West Palm Beach region ranks dead last in car affordability index

Honk if this sounds a little too familiar: The South Florida region that includes West Palm Beach and Miami sputters to a stop as worst in the nation for affording a car, according to a study by Bankrate.com of North Palm Beach.

It’s not a mere mismatch of the salaries of regular working folks to the sticker price on a vehicle, researchers said. Other stuff that comes with a car costs more in some places than others. And we aren’t talking pine-tree air freshener.

“Car insurance was a big factor,” said Bankrate.com analyst Claes Bell.

Throw in other things like a relatively high sales tax in a state without an income tax, and you’ve got West Palm Beach-Fort Lauderdale-Miami pulling in last among 25 big metro areas it examined.

Washington, D.C. and San Francisco, where salaries tended to match up favorably to car prices, came out on top of this particular index.

Here’s how Bankrate looked at it. It figured what a driver could afford by putting down 20 percent of a vehicle’s purchase price, taking out a car loan for no more than four years, and devoting no more than 10 percent of her annual income to car payments, interest and insurance.

Now it’s true South Florida drivers with decent credit can steer around some of these limitations and get deals with little money down and loans longer than four years in today’s environment of historically low interest rates.

But the analysis does bring out the impact of relatively high insurance costs. Florida has consistently ranked in the top 10 states for average car insurance premiums and the bills tend to run higher in this end of the state.

Bankrate cites the example of Brooke Waszak, a real estate agent in Lake Worth. She traded in an older vehicle for a late-model used car and saw insurance premiums jump more than 100 percent. That came as a shock: “I didn’t factor it in at all.”

 

 

 

 

Why it’s good news a Florida teen driver adds 69% to insurance bill

Add a teen driver to your Florida household, and the insurance bill goes up 69 percent, a new study finds. And that’s the good news.

While that might not sound like a reason to turn cartwheels, exactly, it’s an improvement. Last year Florida’s average increase was 82 percent and above the national norm.

Now Florida falls among the 10 states with the lowest teen-driven increases, according to insuranceQuotes.com, affiliated with bankrate.com of North Palm Beach.

The main lesson is apparently do not have a teenager who  wants to drive in Rhode Island. Increase there: 153 percent. Teens in Hawaii move the needle the least, 8 percent. Hawaii restricts what insurers can charge by age.

The survey obtained quotes from a set of insurers in each state for a married couple adding a teen driver.

Make no mistake: Teen drivers are still three times more likely to get into accidents, said Insurance Institute for Highway Safety spokesman Russ Rader.

“It’s not so much that teens are suddenly safer drivers, but they’re benefiting from safer cars and laws that restrict when, and under what conditions, they can drive,” Rader said.

Fatal crashes with drivers under 20 are down 43 percent since 2006, federal statistics show. Sure, it’s never going to be fun to star in I Was A Teenage Driver’s Insurance Buyer,  even if you are a teen paying your own way. But at least the trends seem to be going in the right direction.

Credit scores: Relevant for romance? Find out who says yes

When it comes to dating, should someone’s credit score matter?

If you knew that score, would it affect your view of another person as a potential date?

credit score snipYou might be surprised what age group is most likely to say yes. It’s Millennials, folks in or near their twenties, Bankrate.com of North Palm Beach found. In a survey, more than four in 10 of them said it would matter.

Lenders, of course, use three-digit credit scores to measure how well people pay their bills. It wasn’t really designed as a guide for matters of the heart. Romance novels typically do not mention credit scores.

On the other hand, the score can sort of stand in for other things that might matter down the road if two people eventually spend more time together. It suggests how well someone manages money. It could point to big debt that someone might bring to a relationship, or problems paying bills. Long term, money problems break up at least as many couples as any other cause, experts say.

Women (43 percent) are more likely than men  (32 percent) to consider a credit score relevant, researchers found.