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Can Buying a Car Drive Down Student Debt? Hyundai Assures You It Can

2020 Hyundai Sonata

For all the ink spilled on how 20- and 30-somethings are so over the whole car thing, the reality is that student-loan debt is what squeezes out much of their appetite for big-ticket purchases. A LendingTree study in 2018 found the median non-mortgage debt balance for millennials living in the 50 largest U.S. cities was $23,064 apiece. At 40 percent of the total, student loans accounted for the largest single chunk.

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Hyundai aims to do something about that with a new incentive called Student Assurance, the latest of its Hyundai Assurance programs. Available initially through Sept. 30 at dealerships in the Phoenix area and California, Student Assurance will pay $900 (or less, if you don’t owe that much) toward a buyer’s student loans if he or she buys or leases a new Hyundai.

Of course, you’re probably going into a lot more debt to get that payoff. Seventeen in 20 new-car purchases are leased or financed, per Experian, and LendingTree’s study found auto loans accounted for the highest portion of millennial debt in 15 out of the 50 metro areas surveyed. Hyundai’s incentive might relieve one bucket, but chances are, a vehicle purchase puts a lot of new strain on another.

Still, for school-indebted shoppers who need a new set of wheels, the incentive helps — especially because it doesn’t come at the expense of other discounts. Shoppers can combine Student Assurance atop Hyundai’s other incentives, and it’s open to cash buyers or those who don’t finance through Hyundai, said one of the program’s creators, Samantha Recchia, in an email to Cars.com. The only group ineligible for Student Assurance is shoppers who reap special discounts through affiliation with Hyundai, Recchia wrote.

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Eligible loans must originate from a valid U.S. lender for higher education at an accredited institution, and you have to be in good standing with the lender; Hyundai won’t pay off a debt-collection agency. The automaker pays the benefit through Gradifi, a loan-pay-down program from San Francisco-based First Republic Bank.

If feedback is good, Hyundai said it will roll out Student Assurance nationally.

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