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Three Car Families — Tougher to Find

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Ben Shigeru Clark | Photodisc | Getty Images

I remember one of the first times I reported on the growing number of three car households in the U.S.

It was in the late 90's and I remember talking with one auto executive who said the trend of couples buying a spare car would continue for years to come. A decade later that trend has reversed and for the first time since the '90's, the percentage of 3 car homes could fall below 10%.

CNW Marketing has tracked three car homes since the mid '90's and it finds there will be fewer this year, continuing a four-year pullback. According to CNW, the high water mark for three car homes was in 2006 when more than 13% of those surveyed said they had a spare car.

So what's behind this trend?

Clearly, the economy is the main reason many families have decided two cars are enough. Beyond that, there are other factors. CNW says its home improvement survey finds the number of projects planned for this year is up nearly 20% and budgets for those projects are up more than 15%. In other words, people who are spending 5,10,or 15 grand on something extra, are putting that money into a new car.

Let's be clear, there will always be three car homes in the U.S. They aren't going away. There will always be a segment of America that has the means and the desire to buy that extra car, or as my friend Sonny says, "A Sunday car, you only drive on weekends." For those people, the number of choices has never been greater. For the rest of America, the spare car will have to remain in their dreams only.

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Questions? Comments? BehindTheWheel@cnbc.com