DETROIT -- Dealers are gobbling up finance leads generated by Web sites that help many subprime car shoppers determine what they can afford.
Auto Credit Express, a major supplier of subprime finance leads, is enjoying strong demand, said Rich LaLonde, president of Auto Credit Express and owner of two Kia dealerships, all in suburban Detroit.
"There's a bigger pool of customers and lenders," LaLonde said.
Finance leads, mainly generated by subprime borrowers, fell out of favor during the recession as subprime car loans dried up, he said.
But demand for them is surging today, LaLonde said. Auto Credit Express, of Auburn Hills, Mich., is sending about 100,000 finance leads to dealers per month or about one in four nationally, he said.
They cost dealers on average about $24 apiece, similar to traditional new-car leads sold by lead aggregators such as Autobytel and Dealix.
A finance lead is obtained when car shoppers, usually with damaged credit, search online first to see what they can borrow. Web sites that can give a quick assessment by crunching debt and income information include car.com, autocreditexpress.com, carsdirect.com and carloan.com.
In the course of getting borrowing information, the shopper provides contact information, which results in a lead that dealers can follow up on.