By on July 13, 2017

NIssan Nalley GT-R Versa - Image: NissanLast week, we told you that Americans are paying more for new cars than they’ve ever paid before while enjoying record-high incentives. Car buyers are able to spend more in large part because the payment terms are longer than ever before.

The average new vehicle purchase now requires a $32,900 expenditure, made possible by incentives of $3,550 per car and a loan term of 69.3 months. The average payment is now $517 per month.

But how much would you pay? What’s your maximum price, your maximum payment, your maximum term length?

The easy answer: it depends.

Perhaps you’d be willing to spend more on a pickup truck than a midsize car, or vice versa. $50,000 sounds like a lot when you’re talking about a Volkswagen Touareg, but it doesn’t sound like much when you’re considering a Porsche Cayenne. $57,045 for the Shelby GT350 Mustang, the type of car for which you’ve always dreamed, is a scream of a deal; $33,450 for a basic no-options BMW 320i is not.

“It depends,” however, doesn’t answer the question. We want to know where the typical TTAC audience member sets its max. Are you simply unable to justify spending more than $10,000, essentially limiting yourself to a selection of pre-owned machinery? Or do you have $40,000 burning a hole in your Impala-loving pocket?

Or you can forget the MSRP from the equation and talk payment plans instead. Would you be willing to spend $517 per month for a new vehicle?

And if you were spending $517 per month, for how long would you be willing to pay? Three years? Four, five, six? What about the 96-month term that pins you down until July 2025?2017 Ford F150 Build Configurator - Image: Ford.com screenshot

[Images: Nissan, Ford]

Timothy Cain is a contributing analyst at The Truth About Cars and Autofocus.ca and the founder and former editor of GoodCarBadCar.net. Follow on Twitter @timcaincars.

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163 Comments on “QOTD: How Much Will You Pay for a New Car?...”


  • avatar
    threeer

    When doing Carmax/Autotrader searches for my *next* ride, I usually cap myself at $20k. Granted, the last two I bought were well under that ($14,500 for one, $13,000 for the other). I know that $20k isn’t much anymore when it comes to cars, but that still gets me squarely into a really decent 3-4 year old model with lots of options at that upper price.

    • 0 avatar
      DearS

      $20k offers a great deal on a new car. A compact car today is incredibly priced IMO.

      Whatever $200/month affords me is what I use. A used car costs around that much to keep with repairs and depreciation. Most vehicles should be good for 185k miles or 12.5 years of life. That means $200 X 162.5 months = $32,500: is a decent price for a car.

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    The most I have ever paid for a car was $34.9 for a 2.5 year old used Suburban, 7 years ago. I still have it.

    I struggle with the idea of paying more for that for a car/truck whatever. I don’t do car payments so their no chance I am paying 60k for anything as I could not bear to part with the much cash out of my account at once for a depreciating item.

  • avatar
    thelaine

    Every time I’m tempted, I just get sticker shock and decide to keep what I have. So I guess my answer is “zero.”

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      This, frankly. The fact that I’ve been driving functioning vehicles that do what I need them to do for the cost of what someone might pay in sales tax on a new one is a bit of a deterrent. I guess I also have a strong aversion to depreciation. If I were to buy something nicer, it’d have to be something that holds its value insanely well. Finally, these cheap cars are fun to cycle through and move on to the next thing, with a minimal financial hit.

      Once things settle in a bit in terms of financial priorities, I think I might finally consolidate to a single, utilitarian newer vehicle. Crew cab 4wd pickup truck is the idea at the moment, most likely a Tundra for maximum reliability and resale, and rolldown rear window.

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      Yeah, I have no interest in hopping back on the payment carousel now that the mortgage is retired. Between that and my stockpile of beaters, I’m done with car buying for a while except for whatever Bush 41-vintage JDM touring sedan catches my eye.

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        “Bush 41-vintage JDM touring sedan catches my eye.”

        We are truly kindred souls, you and I.

        • 0 avatar
          Corey Lewis

          S O A R E R

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            There was an uber/Lyft/something driver on my street a few days ago in a really clean, tinted, black ’01 ES300 with big SC430 wheels on it and some sort of drop-in HID kit. Looked fantastic and made me miss having a nice Japanese sedan.

            There’s this somewhat locally:
            indianapolis.craigslist.org/cto/6214778787.html

          • 0 avatar
            Corey Lewis

            Hmm. Something doesn’t jive to me. Miles that low, fog lamps both filled with water, and serious wheel corrosion. There’s too much seat wear for 60k miles.

            I think it sat in some water for a while perhaps.

            Why’s there no plate?

            Why call out V8 in the ad (and lie about 25mpg) and then put V6 in the details?

            Why no photo of the cluster?

          • 0 avatar
            bumpy ii

            Soarer is nice, but I already have too many coupes.

            Q41 isn’t bad, but those were getting into the late ’90 cost-cutting era.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Oh yeah!

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            I agree Corey, the wheel corrosion and a few other details caught my eye. There was a much cleaner silver Q45 (in some sort of sporty touring giuse?) for $6k earlier this year, that was a much more fetching looking car.

            I’d rather stick with more plebian FWD platforms, simply for cheaper and more common parts (suspension, etc).

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            bumpy and Corey, a super creepy Japanese-market Cefiro featuring the world’s most stilted-talking American white people ever:

            youtu.be/e5gfcGj1wIY

          • 0 avatar
            Corey Lewis

            FOR ME, it all starts with family.

            Where the heck did they get these people? I wonder if they told them to talk like they were speaking to a foreign child.

          • 0 avatar
            bumpy ii

            I think it’s that they’re speaking with suppressed accents, the sort of English that probably gets taught in ESL classes in Japan.

