As the price of new autos continues to climb — it averaged about $36,500 in March — a growing number of consumers are balking at buying. Close to half (48%) now think owning or leasing a car is becoming too expensive, compared with 42% in 2015, according to separate research released this week from Cox Automotive.

Only about 35% of new cars are now priced under $30,000, compared with 54% in 2012, the Cox report shows.

At the same time, however, consumers have shifted their preference to pricier SUVs and pickup trucks and away from lower-cost sedans and smaller cars. Improved technology and safety features add to the price as well.

“When you couple higher interest rates with the desire to move from a hatchback or sedan to a utility vehicle, which are generally more expensive, you’re seeing a pinch on affordability for a lot of shoppers,” said Kelsey Mays, senior consumer affairs editor at

The spring selling season will heat up with the New York International Auto Show, which opens to the public on Friday and runs through April 28. Nearly 1,000 cars and trucks will be on display, including new models and concept cars.

While leases offer a way to get into a new car at a lower monthly cost, even those lower payments might be moving out of reach for more buyers. The average monthly lease payment is $487, according to Cox. That compares with $548 for a new-car purchase and $411 for used cars.

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