Subprime Loans

What Are Subprime Loans?

Subprime loans are loans given to entities and individuals by the bank usually on a rate of interest much higher than the market which has a significant amount of risk involved regarding its repayment in the specified amount of time where the reasons of risk can be enhanced because of various reasons such as low-income prospects of the lender.

Earlier in 2007, the US and in turn the global economy was hit hard due to subprime crisis (related to mortgage loans). After a decade of such a big financial mess, it looks like there is another subprime crisis in the offing and this time in the “Auto Loan segment”. Equifax pointed out that car loan delinquency levels have increased to levels seen in 2007.

Subprime Loans

Types of subprime loans

subprime loans types

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Subprime Lenders

Any type of financial institutions can give out these loans. But most institutions are not ready to take up the risks related to subprime lending and they only consider borrowers with prime characteristics, neglecting those who cannot get prime loans.

However, there are institutions, which focus only on those borrowers who cannot be considered as prime borrowers. Many of these organizations are targeted towards charging high rates in the name of subprime lending, which makes it difficult for their borrowers to repay, which eventually gets them into a state of loan default, affecting their credit ratings badly.


When most of the financial institutions thoroughly check the credit scores or the financial background of its borrowers, many borrowers lose access to prime loans. Not everyone will have enough assets or a clean financial historical record, which is what most banks need to consider before approving a loan.

  • For such cases, these borrowers can opt for the subprime lending market. In the subprime market, anyone, who is not considered eligible to get a prime loan, can get a loan, although at a much higher interest rate. In the subprime market, credit ratings need not be perfect to obtain a loan.

Subprime lending can be seen as a nice way to maintain or increase an individual’s credit score too. Debts not paid can seriously affect one’s credit score, and having such debts in their historical records will make them ineligible to obtain a prime loan.

  • In such cases, a borrower can opt for a loan, which does not require much credit score and use this loan amount to pay off the previous debts that he was finding difficult to repay. This loan can be paid off in the coming years and this will decrease the chance of the borrower running into a bad credit score. So subprime borrowing is a great way to fix a borrower’s credit score.


  • Subprime borrowers, as well as lenders, are prone to greater risks compared to the prime loan borrowers.
    Interest rates can be a great resource to identify the amount of risk associated. As subprime lending has more credit risks than that of prime lending, the institution will make this credit risk up by significantly increasing the interest rate. As the interest rate is high, the chances of a borrower running into the state of loan default are also high.
  • Subprime loans are said to have more initial processing fees than prime loans. As the amount of credit risk is high in subprime lending, the institutions need to prepare a lot of documentation and follow other additional procedures, which shoot up the initial processing fee.
  • Although these loans are said to be something supporting people who are not capable of getting a prime loan because of a low credit score, there are certain income demands included in this.

The financial institutions may not consider credit scores of the borrower but they do make sure whether the borrower has enough regular income or cash flowCash FlowCash Flow is the amount of cash or cash equivalent generated & consumed by a Company over a given period. It proves to be a prerequisite for analyzing the business’s strength, profitability, & scope for betterment. read more to pay back the loan amount within the specified time or not. This is done by various documents or through a background check. If a borrower cannot prove that he or she has enough income to pay back the loan amount in a good time, he or she will not be considered even for a subprime loan.

Subprime Crisis of 2007-08

The Subprime crisis is a phenomenon that took place in the USA in the year 2008. It had led to a country-wide recession and a nationwide banking emergency.

The subprime crisis arose from ‘bundling’ together of the subprime and regular loans with mortgage-backed securities (MBS) that were normally isolated from and sold in a separate market from,  the prime loans. These ‘bundles’, which were a combination of prime and subprime, were based on asset-backed securitiesAsset-backed SecuritiesAsset-backed Securities (ABS) is an umbrella term used to refer to a kind of security that derives its value from a pool of assets, such as bonds, home loans, car loans, or even credit card more. Therefore, the expected rate of return was excellent because subprime lenders were charged with higher premiums on loans that were, in turn, secured against highly marketable real-estate. All these “back-ups” made the professionals believe that this scheme can never fail (just like the Titanic).

Several subprime loans had a low interest for the initial few periods, and poorer consumer defaults were ‘swapped’ often initially. But finally, all such borrowers began to move into a state of default in large numbers. The inflated house-price bubblePrice BubbleA price bubble occurs when the price of an asset, such as a stock or a commodity, is overbought, or when demand for such asset is constantly increasing, resulting in a price rise that exceeds the asset's explainable fair more burst, property valuations plummeted and the real rate of return on investmentRate Of Return On InvestmentRate of Return on Investment is the rate at which a company generates a return on investment during a period when compared to the cost of the investment made by the company. It is calculated by dividing the return on investment during the period by the cost of the more became unable to be calculated. As a result, confidence in these instruments (the bundles) collapsed, and every loan, other than prime loans, was considered to be almost a valueless and value eroding asset, despite their actual composition or performance.

Subprime mortgage originations grew from $173 billion in 2001 to a record level of $665 billion in 2005, which represented an increase of nearly 300% as shown in the figure below:

Subprime Loans Crisis

Due to the “originate-to-distribute” model, followed by several subprime originators, there was little monitoring of credit quality and small effort made for remediation as these subprime loans became troubled. As most borrowers were terrified by the high initial payment rate, many chose to get the interest rates adjusted, which made them pay a low-interest rate initially. But the annual increase in the rate was not considered seriously by most of the borrowers and the adjustment made annually was a minimum of 2%.

So if we consider a case, wherein the loan amount is $5,000,00 with an interest rate of 4% for a duration of 30 years, the initial payment will be a little less than $2400 a month. Now, let us consider that after 3 years the flat rate period ends and now the rate of interest is 10% for the remaining 27 years. This will make the payment to be done to be more than $4200 a month. As we have seen an increase of 6 percentage points in the rate of interest, it has made a significant increase of 75% in the installment to be paid each month. So this increase was not considered initially by the borrowers, which made them end up in a difficult situation. And finally, most borrowers defaulted on their subprime loans which eventually led to the nationwide failure of the banking system.

Next Subprime Crisis?

After a decade of 2007-08 subprime crisis, it seems that the Banks have failed to learn and now the subprime crisis is engulfing the Auto segment too.

Subprime Crisis in Car Loans work like this –

  • In order to increase the sales, the car dealers in collaboration with the banks, provide new vehicles loans to lower-income people (even with poor credit ratings)
  • Banks are happy to increase their loan books by approving such car loans without doing much due diligence of buyers’ ability to pay.
  • Investment Bankers aggravate the situation by buying such thousands of auto loans and bundles them and make them “Exotic” offering higher returns.
  • Wealthy investors and speculators hop on to such exotic schemes

Bloomberg reports pointed out that banks sold $26 billion worth of these explosive bundles of car loans.


The term Subprime Loans refers to the practice of issuing loans to those people who are financially backward or who have a higher probability of missing the repayment schedule due to various uncanny situations in business, work or life.

These situations may well include cases of divorce, unemployment, medical emergencies, etc. or any other similar setback that has the power of disturbing the borrower’s ability to serve the debt. The loans made keeping the risk involved with such borrowers are called subprime loans.

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