Dude, Where's My Car Title?: The Law, Behavior, and Economics of Title Lending Markets

46 Pages Posted: 27 Feb 2013 Last revised: 27 Dec 2014

See all articles by Kathryn Fritzdixon

Kathryn Fritzdixon

Vanderbilt University

Jim Hawkins

University of Houston Law Center

Paige Marta Skiba

Vanderbilt University - Law School

Date Written: February 25, 2013


Millions of credit-constrained borrowers turn to title loans to meet their liquidity needs. Legislatures and regulators have debated how to best regulate these transactions, but surprisingly, we still know very little about the customers who use title loans. This Article reports findings from the first large-scale academic study of title lending customers. We surveyed over 400 title lending customers across three states and obtained information about customers’ demographic and behavioral characteristics.

Based on the results of our survey and guided by insights from behavioral economics, this Article seeks to reframe the title lending debate. Instead of focusing on the risks and consequences of borrowers’ cars being repossessed, as the vast bulk of the literature does, we argue that the primary problem that most borrowers face is underestimating the true cost of taking out a title loan. Borrowers’ survey responses demonstrate that many borrowers are overly optimistic and experience self-control problems that affect their ability to make timely loan payments. We argue that these deviations from the assumptions of classical economics do not warrant an outright ban of title lending, but they do provide room for policy interventions. Policymakers can improve efficiency in title lending markets by requiring lenders to disclose to consumers the likely experiences they will have with their title loans rather than merely requiring lenders to communicate pricing information.

Keywords: title lending, payday loans, fringe banking, behavioral law and economics, alternative financial services

Suggested Citation

Fritzdixon, Kathryn and Hawkins, Jim and Skiba, Paige Marta, Dude, Where's My Car Title?: The Law, Behavior, and Economics of Title Lending Markets (February 25, 2013). 2014 University of Illinois Law Review 1013, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2224247 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2224247

Kathryn Fritzdixon

Vanderbilt University ( email )

Box 1819 Station B
Nashville, TN 37235
United States

Jim Hawkins (Contact Author)

University of Houston Law Center ( email )

4604 Calhoun Road
4604 Calhoun Road
Houston, TX 77204-6060
United States

Paige Marta Skiba

Vanderbilt University - Law School ( email )

131 21st Avenue South
Nashville, TN 37203-1181
United States
615-322-1958 (Phone)

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