Almost None of Us Can Afford a New Car Outright

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — The average cost of a new vehicle might cause a serious case of sticker shock for the vast majority of Americans.

Interest.com cited the cost of a new car at $32,086 this year and found it an unaffordable figure for buyers in 24 of 25 large metropolitan areas.

For example, residents of Tampa, Fla., can afford to spend only $14,209 on a new vehicle, leaving them a "purchase gap" of just under $18,000 they would need to finance to pay that $32,000 for a new car or truck.

Financing adds thousands of dollars to the cost of a new vehicle. According to BankingMyWay.com, the average auto loan interest rate stood at 3.27% last week.

Financing an $18,000 car loan at 3.3% would lead to an expensive monthly car payment: $525.84. And most Americans just can't afford that.

"Too many families are spending way too much on new cars and trucks," said Mike Sante, a spokesman for Interest.com. "Just because you can manage the monthly payment doesn't mean you should let a $30,000 or $40,000 ride gobble up such a huge share of your paycheck."

Sante says there really is no need to spend that kind of money on a vehicle, not when you have other auto buying options.

"You can get a great car for much less and use the savings to invest in yourself," he says. "That's where the money for your retirement or kids' college can come from."

The Interest.com list shows that residents of only one major U.S. city — Washington, D.C. — can afford to pay $32,000 for a new vehicle.

For San Francisco residents can afford, on average, $28,009 for a new car or truck with no money down (or a $563 maximum monthly car payment.)

Topping the middle tier of the list, New York City residents can afford $21,907 for a new vehicle, for a maximum monthly payment of $441. San Diego residents are around the same, facing a maximum monthly payment of $442, while aside from Tampa it's Miami and Detroit residents who are least able to afford a new car outright.

To fit a new car or truck purchase within your household budget, Interest.com advises using the "20/4/10" rule. That means a down payment of at least 20%; a financing period of no more than four years; and monthly payments not more than 10% of the buyer's household income.

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