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It’s not surprising the most populated states also have the highest number of car loans and leases — but adjusting that data to car loans/leases per capita makes things more interesting.

To get an idea of the country’s most car-hungry states, we looked at data from the Experian-Oliver Wyman Market Intelligence Reports. Using Experian’s IntelliView, a Web-based query, analysis and reporting tool that crunches the data in these reports, we compiled a list of the 10 states with the most outstanding car loans and leases per resident in the second quarter of 2013, the most recent data available. For population data, we used the latest estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau, from July 1, 2012.

All but three of the top 10 states, listed below, have a population below 3 million. But large-population states don’t necessarily have a low loan/lease-to-person ratio: Texas, the second-most populated state in the U.S. is among our top 10. California, No. 1 in population and overall loans and leases, is in the bottom 10 when it comes to loans/leases per capita.

The Standouts

The top 10 have remained pretty consistent during the past three years, with New Hampshire maintaining the No. 1 spot in the second quarter in 2013, 2012 and 2011. The only big change has been North Dakota: In the second quarter of 2011, it was No. 36 in loans/leases per capita. In 2012, it was 23rd. Now it’s seventh.

North Dakota’s numbers are easy to explain.

“We’re right in the middle of an oil boom,” said Barron Parizek, general manager of Ryan Motors in Williston, N.D.

car-hungry states

Williston has seen a 26 percent growth in population since 2010, as determined by U.S. Census estimates, which is the second-highest growth in the state, after Fargo.

A strong economy backs up New Hampshire’s spot on the list, too.“I’d say it’s best I’ve seen since I’ve been in the business,” said Parizek, a 20-year veteran of auto sales. He said he has sold a lot of higher-end pickups and SUVs. “Sales are still growing.”

“We have a high per-capita income and a low unemployment rate,” said Lorna Colquhoun, communications director for the state’s division of economic development. New Hampshire’s unemployment rate is 5.2 percent, the ninth-lowest in the country. The Bureau of Labor Statistics lists North Dakota’s at 3.1 percent — the best in the nation.

Another factor to consider: “We don’t have a lot of public transportation, so we all drive our cars to work,” Colquhoun said.

Melinda Zabritski, senior director of automotive credit for Experian, said there’s a lot to consider when breaking the data down by state, like economic strength, credit scores, public transportation and vehicles in operation in each state.

Though there are some connections, like the economic strength in North Dakota and New Hampshire, car loans and leases per capita don’t directly relate to any of those factors.

Perhaps it’s a combination, or perhaps people in some states have gone on car-buying kicks in the past few years.

Here are the 10 states with the highest car loans and leases per person.

10.  Pennsylvania

  • Population: 12,763,536 (July 1, 2012 estimate)
  • Outstanding auto loans and leases: 2,851,170
  • 223.3 Auto Loans/Leases Per Thousand People

9.  Utah

  • Population: 2,855,287
  • Outstanding auto loans and leases: 638,271
  • 223.5 Auto Loans/Leases Per Thousand People

8.  West Virginia

  • Population: 1,855,413
  • Outstanding auto loans and leases: 417,050
  • 224 Auto Loans/Leases Per Thousand People

7.  North Dakota

  • Population: 699,628
  • Outstanding auto loans and leases: 158,039
  • 225 Auto Loans/Leases Per Thousand People

6.  Michigan

  • Population: 9,883,360
  • Outstanding auto loans and leases: 2,281,383
  • 230 Auto Loans/Leases Per Thousand People

5.  Texas

  • Population: 26,059,203
  • Outstanding auto loans and leases: 6,131,671
  • 235 Auto Loans/Leases Per Thousand People

4.  Maine

  • Population: 1,329,192
  • Outstanding auto loans and leases: 334,813
  • 251 Auto Loans/Leases Per Thousand People

3.  Wyoming

  • Population: 576,412
  • Outstanding auto loans and leases: 152,966
  • 265 Auto Loans/Leases Per Thousand People

2.  Vermont

  • Population: 626,011
  • Outstanding auto loans and leases: 169,515
  • 270 Auto Loans/Leases Per Thousand People

1.  New Hampshire

  • Population: 1,320,718
  • Outstanding auto loans and leases: 375,231
  • 284 Auto Loans/Leases Per Thousand People

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