By on October 8, 2018

With average transaction prices marching steadily northwards, thanks to the outsized Monroneys of pickup trucks and large SUVs, the internet is awash with digital ink bemoaning that the “average” American can’t afford a new car anymore.

We’ll leave that particular fulmination for another day. Now, however, we’ll put a question to you: with ATPs in the mid-$30k range, let’s round it up to an even $40,000. What single car, truck, or SUV would you buy for that sum?

This question was inspired by a conversation at our sister site AutoGuide, where the gearheads at that publication selected the BMW 230i Coupe, Genesis G70 Sport, and Audi S3. Inspired choices. My pick? The current model year Camaro SS.

Stickering at $37,995 including freight, the 1SS trim is endowed with the hand-of-God 6.2-liter V8 engine that makes 455 horsepower and an equal amount of torque. Brembo-branded four piston stoppers and 20-inch summer stickies, measuring 245 in the front and 275 in the rear, help keep a measure of handling once the V8 is uncorked.

Speaking of uncorking that excellent engine, the Camaro 1SS price tag allows for a few options, including the $895 dual-mode exhaust. With still a bit of extra change in my pocket, I’d also tick the boxes for a $215 strut tower brace and $610 front splitter that looks great but whose only functional purpose for most buyers will be to chop the feet off bystanders. In a fit of vanity, I also selected the $145 chrome Camaro fender badge. Out the door, it comes to $39,925.


My biggest beef with the 2019 Camaro SS is the new placement of its bowtie badge on the front fascia. Dropping it below the horizontal headlight line gives the thing such a long face that it looks as if it could use a Zoloft prescription. My suggested fix to Chevy is shown above.

How about you? On what vehicle would you spoil forty grand?

[Images: General Motors]

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90 Comments on “QOTD: The $40,000 Question...”

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    What a great QOTD, as I really have no clue what I would spend $40k on new, mostly due to the fact that anything I would be interested in is $60k unfortunately. About the only thing I can think of would be a half ton Silverado. I am fairly certain I could configure one in CC 4×4 fashion for 40k or less with either a 20% off coupon for Arbor Day Inventory Blow Out Sale or use a rebate during ‘Truck Month’.

    Can a 392 Challenger be had for <$40k? That might get not the list as well.

    Everything else I would buy used to save myself some coin.

    • 0 avatar

      Yes, you can easily get into a 392 Challenger for under $40k.

      • 0 avatar

        You can get a economy car Camry, Accord, or CR-V in that range too. Which would you rather have?

      • 0 avatar

        The cheapest 6.4 hemi car is 39,995 before rebates and with rebates 39,640. Every option worth having drives the price over 40 grand even with the factory rebate (unless a block heater and an orange or yellow paint option tops your list of must-haves).

        If a person can do without the 6.4 and is fine with the 5.7 it gives more room for options since the cheapest 5.7 car is 33,995 and 33,640.

        I’m not sure if Dodge has anything analogous to Ford X-plan pricing (knocks a good bit of cash off and one just has to be a member of the MCA or SVTOA any number of clubs supported by Ford to get it) but that would open up some more headroom on the 6.4 car.

  • avatar

    A Jeep Grand Cherokee, probably a Laredo with a V6 and minimal options, but that’s what I’d spend $40K on, but it ain’t gonna happen

  • avatar
    John R

    Hm. I wonder if I could twist a Kia dealer’s arm and s/he’d let a Stinger GT go for $40k?

    edit: Just checked, Yup!

    • 0 avatar

      This would be my first choice!

    • 0 avatar

      With a bit of dealing, you could get a GT1 or GT2 for a bit over $40k, after doing the lease, using the lease cash and then buying out the lease.

      Now if only they could announce they had fixed the paint issues. And the rattles / fit-and-finish, I’d be right there.

      The Q50, my other choice, unfortunately, has problems of its own.

      Charger SRT, dealers aren’t willing to discount on..

    • 0 avatar

      Only once in my life I spent over 20K price money on a car. Not because I don’t have it but because this is my principal. If someone would give me 40K I would beat Volvo dealer for v90 cross country… just because. Other good choices – Kia Stinger GT (will require some dealer beating). Genesis, 4Runner.

      • 0 avatar

        @slavuta – it is “principle” – you have a “fundamental truth or proposition that serves as the foundation for a system of belief or behavior or for a chain of reasoning”. I’m the principal – the educator who has executive authority for a school.

        I’m not a grammar “Na$i” by any definition, but that one drives me crazy.

  • avatar

    Paid $43K for a Highlander XLE AWD a few weeks ago. Paid close to that for the Charger R/T a couple years ago. There’s your answer.

