Cnnmoney.com ran an article recently that cars are at their most affordable levels since 1980. According to Comerica Bank's "Auto Affordability Index," better productivity in the auto industry combined with intense competition has driven the cost of a new car downward since its high in 1994. Meanwhile, the average family income has risen five percent over the same period.
"It's a pretty happy story for the consumer," Dana Johnson, chief economist at Comerica, is quoted as saying.
Not this consumer. Including finance charges, Comerica estimates the cost of the average passenger vehicle sold in the third quarter of 2006 at $26,500. That's about five percent less than the same period a year before, but still an awful lot of money to pay for something that's going to be worth about half that amount in a year or two.
If you are trying to get your finances on track--working to pay off debt, amass funds for your retirement or your kids' college, build up an emergency cash reserve--then a new car is a sure way to run yourself off the road. Just say no to buying one.
Used cars are a lot better deals than they used to be. I saved a few thousand dollars buying a 1998 Nissan Sentra with 12,000 miles on it eight years ago. It just passed the 170,000-mile mark. Best of all, it's completely paid for, giving M and I the freedom to work on our other financial goals--like trying to move up to a single-family home without mortgaging our life away.