May 5, 2016

I Wouldn't Worry About A Sub-Prime Auto Loan Crisis or Bubble

Looks like the "bubble to get worried about" for the day is the sub prime auto loan bubble.    I just saw two references about it in my daily twitter feed.     Apparently Esquire print magazine has an article and so does Slate.

So why shouldn't we get all worked up about it?

Buried halfway down a NYT article from 2014 in a mult-part discussion of the sub prime auto loan topic, they say :
"The size of the subprime auto loan market is a tiny fraction of what subprime mortgage market was at its peak, and its implosion would not have the same far-reaching consequences."

According to as of 2015 the total car loan debt was $950B and sub prime market was 27% of that.    Thats about $256B in debt total.     I don't see general information on the average interest rates for the loans.   One reference, in that 2014 NYT article says that some bundled loans averaged 18.4%.    Of course thats way higher than the average car loan in general which is currently around 3% (sourced again from NYT).    

In 2006, just a single year, $600B in subprime home loans were originated.   (from Wikipedia)
Outstanding mortgage debt peaked around $14.7T in 2008 (the fed historical data )     Before the bubble burst about 20% of new loans were subprime.  

I also don't see any sign that this is really any kind of bubble.    There have always been high interest rate loans on cars for people with bad credit.   This isn't anything new and the rate of borrowing isn't even hitting the rate from before the recession.   This is really more along the lines of "business as usual" than a bubble as far as I see.

High interest rate car loans are certainly a problem and have really difficult impacts to low income / poor credit rating people who get them.   The loans are also often associated with predatory lending practices.    I don't want to minimize the negative aspect of these loans and the drag they have on peoples finances.    

But there isn't a bubble in the sub prime auto loan market and even if there was, if it were to pop it wouldn't have 1/10 the impact that the great recession housing bust had.


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