New Cars Are Too Expensive For Most Americans

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Well, this is a nice, depressing way to start your week: according to a study from (part of, the average American can no longer afford to buy an average-priced new car. Also, I imagine the report adds, all puppies will eventually die.

The average price for a new car in these United States is now $32,086. The study looked at the median household income in the 25 largest metropolitan areas, and used a formula that assumed a 20 percent down payment, a loan of four years or less, and the overall cost, including insurance, coming out to no more than 10 percent of the gross income of the household.

Using these metrics, only median-income people from the Washington, D.C. area can buy a new car (with a monthly payment of $641), and you just know they’re probably going to buy something boring.


Sure, you can have a much longer-term loan, for, say, six or even more years and get the monthly payment down to something you can afford, but chances are that you’d end up being upside-down paying for that six-year old car that’s almost certainly not going to be worth the money you’re paying for it by the time it’s that old.


On some level, it’s not that shocking that the average price of a new car is so high; the baseline we’ve set for cars regarding safety and emissions and fuel economy is by far higher than it’s ever been, and all that technology buyers demand these days costs real money. Plus, the overall standards of what people want in cars has grown as well, and carmakers have trouble making money at the very bottom end of the market.

The days of cars like the rear-seat-delete Chevette Scooter and similar super-cheap shitboxes are long gone, and are not that likely to return.


It’s not all quite as dire as it sounds, though. There’s actually a number of excellent cars at least $10,000 cheaper than the average car price, and if you’re able to grow up and not be so concerned with inane marketing ideas of ‘aspirational’ cars, then I suspect many people can find something new and safe and engaging that does what they need for around $25,000 no problem.

Plus, used cars. We’re all too smart to buy new anyway, right? Of course we are.