More people than ever are buying vehicles by paying through lease-to-own agreements, according to data dating back to 2006.

In the first three months of 2013, 27.5 percent of all new vehicles were bought with a lease, according to a State of the Automotive Finance Market report by Experian Automotive, a unit of credit bureau Experian PLC (LON:EXPN).

That’s the highest level ever reached, percentage-wise, since Experian started tracking the figure in 2006, and is up 3.1 percent from last year. Experian Automotive holds data on almost 700 million vehicles, according to a press release issued Wednesday.

The report also showed that loans to drivers are lasting slightly longer, with lower interest rates, compared to the same period last year. Consumers are paying slightly less per month for their leases.

On average, those buying a new car borrowed $628 more this year than last year.

But subprime loans also inched up in 2013, increasing by just under 1 percent from 2012, and reaching 45.2 percent of the total loan market in early 2013. Subprime and nonprime loans are loans with a higher interest rate than standard loans.

They’re often made to borrowers with a bad credit history, or who for other reasons don’t qualify for the best, so-called "prime," interest rate.

"Lenders have seen overall stability come back to the market since the recession, and leasing has gradually returned as a larger part of many lender strategies," said Melinda Zabritski, senior director of Automotive Credit, in a statement.

In May, U.S. auto sales rose slightly from April’s figures, with the world’s eight largest auto companies shifting 1.44 million units, up from April’s 1.33 million vehicles.