  • avatar

    The BowTie would be better as part of the grill – ie have the lattice contain a shaped section in the form of a bow tie – could be black like the rest or silver to highlight it.

    As to 40K Toyota 4Runner.

  • avatar

    If I could only have one car, for $40K I’d get a CX-5 with all the bells and whistles and keep whatever’s left over.

    If I kept my current car as a daily, I’d get a Miata RF.

  • avatar

    Personally, I don’t find the ATP to be a very useful statistic. The price of a particular vehicle, whether it be a Penalty-Box sedan, Bro-dozer, or everything in between, has been more-or-less moving in lock-step with inflation. (And, since vehicle longevity is improving, cost of ownership over the lifetime of the vehicle has been dropping.)

    If you wanna splurge and buy a truck you don’t need, more power to you, but it’s no less affordable to buy transportation than it ever was.

    • 0 avatar

      I would have to disagree, try pricing a mid level Suburban and compare it to a mid level Suburban from 15 years ago. It blew past inflation levels. And spending $40k for a crossover is completely unreasonable. FWD, V6, no ladder frame, I can’t believe consumers are willing to pay over 20k for those embarrassment on wheels. But look what’s happening.

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    I like the Camaro, always have. Notwithstanding being in production for a decade its reliability is rated “Much worse than average”. Not good enough.

    • 0 avatar

      Actually the current Camaro (on the alpha platform) has only been around about 3 years. It is GM’s fault for making it look too much like the car that came out about 10 years ago (on the omega platform), this is los probably part of the reason for it not selling as well s it could.

  • avatar

    Looks like a smartly appointed two-door Wrangler comes in well under the $40k limit. Winter/offroad capability plus summer topless makes it two vehicles in one.

    I find the two-door much more attractive, and it still seems wrong when I see the now more popular four door Wranglers.

    • 0 avatar
      S2k Chris

      This is and was my answer. My 4dr (ahem) Wrangler Sport S was pretty well loaded with a window sticker of $45k, and the dealer dropped 5% without even trying hard. I leased it, because “first year FCA product” but still. It’s been outstanding.

      I too like the look of the 2 dr more, but if you want to carry people AND stuff, not one or the other, it has to be a 4dr.

  • avatar

    Golf R. Fast and practical, with AWD. Throw some winter tires on it, and it’d be a great winter car as well.

    • 0 avatar

      You and I are on the same page Freed, still liking my 15′ 2.slow Jetta. Recently added a 17 Touareg to the fleet, like that one equally for different reasons. Next on the list someday….the R!!

  • avatar

    For just one car – to me, a mild VAG fan, you cannot go wrong with a new Golf R (with discounts) or CPO Audi S3. They’re almost perfect daily drivers that can operate as a decent track car. They take to power and handling modifications well while looking mature and not boy racer (sorry Type – R, I still love you).

    As much as I dig the Mustang and V8 coupes in general, they just don’t fit my lifestyle with one vehicle.

  • avatar

    I’m sick and tired of the media repeating, we can’t afford a new car, when there’s so many better choices.

    For the price of the new Camaro 1SS, you can get a low miles “Teriminator”, ’04 Cobra Mustang, near mint, stock 420 HP right off idle , insane compressor whine, 6-speed Tremec, plus another ’04 Cobra, pulley’d/tuned to over 500 HP at the crank to beat on, and still have a few grand left over.

    But I’ll leave that gripe for another time.

    $40K will get me a full feature, V8 aluminum pickup after rebates, minus needless gadgetry/luxo trim.

  • avatar

    Hmmmmmmm that’s a level at which you become a bit spoiled for choice.

    Mustang GT from Lebanon Ford with turbos and no options.

    Mustang Ecoboost 6 speed manual with Track Packs (need money for all season tires though…)

    Genesis G70 Sport with 6 speed manual and limited slip, might have just enough money left to get rid of the staggered rubber and be able to do proper tire rotations.

    Regal GS with no options in the “any color you like so long as it’s black”.

    Lacrosse Premium with AWD – I know dealers would be willing to deal. Heck I can probably find a brand new 2017 somewhere.

    Charger R/T Beats Audio and Black Top package.

    I do see mid trim (SLE, LT, Big Horn, XLT) crew cab 4x4s with tow package actually selling for under $40K. That would be a great “do anything” option.

  • avatar
    Car Ramrod

    I’d still go used at this price. Wifey is looking at a CPO Volvo XC90. There are features we can’t get on a new XL-sized crossover for 40 large, and the depreciation, though minimal, is still enough to focus on used.

