Consumers are having an easier time making their car payments.

Despite a still-weak economy, the credit agency TransUnion reports the national 60-day delinquency rate for auto loans fell 19.7 percent between the first and second quarters of 2010.

The year-over-year delinquency rate at the national level fell by 27.4 percent in the second quarter.

Auto loan delinquency was highest in Mississippi and Louisiana at 1.05 percent and 0.97 percent, respectively. The lowest auto loan delinquency rates were found in North Dakota (0.28 percent), Michigan (0.29 percent) and Pennsylvania (0.32 percent).

The largest improvements in delinquency from the previous quarter were found in Vermont, which recorded a 41.4 percent decrease from 0.58 percent), and Connecticut, where the rate fell 36.4 percent from 0.55 percent.

Auto loan delinquency rates rose for only three states since the first quarter of 2010 -- Rhode Island, Utah and Montana.

Debt rises

Average auto debt nationally rose quarter over quarter from $12,501 to $12,643. Year-over-year, auto debt increased by 1.13 percent in the second quarter.

The District of Columbia held the largest average auto debt burden at $15,625, followed by Wyoming at $14,534. The lowest average auto debt was in Nebraska at $11,118.

On a year-over-year basis, national bank auto originations increased by the largest margin since the recession began in late 2007 (18.7 percent). District of Columbia led all other areas showing an increase in auto originations by 55.4 percent since the second quarter 2009. On a regional basis, only one state (Hawaii) showed a drop in year-over-year originations.

Improving trend

"The national trend we are seeing continues to point to a clear improvement in payment behavior," said Peter Turek, automotive vice president in TransUnion's financial services group. "Although part of the reason for the turnaround in delinquency rates is the influx of new, lower risk loans as we have noted before, consumers do not see a quick fix to the short term economic and employment situation and are focusing their attention instead on savings and lower consumption of discretionary goods."

Turek says the movement toward fiscal responsibility is reflected in year-over-year results as auto delinquency rates now have dropped 27.4 percent since second quarter 2009 -- the largest decline since the summer of 2001.

"Based on our current economic assumptions, TransUnion believes that the 60-day auto delinquency rate will continue to show seasonal patterns, but gradually drift upward, reaching a rate of around 0.6 percent by the fourth quarter of this year," Turek said.