            That link goes to a J30 Maxima ad, and for extra fun, here’s a U11 Bluebird Maxima hardtop: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aIeU-pl8GiY

            I think if you’re looking at a Q45 for $6k, you might as well dig a little deeper and get a full President for $8k: https://www.japaneseclassics.com/vehicle/1991-nissan-president-vip/

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            youtu.be/JqfiShbQiAY

            If you drive one of these your shadow will turn into a freakin’ leopard bro, but only if you’re wearing an awesome white suit, have a stern look on your face, and there’s cool synth music playing.

            You’re right I misspoke, I instinctively want to call JDM-spec Maximas Cefiros, since that seemed to be the case for the A32 generation(?) that we got as I30s. Our family friend back in Siberia had a nice white one in the early 2000s, it was like a spaceship to him after a Volga 31029 that supposedly ejected its crankshaft through the block somehow. This guy also drove around listening to Status Quo and wearing white jeans so take all of this with a grain of salt.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            What got me on that Maxima-ad bent:

            louisville.craigslist.org/cto/6147811287.html

            In all likelihood that car would need about $1k-$1500 in tires, t-belt and other deferred maintenance, but man it’d be a sweet ride once that’s taken care of!

          • 0 avatar
            bumpy ii

            Ah, 4DSC love. This is a less desirable one, though. A 5-speed ’92-94 SE with the DOHC heads is the way to go.

            The A32 Cefiro was a fancy-trimmed ’95 Maxima, but the A31 was a framed-window sister car to the C33 Laurel. Back in the mid-’80s, the C32 Laurel and R31 Skyline both offered framed-window and hardtop sedans. When their replacements came in for ’88-89, Nissan shuffled around the body styles to offer one of each: Laurel was a full hardtop, Skyline was a pillared hardtop, and the Cefiro was added to provide a full sedan body.

    • 0 avatar
      HeyILikemySaturnOK

      Same. Cheap maybe, but I’ve gotten used to not having car payments. Eventually I will probably get another used late-model car for around $ 10k or so.

      Although I do keep getting tempted to buy myself a used, small sh@tbox for commuting for less than 5k.

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        “Although I do keep getting tempted to buy myself a used, small sh@tbox for commuting for less than 5k.”

        I feed my car lust with a rotating spot in my fleet for cheap CL finds “flavor of the month” I joke. Clean 2 owner ’96 ES300 for over the winter on some fat snow tires (bought for $1600, spent $700ish on repairs, sold for $2200 in the spring). Then it was a cheap little Ranger since I missed driving stick, had a number of outdoor construction projects planned, and I’ve always wanted a beater RWD pickup. Bought for $1700, with some repairs and maintenance I figure I’ll put in about $1400 or so, and then sell it for $2400 or so when the time comes. Not making a profit on these things, more like a cheap car payment and I get to try a lot of different stuff that serves its purpose.

  • avatar
    Adam Tonge

    If I like the new Bronco, I’ll probably spend whatever that costs. It will be entirely too much.

    Don’t do a term longer than 72 months. And don’t do 72 months if the interest rate isn’t extremely good. On 84 month loans, bad things happen.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      ^This.

      I’m not comfortable beyond 60 months but 72 should be a hard limit unless its a collector car that you’re just going to hide in the garage and wait for the Barrett Jackson auction in 2050.

  • avatar
    random1

    As a (used) Touareg owner, I don’t get the Touareg vs Cayenne argument. Waaay too much of a premium for the Porsche badge.

    • 0 avatar
      jkross22

      The interior design, seat comfort, steering and brakes, stereo and handling (porsche feels decent for an suv where the Touareg feels really big) are all noticeably better in the Cayenne.

      Despite the badge, the Cayenne is appealing.

    • 0 avatar
      Timothy Cain

      Regardless of how much buyers understand the argument, the Touareg lost the debate.

      http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2017/07/dead-just-sleeping-volkswagen-america-drops-touareg-2018-lineup/

  • avatar
    a5ehren

    $35k before tax, tag, etc is my ceiling. Not going to take a loan longer than 36 months unless the interest rate is under 1%.

  • avatar
    pb35

    I’d pay $50k for a $60k car but not $50k for a $50k car. I wouldn’t pay more than $44.5k for a $50k car. Funny how that works.

    Never financed for more than 48 months, either.

  • avatar
    syncro87

    On this topic, potential for humblebrag in comments = high.

  • avatar
    matt3319

    I will always go for at least as possible on a car and don’t mind be a ass when haggling. Its my money, well the banks. I haggle on everything. Price, fees, rate/buy rate. They want a deal, well, earn it.

    The highest MSRP would be the 2016 Ford F-150 XLT crew 4X4. It was like $45.8XX. Waked out the door at right over $33800. Got everything under the sun including holdback. its there, they have it so ask for it. It was about $1300. Makes a difference.

    My wife gets embarrassed when I’m like this but she knows its about money. Dealers expect this on every deal.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    $3,678.

  • avatar
    ajla

    $57,000 is my max.

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    Apparently many are not spending a dime on a new car, as they walk past them to buy a SUV, CUV or pickup.

  • avatar
    bikegoesbaa

    I’d have a hard time paying over $20k for any car, as I could find a good-shape used example of about any class of vehicle that would meet all my needs/wants for this price.

    Something new, truly nice, and absolutely perfect for me would get me as high as $30k.

    No way I’d go higher. By that point you’re already well beyond diminishing returns, and it just gets worse and worse as the cost increases.

    Aside from “strategic” financing where I’m working a low interest rate to make money elsewhere I don’t finance cars, and even if I did I don’t think it would change my price ceiling. Why would I be willing to pay money that I otherwise would not just because it takes longer?

    Our household income is ~90th percentile and we have no debt and no kids, so this isn’t driven by lack of resources. I just don’t see what $50k cars offer that would make me happier or make my life better than what $20k cars do.

