Auto Lenders Approving Car Buyers Who Can't Pay Their Mortgages

Usually, one of the main factors a lender uses to determine whether or not to let an applicant borrow money is the applicant’s history of paying back (or failing to pay back) other loans. But with so many Americans having skipped mortgage payments in recent years, auto lenders are apparently no long slamming the door on potential borrowers just because they weren’t able to keep current on their house payments.

The Wall Street Journal reports that in just the first three quarters of 2011, auto lenders issued loans to about 205,000 borrowers who had either been at least 60 days behind on paying their mortgage or who had gone through foreclosure. That’s a sizable increase from 80,000 similar borrowers during the first three quarters of 2006.

Of course, that was before the economy took a header into an empty pool, leaving a large group people with no previous payment or credit problems who were suddenly left scrambling to send in a mortgage check every month.

A senior exec at credit bureau Experian tells the Journal that auto lenders “are coming to the table and saying: ‘How do we work with the new economy and consumers being late on their mortgages?’… They know they need to grow…and they know they have to be flexible.”

GM Financial’s chief credit and risk officer says that mortgage delinquency is no longer the definitive red flag it was only a few years ago and that “we think there are some opportunities for good, profitable growth.”

The Journal points out that, even at the worst point of the recession, the number of people who were at least 30 days overdue on their car payments was significantly lower than the delinquency rate for mortgages.

After all, a foreclosure can take months, if not years, to be finalized. Whereas, auto lenders are often faster to jump the gun on repossessions. Not to mention the fact that having a repo man swipe your van in the middle of the night is a little bit easier than removing a family of four from of their home.

So if someone knows that a foreclosure is inevitable, we can see why they would choose to put car payments over house payments. At least that way, they will still have something to drive to work.

Auto Lenders Speeding Past Mortgage Woes [WSJ.com]