Thousands use stimulus checks to buy cars during pandemic

Economists expect Louisianans to spend more on cars than in either of two prior years

Pandemic hasn't slowed down car sales in Louisiana, economists say

BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - The state’s top economists say Louisianans, aided by federal stimulus checks, spent millions more on new cars during the pandemic than they expected.

Louisiana anticipates it will collect $82 million more in vehicle sales taxes during the current fiscal year than the economists projected the state would collect in the fall, when businesses and schools began to reopen.

“For some reason, a pandemic is a good time to buy a car and people have been buying vehicles like crazy,” Legislative economist Greg Albrecht said Tuesday (January 19). “I’m sure a lot of federal support money went to this.”

The legislature will begin writing the state’s budget as if Louisiana will collect $486 million from vehicle sales this year. It collected $456 million last fiscal year, and $450 million the year prior.

“Thankfully, I didn’t lose my job, so my income has been stable,” said April Gremillion, who upgraded from a 2007 Saturn to a 2016 Mazda in September. “I’m very thankful for that because I know it’s not the case for everyone. I definitely used half of my stimulus check to save and put toward the down payment.”

“My car actually has Bluetooth now, which is amazing,” she said.

As many as 400,000 Louisianans lost their primary source of income when the government closed businesses to contain the Coronavirus’s spread. But car dealers say their profits are holding steady.

“It’s an investment. We have to think long-term and I knew my car wasn’t going to make it, long-term,” Gremillion said. “I could’ve bought worse things. A car really isn’t the worst thing to buy with a stimulus check.”

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