Lengthy Car Loan Terms Hurting Drivers' Pockets

Lower payments often means paying more

Not that long ago, new car buyers were taking out loans ranging between three and five years. But now more buyers are stretching out their payments for more than seven years.

"That means the loan lasts longer than the car itself," said Wall Street Journal reporter Ben Eisen.

Eisen says if car buyers keep extending their loans, they could trade in their car for a new one before they pay off the loan.

Some of this is happening as the average car is selling for more than $32,000. Making longer payments brings down the monthly average, but it can also increase the total cost of the loan.

"That creates an illusion of affordability," said Eisen.

For instance, you might be able to nearly cut your car payment in half by extending the loan, but in the end, that will cost far more than the shorter loan.

According to the the Wall Street Journal, the average car loan today is over five years, nine years ago, that was unheard of.

"People can't afford the cars they are buying," said Eisen, "and they are really filling that gap with debt."

Car dealerships may welcome the change.

Today, a dealer makes more money from the financing of a new car than the sale of the vehicle itself.

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