Car ownership, long symbolic of American freedom, faces a crisis.

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For generations, cars have symbolized the essence of American identity—freedom, independence, and rebellion. Yet, in 2024, this cherished love story is under siege, as the affordability of cars dwindles, pushing millions to the brink of automotive disenchantment.

The aftermath of the pandemic has ushered in an era of soaring costs, with cars, insurance, and repairs reaching unprecedented price heights. Supply chain disruptions and chip shortages during the pandemic catalyzed this surge, driving new car prices up by 30% and used car prices by a staggering 38%.

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Despite a brief respite in 2023, where inflation slowed, the affordability crisis persists. Today, just a fraction of new car listings fall below $30,000, while even fewer used cars are priced under $20,000. Market Watch reports that an annual income of $100,000 is now deemed necessary to afford a car—a luxury unattainable for the majority of American households.

According to Census data, over 60% of households cannot afford a new car, with a staggering 82% of individuals falling below the income threshold. This stark reality paints a grim picture of automotive accessibility in America.

As prices continue to climb and economic disparities widen, the future of car ownership hangs in the balance. Will cars remain the cornerstone of American mobility and culture, or will the rising tide of unaffordability signal the end of an automotive era?

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