Credit scores rise as auto lenders cut back on riskier consumers

The median credit score for car loans made in the fourth quarter of 2017 rose to 707, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York's latest report on household debt. Photo credit: DAVID PHILLIPS

Average credit scores on U.S. car loans rose to a six-year high in the fourth quarter, a report said Tuesday, a sign that lenders are raising their standards as more borrowers fall behind on their bills.

The median credit score for car loans made in the quarter rose to 707, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York's report on household debt. That's up two points from the third quarter and the highest level since 2011, when lenders were ratcheting up lending standards in the wake of the Great Recession.

The credit score for loans in the 10th percentile, or those that are weaker than 90 percent of borrowers, rose two points to 575, the highest since 2010. Consumer credit scores typically range from 300 to 850, and borrowers below 620 are often viewed as subprime.

The data jibe with other indications that auto lenders are tightening their standards. According to the Federal Reserve's latest Senior Loan Officer Survey, about 12 percent of large banks canvassed are somewhat raising their standards, compared with just 3 percent that are loosening. Most are keeping their standards unchanged. S&P Global Ratings has reported that some subprime auto lenders, which are usually not banks, are growing stricter as well.

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