"There is still a strong sense of managing risk," she said in a written report.
The LTV is the value of the loan expressed as a percentage of the value of the vehicle.
In the second quarter, the average LTV for new vehicles was about 110 percent, down from about 116 percent a year earlier, she said.
The average LTV on used-vehicle loans was virtually flat at about 127 percent, up less than one percentage point from 126 percent a year earlier.
The higher the LTV, the smaller the down payment required. Customers can also use the higher amount to pay off negative equity on their trade-in. A higher LTV also allows dealerships to add the cost of add-ons like extended-service contracts to the same finance contract as the vehicle, an important selling point. A lower LTV is the opposite.
By most other standards, auto loans were easier to get in the second quarter, according to Experian Automotive.
- The average amount financed for new vehicles was $25,714 in the second quarter, up $474 or 1.9 percent from a year ago, the credit bureau said. For used vehicles, the average amount financed was $17,433, up $370 or 2.2 percent.
- The average credit score for new-vehicle loans was 753, down from 763 a year earlier. Experian considers the prime-risk category to be a credit score of 680 or above, using Experian's Scorex Plus scale. The average credit score for used-vehicle loans was 662, down from 671 a year earlier.
- The average interest rate on new-vehicle loans was about 4.6 percent, down from 4.8 percent a year earlier. The average rate for used-vehicle loans increased a fraction of a percentage point to about 9 percent, but Experian Automotive said rates were down for most used-vehicle loans. "Deep subprime" customers, with credit scores below 550, were the exception.
- Subprime loans accounted for about 44 percent of the auto loans made in the second quarter, up from about 41 percent a year ago.
"Because the overall lending environment has improved, lenders are making loans available to a wider range of customers. This is good for manufacturers and dealers, as it allows them to sell more vehicles," Zabritski said. "However, the lower loan-to-value ratios show that lenders are not willing to throw caution to the winds."