May saw a "noticeable" rise in down-payment amounts compared with historical trends, said Jessica Caldwell, Edmunds' executive director of industry analysis. Rising interest rates and the market's shift to light trucks may have contributed to the increase.
Average down payments are usually higher at the end of the year and the beginning of the year as consumers put their annual bonuses toward more expensive vehicles, such as an SUV, pickup or luxury vehicle, Caldwell said.
The highest average new-vehicle down payment on record was $3,951 in December 2012, according to Edmunds. December 2013 and December 2016 marked the second and third highest, while May 2017 came in at fourth.
In addition, typically, more cars are sold in May than SUVs and pickups, she said. Not this year. This May, 565,646 cars were sold in the U.S., down 10 percent from a year earlier, while sales of light trucks, which frequently cost more, rose 6.2 percent to 954,147 vehicles, according to the Automotive News Data Center.