CHICAGO — The national 60-day auto delinquency rate (the ratio of auto loan borrowers 60 or more days past due) changed little between the first and second quarter of 2008, increasing from 0.65 percent to 0.68 percent, according to an analysis by The delinquency rate increased 11.5 percent from the second quarter of 2007 (0.61 percent).

Auto loan delinquency was highest in the District of Columbia at 1.41 percent, followed by Mississippi at 1.25 percent. The lowest auto loan delinquency rates were found in Alaska (0.22 percent), North Dakota (0.30 percent) and Wyoming (0.41 percent). The largest improvements in delinquency from the previous quarter were found in Alaska (40 percent decrease from 0.37 percent), New Hampshire (35 percent decrease from 0.65 percent) and Wisconsin (18 percent decrease from 0.55 percent).

Average auto debt nationally increased in the second quarter of 2008 to $12,869 from an average of $12,833 in the previous quarter. Year-over-year, auto debt increased 1.9 percent from an average of $12,630. The largest state average was in Nevada at $16,033 followed by the District of Columbia at $15,369. The lowest average auto debt was in Nebraska at $10,681. The steepest increases in average auto debt occurred in Maine (3.2 percent growth), North Dakota (2.9 percent) and West Virginia (2.4 percent), while Louisiana experienced the sharpest drop in average auto debt (-1.6 percent) followed by New Hampshire (-1.2 percent).

"The availability of home equity for financing auto purchases has diminished significantly in states like Nevada and Arizona, thus contributing to higher overall average auto loan debt," said Peter Turek, automotive vice president in TransUnion's financial services group. "While the statistics show a slight increase in 60-day delinquency rates, some states that in recent years have had some of the highest rates, like Louisiana and Alabama, have shown a decrease over the prior quarter, a possible indication of achieving economic stability in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina."

TransUnion expects a continued rise in average auto debt as consumers seek a solution to higher energy prices. One such solution could involve consumers trading out of vehicles that have lost value or have lower payments for newer, more fuel-efficient cars, thereby leading to higher overall debt as the new auto loans will be further from their respective payoff dates.

"Our current forecasting models indicate that the national 60-day auto delinquency rate is expected to gradually rise from a value of 0.68 percent in the second quarter of 2008 to 0.85 percent by year end," Turek said. "This increase is primarily attributed to seasonality effects in auto loan delinquency, trends in disposable income, and a continued slowdown in the general economy."