Traditionally, the number of mortgage accounts was higher than auto loan accounts. That is, until 2013 when auto loan accounts actually supplanted mortgage accounts. Since that time, auto loan accounts have risen sharply in such a way that they outnumber mortgages by 26.3 million.
For decades, American home-ownership was often considered the pinnacle of the American dream. Before the Financial Crisis, laxed regulations and restrictions meant millions could afford to fulfill their dream of owning a home. The number of mortgages peaked in 2008 followed by a large fall in the wake of the debt crisis.
Like a snowball rolling down a hill, the drop in mortgage accounts pick up steamed and has since bottomed out at a modest level compared to auto loans. In our present economic environment, Americans may be adjusting their expectations.
Is the long-held dream of homeownership losing favor in place of vehicle ownership? To gage the attractiveness of homeownership, finder.com analyzed the Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s auto loan and mortgage data.
How much have auto loans outpaced mortgages?
Between 2013 and the end of 2016, the number of auto loan accounts grew nearly 20 million from 83.22 million to 106.21 million. This increase correlates with a rise in auto loans issued since 2011, peaking in December of 2016.
How unattractive has owning a home become in comparison? Data from this same time period shows only a modest drop in accounts from 81.82 million to 79.9 million, yet it’s lowest level since 2003. As accounts have fallen, average home prices have increased nationally by $17,500, from $165,700 to $185,200, since the 2013 crossover in the number of auto loans against mortgages. Combined with the fact that auto lenders are becoming more lenient, even to those with low credit scores, mortgages are just not as popular as they once were.
A shift in financial decision-making?
“Car loan” is not new to the American vocabulary. However, rather than opt for the large and long-term investment of mortgages, owners are choosing to put their remaining credit increasingly towards car ownership.
The finder.com team expects this auto loan preference to continue. In the fourth quarter of 2016, auto loans hit its highest level ever (yes ever) recorded at a whopping $1.157 trillion.
Beyond the fact that home prices have risen, it seems that the average American’s decision-making has changed. The days of living above your means until it’s time to default, a classic hallmark of the 2008 debt crisis are over. The contemporary American favors small loans for necessary purchases. This shift in thinking is reshaping the American dream in ways that would have seemed unaccustomed in prior decades.