Consumers improve on auto loan payments

Credit bureau TransUnion said auto loan delinquencies fell in the first quarter of 2010 from the year-ago quarter because consumers are getting better about paying and lenders are more selective about who gets a loan in the first place.

"The national trend we are now seeing points to a clear improvement in payment behavior," Peter Turek, automotive vice president in TransUnion's financial services group, wrote in a report onMay 25.

Besides new, lower-risk loans, the economic environment overall has improved. That includes recovering consumer confidence and higher savings rates. Those factors probably contribute to a greater willingness on the part of consumers to focus on paying their debts, the company said.

The national 60-day delinquency rate on auto loans - that is, the percentage of borrowers who are 60 or more days behind in their payments - fell about 20 percent from the year-ago quarter to 0.66 percent, Chicago-based TransUnion said.

Beyond 60 days past due, a loan is much more likely to be written off.

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