After a home, cars are the most expensive purchases consumers make, with the average new car price over $48,000 and average monthly payments topping $725. With insurance and property taxes, your car (or cars) can eat a big chunk of your monthly budget. For those looking for a new car without breaking the bank, here are some buying tips and affordable new car options.
Need vs want
Do you really need a new car? If you currently have a reliable late model car, you aren’t going to gain much with a new one. Safety, technology and fuel economy are no longer making massive leaps, so if the current one works fine, stick with it. If you have a lease that is nearing its end, look at the buyout cost, as often it can be less than the car is worth.
If you are set on getting a new vehicle, consider ordering ahead of time, choosing the exact model, color and options you want instead of settling for what’s on the dealer’s lot. You’ll often pay less as you aren’t stuck with costly options you don’t need.
Find the average transaction price for the vehicle so you don’t pay more that you should, and also have a realistic idea on how much discount you can expect. And don’t pay over sticker price. Ever. Dealers hold most of the cards in negotiations, but you have the ultimate power: walking away.
Except on the hottest new models, discounted interest rates can be found. Special offers may be available for
existing customers or competitive vehicle owners. Also look to a credit union for lower loan rates and leftover models for discounted prices.
I spoke with Dan LaRusso, of Devan Acura in Norwalk who has been selling Acuras for three decades. More than half of his sales are to repeat customers or referrals. His secret? Honesty and transparency. While some dealers tack on options, and charge exorbitant document fees, find a dealer and a salesperson that is looking for a long-term relationship. Dan’s tip to car buyers? Do your homework regarding specific models and options before going to the dealership. And treat the salesperson like you want to be treated yourself. A smile and good attitude can help get a better deal.
Don’t buy more car than you need. If you don’t need a full-size SUV, consider a smaller model or even a car. And stay away from big wheels and tires. They not only cost more, but the increased weight negatively impacts fuel economy, brake
wear and ride quality. Plus, low profile tires make your wheels more vulnerable to pothole damage.
To get you started, here are a few affordable new car options.
The 2024 Buick Envista (starting at only $23,495), and its GM stablemate, the Chevrolet Trax (starting at $21,495), are built on a new front-wheel drive platform featuring a peppy 1.2 liter turbocharged 3 -cylinder engine. I spent a week with both and was impressed with how good they are. Each has its own unique flavor and design language. The Buick is slightly larger overall and it’s rather stunning in person. At first glance it looks like a scaled down Lamborghini Urus. Both the Buick and Chevy are well equipped, and in my test vehicles, offered wireless CarPlay, heated seats and heated steering wheels. Both deliver 32 mpg highway and 30 mpg overall. Handling, comfort and refinement rival much more expensive vehicles. If you think you need AWD for the winter months, a good set of winter or all-weather (not all-season) tires will turn either of these into a snowmobile.
Looking for an affordable AWD vehicle? The new Subaru Impreza hatchback starts at only $22,995 with standard AWD to deliver Subaru’s legendary all-weather performance. The new Impreza is completely redesigned and has left its econobox roots behind. The updated chassis is more solid, with better ride and handling, while the upscale interior is dramatically improved with better materials, comfortable seats, and an 11.6” touchscreen (on Sport and RS models). All Impreza models feature Subaru’s class-leading Eyesight safety suite and driver assist system. The Impreza delivers up to 34 mpg
Sports car enthusiasts can still find bargains. Nissan’s RWD Z coupe features 400 hp, a slick 6-speed manual transmission and sexy styling. With a starting price of just $42,210, the Z is a bargain. The ride is far more comfortable than most competitors and since the Z is more of a GT than a hardcore sports car, you won’t face excessive dealer markups.
The redesigned 2024 Ford Mustang can be had with a 500 horsepower V8, but the entry level 2.3 liter turbo four pumps out 315 hp and 350 lb.-ft. The turbo coupe starts at just over $30k (convertible base price is $39,020) and can return up to 33 mpg highway, yet still deliver enough tire spinning fun to make anyone feel like a teenager. •