Published: Feb 01, 2012 4:59 AM EST
Updated: Feb 01, 2012 5:21 AM EST

LEE COUNTY, Fla. - Yvonne Vizcarra took the plunge on a brand new car, saying she's more secure now in the purchase than she would have been a few years ago.

"We were scared to spend money or buy anything," Vizcarra says.

Southwest Florida dealerships say, like Vizcarra, more people are willing to bank on a new set of wheels.

Just last year, car sales in Lee, Collier, and Charlotte Counties totaled 100,345, a 17 percent increase from 2010.

Gary Matern, with O'Brien Auto Park, says their latest figures from the beginning of this year are promising too. Matern says in years past, people spent more money in their service department to keep their old vehicles running. Now, he see consumers are more secure in their jobs, and credit is a little more available.

"After Cash for Clunkers in 2009, we saw the trend start then, and it's just snowballed ever since," says Matern.

New car owner Ronald Armbrust agrees the economy is now more conducive to large purchases.

"The banks are opening up some money," Armbrust says. "I got a better deal and better interest rate, so the timing was right for me to trade up."

At Fuccillo Kia in Cape Coral, the numbers tell the story. Owner Billy Fuccillo says his dealership had a record-breaking month in January.

"I wanted to do something that has never been done before, I wanted to sell a thousand cars here in the Cape," Fuccillo says.

The dealership surpassed that goal, selling nearly 1,200 new cars in one month.

Tuesday night, Fuccillo held a car giveaway to thank the community for helping it reach its sales goal.

Fuccillo planned on handing out 7 cars, but in the end, he ended up giving away 8. He also gave out a pair of tickets to the Super Bowl.