    • 0 avatar
      JMII

      Same as you $20-30K max regardless these days. In a few years I’ll have to bump up my threshold. This is why I buy used, with lots down (cash + trade). You can get a pretty nice used car at $30K. And by used I’m talking under 3 years old. If you wrench yourself and don’t mind getting greasy your choices expand greatly.

      Financing wise terms have to be under 5 years, like 3 being optimal. However I’ve take longer loans just to get the payments down and then make double payments because they are lower. The logic here was getting monthly payments low enough so we could technically afford the vehicle with only one salary. Then as long as the wife and I are both employed we could easily throw cash at the principal and cut the note in half.

      Another trick we use is alternating car purchases. For example wife gets a new car, then 3 years later (when its paid off) I get a new car. This way we are never paying for two cars at once. I currently own 3 vehicles (4 if you count my boat)… but I only own payments on ONE.

      I have feeling in the next 3 years my current car will become a track only toy. I can then drive the wife’s car daily and she can upgrade again.

    • 0 avatar
      brn

      Ditto. If the average new car is $33,300, I won’t be buying an average new car.

      My last car (most I ever spent) was $20,700 for a one year old above average car. I could have seen myself going as high as $25,000 for new (my previous two vehicles were brand new).

      I do well financially. Paid cash and could have paid cash for just about any new car, but why? Unless you’re set for retirement and truly have money to burn, spending $50,000+ on a vehicle doesn’t make sense.

  • avatar
    slavuta

    I would pay $35K for Q50 with manual but they don’t make it. Similarly for Jiulia, but they don’t make it.

    So, what do I have to choose from? Right now 2017 Mazda6 Sport should cost me under $18K. Same for Elantra Sport, around 18. Waiting to test new Elantra GT.

    Bottom line, I would pay around 35K for up-level car other than that, around 20 sounds right. Definitely, wouldn’t pay $27-28K for Golf/GTI

  • avatar
    e30gator

    Since I just can’t bring myself to flush $20k down the toilet for the privilege of having that fleeting “new car smell”, the answer is zero.

    I just spent $20k a few months back on a slightly used Buick Enclave, and while I saved a lot on depreciation, I still have buyer’s remorse every time I think about that little car payment.

    My next purchase will cash for the lowest mileage old geezer car I can find on CL. So, probably another Buick.

  • avatar
    Wheatridger

    I seem to be settling into the high teens, new or used. My last buy was a three-year-old GTI, for $17,000, four years ago. This year I helped my kid buy a three-year-old Ford C-Max Hybrid for $14,000. She loves it, and I liked it enough that I’m buying one today, new and loaded. After the generous tax credit for plug-in hybrids, the net price should be… $17,000.

    Makes me one of the low rollers here, I suppose.

  • avatar
    Syke

    I just paid $23,900.00 for a brand new 2016 Honda Gold Wing. That is more than I’ve ever paid for a car, new or used.

    Obviously, my priorities are different. And this bike is expected to last the rest of my riding life (15-20 years, hopefully), on two wheels for as long as I can keep the bike up, then add sidecar.

    Payments are $428/month over 60 months. I give myself until December 2018 to have it paid off, at which point I retire fully from my job at the Honda/Yamaha shop.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      I just paid $23,900.00 for a brand new 2016 Honda Gold Wing.

      How do you like your Barcalounger? ;-)

      Personally I’ve always loved the long distance cruisers.

      • 0 avatar
        Syke

        Scared as hell under 15mph. Having already dropped it on the crash bars once, I know what it takes to singlehandedly get it back upright. Those YouTube videos on the subject are for real.

        Absolutely adore it at anything over that speed. Haven’t done more than 200 miles/day on it, yet, but I have a memorial service for a reenactor buddy in St. Augustine next month. Going to be my first long ride, solo. 75 days later I put Maggie on the back and we do the same trip together.

        Then I get serious about going somewhere . . . . .

        By the way, the Triumph Sprint and Harley Super Glide are still in the garage. And the Triumph is still the ride of choice for under 300 miles round trip.

    • 0 avatar
      brn

      I know it’s difficult to tell, but that’s not a car. You’ll notice the first time you do a tire rotation.

      ;)

  • avatar
    chaparral

    $50,000 for a four-seat 250-mile EV that can run 0-60 in <4 seconds. That price would have to include a 240/50 charger at home and a nice long warranty.

  • avatar
    seth1065

    I would say 35K for a new car for my wife, she keeps them 10 years plus so I would splurge, for me I prefer used because I drive to many miles a year for a new car to make sense, so maybe 25 max, no loans over 48 months no matter the price.

  • avatar
    ncwalls

    I will spend what I can realistically afford to get the car I want. I only buy cars that I like to drive so I don’t mind spending money on them. I’d rather make payments on a car I like than spend years driving a car I don’t like while saving up.

    I don’t get rid of them until they are worth more than I owe.

    In late 2009 I bought a new RX-8 with a 60 month loan. About 3 years later (2013) I reluctantly traded it in on a Focus ST, again with 60 month loan. 4 years (and a few raises) later, I traded that in for a Focus RS. I stretched a bit for this with a 68 month loan but it is so worth it. I love this car and expect to have it a long time.

    I am saving up for a Lotus of some sort but that will take a while as don’t want to get rid of the RS. (I’ve considered trading the RS for a used Fiesta ST just to free up some funds for the Lotus but I really don’t want to give up the RS)

    • 0 avatar
      bikegoesbaa

      Honest question: Does the RS make you happier than the ST? Do you think the Lotus will make you happier than the RS?

      I’m trying to sort out if people who frequently trade out cars see it as “moving up” to a better thing each time that brings additional happiness as a result, or if it’s just trying new things and the fun is that the new thing is different rather than necessarily better.

      • 0 avatar
        ncwalls

        “Does the RS make you happier than the ST?” Yes it absolutely does. It is better in every way (except mpg but I don’t care about that) and I really enjoy driving it every day.

