Automobile lending in the U.S. rose 15 percent in the third quarter over last year, to a total outstanding balance of $783 billion, according to credit information provider Experian Automotive. This is the highest rate since Experian began reporting quarterly auto financing data seven years ago.

The average monthly payment stands at $459 for a new car and $349 for a used vehicle, according to Experian data released Wednesday.

About 85 percent of all U.S. auto purchases are financed, and attractive interest rates have been luring buyers as the automotive market recovers from the 2008-2009 credit crunch caused by the banking sector’s subprime mortgage meltdown.

Meanwhile, the length of time consumers are financing has grown with more six-year deals than ever before. This suggests cash-strapped consumers are trying to keep their monthly payments down at the cost of paying more in the long run.

Thirty-day loan delinquencies dropped 2.58 percent from the year-ago period, but subprime auto lending, which gives out loans to riskier borrowers at higher rates, has been growing and now represents about 16 percent of auto financing, says J.D. Power. This could help explain a third-quarter uptick in repos, to 0.62 percent from 0.4 percent.  Still, the year-to-September repo rate stands at 1.5 percent, which is down from a recent peak of 2.7 percent in 2010.

The average loan period is 65 months for new car financing. Loan terms of 72 months have grown from 22 percent in 2009 to 30 percent this year. Leasing has become more popular and now represents nearly 28 percent of all auto deliveries.

J.D. Power doesn’t expect auto financing interest rates to rise significantly until 2015.