High Federal Reserve interest rates are making it hard to buy a car

Between high demand, low supply, and elevated interest rates, thanks in part to the Federal Reserve, it's never been harder to buy a car.
Posted at 6:20 PM, Dec 13, 2023

Antonio Ramos had been looking for a car for years before he eventually gave up.

"I just stopped because it seems pointless," said Ramos.

When he applied for an auto loan in 2022, he was denied because of his low credit score and left without any options.

"This is the longest I've gone without having a car since I got my driver's license, and it's been different," he said.

Since then, his score has improved. But it hasn't been easy.

Ramos, who works as a bartender in Chicago, says the pandemic really hurt his finances.

"There are bills that still need to be paid that are outstanding that do affect my credit score. So, I'm chipping away at it, but it's going to take some time," he said.

Ramos is one of many consumers struggling to keep up with the auto market these days.

It's been especially hard with the Federal Reserve raising interest rates, which affects the rates charged by lenders to obtain a credit card or car loan.

According to Experian, the average monthly payment on a loan for a new car jumped from $621 in 2021 to $726 in the third quarter of 2023.

As a result, auto delinquencies rose to levels not seen since the 1990s. A borrower is considered delinquent if they're 60 days or more past due on their loan.

If they have a FICO credit score between 501 and 600, they're considered a subprime borrower, and it's that category that's seen the biggest jump in delinquencies.

Because new vehicles are so expensive, that's also causing used vehicles to be expensive because there's demand shifting into the used car market," said Jessica Caldwell, head of insights at Edmunds.

The good news is that cars aren't expected to go up in price in 2024.

Soaring auto repair costs jump 19% in a year
Mechanic Ed Wuerth of Wuerth Automotive works on a car at his shop

Soaring auto repair costs jump 19% in a year

If your last auto repair bill was a lot higher than you expected, there's a reason. The cost of vehicle repair is up sharply.