June 9 (UPI) -- Americans borrowed more to buy automobiles and agreed to record-high monthly payments in first quarter of 2020 during the coronavirus pandemic, according to a report Tuesday.
An analysis by credit rating company Experian said the average loan amount for new vehicles for the first three months was a record $33,739, while the average monthly payment rose $15 year-to-year to $569.
The increases came as car sales surged early this year and buyers showed a willingness to pay higher prices and make steeper monthly payments.
The delinquency rate on auto loans also decreased in the first quarter, the report said.
Thirty-day delinquencies decreased to 1.93 while 60-day delinquencies fell to 0.67 percent.
State and local officials began imposing coronavirus-related lockdown measures and stay-home orders in mid-March. Monthly auto and parts sales fell 12.4 percent and gas sales declined almost 30 percent in April, according to the Commerce Department.
Calling the first-quarter improvements a "positive sign for the industry," Melinda Zabritski, Experian senior director of automotive financial solutions, warned subsequent negative events brought on by the pandemic will likely be reflected later.
"For example, COVID-19 wasn't declared a national emergency until mid-March," she said. "Add to that, some consumers are likely leveraging financial resources and assistance programs, such as stimulus checks, to manage through financial hardship, so its true impact may not be evident until the months ahead."