posted on April 9th, 2019


The car is a foregone conclusion in American society today. With the exception of a few extraordinary places (New York City, for instance), cars are critical for functional, productive existence in modern-day society. They’re necessary for commuting, getting your family everywhere they need to be, and not just being mobile, but also being upwardly mobile.

Recent studies have shown that cars are an important lever for success in America. Laura Bliss of CityLab recently noted that “over the past 50 years, owning a car has been among the most powerful economic advantages a U.S. family can have.” The study she analyzes goes on to elucidate that “U.S. households without access to a vehicle have steadily lost income, both in absolute terms and compared to those with cars, as the landscapes around them were increasingly shaped to favor the automobile.” Cars are a cornerstone of American success, and they have subsequently woven their way inextricably into the very fabric of the American Dream.

So why, we must ask, do cars continue to be so untenably expensive when success is so clearly tied to car ownership?

It’s a thorny societal dilemma that lawmakers and social scientists are starting to surface with increased urgency. David King, a professor of urban planning at Arizona State University, cites the situation as “a crisis that’s been decades in the making… There are a lot of people who keep struggling because they can’t afford to get around reliably.” With limited access to mobility comes limited access to opportunity — and over time this phenomenon becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy of the haves and the have-nots.

More demand, more debt

Car ownership is so critical to economic success, in fact, that more and more Americans are assuming more and more debt just to gain access to the arena of opportunity that it affords them. The car is a necessity, but the car is also unattainable as price tags continue to hike.

Nathan Bomey at USA today recently noted that “the average price of vehicles hit an all-time high of more than $36,000 in 2018… and with interest rates rising, car shoppers are now borrowing more than ever and extending their loans to record lengths.” The average new car buyer, he notes, pays an average of $551 per month on his or her auto loans. Even used car buyers are shelling out more than ever — in an article published late last year, Bomey notes that “the average American used-car buyer is now paying a record high of $400 per month” with the longest average loan time ever. Given that society demands mobility to be successful, the economics of car ownership are looking bleak — car prices are so high that Americans are going into debt to afford them…

Andre is the Turo CEO and a true car enthusiast. After many years in the consumer web space, he combines his passion for cars, technology, and the environment each day at Turo as he works to put the world’s one billion cars to better use.