When market conditions include rising prices and interest rates, affordability becomes a key issue in selling vehicles and protection products. According to Experian Automotive, the average new-vehicle monthly loan payment was a record $530 in the third quarter of 2018, up about 6% from a year ago. The average new-vehicle monthly lease payment was $430, up 4%. The average interest rate on a new vehicle was 6.2% in October 2018, up 1.3 points from last year and marking the highest rate since January 2009, according to Edmunds.
The economy is at its historical best, but automotive sales are expected to slow. NADA estimates new-vehicles sales for 2019 at 16.8 million, which would be the first time since 2014 that U.S. new vehicle sales could fall below 17 million. More Americans are working, wages are higher, and taxes are lower — but high prices and increasing interest rates will make automobiles less affordable.
To overcome these market conditions, it’s time to focus on making automobiles and protection products more affordable. Currently, most dealers only extend term as a means for giving customers lower, more affordable payments. According to Experian, this has caused the average loan term to grow to almost 72 months for automotive loans in 2018.
Longer-loan terms also create additional negative equity, which keeps customers out of the market and makes subsequent vehicles more difficult to sell. Stretching loan terms to achieve affordability is shortsighted and negatively effects the future of our industry. Other options to achieve affordability should be explored.
To understand affordability, we must understand that 89% of Americans get paid weekly, every two weeks, or twice a month, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Only 11% of Americans get paid monthly and budget on a monthly cycle.
In the automotive industry, we don’t see or feel the budgeting cycles of 89% of our customers. Automotive executives and finance managers get paid monthly. We budget monthly. We want monthly payments. It’s important to understand that we are in the 11% minority.
Even more important, almost 80% of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck, according to a recent CareerBuilder survey. This includes the majority of customers with good credit and even high-income customers. Nearly all of your customers that finance their vehicle purchases are getting paid, budgeting, and living on weekly, biweekly, and twice-per-month cycles.
The simplest way to make vehicle payments more affordable is to offer weekly, biweekly, or twice-per-month payments that match how your customers get paid and budget. Affordability includes both the amount and timing of payments.
Leading dealers have recognized the value of offering lower, more affordable, and easier automated payments that match how their buyers get paid for over 10 years. These dealers understand that lower automated payments that match how customers get paid and budget allow Americans to buy more cars and protection products.
Simply, offering lower payments that match how your customers get paid and budget make vehicles and protection products more affordable for the vast majority of Americans — and provide an array of additional benefits to car buyers, dealers, and agents.
David Engelman is the CEO of SMART Payment Plan.