    I’m a sedan guy, and this price is sort of no-mans land. Probably a bare bones 3-series, G70 with 6MT, or one of the last manual A4’s if I had to buy new.

  • avatar

    Adding a factor to the challenge that this has to be my only automobile for some extended period, it looks like it’d be doable with a Ram 1500 “Classic” Big Horn 4×4 with the Hemi, even if I had to live without some options I got on my 2017.

  • avatar
    Peter Gazis

    High performance cars always get dinged on reliability. Most car companies deal with this by: Offering a low cost base model stripped of all performance parts; and/or Charging an extremely high price which limits volume.

  • avatar

    another Mazda 6.

    I have a 2016, love everything about it.
    (Except for the fact that hanging your arm out the window on summer nights is NOT COMFORTABLE.)

    I want one of those sweet sweet turbocharged 6’s.

    • 0 avatar

      Turbo 6 may not be the fastest in it’s class but when you look at what you get for the MSRP – seems like a dang good deal. (And the dealers are willing to deal.)

      Make mine a GT Reserve.

    • 0 avatar

      I think I might go for the same thing. Mazda 6 with the turbo 4. Or, perhaps wait for the 2019 models, when the CX-5 will reportedly get the turbo.

  • avatar

    Depends on what vehicle we need at the time. Right now we either need two new vehicles or no new vehicles, depending on my level of optimism regarding our two used cars any given morning.

    If we replaced the family hauler, I’d get a Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid Limited. With nearly every option it comes in just under $47,000, and I’m taking the liberty of factoring in the $7,500 federal tax credit.

    If we replaced my daily driver, a Fiat 124 Spider Abarth optioned to the gills comes in at a shade over $38,000.

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    I paid 36 for my F150 crew cab. XLT with the TT 2.7. I think I’d do that, but add the new sync 3 system with Car Play and a set of katzkin leathers and call it a day. I love the other cars I drive but if I can only do 1 it is hard to beat the trucks versatility. Big and comfortable, but still useful.

  • avatar

    I guess I’d upgrade our 2006 Sienna CE to a new XLE V6 AWD Sienna.

    Although you get a ton of van at that trim level, I just can’t believe that that’s a 40K car. I think I’ll stay in the 10 year old sweet spot of the used market for now.

  • avatar

    Definitely not a Camaro!

  • avatar

    The only new car I would consider buying new for $40,000 would be the JL Wrangler. I want a vehicle with 4×4, a manual transmission, can be flat-towed behind a motorhome, and when I sell it 10 years later it will still be worth about half of what I paid for it thanks to the Wrangler’s Godly resale value.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    Here’s a few nice picks that come in under $40k.

    Dodge Challenger RT

    Ford Mustang GT or a well equipped Ecoboost 6 speed.

    Buick Regal GS with the optional handling and Brembo brake package.

    Jeep Wrangler 2 door in Sport or Sahara trim.

  • avatar

    Well, the new car I’d choose is a Civic Si coupe, but its ~$25k.

    Even if they still built an Accord coupe, it wouldn’t be $40k for the one I’d want.

    If I choose a new Ranger, I wouldn’t want to option it up to $40k, it’d be an XL 4×4.

    Am I just too conservative? Lol everything I’d really want (enough to actually take home) isn’t close to $40k.

    With discounts, I doubt even a Fusion Sport or Taurus SHO is $40k (the SHO is the only Taurus I’d take after the 2013 refresh).

    I do like the G70, can a 6MT be had at $40k? I see others mentioned it, so I’m thinking yes.

    I’m wondering the same about a Cadillac ATS 6MT. And a Lexus RC. If their manual versions can be had in the price range, I suppose they’d be on my “consider” list.

    The Lincoln Continental is too high, and an MKZ would just give me a sad since I didn’t get the big Conti. I guess its an option if the sportier cars didn’t make me happy.

    This is turning out to be harder than it should be. I’m really having to force myself to come up with a viable list of vehicles I’d spend $40k on. So far, only the sporty entry-lux cars have any hint of the want factor going for them, but I have no idea how I’d actually like them in person.

    Away from luxury cars, again, a well optioned F-150 or similar isn’t what I’d really choose. I’d rather have a more basic model with 4×4. I guess I could find an FX4 that would be acceptable for $40k. I don’t want a Lariat or anything above. I know why they exist, but they don’t exist for me to covet.

    • 0 avatar

      I do like the G70, can a 6MT be had at $40k? I see others mentioned it, so I’m thinking yes.

