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The Growing Auto Loan Problem Facing Young Americans

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gen Z auto loan problems

The Growing Auto Loan Problem Facing Young Americans

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, Americans have taken on significantly more debt to buy vehicles. This is especially true for Gen Z and Millennials, who the Federal Reserve believes may have borrowed beyond their means.

In this infographic, we’ve visualized data from the Fed’s most recent consumer debt update.

Aggressive Borrowing

The first chart in this graphic shows the growth in outstanding car loans between Q2 2020 (start of the pandemic) to Q4 2022 (latest available).

AgeGrowth in outstanding car loans
18-2931%
30-3929%
40-4923%
50-5914%
60-6911%
70+11%

We can see that Americans under the age of 40 have grown their vehicle-related debt the most. It’s natural for Gen Z (ages 11-26) to have higher growth figures because many of them are buying their first car, but 31% is quite high relatively speaking.

Part of this can be attributed to today’s inflationary environment, which has pushed used car prices to new highs. Supply chain issues have also resulted in over 30% of new cars being sold above MSRP.

Because of these rising prices, the Fed reports that the average auto loan is now $24,000, up 41% from 2019’s value of $17,000.

Spiking Delinquencies

Interest rates on auto loans are typically fixed, meaning many young Americans were able to take advantage of the low rates seen during the pandemic.

Despite this, one in five Gen Zs say that their car payments account for over 20% of their after-tax income.

Shown in the second chart of this infographic, the amount of auto debt transitioning into serious delinquency is much higher for Gen Z and Millennials. Throughout 2022, these generations saw $20 billion in auto debt fall 90+ days behind.

The outlook for these struggling borrowers is bleak. First there’s inflation, which has pushed up the prices of most consumer goods. This eats into their ability to make car payments.

Second is rising interest rates, which make credit card debt—another pain point for young borrowers—even more costly. Finally, there’s student loans, which are expected to resume in summer 2023. Payments on student debt have been suspended since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Mapped: The Income a Family Needs to Live Comfortably in Every U.S. State

Families in expensive states require over $270,000 annually to live comfortably.

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A map showing the income that two working adults with two children need to live comfortably in each U.S. state.

The Income a Family Needs to Live Comfortably in Every U.S. State

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.

Families in the top five most expensive U.S. states require an annual income exceeding $270,000 to live comfortably.

This visualization illustrates the income necessary for two working adults with two children to maintain a comfortable lifestyle in each state.

“Comfortable” is defined as the income needed to cover a 50/30/20 budget, with 50% allocated to necessities like housing and utilities, 30% to discretionary spending, and 20% to savings or investments.

The calculations for family income needed in each state were done by SmartAsset, using the cost of necessities sourced from the MIT Living Wage Calculator, last updated on Feb. 14, 2024.

Massachusetts Tops the List

Massachusetts is the most expensive state to live comfortably in, requiring a total family income of about $301,184. Hawaii ($294,611) comes in second, followed by Connecticut ($279,885).

Housing is one main reason Massachusetts is an expensive state to live in, particularly in the Boston area. In addition, the state also has a high cost of living, including expenses such as healthcare and utilities.

RankStateIncome for 2 working adults raising 2 children
1Massachusetts$301,184
2Hawaii$294,611
3Connecticut$279,885
4New York$278,970
5California$276,723
6Colorado$264,992
7Washington$257,421
8Oregon$257,338
9New Jersey$251,181
10Rhode Island$249,267
11Vermont$248,352
12Minnesota$244,774
13New Hampshire$244,109
14Alaska$242,611
15Maryland$239,450
16Nevada$237,286
17Virginia$235,206
18Illinois$231,962
19Arizona$230,630
20Pennsylvania$230,464
21Maine$229,549
22Delaware$228,966
23Wisconsin$225,056
24Utah$218,483
25Michigan$214,490
26Nebraska$213,075
27Georgia$212,826
28Montana$211,411
28Iowa$211,411
30Idaho$211,245
31North Carolina$209,331
31Ohio$209,331
33Florida$209,082
34Indiana$206,003
35New Mexico$203,923
36Wyoming$203,424
37Missouri$202,259
38North Dakota$202,176
39Texas$201,344
40South Carolina$200,762
41Kansas$196,768
42Tennessee$195,770
43Oklahoma$194,106
44Alabama$193,606
45South Dakota$192,608
46Kentucky$190,112
47Louisiana$189,613
48West Virginia$189,363
49Arkansas$180,794
50Mississippi$177,798

Meanwhile, Mississippi is the least expensive state for a family to live comfortably, requiring $177,798 per year. Arkansas ($180,794) comes in second, followed by West Virginia ($189,363). In common, all these states share low prices of housing.

Learn More About Cost of Living From Visual Capitalist

If you enjoyed this post, be sure to check out this graphic, which ranks the median down payment for a house by U.S. state.

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