        “Do you think the Lotus will make you happier than the RS?” Yes, but it would serve a different purpose (weekend/track), not replace the RS (daily commuter). I guess I wasn’t clear about that. I couldn’t daily drive something like a Lotus Exige (and wouldn’t want to) so it will have to be a second car.

        Cars are a fun thing for me, not just a transportation appliance. I get more enjoyment out of driving fun cars every day than having a bit more money sit in my bank.

        I don’t see my car choices as “moving up”, or a status symbol or whatever. In fact, the RX-8 to ST was more of a step down for the sake of practicality (It was even a bit cheaper.) and the Lotus is old and unrefined and not practical at all. (but again, not a daily driver) People trying to keep up with Joneses don’t want a tiny, 10 year old British sports car with questionable A/C and no sound deadening. :)

        Some people buy new cars every few years because they just like having a new car I guess. I did not plan to do that, it just worked out that way based on my situation and what was available.

        The ST was a practical decision (I miss my RX-8) but I got bored with it and it’s FWD handling. I still needed space and didn’t want another FWD car. The Focus RS was the only thing that appealed to me in my budget and fit my wants and needs. It’s about as close as I can get to a real sports car while still having all the practicality I need. It is a great daily driver / occasional track car and I don’t expect to be getting rid of it anytime soon (nothing new out there currently interests me anyway).

        However, I still miss having a RWD sports car. While the RS is a great hot hatch, it’s simply not a pure driver’s car. The simplicity, light-weight, rawness, and famous steering of the Lotus Elise/Exige all appeals to me. It’s a fun toy, basically a big exotic go-kart and I think that’s really cool.

        So my plan for now is to hold on to the RS and just swap out a second fun car every once in a while to try different things (there are many cars I’d like to try).

        (Sorry this post was so long.)

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    If I can’t swing a 60-month loan, then it’s too much.

    I also have a real hangup with prices that start with a ‘3’ or higher. My initial price ceiling for the last purchase was $28K, which would have covered a new GTI or low mileage G37/328i et al. I changed direction and broke my <$29999 rule with a $37K MSRP SUV and still feel a bit uneasy about it. I did so because:

    -The vehicle provides real and tangible benefits for me and my family in a way a hot hatch or sports sedan would not
    -I anticipate a 15 year service life that will bring down per mile costs
    -It holds its value very well should I have to offload it early, and by the time it has 200K miles it will probably still be worth 25% of the purchase price.

    I never would have spent that much on a rapidly depreciating sedan or coupe.

  • avatar
    jaks

    This is relative to income. If I make $150k/yr, I’m happy to pay up to $1500/mo. I usually follow a 1%/triple payment rule. Don’t buy a car if the payment is more than 1% of my gross income, and don’t buy a car if I can’t afford to make triple payments on it. Now, I don’t normally make triple payments, but the ability to do so gives me the confidence to know I’m not over extending myself. I’m at a comfy $450/mo 72 mo loan at 1% which is well under what I allow myself.

  • avatar
    Rengaw

    The most I ever spent for a car was $25,000 for a new 2009 Toyota RAV 4. I kick myself now knowing that $25,000 would have bought me a lot more car if I had purchased a used 3 or 4 year old vehicle.

    I try and resist the temptation to want to buy the latest and greatest car I just saw at the auto show. My ceiling for a used car is $15,000 to $20,000 and I don’t buy the first year of a recently revamped model.

  • avatar
    mikey

    There is just so few vehicles being made, that even spark my interest. An ATS coupe maybe ? The 17 Camaro V6 convertible ? A loaded double cab Silverado is also looking good.

    I’m still working on getting my head around leasing. The best I could do on the Caddy was $657 Cdn. a month. The Camaro ,and the Silverado come in in the mid $50 Cdn. range (out the door price).

    My absolute max for a lease would be $475.00 Can. As far as pulling money out of savings ? $35 K .Cdn. would be my ceiling.

    I guess I’m with “thelaine” on this one…Right now my answer is zero.

    • 0 avatar
      kvndoom

      “There is just so few vehicles being made, that even spark my interest.”

      I’m having the same problem. As the manual transmission dies, and as beige sedan blobs give way to silver CUV blobs while sporty non-pony cars wither, I have so much less exuberance towards cars than I did just 5 years ago.

    • 0 avatar
      hpycamper

      Yes. Too few vehicles that are just right. And yet so many commenters on this site have advocated for consolidation, and elimination of models. I really don’t get it.

    • 0 avatar
      Add Lightness

      Quite often a new model comes out and I just think to myself ‘I can hardly wait until it hits my price point’
      Almost always when it depreciates down to the 4 digits, I think to myself ‘WHAT WAS I THINKING!!!’ and move on to another target vehicle.
      I already have too many cars as toys so am fortunate to be able to be fickle.

  • avatar
    kvndoom

    I have a hard cap of $15,000* so there’s not much chance of getting anything new.

    *$18,000 if it’s a Honda, because I know the smiles-per-gallon will be worth the extra cost.

  • avatar
    Parousia

    Depends on “the deal.” If I can get a deal on a car that I know I can resell for more than I paid for it on Day One, cost becomes less of an issue. Otherwise, my family has a $25,000 cap on vehicle purchases to keep our finances in check while also mitigating against costly repairs. Full disclosure: family fleet includes 2017 Pacifica Touring L ($8000 off sticker, last-day-of-the-year purchase) and 2013 CPO Genesis 5.0 R-Spec.

  • avatar
    Olyar15

    $260k, give or take a few thousand. Not sure if it was “worth” it, but I like the car. On the other hand there are some cars I wouldn’t buy for any price.

