Just under seven million Brits believe they are living debt free despite owing millions, according to a consumer debt profile from uSwitch.com.
The research shows that while 74% of consumers are in debt, 14% don’t realise their monthly bills, for example their car insurance or store card payments, is actually repaying money they owe.
Those in debt owe a total of £209 billion, an average of £5,688 per consumer. However, 18% have missed a repayment within the last 12 months.
Car loans are typically the biggest liability consumers have, with those paying for their car monthly owing on average £3,275. Personal loans liabilities are the next biggest outstanding debt, average of £2,982, ahead of credit cards (£1,947) and payday loans (£1,101).
The most common debt held in the UK, excluding mortgages and student loans, are credit cards (45%) and personal loans (21%). Other types include credit agreements to pay for mobile handsets (18%), overdrafts (16%) and home insurance (15%), which complete the top five debts Brits are most likely to hold.
Home improvements (25%) and holidays (21%) are the main reasons for taking on debt. Troublingly the main reason for those aged 18-34 is food costs, along with improving their credit rating (both 24%). However, 33% in the age group have admitted to missing a repayment within the last 12 months.
For 43% it’s been more than a year since they checked their credit score, if at all. This is despite the fact that 20% have had their credit score negatively affected because of how they have managed their debt.
With 31% of consumers struggling to manage their debt, and 21% feeling compelled to lie about how much debt they have, uSwitch.com is calling on consumers to carefully consider the monthly agreements they have and ensure they are always meeting their monthly minimum repayments by setting up a direct debit or monthly bill reminder.
Tashema Jackson, spokesperson at uSwitch.com, said: “It’s incredible that seven million Brits believe they are debt free, but have actually signed up to a credit agreement.
“A lack of knowledge about what liabilities they have, combined with many struggling to manage their debts, could spell trouble ahead – especially for those who have become reliant on cheap credit to fund their lifestyles.”