest Payments Reach $1 Trillion

This was originally posted on our Voronoi app. Download the app for free on iOS or Android and discover incredible data-driven charts from a variety of trusted sources.

The cost of paying for America’s national debt crossed the $1 trillion dollar mark in 2023, driven by high interest rates and a record $34 trillion mountain of debt.

Over the last decade, U.S. debt interest payments have more than doubled amid vast government spending during the pandemic crisis. As debt payments continue to soar, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) reported that debt servicing costs surpassed defense spending for the first time ever this year.

This graphic shows the sharp rise in U.S. debt payments, based on data from the Federal Reserve.

A $1 Trillion Interest Bill, and Growing

Below, we show how U.S. debt interest payments have risen at a faster pace than at another time in modern history:

DateInterest PaymentsU.S. National Debt
2023$1.0T$34.0T
2022$830B$31.4T
2021$612B$29.6T
2020$518B$27.7T
2019$564B$23.2T
2018$571B$22.0T
2017$493B$20.5T
2016$460B$20.0T
2015$435B$18.9T
2014$442B$18.1T
2013$425B$17.2T
2012$417B$16.4T
2011$433B$15.2T
2010$400B$14.0T
2009$354B$12.3T
2008$380B$10.7T
2007$414B$9.2T
2006$387B$8.7T
2005$355B$8.2T
2004$318B$7.6T
2003$294B$7.0T
2002$298B$6.4T
2001$318B$5.9T
2000$353B$5.7T
1999$353B$5.8T
1998$360B$5.6T
1997$368B$5.5T
1996$362B$5.3T
1995$357B$5.0T
1994$334B$4.8T
1993$311B$4.5T
1992$306B$4.2T
1991$308B$3.8T
1990$298B$3.4T
1989$275B$3.0T
1988$254B$2.7T
1987$240B$2.4T
1986$225B$2.2T
1985$219B$1.9T
1984$205B$1.7T
1983$176B$1.4T
1982$157B$1.2T
1981$142B$1.0T
1980$113B$930.2B
1979$96B$845.1B
1978$84B$789.2B
1977$69B$718.9B
1976$61B$653.5B
1975$55B$576.6B
1974$50B$492.7B
1973$45B$469.1B
1972$39B$448.5B
1971$36B$424.1B
1970$35B$389.2B
1969$30B$368.2B
1968$25B$358.0B
1967$23B$344.7B
1966$21B$329.3B

Interest payments represent seasonally adjusted annual rate at the end of Q4.

At current rates, the U.S. national debt is growing by a remarkable $1 trillion about every 100 days, equal to roughly $3.6 trillion per year.

As the national debt has ballooned, debt payments even exceeded Medicaid outlays in 2023—one of the government’s largest expenditures. On average, the U.S. spent more than $2 billion per day on interest costs last year. Going further, the U.S. government is projected to spend a historic $12.4 trillion on interest payments over the next decade, averaging about $37,100 per American.

Exacerbating matters is that the U.S. is running a steep deficit, which stood at $1.1 trillion for the first six months of fiscal 2024. This has accelerated due to the 43% increase in debt servicing costs along with a $31 billion dollar increase in defense spending from a year earlier. Additionally, a $30 billion increase in funding for the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation in light of the regional banking crisis last year was a major contributor to the deficit increase.

Overall, the CBO forecasts that roughly 75% of the federal deficit’s increase will be due to interest costs by 2034.

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