  • avatar
    deanst

    Im old enough to remember when air conditioning was a luxury, and leather was only found on cadillacs and lincolns. That said, I’m more than content with a max of $20,000. I don’t have a boat to tow, nor do I equate large vehicles with anything desirable. I guess I like being contrary – when people talk about being embarrassed about being seen in anything small or without the proper badge, I pity their poor sense of self worth.

  • avatar
    65corvair

    $25,000 max, no loan.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Simple $25k MSRP. Of course in Ontario there is a 13% tax (HST) to pay on all purchases. Plus delivery/prep/destination/AC tax/etc.

    Generally use Car Cost or Automobile Protection Association to start the negotiations.

    Then after getting a set price. Negotiate the trade in value. Then use our pre-arranged financing and try to get a better finance package. Again after negotiating the actual price and trade in.

    Over the past 3 purchases have ended up with a monthly payment around $300.

  • avatar
    jmo

    I’ve been looking recently and it looks like $55k is my number.

  • avatar
    gearhead77

    Our Sienna SE had a 43k window sticker. That is the largest window sticker we’ve paid for new. We leased it for 36 months and it’s around 420/month. To buy would have been nearly 650/month. So, 40k is pretty much the limit in either terms. I will not go more than 60 months and I’d like to do 48. Same for my personal car, the Sienna is the wife’s/family duty. I wanted to buy an SS when they did 20% off, but I couldn’t justify a 40k large sedan when we have a 40k minivan too. Not for a car that spends its time at the airport lot, getting dinged and accumulating airport rash.

    As discussed in the last QOTD of “next ride”, I’m looking at Fiesta ST, Fiat 500c Abarth and the GTI( or an R if one should pop up), maybe Mini Clubman or convertible. The Ford and Fiat have epic depreciation, which makes buying used a better financial deal, especially the 500. But finding a loaded Fiesta without Recaros is tough, as is finding a 500c with leather and a manual. And the way Mini does equipment, finding exactly what you want used can be tough, but the new asking price is absurd.

    Anymore, I’m more inclined to buy new for the warranty and the unspoiled nature of a new car. One thing in my favor is my profession allows me air travel for free anywhere, but that presents its own issues. Hard to walk from a deal when you have no where to go.

  • avatar
    jack4x

    Never too much that I feel uncomfortable making the payments, even if my wife or I lost a job for several months.

    Never putting so little down that I’m significantly upside down at any point, unless the loan is 0%

    Never paying any type of ADM

    Never unnecessarily paying extra for a badge

  • avatar
    kefkafloyd

    $25K is my limit.

  • avatar
    JimZ

    I have something of a soft “mental block” against going above $35k. the closest I’ve come was $33k for my 2012 Mustang GT, though with a very-right-side-up trade and a few more bucks down, I think I financed a little over half of it.

    just something about seeing that bottom line number getting close to starting with a “4” makes me uneasy. even though I can easily afford it.

  • avatar
    RobbieAZ

    We paid near sticker for both of our cars. Both are German, both stickered at a little over $61k, and both are on 5 year loans with payments around $850. Yes we know we’re crazy, but we have no kids and we like nice cars so we figure what the hell.

    • 0 avatar
      slavuta

      where do you hide your money press?

      • 0 avatar
        30-mile fetch

        Not having kids kind of *is* a money press. Daycare alone would cover the monthly payment on one of those German cash destroyers.

        • 0 avatar
          MeJ

          @30-mile fetch

          “…German cash destroyers…”

          As the former owner of a 2007 Bmw, that totally hit home.

        • 0 avatar
          onyxtape

          No kidding. $40k/yr for both kids for the first 5 years of preschool and daycare.

          And some people say save up for college…

          • 0 avatar
            Wheatridger

            At least kids are an appreciating asset.

          • 0 avatar
            brn

            “At least kids are an appreciating asset.”

            Maybe meant as a joke, but very true. Kids pay you back, not financially, over time. Those without kids will either have to have a lot of money in their golden years, or they’ll live a pretty sad life. What do you do when there’s no one to help care for you?

          • 0 avatar
            30-mile fetch

            “Kids are an appreciating asset”

            I hope this remains true. I adore my kids, but at 4yo that is easy. I’ve seen substandard parents produce great kids, great parents produce train wreck kids, and everything in between. Makes it feel like a crap shoot.

            If they go bananas in adulthood I’m billing them for the nicer house and international travel I’m currently not enjoying.

  • avatar

    All I require in a car is air conditioning, cruise control, and a manual transmission. I’m pretty content as long as it’s comfortable, reliable, and a little quirky

    That being said, the most expensive car I’ve ever bought based on MSRP is my current Sonic. It was stickered at $17,500 but I was able to get it down, thanks to rebates and the dealer willing it rid itself of a manual Sonic, to $12,500.

    The most I’ve spent on the actual price was our prior Honda Fit, which was $15,300. That’s about the most I’ll spend on any car

    These cars do 95% of what I require them to do, and I can always rent a car with the money saved if I need a change of scenery or need more space.

    My heart is set on a Chevy SS, but there are so many trips around the world, or other memories, that can be bought for $48k

  • avatar
    brettc

    I paid $29474 OTD for my 2012 Sportwagen. It was too much for me mentally but I did it anyway because I really wanted the car. I won’t make that mistake again…. VW will be paying me about 21K for my car and I don’t plan to replace it with anything over 25K.

    If the buyback wasn’t happening, I don’t think I’d go over 20K for my next car.

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      $21K buyback on a 5yo car originally worth $30K? TDI owners are incredibly lucky. That engine set off all kinds of warning lights and bells in my head long ago and I did the prudent thing by avoiding it only to watch others receive generous buybacks.

      The TDI is an expensive time bomb and that could be seen a mile away, eight years ago. What wasn’t obvious was the cheater software and generous buyback. Had I known, I would have gone for it; the buyback was offered about the time I would have left powertrain warranty. Dang it.

