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10 states with the biggest car enthusiasts

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Americans love cars. But who loves them most?

Based on a recent analysis by MoneyRates.com, the prize for the most committed car enthusiasts goes to North Dakota. How did MoneyRates.com determine this? By looking at where car lovers put the most money on the line, based on Bureau of Economic Analysis numbers on personal spending for motor vehicles and parts.

Naturally, larger states have an advantage when it comes to total spending; so to measure the passion of the average car fanatic in each state, MoneyRates.com looked at per capital spending on motor vehicles and parts.

There are some striking differences in spending on motor vehicles and parts from state to state. By leading with an average annual per capita expenditure of $2,313, the residents of North Dakota spent more than twice as much on their cars as the residents of New York, where the average of $1,031 placed dead last among all 50 states plus the District of Columbia.

Interestingly, despite the Southeast's traditional affinity for stock car racing, no states from that region made the top ten. Perhaps another surprise is that California was in the bottom ten -- those surfer songs about souping up a hot rod to go cruising must be from a bygone era.

10 states with the biggest car enthusiasts

Along with North Dakota, here are the states that made up the top ten for per capita personal automotive spending:

  1. North Dakota
    Wide open spaces, a harsh climate and a relatively young population may all contribute to North Dakota's leading the way with an annual $2,313 in personal automotive spending.

  2. South Dakota
    You know how seeing a new car in your neighbor's driveway can give you the itch to go shopping for a fresh set of wheels? Apparently that type of influence works on a state-wide basis. With $2,008 in annual per capita automotive spending, South Dakota joined its neighbor to the north as the only two states to top the $2,000 mark.

  3. Nebraska
    The geographic pattern continues. Just below South Dakota on the map, you'll find Nebraska -- and that's where you'll find it on this list as well, with an average of $1,930 in annual spending on cars.

  4. Delaware
    Not only does Delaware break the geographic pattern by finishing fourth with $1,864, but it also differs from the other states so far in that it has a much more concentrated population.

  5. Texas
    This is no surprise, given that Texas is a state with a lot of area to cover and a go-big-or-go-home mentality. Annual automotive spending per capita is $1,846.

  6. Vermont
    Here's another geographic twist, as this small New England state spent a per capita average of $1,838 on cars and parts.

  7. Montana
    With average spending of $1,823, this was the western-most state to make the list.

  8. New Hampshire
    As with the Dakotas, the neighbor effect might be in force here as New Hampshire came in just a couple slots below next-door Vermont, with an annual figure of $1,722.

  9. Oklahoma
    As a major oil-refining state, it makes sense that Oklahoma would be supportive of the car industry, with annual spending of $1,707.

  10. Iowa
    At $1,705, Iowa trailed Oklahoma with less than the cost of a turn-signal bulb.

More automotive spending means more car loans

People in North Dakota spending $2,313 a year on a car may not sound too extravagant; but when you consider that this is a per capita average based on every man, woman and child in the state, it becomes clearer how this can be a financial burden. Instead of saving for retirement, this per capita figure means that, on average, a family of four would be grappling with a total of $9,252 in automotive debt annually.

Numbers like that place a serious burden on a household budget, so it isn't surprising that the amount of automotive debt in the United States has exploded in recent years. It has roughly doubled since the year 2000, surpassed $1 trillion for the first time ever in 2015 and, in the first quarter of this year, reached a record of $1.118 trillion.

How to reduce your automotive spend

To save you from contributing more than your fair share to this total, consider the following tips when getting a car loan:

  1. Don't be a captive audience - shop for financing
    When you buy a car, the dealer is likely to offer to arrange financing for you. This may seem helpful, but it can cost you. Dealer financing robs you of the opportunity to shop around for the best rate, plus it means you may likely pay a cut to the dealer on top of what the lender is making.

  2. Keep loan terms short
    Car loans are interesting in that rates for longer term loans are not necessarily higher than those for shorter term loans, as is generally the case with other forms of debt. For example, as of this writing, there was virtually no difference between rates on four-year and five-year car loans. While these similar rates may make it tempting to opt for the longer loan, keep in mind that each additional year of borrowing means an extra year of paying interest. This adds to the total cost of owning a car.

Following this advice will leave you with more money to put into your beloved vehicle rather than having it go to your lender.

More from MoneyRates.com:

8 things to consider before signing up for a car loan

Auto loan shopping tips

Buying vs. leasing a car: 7 big questions to ask

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