TAMPA, Fla. - For the second year in a row, Tampa ranks last out of 25 major cities in a new car affordability study.
The study found that an average new car costs just more than $32,000. But it found Tampa residents can only afford to spend a little more than $14,000 on a new car.
Cars don't cost more here, it's simply a matter of area residents being spread too thin.
"We have to realize that in order to be self-sufficient we've got to know what money we make, what debts we have and we need to live within the means which we bring into the house. And not live beyond the means, which a lot of people sometimes do," said Sandee Rains, a Clearpoint Credit Counseling Solutions financial education specialist.
Income and car insurance costs are factored into the index. Tampa residents can afford a $280 a month car payment, compared with a $641 per month payment that Washington D.C. residents can afford.
Still, many drivers take the risk.
"I think that people would spend more money to be in a nicer car even if they couldn't afford it," said Lauren Tobin of Tampa.
Rains recommends getting pre-approved for a loan before you shop so your limitations are set. And be sure to compare insurance costs as well.
Also, don't sign on the dotted line if you can't afford at least a 20 percent down payment. Don't sign up for a car loan that lasts longer than four years. And don't let the car payment eat up more than 10 percent of your gross income.
"They cannot just say 'I make this much money and I think I can afford it,'" Rains said.
Luciano Del Villar of Tampa thinks the equation comes down to individual emotions.
"For a lot of people, a car is part of your personality. So you may go a little above and beyond what you need. And that's probably why we're in the position we're in," he said.