      Good on you for the 20-25K cap on a new car though. There are a lot of nice vehicles in that price range so there’s no need to over-extend.

      • 0 avatar
        brettc

        Assuming I can keep the mileage at or below 1042 miles per month, they should pay me $21587 at turn-in. Plus Bosch owes me $350 for their part in the cheat. So roughly $21937 in reality. I’ve been thinking 21 in my head.

        It’s been a decent car overall, except for little annoyances and problems that have been covered under warranty. Always wanted a diesel wagon and I finally got one, then 3 years later the cheating was revealed.

        It has been positive for me overall except for the $398.81 payment every month. I’ll be so glad to be payment free on the next one!

      • 0 avatar
        Wheatridger

        It’s not to late to take that VW TDI thrill ride. A limited number new 2015s are available, at a healthy discount. You’d be VW’s beta tester while they work through an yet-unfinalized Stage 2 hardware fix (basically, a redesigend exhaust emission system), and it it fails, you’d be in line for another buyout. It’s a risk I might have taken, but I’m in the mood for a change.

        • 0 avatar
          30-mile fetch

          Lol, but no way I’m tempting the universe to bait me into a beat-down with a “fixed” TDI. The Buyback Miracle ship has sailed, I may as well hope Halley’s Comet returns before 2061.

          I’ll risk it on a GTI but not an oil burner.

  • avatar
    Corey Lewis

    The headline photo illustrates one of the main problems with the Nissan GTR. The showroom has positioned the company’s sports coupe right next to their cheapest, ugly sedan.

    The GTR should be showroom-flanked by the Armada and the Maxima.

  • avatar
    2manycars

    How much do I want to pay? I want to pay nothing. Maybe four dollars a month would be OK.

    (If youtube link does not show, search that site for “Tin Men 3 BB Do Not Like Being Hustled”)

  • avatar
    Mandalorian

    My max is about $80,000, even though I could probably afford more because after that one starts to run into a law of diminishing returns in terms of improverment per dollar.

    The difference between a 30k car and a 40k car is significant, so is the difference between a 40k and a 50k, 50k and 60k and so on, but once it gets to 80,000 things slow down a bit.

    I’m not opposed to financing if I can get a very low rate, even if I can afford to pay cash.

  • avatar
    Detroit-X

    The ‘Stupid Rich’ will pay anything for a new car. If you subtract that, what are the numbers?

  • avatar
    FThorn

    I won’t pay much. But I’ve recently leased a new car for near $200/month. I’ve just recently bought four used cars. $11k, $8.5k, $6.5k, and $9.5k.

  • avatar
    TTCat

    Like others have stated, for a “new” car? $0

    I only bought a new car once in my life, and that depreciation experience was more than enough for me. That said, the depreciation curve on a cherry 2014 Cayman, allowed me to buy it last month for a price that a mere mortal can afford (think very low 40’s).

    I made a substantial down-payment and financed the rest, as the interest rate equated to essentially “free money” when paying back with inflated dollars and I put the money I didn’t spend to use earning way better than my loan rate.

    I still ran the term out to 72 months because I want my “locked-in” payment to be low in case of any financial issues, but otherwise I always overpay on the monthly and windup with usually less than a 3 to 4 year obligation – then I keep the car for another 7-8 years…

  • avatar
    Eddie_B

    Under $20,000 – and that must include everything, such as taxes.

    Anything above that, I’d rather donate as scholarship to make sure some kid goes to college.

    However, I don’t need or like to have a truck, and I hope my lifestyle doesn’t change enough to make that a necessity. If I did, the limit my change.

    I also like hunting for well loved used cars. I’d rather spend time and energy maintaining a 70k mile car spotless rather than driving a brand new one. I do keep an eye on rough math, and am ready to dump the used car if unreliable.

  • avatar
    TW5

    $0

    US used car market is experiencing a historical glut. Historic bargains are everywhere. New cars are for people with sufficient wealth to forgo the bargains in the used car market, and financially-illiterate neophytes who pretend to be wealthy thought they can’t actually pay off their current vehicle or maintain a five-figure balance in their bank account.

  • avatar
    volvo

    As a cash deal. With car (non pseudo racer) fully optioned trim.

    Corolla/Civic sized $30K

    Camry/Accord sized $35K

    I will not pay a badge envy premium and would expect to pay 10-15% less for Korean brand.

  • avatar
    I_like_stuff

    I don’t buy new, I lease new. Which is the same thing more or less, but not really.

    My wife and I are “those” people, we always drive something new, and expensive. I know you can have cheaper options buying used, but I like to a) buy what I want, without having to settle for what’s available via used, b) I like always driving a car under warranty and c) I like having the latest technology/safety.

    I drive a brand new truck, MSRP $50K. My wife drives a 2015 German sedan, MSRP $60K. Combined the leases go $900/mo. That’s both with $0 down. Given we’re driving a combined $110K worth of vehicles, I think that’s pretty good. Interest rates for leases are hovering around 1% these days. And a lot of times the lease incentives from lenders are better than financing incentives.

    And yes I know I could pay 1/2 as much driving a 5 year old Camry, and put the savings into a college fund or a 401k, or whatever. But I’m already doing that. I max out my retirement accounts every year. My house is almost paid off. I have no credit card debt, no student loans.

    At some point you just have to say WTF and enjoy spending money, without worrying about it.

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    My limit so far has been about $30K before trade-in (since I haven’t traded for several of the cars I’ve bought over the years.)

  • avatar
    Fred

    A few years ago I was replacing my 7 year old Audi A3 and thought I could do it for $30,000. After all I only spent $20,000 for it. Turned out I was wrong and upped my limit to $40,000, but I cringed at that money for what is the low end of the high rent district. As my frustration with the smallness of deck lids grew I gravitated to hatches and wagons. I could of saved more with Scion Tc but ended up with a Acura Sportwagon for $27,000

    Today I’d look at a AWD Acura but that’s about $46,700 msrp and probably not likely on my retirement budget. So maybe a Imprezza 5 door which maybe I can get close to $30,000

    Or maybe the Acura will out last my driving days and I can budget for Uber.

