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Auto loans hit highest marks in years, study finds

Feb 16, 2013 Philip Burgess

Debt collection agencies have likely been extremely busy in recent months, largely because of the resurgence of the automotive sector.

"Auto lending, including leases, is now back to pre-recession levels, driven in part by the very attractive interest rates being offered on these loans and a gradual increase in willingness to lend to less-than-perfect credit borrowers," Equifax Chief Economist Amy Cutts, said in a statement.

A recent Equifax study revealed that auto loan balances totaled $782 billion at the end of January, the highest in four years. Auto loan originations from January to November 2012 reached a six-year high, at nearly $390 billion, accounting for approximately 46 percent of all consumer credit that was accumulated during that time frame. 

The study also found that banks, savings and loans, and credits unions are responsible for $372 billion of all existing auto loans, the highest level for financial firms in five years.

An earlier report by the Federal Reserve revealed that auto and student loans accounted for the vast majority of consumer credit growth in recent months, according to CBS News. While total consumer debt increased $14.6 billion between November and December, student and auto borrowing grew $18.2 billion.