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Average Price of a New Car?

Written by Nickel - 11 Comments

Average Price of a New Car?

Having just bought two cars in the past month, I was interested to read a handful of interesting car-related tidbits this weekend. For starters, the average price of a new car or light truck in April was just a shade over $30k. $30,303 to be exact, which represents a $1200 increase over last year.

Needless to say, we’re below average, having paid less than $30k for both cars (but not less than $30k total — do we get extra credit for having bought two cars?).

This overall price increase is being made possible, in part, by pent up demand. In fact, the average age of passenger vehicles in the United States has steadily crept up in recent years, reaching 10.8 years (overall; cars are 11.1 years old on average vs. light trucks & SUVs at 10.4 years) in 2011.

Another factor that is reportedly driving demand is high gas prices. Thanks to stringent federal standards, average fuel economy reached an all-time high in 2012. At the same time, gas prices have moved steadily upward (though they’ve dipped a bit over the past month or so), meaning that many people are in the market for more fuel-efficient vehicles.

Interestingly, used car prices have also increased as supplies of late model used cars have dwindled (thanks to drivers keeping their old cars longer; see above). I would imagine that higher new car prices have also (probably — I’m just speculating) helped to nudge used car prices up as more people are looking to the used car market to save a few bucks.

So I guess this is sort of a good news/bad news thing if you’re looking to buy a new car. While you’ll likely wind up paying more than in years past, your may be able to get a better than usual price for your old car.

Published on May 7th, 2012
Modified on May 17th, 2012 - 11 Comments
Filed under: Automotive

About the author: is the founder and editor-in-chief of this site. He's a thirty-something family man who has been writing about personal finance since 2005, and guess what? He's on Twitter!

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11 Responses to “Average Price of a New Car?”

  1. 1
    Lance@MoneyLife&More Says:

    As new car sales increase again used car prices will begin to fall back down. If you’re looking for a model year built during the financial collapse there will be far fewer than a model year built during the boom before it which will drive up the price of the collapse year cars.

  2. 2
    John Says:

    I recently purchased a new car as well. I paid well under the average at $18,200. I got a small car with great fuel economy(not a hybrid). As the bulk of my driving is highway, a small turbocharged engine and manual transmission will have much greater bang for the buck than any sort of hybrid powertrain.

    I looked at new cars for several reasons:
    1) Chevy just came out with the Sonic.
    2) I plan to own this car for up to ten years.
    3) I’ve never bought new before.
    4) Used prices are pretty high.
    5) I had access to a supplier discount.
    6) Better financing rates available for new cars.

    This car will serve me well and I may pass it on to one of my fiance’s kids in 5+ years. My opinion on new drivers with cars is that they should be small and inexpensive and that far too few people know how to operate a clutch and stickshift.

  3. 3
    jim Says:

    Note that $30,303 figure does not count the value of the rebates /incentives given to buyers. Truecar says the average rebate was $2440 so the actual average cost is $27,863. And of course these are averages and are skewed high by the small % of people buying high priced luxury cars. I’d guess a median buyer is probably paying closer to $25k after rebates.

  4. 4
    jim Says:

    John, A hybrid can be a better purchase if you drive a lot of miles. The break even point depends on how many miles you actually drive. Also nowadays a lot of auto transmissions are better MPG than the manual option. Used to be manual was always better MPG but thats not true any longer. Now it varies by model. e.g. Ford focus auto is 37-38MPG and manual is 36MPG for a 2L. Chevy Sonic the manual is better.

  5. 5
    Tim Says:

    Jim, for someone who is going to do mostly highway driving a hybrid is not the best choice. They excel in a stop and go environment. On the highway in a steady state cruse there is no re-gen braking which is part of what gives a hybrid vehicle its MPG boost. The Toyota Prius V for instance gets 44 city and 40 highway. Several regular cars get 40+ on the highway now but cost thousands less. Keep in mind if the hybrid system is not providing power as it probably isn’t in steady state highway travel then it’s extra weigh being hauled along. As for transmission for mostly highway use it doesn’t really matter except the manual is sometimes lighter weight. I too think more people should know how to use a manual.

  6. 6
    Paul Says:

    Do you mean the average age of cars on the road today is ~ 11 years, or the average lifespan of cars driven today is 11 years? If it is the former, the lifespan could be much more.

  7. 7
    jim Says:

    Depends on the car and the exact usage of course.
    There are certainly cases when conventional gas cars are cheaper overall.
    But I wouldn’t say that hybrids aren’t a good choice for highway drivers. It bet a Prius C would beat many compacts in total cost.
    Note the highest mileage highway cars are hybrids. The standard Prius gets 48 MPG highway and the Prius C gets 46 MPG highway. The Prius V you cite has the worst mileage in the Prius family. Of course there are gas/diesels that do get high highway mileage. There are several diesels that get >40MPG highway, but those are generally pricier cars. Chevy Cruze Eco gets 42 MPG so that could be a good alternative. Depending on exact usage a cheap compact may come out ahead overall with high 42MPG versus a bit more expensive hybrid with yet higher 46-48MPG. But I wouldn’t ignore the very high city mileage of hybrids, its not as if anyone drives 100% highway miles.

  8. 8
    Evan Says:

    Does the number take into account leasing? I would assume (read: just made up) that most luxury cars on the new end are leased rather than bought…so yes the sales price is 30K+ but they aren’t really being bought?

  9. 9
    Kathryn C Says:

    I had an SUV and then wanted to punch myself in the face every time I went to fill it up, so I got out of that lease after 6 months. I did it on swapalwase.com.

    I just leased a new car. A prius. I live in LA, ah hem, tons of stop and go.

    I know this sounds like an ad, but it was *so* easy to get out of the lease. It’s like match.com, but for cars.
    Anyway…….

  10. 10
    Joshua Allen Says:

    Hi, where did you find the data on car prices? I’ve been looking for average monthly prices on big ticket items but haven’t been able to find a source.

  11. 11
    Tim Says:

    Joshua, http://www.edmunds.com/ is a great resource for car information and pricing.

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