Mortgage meltdown takes toll on car loans

April 2, 2008 7:30:29 PM PDT
The mortgage meltdown has had a ripple effect -- perhaps more like a tidal wave -- on the rest of the economy. Credit has dried up to the point that for some, it's even difficult now to get a car loan and auto sales are a big part of the business of America.

Oakland's Auto Row has any kind of car you could want -- but what about a loan to go with it?

"I think the requirements are a little stricter for what the banks ask for as far as their income and so on and the verification of it," says Peter de Vries of Mercedes-Benz of Oakland.

The Wall Street Journal reports many lenders are making fewer loans and putting stricter standards on those they do approve. Car loan delinquencies hit a 10-year high in January, according to Fitch Ratings.

"Most of the banks are trying to qualify for everybody if they have a job. The main thing is having a job for at least a year or two year's history," says Steve Ansari of Bay Bridge Nissan.

Monica Chambers leases her Cadillac. She says she had no problem getting a loan because she stays on top of her credit. But, she wondered why an improving credit score didn't mean better loan terms.

"I do understand that it might be a harder because last year this time, my credit wasn't as good as it is this year and I got the same deal," say Chambers.

Not all borrowers will get tougher terms. Some lenders are offering better deals to prime consumers to attract them.

While Oakland's Ford dealership went out of business last month, Bay Bridge Nissan says it had record high sales, while Mercedes says it has found ways to adjust for the downturn.

"It might have affected a certain category of sales, but because we put the extra effort we put out, as far as promoting our business and having special sales, we've been able to overcome," says Peter de Vries. recommends checking your credit report for errors and shopping around for pre-approval at a good rate. Then head to the car lot and ask the dealer to beat it.