BANDON, Ore. — If the pace continues, October used-vehicle sales should be up 8 percent from a year ago. The main driver: loosening credit guidelines.

Based on the first 20 days of October, the market research firm expects used-vehicle sales to top 3.49 million, up from last October’s total of 3.23 million units. So far this year, the industry has sold 31.3 million units, 4 percent higher on a year-to-date basis.

“Franchised dealers who have been taking in a boat-load of trade-ins are on track to a near 12 percent increase in used sales, pushing their year-to-date increase to 5 percent,” Spinella wrote in his firm’s October newsletter.

Spinella also noted that independents are experiencing significant gains as well, with the firm expecting sales for the segment to climb nearly 10 percent from a year ago. On a year-to-date basis, independents are off around 3.7 percent – mainly due to the segment experiencing a miserable first half. Spinella added that independents are off by around 3.7 percent, attributing the decline to poor inventory availability through July and tight credit.

But auto finance environment has changed since, with both franchised and independents finding it easier to attain financing for their credit-challenged customers.

“In January 2012, barely 27 percent of those getting an auto loan had a FICO score of under 670,” wrote Spinella. “That has risen dramatically in the past few months, and now stands around 42 percent.”