SANTA BARBARA -- Auto sales across the country have made the biggest one-year jump in 28 years and on the Central Coast, local dealerships are seeing more buyers drive off the lots in new cars. The U.S. auto industry hit 14.5 million vehicle sales for 2012. That is a 13 percent jump from 2011. Local car lots are seeing the best year for sales since before the recession. Car buyers across the country are pushing new vehicle sales to hit marks that haven't been seen in years. "Well in 2008 and 2009 were very difficult and then 2010 and 2011 were rebuilding years and 2012 felt like a year where we really got off our feet," said Perry Ford General Manager Walter Alfaro. Last month at Perry Ford in Santa Barbara, the dealership sold 125 cars which is up from just 83 from December 2011. More sales means the dealership needs more employees to keep up with demand. "We've added four sales staff and our service department has added two new mechanics," said Alfaro. From 2011 to 2012, General Motors sales on the west coast jumped 116 percent. In Santa Barbara, the Graham Chevrolet dealership made even better marks and jumped 141 percent. The recession forced people to keep their cars longer. The average age of a vehicle on the road is more than 10.5 years old. But now, drivers are ready for something new. "I have traded for more cars with over 150,000 miles on them in the last year than I've traded in the last 20 years," said Graham General Sales Manager Dennis Nie. Low interest rates and better fuel economy are two top reasons local dealerships are seeing a boom in buyers. And that is a far cry from years past. "Pocket books were zipped up and then they had a lock on them," said Nie. But now ... "People are letting loose of the purse strings a little bit," said Alfaro. The Polk auto research firm out of Michigan predicts even stronger U.S. sales for 2013 and forecasts 15.3 million new vehicles sales as the economy continues to improve.