Subprime auto loans still rare

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Nearly two years after the financial crisis of 2008-2009, life is still tough for car buyers with bad credit. According to a report by CNW Research, lending to car buyers with a credit score below 640 dropped from $51.37 billion in 2007 to just $8.99 billion last year. For those keeping score at home, that’s a tumble of more than 80 percent.

More crazy numbers from CNW to contemplate: In 2006, lenders approved an astounding 41.4 percent of auto loan applications for applicants with a score under 619; by December of 2008, that number had dropped to 4.2 percent. Think about that for a second: For every 20 applicants, only one was approved; the other 19 walked away empty-handed.

When you consider that in 2006, about a third of all car buyers had subprime credit, it’s no wonder auto sales tanked when virtually none of those customers could get a loan in 2008 and 2009 at any interest rate.

These numbers reinforce the notion that if you’re looking to get an auto loan and your credit score is under 640, the first step has got to be working on raising your credit score. There’s just no guarantee subprime lending is going to come back to pre-recession levels anytime soon, according to CNW:

There is no doubt subprime lending will return to some modest levels, but certainly nothing like seen prior to 2008; perhaps as much as 20 percent (of all auto loans) within the next three years.

What do you think? Is this unnecessarily tough on borrowers with bad credit, or is this just banks learning from their bubble-era mistakes?