Americans are better off buying than renting in the majority of places across the U.S., but the number of renters continues to be at record highs.

Realtor.com® finds that it's cheaper to buy rather than rent in 80 percent of the counties in the U.S. That's because renters continue to face sharp price increases. A record number of renting households are leading to fewer apartment vacancies, which in turn is continuing to push rents upward, notes Jonathan Smoke, realtor.com®'s chief economist, in recent commentary at realtor.com®.

But many renters – with home ownership aspirations – are struggling to break into the housing market. Indeed, 81 percent of renters indicate they would prefer to own a home if they could afford to do so, according to the Federal Reserve's Survey of Household Economics and Decisionmaking. Fifty percent of renters reported that they lack the funds for a down payment and 31 percent of renters say they could not qualify for a mortgage.

Other reasons given for renting included 27 percent of renters saying it was cheaper for their household; 25 percent who thought renting was more convenient; and only 12 percent said they rented because they preferred it over owning.

Read more: Renter, Home Owner Gap Grows

The amount of income renters may have influenced their responses for why they choose to rent. For example, for renters earning less than $40,000 year, their top responses on why they rent were because they were unable to save for a down payment (52%) or qualify for a mortgage (35%). On the other hand, for renters who earn more than $100,000 a year, their top responses for renting were because they believed renting was more convenient (39%) or they preferred renting to owning (17%). Twenty-nine percent in the $100,000 and up earner group said they plan on moving in the near term.

Source: "Federal Reserve Report on Household Economic Well-Being," National Association of Home Builders Eye on Housing Blog (June 10, 2015) and "Midyear Report: The Housing Market Is on Track for Its Best Year Since 2006 (and it Ain’t a Bubble," realtor.com® (June 10, 2015)