Issue: Feb 2013


Most Americans Struggle to Afford New Car



A median-income household can only afford the average-priced new car in one of the 25 largest metro areas, according to new research from Interest.com (a Bankrate company).

by Esther Francis

A median-income household can only afford the average-priced new car or light truck in one of the 25 largest metropolitan areas in the U.S. (Washington, D.C.), according to research released today by Interest.com, a Bankrate (NYSE: RATE) company. Interest.com published a related list of how much a median-income household in each metro area can afford to spend on a vehicle.

“What this research indicates, more than anything, is that a lot of Americans are spending too much money on their cars,” said Mike Sante, managing editor of Interest.com. “Car costs are one of the most controllable parts of a household’s budget. For example, if you live in New York City or San Francisco, you’re probably going to have to pay a lot for housing, but you don’t have to pay a lot for a car. You’re better off driving something more affordable and saving or investing the difference.”
When calculating how much a household can afford to spend on a car or light truck, Interest.com considered three key factors that are commonly referred to as the “20/4/10” rule. That is: a down payment of at least 20%; financing lasting no longer than four years; and principal, interest and insurance not exceeding 10% of a household’s gross income.

Interest.com recommends that median-income households spend no more than the following amounts on vehicle payments (principal and interest) in total and each month. For comparative purposes, the average price of a new car or light truck in 2012 was $30,550, according to TrueCar. That equates to a monthly payment of approximately $601.

1. Washington, D.C.
Affordable Purchase Price: $31,940
Maximum Monthly Payment: $628

2. San Francisco
Affordable Purchase Price: $26,786
Maximum Monthly Payment: $537

3. Boston
Affordable Purchase Price: $26,025
Maximum Monthly Payment: $507

4. Baltimore
Affordable Purchase Price: $24,079
Maximum Monthly Payment: $468

5. Minneapolis
Affordable Purchase Price: $24,042
Maximum Monthly Payment: $470

6. Seattle
Affordable Purchase Price: $22,963
Maximum Monthly Payment: $466

7. Portland, Ore.
Affordable Purchase Price: $21,985
Maximum Monthly Payment: $397

8. Denver
Affordable Purchase Price: $21,835
Maximum Monthly Payment: $432

9. San Diego
Affordable Purchase Price: $21,781
Maximum Monthly Payment: $433

10. New York City
Affordable Purchase Price: $21,464
Maximum Monthly Payment: $431

11. Philadelphia
Affordable Purchase Price: $21,069
Maximum Monthly Payment: $419

12. Chicago
Affordable Purchase Price: $20,616
Maximum Monthly Payment: $417

13. Los Angeles
Affordable Purchase Price: $20,385
Maximum Monthly Payment: $410

14. Sacramento
Affordable Purchase Price: $19,965
Maximum Monthly Payment: $397

15. Dallas
Affordable Purchase Price: $19,959
Maximum Monthly Payment: $389

16. Houston
Affordable Purchase Price: $19,811
Maximum Monthly Payment: $386

17. Milwaukee
Affordable Purchase Price: $19,297
Maximum Monthly Payment: $373

18. Atlanta
Affordable Purchase Price: $19,122
Maximum Monthly Payment: $376

19. St. Louis
Affordable Purchase Price: $18,550
Maximum Monthly Payment: $371

20. Pittsburgh
Affordable Purchase Price: $17,298
Maximum Monthly Payment: $340

21. Phoenix
Affordable Purchase Price: $17,243
Maximum Monthly Payment: $348

22. San Antonio
Affordable Purchase Price: $17,137
Maximum Monthly Payment: $334

23. Detroit
Affordable Purchase Price: $17,093
Maximum Monthly Payment: $332

24. Miami
Affordable Purchase Price: $15,188
Maximum Monthly Payment: $295

25. Tampa
Affordable Purchase Price: $14,516
Maximum Monthly Payment: $282

More information is available at:
http://www.interest.com/auto/news/car-prices-outpace-median-income/

Methodology:
For each metro area, Interest.com calculated 10% of the monthly median gross household income in that area and subtracted the average monthly insurance premium in that area to determine the maximum amount that the median-income household should spend on monthly car payments (principal and interest).

Interest.com used its Auto Loan Calculator to calculate how much the median-income household can afford to borrow. Assumptions: 20% down payment, 48-month loan, national average interest rate, roll the sales tax into the amount being financed. The calculator is available at:
http://www.interest.com/auto/calculators/auto-loan-calculator/

Sources:
Median incomes for each metro area were pulled from the U.S. Census Bureau's 2011 "American Community Survey” (the latest year for which data is available).
Insurance costs are 2010 statewide averages from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (the latest year for which data is available).
TrueCar provided the average national cost for new cars or light trucks in 2012.
The average rate for a 48-month new car loan came from Bankrate.com (January 23, 2013).
Sales tax rates were obtained from local governments and car dealers.

About Interest.com:
Since it was created in 1994, Interest.com has been helping consumers make smart financial decisions. Interest.com’s stories, calculators and interest rate tables also appear on the websites of more than 100 newspapers in 31 states, including the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune and the Dallas Morning News.
Interest.com is owned by Bankrate, Inc., which is among the largest and most trusted providers of personal finance advice and information on the Web.

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