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Auto loans

Think that auto loan payment would be a little more affordable if you could just spread those payments over another year or two?

If you do, you're not alone. Eighty-nine percent of new-car buyers through auto loan are financing their vehicles for more than four years, and 55% select auto loans that extend more than five years, according to a 2006 study commissioned by the Consumer Bankers Association and conducted by BenchMark Consulting International.

So are longer auto loans good for the consumer?

"It has allowed consumers to buy more car than they had in the past," says Marguerite Watanabe, auto-loan practice manager for BenchMark, a management consulting firm.

Twenty years ago, when consumers shopped for a car, they focused on the cost of the car, she says. Today, they shop payments. "The monthly payment is now what's driving the purchase."

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