Millions of Americans have auto loans in their names and these products have been some of the most popular types of credit issued since the end of the recession, but it seems that some lenders issuing them may have been conducting some questionable practices as well.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which is designed to help safeguard Americans from misleading or even predatory lending practices, recently issued subpoenas to some of the nation’s largest auto loan issuers, according to a report from the Wall Street Journal. These were issued to further investigate the ways in which some lenders have been offering consumers extended warranties and other products in addition to their auto loans.
The “add-on” products are often extremely popular among insurers because they can significantly improve profits, but the CFPB is concerned about how necessary they may be to consumers, especially because, while they are legal, the prices and terms associated with them may not always be fully disclosed by the lenders, the report said.
Data from the National Automobile Dealers Association shows that, today, about three-quarters of all auto loans issued for new vehicle purchases come with some sort of add-on product. Often, these are included in the purchase prices of the cars themselves, which may make it more difficult for consumers to determine exactly what they’re being charged for when it comes time to close a deal.
In addition, the U.S. Department of Justice is likewise investigating a number of auto dealerships nationwide that are alleged to have extended loans to consumers with low credit ratings in exchange for far higher interest rates, and consumer advocates say the practice is particularly troubling for African-American and Hispanic borrowers, the report said. Lenders dispute these claims.
Moreover, it seems the CFPB might begin looking into these arrangements between car dealers and lenders, which allow the former to increase interest rates on customers with lower scores, the report said. In many cases, the difference between the rates these people actually qualified for and the ones they receive can be as much as 2.5 percentage points.
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Many consumers have to rely on auto loans because of the importance their cars or trucks have in their daily lives, but it’s also vital that they try to find the best possible deal on these loans so that they can avoid costs that would otherwise be quite high.