For many Americans, a car isn’t a way to get from point A to point B, it’s freedom. The promise of an automobile goes beyond the thrill of the open road or being able to get a late-night pint of ice cream when you want. With a car, you’ve arrived. And with a car, you can always leave. Social mobility, a new life in a new town, used to be just a black ribbon of interstate away.
Now, amid stagnant wages and a shaky recovery, the average new car price rose last year by $1,536.
“Americans can only afford used cars,” said Louis Hyman, an assistant professor in the labor relations, law, and history department at Cornell University. “The recovery has only been for those at the top and not for normal Americans.”
Car ownership has long sat at the core of what it means to “make it” in this country. If you want to get to and around the suburbs, you’ll need to drive.