      From what I’ve seen I think the asking price for the G70 6-speed manual will be $37,500 – the manual is only offered with one very specific option package. I just wish the trunk was a little bigger than 10 cubic ft.

      (Although I’m probably a better customer for a CPO G80 with Sport package.)

      • 0 avatar

        That is a pretty small trunk, I guess that’s because its RWD. Even the old Ford Contour, a car often criticised for being too small, had nearly 14 cubic foot trunk.

        • 0 avatar

          Yeah my first car (being a GM A-body FWD) had a 15 cubic ft trunk and that makes me feel like that is a bare minimum acceptable size for any sedan of mine.

          Although I will say the G70s trunk is par for its competition (3 series, Audi A4, MB C class, Cadillac ATS)

          • 0 avatar

            Really, Dan, I think if someone handed me a check for $40k to spend on automobiles, I’d just buy a collection of older cars I want and fix them up how I’d like them.

            If it *must* be a new vehicle, something with depreciation that’s slower than the temp falling in El Paso in July so that I can resell it and spend the money on vehicles I’d get a lot more enjoyment out of. Maybe then buy a new Civic Si coupe and spend the rest on my collection.

    • 0 avatar

      $25k Civic? Congratulations, now you have $15k to play with.
      My $25k ’16 Prius is all the car I would/could ever ask for (well, much less road noise at speed please).
      Expectations and desires in modern vehicles are so very high these days.
      I really can’t think of any car past $30k that is desirable. First world problems.

  • avatar

    Easy- 2019 Honda Odyssey EX-L Navi/Rear Entertainment. Sticker is $40,455.

  • avatar

    -Dodge Challenger/Charger R/T (I would go Challenger, but Charger would work for those who need rear doors)

    -Any domestic crew cab pickup (just get whatever you can find that is best deal)

    -Golf R

  • avatar

    Looks like I could just squeeze it in, with the right dealer. I’d go for a 2019 Mustang GT Premium with the 10-speed AT and the 401A package that gives the digital dash. Sticker is $44.1k, but I’ve found a couple listed for just above/below $40k. I’ve got to imagine that customer cash or X Plan pricing would get me one for under $40k before TTL.

    Alternatively there’s the Mustang GT non-premium with the Performance Pack, which stickers just over $39k. That’s a whole lotta car for not a lot of cash.

  • avatar

    That revised bowtie placement shown above looks 1000x better than Chevy’s crappy stock location.

    For me, the answer is Golf R. That’s what I dropped $40k on 2 years ago, and 31k miles later, I’d make the same choice again. It’s such a practical all-rounder that also looks like your aunt’s grocery-getter, which for some is not a good thing, but for some of us, is a very desirable attribute.

  • avatar

    The Honda Odyssey EX-L is around $38K or so, and I would throw on some crossbars and a few other bits to get to $40K.

    I pick this because I’m planning on buying one next year when the lease on my CRV EX-L AWD runs out.

  • avatar

    Well — in no particular order, vehicles I’d look at:

    * Kia Stinger
    * Buick Lacrosse Premium
    * C-Class base model – ($41.4K sticker, surely someone will let me beat them down to $40K)
    * Nissan Maxima
    * Ford Mustang GT (optioned up as much as I can for $40K)
    * GMC Canyon 4WD (optioned up as much as I can for $40K)
    * Cadillac ATS M6 (optioned up as much as I can for $40K)
    * Audi A3 Sportback
    * Jaguar XE (optioned up as much as I can for $40K)
    * Genesis G80 (surely I can beat someone up to $40K)

  • avatar

    Accord Hybrid Touring.

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    [ctrl f]”ATS”[enter]

    Huh, I genuinely wasn’t expecting to see any results.

    I’d be interested if not for the touch controls.

  • avatar

    BMW i3. With all the incentives and fed and state rebate can get one with a ~$53k MSRP for close to $30k.
    I ended up leasing a 2018 BEV (battery only, no range extender gas genset) for 36/10k for $330/mnth 0 DAS. Love it.

  • avatar

    I’d be happy with a new Accord EX-L with the 2.0T and 10-speed auto. The money left from the $40,000 will cover insurance and gas.

  • avatar

    Buick Lacrosse Premium if I could live w the start stop , not sure I could.
    A loaded GTI would not touch 40K but would be in the running.
    An A4 w a stick, they will not be making them again, but do I want a sick as a DD?
    Maybe if I want to roll the dice a new Alfa Sedan

    And thanks TTAC I can no longer open TTAC on my phone since I am always the lucky amazon winner who must spin to win, great

    • 0 avatar


      Yeah, congrats to me, now I have to close my browser and go somewhere else for a while or it’ll be “congratulations” again.

