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Here Are Some Very Good Brand New Cars You Can Get For Under $400 Per Month

Illustration for article titled Here Are Some Very Good Brand New Cars You Can Get For Under $400 Per Month
Photo: Justin Westbrook/Jalopnik

Coronavirus is already having a dramatic impact on the economy and finances are going to be tight for a lot of people. Once everyone is back to work (not that many of you are waiting), some of you may still need to get a new set of wheels. Here is a sampling of some solid rides, without blowing your budget.

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Even though most car-buying experts say to focus on the total cost, most people still look at vehicle purchases through the lens of monthly payments. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing as long as consumers are viewing payments from the perspective of what they can afford and setting their budgets accordingly. Before the epidemic hit, the average monthly payment for a new car was around $551 per month and far too many people were stretching themselves to make that payment.

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I’ve discussed before the danger of “overbuying” cars and getting more than you need and in doing so putting your self in a financial situation that could be dangerous if economic hardship hits. For millions of people that scenario has happened, and now it may be time to reevaluate their car buying strategy.

I’m going to show you some quality vehicles that you can put in your driveway for under $400 per month. However, before we dive in it’s important for me to put into context how I arrived at that $400 payment. Using a loan calculator I was able to plug in payments of $400. I set an interest rate of five percent (depending on your credit this APR may be higher or lower). I also set a term of 60 months. You can put in longer terms and increase the budget accordingly, but in doing so you risk putting yourself in an underwater situation. This means our total spending limit is about $21,000.

Illustration for article titled Here Are Some Very Good Brand New Cars You Can Get For Under $400 Per Month

Of course, you can purchase any number of quality pre-owned cars for under $21,000 but this is for the folks who don’t have the time or the inclination to filter through pre-owned listings and prefer a brand new car with a full warranty. And this is just a sampling and is by no means an exhaustive list.

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Sedan - Chevy Malibu

Illustration for article titled Here Are Some Very Good Brand New Cars You Can Get For Under $400 Per Month
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Finding smaller sedans like a Toyota Corolla or Hyundai Accent is easy in the sub-$20,000 market but sometimes you need something a bit bigger and more comfortable especially if you have multiple passengers. The Malibu will be discontinued as a new model, but not because it was a bad car, it just wasn’t a good enough seller for GM when everyone wants a crossover.

Hatchback - Mazda3

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The Mazda3 is a staff favorite for obvious reasons: It’s a blast to drive, loaded with tech, and feels like a car that is a lot more expensive. There are a number of cheaper alternatives for a similar price point, but if you are commuting in the Mazda you will never feel like you skimped out on getting a nice car for a reasonable payment.

Hybrid - Kia Niro

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You can keep your payments in check and save money at the pump with a car that is both practical and fun. The Niro is a blend between a crossover, hatchback, and a wagon. It comes standard with a lot of great tech, and is rated to return up to 51 MPG in city driving.

Crossover - Hyundai Tuscon

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I chose what most would consider a real “crossover” and not a small lifted hatchback with AWD and limited space. The Tuscon comes standard with Andriod Auto/Apple Car Play and a slew of safety tech. While the Tuscon’s 22/25 MPG rating isn’t awesome, it’s reasonably fuel-efficient for its size and you get a comfortable and solid car with a long warranty to get the job done.

Truck - Dodge 1500 Tradesman

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You won’t get a fancy truck for under $21,000, but if you need an actual truck for your job that can tow and haul, you don’t need to spend $40,000 or more on what are basically luxury cars with 4x4 and a bed. There are a number of basic “work trucks” with some heavy discounts. If you don’t need something as big as the 1500 you can also find plenty of low-spec Colorados and Frontiers.

Tom is a contributing writer for Jalopnik and runs AutomatchConsulting.com. He saves people money and takes the hassle out of buying or leasing a car. (Facebook.com/AutomatchConsulting)

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DISCUSSION

rednetnoc
No Kids Just Bikes

Maybe I am just getting old*, but to me $400 is the line where a payment gets expensive. I don’t know how people do the average monthly payments new cars command nowadays.

*old = turning 40 in 1.5 months and the only new car I have ever owned was a 2007 Mazda3. But I am aiming to semi-retire in ~4 years so maybe I am on to something.