It Takes 23 Weeks To Earn Enough To Buy A New Car

Jun 01, 2012 10:10 AM EDT | Judith Davis

In the market for a new car?  If so, here are some statistics to consider before heading to the car lot. According to an article on regarding a comment from a representative at Comerica Bank, cars continue to be relatively affordable, and that's good news for the continuing comeback in auto sales.

The Dallas-based bank said this month that the average-priced new vehicle cost 23.2 weeks of median family income in the first quarter. That was flat vs. a year ago, and up only very slightly from 23.1 weeks in the fourth quarter of 2011.

The record low number of weeks for the Comerica Auto Affordability Index was 21.8 weeks in the third quarter of 2009. That was during the extraordinary "Cash for Clunkers" government rebate program. Cash for Clunkers paid people to trade a gas-guzzler for a more fuel-efficient car.

Several factors are keeping cars affordable, Comerica said: Low interest rates; Job creation, which supports family incomes;
Downsizing, with some households buying smaller, more affordable vehicles;  Stronger household balance sheets; families have paid down debt, which frees up money to spend on other things.

Comerica said consumers spent an average of about $25,300 for a new vehicle for the first quarter. If that sounds high, remember that includes the cost of financing, it's not just the price of the car itself.

The outlook for auto sales in the near term is also good, including some easing in gas prices, Comerica said.  "These favorable trends are helping consumers to feel more confident about unleashing their pent-up demand for automobiles," Dye said

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