  • avatar
    CadiDrvr

    $100,000.

  • avatar
    Shinoda is my middle name

    Never buying NEW again. But I am reading a few people who say they’ll never pay $35k for a new car…but they will end up paying $34,996…

    But this reminds me of a classic joke…

    Willie Nelson once famously owned his own golf course. He liked to say the benefits of owning a golf course was, the owner could make par be whatever he liked. “Now on THIS particular hole, I set par as 11. And damn if I didn’t Birdie this sucker yesterday!”

  • avatar
    kobo1d

    My goal for our family is to be:
    Spending below 8% of gross income on non-mortgage debts (basically auto+student loans),
    with non-insane auto loan lengths (<36 months used, <60 new),
    with interest rates close to the rate of inflation (<3%).

    Right now I'm at 8.5%, which is too overleveraged for my comfort, so I'm paying down the highest rate loan (2.89%). If that debt is killed, or income goes up such that the above conditions are met, back to paying minimums and investing the surplus instead.

  • avatar
    S2k Chris

    I like to stay in the $500-600/mo payment range, <2% interest, 60-month max. That gets me to about $35k, plus I'll kick in some cash and the proceeds of the sale of the prior car, so realistically I'm in the $40-45k range for a new car. Big one for us is we will only do 1 car payment at a time, so buy car for wife, pay off in 4-5 years, buy car for self, pay off in 4-5 years, buy new car for wife, etc etc etc. So each car kept ~8-10 years. Payment keeps us around 5% of net monthly income, happy with that ratio.

  • avatar
    mchan1

    Depends on my income in that year that I may consider a newer vehicle.
    Usually keep my vehicle for ~10 years with regular maintenance.

    Like to keep it ~$20k but that will be a pre-owned so careful shopping is done.
    Otherwise, I’d keep my current vehicle until repair bills get more expensive.
    For a newer vehicle vehicle, I’d consider ~$25k If I had to.

    By the time I need a newer vehicle, I’m hoping that the hybrid prices would’ve dropped further down. I’d be wary of buying a Used hybrid even more than a regular pre-owned ICE vehicle because of the battery life.

    The issue I see in the future is when vehicles are smaller and won’t be a good fit for Tall drivers (6ft+).

    • 0 avatar
      bikegoesbaa

      Have vehicles been trending smaller? Seems like they’re going the other way.

      • 0 avatar
        mchan1

        The smaller compact autos have become larger.

        Current trends:
        1. SUV/CUV sales are up
        2. Truck sales have increased
        3. Midsize sedan sales are dropping like Camry/Accord
        4. Auto prices have increased

        Easier to make smaller autos more fuel efficient.
        The general public are Not auto enthusiasts and the bulk of auto buyers.
        Until gas prices rise again, hybrid sales have leveled off.
        EV sales may rise temporarily due to tax rebates but should drop once tax incentives are gone.

  • avatar
    Spartan

    Based on our current HHI…

    Most we’ll pay: $75k
    Longest term: 60 months

    As we make more over the years, I’m willing to spend more, but I’m not willing to extend the loan term beyond 60 months.

  • avatar
    Add Lightness

    About $5,000 + $1,000 for parts and 50 hours of my own labour.
    I’ve always been happier buying broken cars than fully-functional-at-the-time cars.
    Even better, I try to buy cars that I can get a $500 parts car for.

  • avatar
    ncwalls

    I always find the comments interesting on articles like this at TTAC. It seems like a lot of people here don’t actually enjoy cars all that much, or at least not as much as saving money. There’s nothing wrong with that of course, I just think it’s interesting for a car enthusiast website.

    Maybe I don’t get it because I’m single with no kids and enjoy owning and driving fun, interesting cars.

    Some of you think about cars the same way I think about home appliances. :)

    (and that’s fine. just making an observation)

    • 0 avatar
      Olyar15

      That’s because this isn’t an “enthusiast” website, it is a car news site. I don’t consider most of the commenters to be actual enthusiasts.

    • 0 avatar
      kobo1d

      I would argue you can be an enthusiast on almost any budget. Having fun and interesting cars doesn’t require you to spend the absolute most you could possibly manage, so you might as well be sane about it. Set a maximum budget based on your financial situation and then optimize for fun within that constraint.

      Someone will gladly give you a loan you can just barely afford for some insane car, but you have to remember that nobody but you gives a single sh!t about your personal financial well-being. Over a normal middle class life, you can afford almost anything, but you can’t afford everything.

      • 0 avatar
        ncwalls

        @kobo1d:
        Oh I agree. Sorry, I didn’t mean to imply that you have to spend a lot of money or stretch your budget beyond reason to be an enthusiast, or even that spending a lot makes you an enthusiast (some people just like expensive, nice, new things). I just meant that the enthusiasts will tend to be willing to put more of their income towards a car than a non-enthusiast.

        It doesn’t matter if the budget is $1k or $100k. Whether cars, boats, toasters (see below), whatever. Enthusiasts usually want the best they can afford. Non-enthusiasts (at least the financially responsible ones) want to save money for other interests and so will tend to choose the cheapest practical option which fits their needs. The enthusiast is more, well enthusiastic, and therefore willing to pay more for the experience of owning and using something they actually want to own and enjoy. It’s more of an emotional thing.

