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John Oliver Takes on ‘Feeding Frenzy’ of Subprime Car Loans: ‘It Almost Feels Criminal’

Predatory loans for auto sales was the focus of John Oliver‘s deep dive Sunday night on Last Week Tonight, highlighting the questionable processes by which lenders can lure prospective car owners into the fold. One of the main hallmarks of the segment was a certain type of popular used car advertisements… you know the ones: “Everyone is approved!” regardless of your crippling debt or brutal history with loans and bankruptcy.

Subprime loans target people with poor credit, with offers that dangle too-good-to-be-true deals in front of the eyes of people who simply can’t afford them. As John Oliver points out, “Theoretically is it a good thing that car dealers lend money to people who cant get financing elsewhere. But in practice, these dealerships can trap people with few options into paying vastly more than a car is worth.”

When you’re poor, everything can be vastly more expensive; Last Week Tonight chronicled the insane journey of one used card that traded hands eight times in three years through a dizzying array of sales and repossessions. It should come as no surprise then to find that “Buy here, pay here” loans had a 31.45% default rate last year.

Even if you’ve suffered from bankruptcy, car repossession, or foreclosure, it is still incredibly easy to find yourself a victim of more offers for subprime loans. Oliver called the process a “feeding frenzy”. The staff even sent an undercover camera to a debt-buyers conference in Las Vegas, revealing the language of Ken Shilson from the National Alliance of Buy Here Pay Here Dealers, who said, “These people have negative equity all the way through and they’re not going to be able to hold their life together for seven years… You know the customer. You know how to collect. You’ve got the legal expertise. What’s holding you back?”

The Last Week Tonight comedian reimagined what a used car dealership and advertisement in the very near future may very well look like. The fictional dealership — “Crazy Johnny’s Used Cars” — featured a cameo from Keegan-Michael Key, as the two of them heightened on the segment’s sales gimmicks to give potential buyer the most seemingly incredible deal of all time. “Don’t do the actual math on that,” Oliver as Crazy Johnny warns at one point.

“The point is it is so easy focus to get you in this car, it almost feels criminal,” he says.

“It truly feels like it should be a criminal activity!” adds Key to the bit.

“And yet somehow… it isn’t!”

Watch the above segment from the Last Week Tonight YouTube page.

[image via screengrab]

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