John Oliver on the Cruel Poverty Trap That Is Subprime Auto Lending


Never forget this: Those who pay the highest price for the American system of transportation — one that makes owning a personal car practically a mandate — are the poor. We’ve reported before about how the largely unregulated subprime auto lending market has been expanding in recent years, leading some people to wonder if a breakdown in the auto loan industry could echo the housing bubble.

HBO funnyman John Oliver, along with guest stars Keegan-Michael Key and Bob Balaban, took on the topic in a recent segment we thought was worth sharing.

Here is a shortlist of some of the horrors Oliver describes:

  • Commutes that are virtually impossible by transit,
  • Cars sold for double the Kelly Blue Book value,
  • Interest rates as high as 29 percent,
  • A single Kia tracked by the Los Angeles Times that was sold, repossessed or returned eight times in three years,
  • In-car devices that beep in the event of a missed payment before disabling the vehicle entirely, and
  • Default and repossession rates of 31 percent.

It’s cruel that our society all but requires people purchase an expensive consumer product, trapping them in usurious financing schemes, just to participate in the workforce. But because of our auto-centric land use and transportation policies, that is precisely the quandary too many Americans face.

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