Average U.S. Car Price Tops $30,000

Average prices for cars are at an all-time high, reflecting increased demand and a healthier economy. The average car price has gone up nearly $2,000 since last year. Even though car prices are higher, buyers haven't shied away from picking up a new car.

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

NPR's business news starts with confident consumers.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

INSKEEP: The New York International Auto Show begins today - a preview of what's to come in the industry. And as NPR's Sonari Glinton reports, it is also something that suggests what's to come in the economy.

SONARI GLINTON, BYLINE: As the car show season draws to a close the mood in the industry is, to use a word: Good. Almost every car company has seen its sales and profits go up. Brandy Schaffels is with the car website TrueCar.com. She says, three years ago, consumers weren't sure about the auto industry.

BRANDY SCHAFFELS: So the manufacturers had to throw money at them to get them to buy the cars. So if you were going to buy a model you might see a giant $1,500 cash back rebate to move a specific model. Maybe there aren't so many of those rebates right now, because people are buying those car because they want them.

GLINTON: Schaffels says now there are fewer rebates and deals, so the average price that consumers are paying for cars has gone up. The average car price has gone up nearly $2,000 since last year. It's now topped $30,000. Prices are rising but so are sales. And it may seem odd that people are flocking to dealerships to pay more for cars, but Schaffels explains it this way.

SCHAFFELS: Say you want to go shopping to buy a suit, you might be encouraged to buy one that's more expensive that you don't love, because they'd given you a great sale price on it, so you go back a year later and you've got more money in your pocket, you're going to buy the suit you want even if it's at a higher price. That's confidence.

GLINTON: Confidence, that's one thing consumers haven't had in a while in the car business.

Sonari Glinton, NPR News, New York.

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