In the latest sign Americans are increasingly comfortable taking on more debt, auto buyers borrowed a record amount in the first quarter with the average monthly payment climbing to an all-time high of $474.
Not only that, buyers also continued to spread payments out over a longer period of time, with 24.8 percent of auto loans now coming with payment terms between six and seven years according to a new report from Experian Automotive.
That's the highest percentage of 6 and 7-year loans Experian has ever recorded in a quarter
"I'm not surprised consumers are borrowing more or taking out longer auto loans," said Melinda Zabritski of Experian Automotive. "With relatively low interest rates, buyers are more comfortable taking out longer loans so they can keep their monthly payment as low as possible."
Experian, analyzed approximately 4.7 million new and used auto loans written between January and March.
Those loans totaled $100.7 billion, a record amount for auto loans written in any quarter in the U.S. The average length of auto loans increased by one month to five and half years, a new all-time high, it said
"Consumers are really relying on financing as the price of new vehicles continues to move higher," said Zabritski.
In the first quarter, the average auto loan jumped $964 to $27,612, an all-time high, according to Experian. Just five years ago, the average auto loan was $24,174.
First published June 2 2014, 5:50 AM
Philip J. LeBeau is a CNBC auto and airline industry reporter based at the network's Chicago bureau. He is also editor of the Behind the Wheel section on CNBC.com.
... Expand Bio
Prior to joining CNBC, LeBeau served as a media relations specialist for Van Kampen Funds in Oak Brook Terrace, Ill. Previously, he held general assignment reporting positions at KCNC-TV, the CBS affiliate in Denver, and KAKE-TV, the ABC affiliate in Wichita, Kan. LeBeau began his career as a field producer at WCCO-TV in Minneapolis, where he wrote, produced and researched consumer stories. He graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Journalism with a bachelor's degree in journalism and broadcasting.