SCHAUMBURG, Ill. — Average credit scores for consumers buying a vehicle dropped to near pre-recession levels in the first quarter, Experian Automotive reported today, while lenders continued to offer favorable terms to attract car buyers.

According to the firm’s quarterly automotive credit analysis, the average credit score for financing a new vehicle dropped six points to 760, while the average score for used car buyers fell four points to 659. Comparatively, average credit scores in the first quarter 2008 stood at 753 for new vehicles and 653 for used.

“During the first quarter of 2012, car shoppers definitely found more favorable conditions for their vehicle loans,” said Melinda Zabritski, director of automotive credit for Experian. “A reduction in average credit scores, lower interest rates and a lengthening of loan terms are all very good signs for the market and offer great opportunities for consumers looking to make a deal on a new or used vehicle.”

The analysis also showed an increase in the average amount financed, which rose by $589 during the quarter to $25,995. For used vehicles, the average amount financed increased by $411 to $17,050.

“Our report shows automotive lending is as healthy as it’s been since the market bottomed out in 2008,” Zabritski noted. “With consumers doing a good job of paying back loans on time and the percentage of dollars at risk reaching its lowest point in six years, lenders are able to extend terms and provide lower rates. This thawing of the credit pipeline has been good for everyone, from consumers to lenders to automotive retailers.”

The first quarter also saw vehicle loans made to nonprime, subprime and deep-subprime customers increase by 11.4 percent. Auto repossession rates dropped by 37.1 percent, while 30-day delinquencies dropped by 7.6 percent and 60-day delinquencies dropped by 12.1 percent.

Banks and credit unions saw their share of the auto finance market grow by 7.5 percent to 40.21 percent, while credit unions grew their share by 10.5 percent to 16.89 percent. 


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