        For example, if I need a toaster oven I’m going to go to a store and get one that’s decent quality and looks nice enough, but is inexpensive (like $50 or whatever those things cost). I will then use it until it breaks and get another cheap one. I could afford to spend hundreds on a toaster oven but I don’t need or want that and it would be a waste of money for me. However, a toast enthusiast with my income could spend $500-1000 for some computer controlled wifi smart super hd toaster and would totally love it. It’s more than I would spend but it’s not financially crippling either. Just a difference of priorities.

        I hope I’m making sense.

        I’d rather spend a little extra money on my car(s) than… well whatever it is normal people do with their extra income. Home improvement projects, vacations, girlfriends, I don’t know haha.

        • 0 avatar
          gtemnykh

          I think one can be a car enthusiast, one that really enjoys driving (non-aggressively even), or simply enjoys the mechanicals or aesthetics and/or knowing how they work. Yet another type of enthusiast may very well be someone who gets a kick out of seeing how affordably they might be able to drive a vehicle, it’s almost like a game. I personally don’t really “get” supercars and don’t drool over them in parking lots, but I will drool over a RHD Mitsubishi Delica SpaceStar when I see one in person, or will appreciate seeing a 20 year old mainstream car that someone took excellent care of. I think being a car enthusiast and being frugal with car stuff is by no means mutually exclusive.

    • 0 avatar
      S2k Chris

      Yup. Seems like half of car message boards are car ‘enthusiasts’ telling each other why it’s such a stupid and wasteful hobby. Personally, I don’t spend a lot on other hobbies, so I’ve always considered my car to be both my transportation and hobby budgets added together.

    • 0 avatar
      bikegoesbaa

      “Maybe I don’t get it because I’m single with no kids and enjoy owning and driving fun, interesting cars.”

      I’m also single with no kids and enjoy driving fun interesting cars. I’ve just found through 20 years of experimentation and testing that cheaper cars are generally more fun (for me) and more interesting (to me) than expensive ones.

      A few months ago I bought a 50 year old car for $4k purely for fun. Truly, I cannot imagine a car for $40k that I would enjoy more. My automotive happiness meter is pegged, it can’t go any higher.

      Actually, I would enjoy any $40k car less. I’m inherently frugal, and having that much money wrapped up in a single machine would stress me right out.

      I’m happy to burn money on fun cars, and do so often. I just like to keep the total amounts low enough that I can do it all with petty cash.

      I don’t fault people who spend more until they get to the point that it undeniably negatively impacts their life or their financial security.

      I have a cousin who struggles to pay his electric bill each month, but financed a new V8 charger just for fun because “YOLO”. I have no problem saying that he’s doing it wrong.

      • 0 avatar
        ncwalls

        I can understand that. I agree it’s bad what your cousin is doing. I’m not that bad though. I can pay my electric bill just fine. I’m not struggling. :)

        I think my problem is the kind of cars I like just happen to be the expensive kind, even used. I’ve been lucky enough to briefly drive a Porsche 991 GT3 and a Lotus Evora 400, either of which I would love to drive every day and would happily pay for. (I don’t see that ever happening though.) The way they sound, look, feel, and drive is amazing to me.

        What old car did you get? I’ve always wanted to drive an old car (pre-1970) but again, most of the ones I’m interested in are too expensive and I don’t have the time, desire or skill to work on one anyway. The Alfa Romeo GTA or GTV, old 911, various old racecars, are all on my fantasy want-to-drive list. There are cheap old cars I like too (1st gen RX-7 would be interesting) but at least for now I’d rather save up for a more exotic dream car. Plus, I already have a lonely ’91 RX-7 sitting neglected in a barn which I need to fix. :(

        I’ve also always wanted to drive a Miata but I have no desire to own a convertible.

        So many cars to drive, not enough money.

        • 0 avatar
          bikegoesbaa

          I bought a 1970 Buick Lesabre pillarless hardtop. Two-tone paint and a high-compression pre-emission Buick V8. Nothing crazy, just a big fun cruiser that’s a joy to tinker with and makes everybody smile.

          I also have an NB Miata; and highly recommend one if you’re interested in an inexpensive “driver’s car” to hold you over until you get that Lotus. I didn’t care for convertibles until I bought one. There’s nothing better on a nice fall/spring day or cool summer evening.

          • 0 avatar
            ncwalls

            Cool. That’s the kind of car I would appreciate at a car show but wouldn’t necessarily want to own. (I prefer smaller, sporty handling cars)

  • avatar
    readallover

    It`s funny, I just walked out of two dealerships – the cars $15,000 difference in price. All because I refused to pay $399 and $500 `administration` fees. The idiots keep calling me everyday saying they are willing to reduce the amounts (this after telling me that the fees are `the law`). They just will not accept that I bought a car elsewhere.

  • avatar
    Dan

    50 or 60K is about the outside edge of justifiable to me. For anyone. Ever. Do those Range Rover drivers really have no family members with mortgages? No friends with their air conditioning out?

    My F-150 XLT was 37 after taxes, that’s the most expensive vehicle that I’ve ever bought by a fair margin and I don’t see myself ever going much beyond that, adjusting for inflation of course.

  • avatar

    We paid a hair under $29K for our CRV EX-L AWD, which is by far the most that I’ve ever paid for a vehicle, new or used.

    Before that, the magic number was $17K.

    My beater budget is $2,500, but that’s a bit flexible if I find the right older Hond…I mean, Ford Aerostar.

    But my dream car budget is $35K-ish.

  • avatar
    TeeJayHoward

    $500/month on a 60-month note.

    Note that I didn’t mention a sales price, but rather a monthly price. This is not because I’ll only buy a $30,000 car. It’s because I refuse to pay any more than that, monthly. I’ll add a down payment or trade in whatever I’ve got if the car is worthy. My last car was something like $48K OTD.

  • avatar
    415s30

    I never buy new cars, two of my cars are more than 30 years old and my DD is a 2006 I bought three years ago. Depreciation is just too much for me, I find a clean example and get a huge discount.


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