      My problem is I rarely use a desktop any more since I just drop by here during downtime, like while waiting for something/someone, resting/relaxing, or similar. This happens at work a lot, waiting on a permit to start the job, or some other CYA nonsense.

    • 0 avatar

      Yes I’m also a lucky Amazon winner, It’s absolutely a pain to use the website, I have to let it load then immediately hit the stop load button when it’s 90% loaded

      • 0 avatar

        I am/was a winner too, I congratulated myself by installing Firefox Focus which seems to be immune to these annoying prize wheels.

        Its not just TTAC though, Ive won wheels by browsing forums and such as well.

        • 0 avatar

          I hate these and get them on the iPhone. Basically a fraud/scam malware masquerading as Amazon hoping for clicks. It’s annoying I have to close the browser, clear cache every time.

  • avatar

    In order to make it look more truck-like they ruined one of the nicest looking sports coupe on the market.

  • avatar

    New Honda Civic and a used 4Runner

  • avatar

    40k is a peculiar no mans land of new cars. There are some great $28k cars that you can load up to the mid 30’s like the Accord, 6, Mustang GT and GTI but after that, what is there? You’re stuck with a craptastically equipped 3er, A4 and other stuff.

    This is why used makes so much more sense. 2-4 year old 60-70k vehicles are now in the 30s – 40s.

  • avatar

    Round up?? Why not found down? We’re all not affluent journalists.

  • avatar

    Honestly there’s nothing new I’d want to buy from 2018/2019. I can recommend a good normie car for the NPCs out there, but I need a manual and a sonorous engine to go with it, wrapped in a nice and coherent design.

    I’d kind of like an S3 but audi only sells automatics.

  • avatar

    Since the question doesn’t specify new or used…

    New cars I’d consider: Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk, Golf R, and Kia Stinger GT.

    Used cars I’d consider: 1965 Buick Riviera, or a 1966-67 Ford Fairlane GT with the 390 (they’re both around the price range, and they will likely at least keep up with inflation in perpetuity).

    I thought that I’d come up with a couple modern used cars I’d buy for $40k, but there was really nothing I could think of. I wouldn’t want to saddle myself with an out-of-warranty European car, so that’s out of the question, and that’s what really makes up the $40k used car space. Nothing really appeals to me there.

  • avatar
    this guy

    Avalon Hybrid. My driving needs are shifting toward long highway slogs or maddening traffic.

  • avatar

    Id grab a fresh Subaru STi and pocket the leftover cash (hoping that I won’t need it for repairs and such).

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      You will. Friend just got his back from a complete overhaul at 70k and he wasn’t alone. He loves it though and says that is just part of owning one. The motor was unmodded (he did some stuff to it in the rebuild though).

  • avatar

    I’m fairly confident that I could fiddle with the build & price enough to get my white whale of an F-150 (SuperCab/8′ bed with HDPP) below $40K–and if not MSRP, then I’d definitely get there with incentives, rebates, etc.

  • avatar

    Buick TourX.

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    Mazda is factory restoring NA Miatas. You ship the car and they rebuild it with oem parts. If I could get that for 40 grand I’d do it.

    Having said that, one can score a low mileage old school NSX for that. Or, a BMW 850 with a mechanic on retainer. Life is short.

    If you have to do new I could probably get a Focus RS at 40ish. Last of the truly forbidden fruit.

  • avatar

    I’ve daily driven a truck (09 Chevy, 14 Ram, 16 F-150) for long enough that everything else feels like a crampy penalty box by comparison and I can barely see out of most of them to boot. It’d be tough to go back for anything other than an occasional use toy.

    And since I already have the truck, occasional use toy it’d be. Challenger Scat Pack in Vanishing Point White, please.

  • avatar
    FWD Donuts

    2018 Dodge Charger R/T with Super Track Pack, Performance Handling Group, Nav, Beats Audio Group, and Houndstooth cloth interior. Put on a set of Hellcat replica wheels and have the houndstooth cloth dyed to match to surrounding cloth for a solid black interior and, boom, done. MSRP $37.5K. Street price after incentives probably $5K less. That is downright cheap for what you get.

    Could get a similarly equipped Scat Pack with the 6.4L — but it stickers at $41.2K with a discount down to $36.5K. Would have to change out the awful seating surfaces, though. Insurance would be considerably more expensive as well.

  • avatar

    Anything close to $40K would end up being over $40K with tax, etc, before trade in, if applicable. I made my choice in July, a Challenger Scatpack 392. As I got it, $48K sticker, $42K less trade:

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