DEFINITION of 'Subprime Auto Loan'

A type of auto loan approved for people with substandard credit scores or limited credit histories. There is no official cutoff score for prime versus subprime, but it should be noted that these loans carry higher interest rates than equivalent prime loans, and may also come with prepayment penalties if the borrower chooses to pay off the loan early.

BREAKING DOWN 'Subprime Auto Loan'

Subprime auto loans became big business following the monetary expansion of 2001-2004, along with subprime mortgages and other subprime lending. Financial institutions were so flush with money that they sought out the higher returns that could be had from charging higher interest rates to subprime borrowers.

On the plus side, subprime borrowers may have no other avenue for purchasing an automobile, so they are often willing to pay the higher fees and rates associated with these types of loans.

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