Car finance, credit cards and student loans have accounted for three-quarters of UK unsecured lending in 2017, according to accountancy firm PwC.
According to the report, the total size of unsecured debt amounts to £300bn, 30% more than the total pre-crisis peak in 2008. Auto finance constituted almost 20% of the current £300bn figure.
For the past five years, total unsecured car finance debt grew by at least 15% each year, and stood at 17% in 2017. It was the biggest increase among main consumer products.
The report projected a continued, albeit slower, growth of 7% in 2018 and 5% in 2019. However, it noted that rampant inflation and Brexit added to uncertainty.
PwC also found that, despite intense public scrutiny, p2p lending only accounted for 0.5%, or £1.5bn, of unsecured lending.
As of March 17, unsecured lending from non-bank actors constituted 33%, or £7.7bn. It was 23% in 2008.
Despite recent warnings from the Bank of England, the PwC Credit Confidence survey showed that households’ confidence in their borrowing ability was still at a peak high since the crisis. Only 12% of households reported they relied on borrowing for daily essential items.
Simon Westcott, consumer credit leader at PwC, said: “The rapid increase in unsecured borrowing in recent years reflects a change of attitude on the part of households across the UK. Following the financial crisis, we saw households repaying their unsecured debt, reducing their borrowing by around 10% between 2008 and 2012 – or closer to 25% if we exclude student borrowing.
“However, since then, and despite the uncertainty created by political upheaval, a number of macro-economic factors have combined to create a climate of rising consumer confidence and borrowing. Car finance especially has grown by at least 15% in each of the past five years, representing the largest increase among the main unsecured lending products.
“The true scale of the issue has now been put into sharp relief – but there is still more to come. We project that growth in unsecured borrowing across the UK will continue over the next three years, albeit at a slower rate. Our projections show we are heading for an unsecured debt pile of more than £340bn, or around £12,500 per household before we reach 2020.”