New Inflation Report Spells High Auto Loan Rates, But Falling Car Prices

Key Takeaways

  • Inflation surged 3.5%, higher than expected
  • Car prices have fallen slightly, especially in the used car market
  • Automaker incentives offer big relief from high interest rates

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Last updated Apr 10, 2024

The latest Consumer Price Index (CPI) report for March has thrown cold water on any hopes of a decrease in car loan interest rates for the remainder of 2024. With inflation surging unexpectedly to 3.5% year-over-year, the financial landscape is bracing for continued high interest rates. And for car buyers, that means auto loan rates are unfortunately going to remain high.

However, there was some good news for drivers in the latest report. Let’s dive into the details.

Goodbye June Rate Cut: Inflation Higher Than Expected

car price inflation in 2024

The increase from February’s 3.2% inflation rate to March’s 3.5% signifies the highest annual gain seen in the last six months, underscoring a stubbornly high cost of living. Chances are you’ve felt it in your own day to day expenses. This uptick, fueled by rising gas prices and enduring high costs for mortgages and rent, suggests a challenging path ahead for reducing inflation. Consequently, the Federal Reserve is likely to maintain higher interest rates to combat these pressures.

Just how likely is a June rate cut at this point? Market predictions in favor of a Fed rate cute plummeted from 73% to a mere 21%. Following the CPI report, the picture is clear: interest rates are set to remain elevated.

Car Prices Fall… Slightly

car price inflation in 2024

Buried in the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistic’s data-heavy CPI Report is a glimmer of good news for car buyers. Year-over-year, used car prices are down 2.2%. We’ve seen similar trends at wholesale markets. For new cars, there’s less to rejoice about. New car prices are essentially flat, falling just 0.1% in the past 12 months.

Auto Loan Rate Forecasts For 2024

For car buyers, relief is slipping out of view. Today’s inflation report means that more of the same can be expected for the next several months. According to Experian’s most recent State of the Automotive Finance Market report, today’s average car loan rates stand at 7.18% for new cars and a staggering 11.93% for used cars. 

These rates are significantly impacted by the Fed’s monetary policy stance, and with the central bank likely to forgo rate cuts, we can expect these high-interest rates to continue.

The Silver Lining: New Car Inventory Brings APR Incentives

chevy deals

However, it’s not all doom and gloom for car buyers. The silver lining lies in today’s new car inventory numbers. With new car inventories higher than in recent years, manufacturers are offering more enticing incentives to attract buyers. These incentives include lower APRs, cash incentives, and great lease deals. These OEM incentives provide a rare opportunity to secure more favorable loan terms, even in 2024’s prevailing high-rate environment.

As of April,5 manufacturers are offering zero percent financing for select models, and four more are offering 0.9% APRs. Several additional OEMs feature APR offers under 5% right now. With the average new car selling for over $46,000, this adds up to thousands in savings over time.

👉 See the best new car offers this month

In essence, while the broader economic indicators point towards continued high-interest rates for auto loans, market-driven factors like increased new car inventories and subsequent manufacturer incentives could offer some relief to car buyers. But there’s no hiding the fact that broader economic inflation continues to hit us all, even as policymakers play down the impacts. 

The next CPI Report is scheduled to be released on May 15, 2024. That’s our next best look at when auto loan rates could finally be set to drop.

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