Auto loan delinquency spikes in Alberta, Saskatchewan

Auto loan delinquency rates in Canada were at their highest level in four years in the fourth quarter of 2015, driven by spikes of 35 per cent in Alberta and 19 per cent in Saskatchewan.

Credit agency TransUnion points to non-mortgage debt defaults in oil-producing provinces

Pickup truck sales have grown rapidly in the past five years, but with job losses in Alberta and Saskatchewan, the debt from auto loans is hanging over some consumers.

There has been enormous sales growth of pickup trucks and crossover SUVs  in the last five years, but the costs of these larger vehicles are weighing heavily on consumers in some oil-producing provinces.

Auto loan delinquency rates in Canada were at their highest level in four years in the fourth quarter of 2015, driven by spikes of 35 per cent in Alberta and 19 per cent in Saskatchewan.

According to the credit trends reporting agency TransUnion, Saskatchewan has the highest auto loan delinquency rate in the country, at 2.7  per cent, followed by Alberta at 2.4 per cent.

Delinquency on auto loans occurs when payments are 60 or more days past due.

"Falling oil prices have led to rising unemployment rates in oil-rich regions," said Jason Wang, TransUnion's director of research and analysis.

"We are now seeing the increase in unemployment in these areas manifest as rising delinquencies across the board, though the greatest impact has been on auto loans."

For Canada as a whole, auto loan delinquencies rose to 1.3 per cent.

Moody's has warned some Canadian banks over auto loans, which have been getting larger as buyers opt for large vehicles and is now spread over longer terms of up to seven years.  

There were also shifts in delinquency rates on other non-mortgage debt, with more people in British Columbia and Ontario able to keep up with their bills, while delinquencies climbed in Quebec, Alberta and Saskatchewan.

TransUnion said Canadians' average non-mortgage debt edged up slightly to $21,512 at the end of 2015, from $21,248 in 2014.

Canadians used their credit cards more heavily during holiday shopping in 2015, and there was 4.1 per cent more debt on credit cards, Wang said.

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