No, the car was not cheaper in our parents’ time

The price per kilo of the car flies away. From 10.76 euros in 2001, it rose to 15.92 euros in 2020 in France, according to the ICCT. Or the price of a kilo of ground beef. This increase of 25% is felt all the more painfully by consumers as they feel that they have less and less money to devote to the purchase and maintenance of their car. So much so that “6 out of 10 French people fear that they will no longer see the possibility of owning a vehicle in the future”, notes Flavien Neuvy, director of the Cetelem Observatory.

84% of French say they have given up buying a new vehicle because the cost is considered too high

Nevertheless, the French driver should learn to put his torments in perspective. Because the increase in cost prices due to the inflation of raw materials and the technical sophistication of our vehicles is not yet enough to make the car the luxury it still was in the time of our parents. Relative to the average wage, the acquisition of a new car was a real financial sacrifice in the 1970s and 1980s.

Almost 46% of French (and 42% of Europeans) surveyed this summer by the Cetelem Automobile Observatory say it was easier for their parents from a financial point of view to get access to their first new car. “It’s wrong”, corrects Flavien Neuvy anyway. Expressed in working hours paid at the minimum wage, the average price of €16,553 paid by the French to buy a new Renault Clio requires “twice as much work as the time of their parents who coveted a Renault 4”. In other words, the purchase of a new vehicle in 2021 consumed no less than 73% of the average annual income of the French.

4 out of 10 French people believe that it is more difficult to own a car today than in their parents’ time

If the French have the feeling of having to sacrifice more and more in order to afford a new car, it is because of the constant increase in the amount of their mandatory expenses, as opposed to pleasure expenses. “At our age, our parents didn’t have all these telephone, internet and TV subscriptions, which burdened our budgets”, emphasizes Flavien Neuvy. Although their income was lower on average, the proportion available to purchase a vehicle was greater.

also readHand out privileges to quell the anti-ZFE rebellion

The delivery in 2023 of the Cetelem Automobile Observatory highlights this paradox: while all the factual data confirms that the new car is more and more expensive, 60% of the French still consider this expense “reasonable, even very reasonable”. In other words, they believe that it is “still possible to do good business”, Flavien Neuvy analysed. Or at least the worst is yet to come, as 7 out of 10 respondents believe that the price of electric cars is too high.

54% of the French say they reduce their journeys, 46% compare prices at the pump and 44% save fuel

These cumulative concerns translate into a telling figure: in the mid-1990s, the share of new cars sold to private individuals was 17%, compared to just 2% in 2021. “This is a historically low rate, which places France the penultimate place in the European rankings, just ahead of Spain”, Flavien Neuvy is alarmed. Of the 30 million French households, only 600,000 wanted (or could) afford a new vehicle last year.

also readPurchasing power: the electric car, always more expensive to recharge

Also on the question, the cost of maintenance, which weighs on the household budget: 45% of the French consider them “high, even very high”, with 546 euros per year. But this is nothing compared to the intense pain experienced with each passage to the pump, as fuel with an average budget of 145 euros per month is considered too expensive by 77% of respondents (for annual expenses of a total of 2,870 euros allocated to a car). Alas! 75% of the French who own a vehicle declare that they cannot do without it, while 62% admit the effort to give up certain journeys, to the point of bringing their annual mileage to the lowest of the countries in continental Europe (12,400 km ).

Leave a Comment