Your Car Reveals Your Credit Score


NEW YORK (MainStreet) — You are what you drive.

That old saying recently got new heft when credit reporting agency Experian disclosed its list of the five new cars associated with buyers who have the strongest credit scores and the five cars associated with buyers whose credit is so bad it's a wonder they own anything.

Also See: Do You Really Understand Your Credit Score? Take This 3-Question Quiz

A kind of ruthless economic law is at work here. Jason Mix, digital marketing director at David Stanley Chevrolet in Oklahoma, shrugged at the link between vehicle and credit score.

"The correlation between credit scores and the types of cars consumers buy is only a byproduct of the demand of luxury cars vs economic cars," he said. "Luxury vehicles are usually bought by wealthier consumers with higher credit scores. Economic vehicles are usually bought out of necessity for consumers with generally lower credit scores."

Also See: Man Achieves Perfect Credit Score, Issues Press Release

When you are struggling to pay the rent on a one bedroom walkup apartment in central Phoenix, probably you are not qualified to buy a Range Rover Evoque at $50,000. The monthly note - a tad over $1,000 - would be more than your rent.

Now for the specifics - and pray your car does not label you a loser.

Also See: 5 Reasons Not to Buy a Used Car Today

Average credit score for a new car buyer in Q4 2013 was 715. The range at Experian is 330 to 830.

Also See: These Cities Have Residents with the Highest Credit Scores and the Lowest Debt

Traditionally, car loans have been sorted into three baskets: Tier One (primo credit, usually scores above 700), Tier Two (good credit, figure scores above 660) and Tier Three (620 to 659, in many systems). Lower still is subprime, which some lenders thrive on, because the interest rates are high (in the neighborhood of 20% in many cases) and a car is a good, secure asset to lend on. But those subprime borrowers nonetheless are weak and some lenders shun them.

So, which cars label drivers subprime or near to it?

Also See: Auto Debt Rises to Crippling Levels

The 2014 car that screams Deadbeat Owner is the Dodge Avenger, a $21,000 sedan - small and "behind the times," said - but the reason to buy is that loan paper is available seemingly to all comers. Per Experian's calculus, the average credit score of an Avenger buyer in 2013 was 619, a full 96 points below the average score for a new car buyer and a score low enough to qualify as subprime in some lending schemes.

Next up: Kia's Forte, a sub $20,000 vehicle (it delivers good value, per Edmunds), whose buyers average a 650 credit score, definitely Tier Three, which means there have been late payments and, probably, way too much is owed compared to the income of the buyer. Owning a Forte says: I value value, probably because I have to.

Chrysler 200 - around $22,000 and "hard to make a case for buying" the 2014 model, per Edmunds - came in third, with buyers who average 651. This car has little charm so, presumably, the ability to get financing closed the deal.

Other wheels for credit losers are Kia Rio (656) at around $15,000 and the Nissan Versa (657), priced as low as $12,500.

The obvious point: drivers who buy these cars, buy them because they are cheap and they want a cheap car because that's what they can afford. Granted, there may be a sampling of 800+ scores driving low-end Kias, because these folks have earned their gold-plated credit by being frugal.

But that, plainly, is the exception.

As for you, what you really want to know is which cars scream that you have the credit of a Wall Street tycoon?

Know that two surprise picks made Experian's list of vehicles that attracted buyers with the highest credit scores. In fifth place is Subaru Forester (755 credit score), a $25,000 small SUV that screams practicality, not flash.

In third place, there's Forester's big brother, Subaru's Outback (762), a few thousand more than Forester. Again, no flash, just a solid, dependable go-anywhere car.

Up the flash with the fourth place Acura MDX (761), which will cost you north of $40,000.

The slightly cheaper Acura RDX (765) - with prices in the mid $30s - nabbed second place.

The winner: Lexus RX350 - another SUV which will roll off the dealer lot above $40,000 - came in with a 775 credit score. That means its buyers are the best qualified in the land.

Intriguing is the absence of traditional luxury marques, from Mercedes to Lincoln and from BMW to Cadillac. Either those buyers pay cash - for wheels that usually cost upwards of $50,000 - or their credit is middling.

Also See: Porsche 918 Spyder Proves the Supercar Is Not Dead

You be the judge.

What we do know now is which car to drive to the bank when you want to score a big loan.

Who could say no to a Lexus RX350 driver?

--Written by Robert McGarvey for MainStreet

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