Seriously, pump the brakes on buying a new car
Drive away any thoughts of buying a new car.
In only one of the 25 largest cities in America — Washington D.C. — can a household making the median income afford to buy the average priced new car (roughly $35,000), according to data released Wednesday by personal finance site Bankrate.com. The study assumed a 20% down payment; a four-year loan; and principal, interest/insurance payments comprising 10% of a household’s gross income.“Americans are having to overextend themselves to pay for a new car at today’s prices,” says Bankrate.com analyst Claes Bell.
But frankly, most Americans shouldn’t be buying new cars anyway.
The main reason: A used car is almost always a financially smarter move, experts say. “That sweet spot of a 2-3 year old car is most often best for the buyer,” says Ryan Kwiatkowski, a finance professional at Retirement Solutions in Chicago RetirementSolutionsRSI.com. That’s because new cars lose value fast. Data from Edmunds finds that one minute after driving off the lot, your car has already lost 11% of its value. “If you’re purchasing a pre-owned vehicle that is several years old, the depreciation rate peaked before you purchased it, leaving the previous owner to deal with the majority of the financial loss,” explains Richard Reina, the product training director at CARiD.com, an aftermarket automotive retailer.
What’s more, you may not even need to own a car at all, as using Uber or Lyft can sometimes be cheaper. An analysis released earlier this year by personal finance site NerdWallet.com found that if you use Uber to commute to work, rather than using your own car, you would save $83 a week in San Francisco, $76 in New York, $39 in Chicago, $6 in Detroit, $35 in Washington D.C., $16 in San Diego, $26 in Miami and $27 in Los Angeles. If you can opt for UberPool, you can save even more.
And increasingly, Americans are coming up with other inventive ways around car ownership, which costs an average of roughly $8500 a year. Take Los Angeles resident Mike Gatto, who gave up his car in 2012, and instead now uses a combination of riding his bike, hitching rides with friends and taking public transit to get around. It’s saved him a lot of money, he writes in the Los Angeles Times, and he calls the move “a success,” noting that “getting around Los Angles without a car isn’t even that hard.”And he’s not alone: The number of people who bike to work has increased 60% in the last decade, according to 2014 data from the Census Bureau https://www.census.gov/newsroom/press-releases/2014/cb14-86.html. And about 1 in 10 carpool to work, and roughly 5% take public transit.
Of course, for many people, it isn’t yet possible to shun car ownership entirely, but that day is coming — possibly sooner than you think. As the Wall Street Journal declared earlier this month: “Cars are going to undergo a lot of changes in the coming years. One of the biggest: You probably won’t own one.”
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