Experian: Average New-Car Monthly Payment Hits All-Time High

CARS.COM — Experian Automotive says the average new-car payment hit $493 per month in the fourth quarter of 2015, while the average total amount financed was $29,551. Those are up $11 and $1,170, respectively, from the year-ago quarters. And Experian says both figures represent all-time highs.

Related: How Much Should I Spend on My Car?

Despite our advice to the contrary, many shoppers still buy a car based on the monthly payment, and Experian says that's driving even more shoppers to lease. A record 33.6 percent of new-car shoppers leased in the fourth quarter, with average monthly payments of $412.

Experian says used-car loans accounted for 62.8 percent of all automotive financing, with the average amount financed just $18,850. The average monthly payment on a used-car loan in the fourth quarter was $359, Experian says.

New-car shoppers averaged a credit score of 711, while used-car shoppers averaged 649. Both averages have been relatively flat in recent years. They're also as important as ever, given that car buyers financed 85.9 percent of new and 54.7 percent of used purchases.

Lengthier car loans have thrown some warning flags, but the trend appears to be plateauing. Experian says the average loan for a new car was 67 months long, while the average used-car loan was 63 months. Both figures have held roughly steady with year-ago quarters. Still, loans that run from 73 to 84 months — a dubious option — accounted for 29 percent of new-car loans in late 2015. That's up significantly versus the year-ago quarter.