Making car payment takes priority, study finds

Associated Press Modified: March 29, 2012 at 10:30 am •  Published: March 29, 2012
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It hasn't helped that home prices keep falling while the mortgage remains by far the biggest payment for most people, and that millions of people owe more on the mortgage than what their houses are worth.

The latest Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller home price index found that prices in big cities had fallen to 2002 levels, down 34 percent from the peak.

There is also more leeway on the mortgage. Foreclosure can take two to three years. Cars can be repossessed 90 days after people stop paying.

Matt Saxton of Columbia, Md., was not surprised by the study's results. Saxton is on unpaid medical leave from work, recovering from spine surgery and relying on his savings.

Saxton says he dares not be late on his car payment and risk having his car repossessed. Instead, he's decided to be late on his credit cards and student loans.

"I can work with the credit card companies. They won't shut off or take away anything," says Saxton, who made a $474 payment this week. "I won't have the ability to get to work or even get another car if they repossess this one."

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