Nearly Half of Americans Putting Off Buying a New Car

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A recent Consumer Reports survey found that 48% of Americans are delaying the purchase of a new car, saying they will wait longer than usual before making that purchase.

The top reason why buyers are waiting longer is that their current vehicles are in good shape (39%). However, the weak economy is clearly a major factor; 30% cite the poor economic conditions as a major reason to wait, while the same number say vehicles have become too expensive. According to the survey, 18% are waiting for fuel-saving technologies like hybrids to become less expensive, while 18% say financing for a vehicle is too expensive.

This last 18% should be of particular concern. The credit crisis has made car loans scarce, and among lower-income households, nearly a quarter (24%) said obtaining financing was the main obstacle for them when they consider buying a new car.

While it’s not surprising, this is extremely bad news for automakers going into 2009. Perhaps the only silver lining is that with the GMAC bailout and credit unions offering more car loans, other lenders will relax credit. Then there will be a reason for at least 18% of Americans currently delaying new-car purchases to choose to buy.

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