ATLANTA — According to Equifax’s latest National Consumer Credit Trends Report, balances on outstanding auto loans at the end of January totaled $782 billion, the highest level since January 2009. The report also showed that the total number of existing loans stands at 59 million, the highest level since July 2009, a 42-month high.

By source, loans funded through financial institutions are at more than $372 billion, a 60-month high. And at more than $409 billion, balances on loans funded by auto finance companies are at its highest level in 46 months.

Delinquency rates within the auto portfolio are also improving. By year-end 2012, they decreased by nearly 11 percent from same time a year ago, while auto loan and lease losses in that same period dropped nearly 10 percent.

“Sales of new cars and light trucks are rising steadily, though they are still well below prerecession levels of roughly 17 million units,” said Equifax Chief Economist Amy Crews Cutts. “Yet auto lending, including leases, is now back to pre-recession levels, driven in part by the very attractive interest rates being offered on these loans and a gradual increase in willingness to lend to less-than-perfect credit borrowers.”

Other highlights from the most recent data include:

• The most recent data shows that auto loans originated between January and November 2012 totaled $387.7 billion, a six-year high and representing nearly 46 percent of total consumer credit originated ($825 billion) for that same time.

• Total number of new auto loans originated between January-November 2012 was 19.9 million, a six-year high and an increase of more than 11 percent from January to November 2011.

• New auto loans funded in November 2012 by banks, savings and loans or credit unions increased nearly 13 percent over November 2011 totals (749,800 to 857,300).

• For January-November 2012, auto lending to subprime borrowers (origination risk scores less than 640) has increased more than 18 percent on a year-over-year basis to 6.1 million.