A new analysis of vehicle costs finds that Americans are taking on longer loan terms and paying more for their vehicles on average than they have in the past.
To determine the monthly average loan costs across the U.S. in 2019, price comparison site Autowise plugged in the average new and used vehicle price, credit score by state, loan term and down payment into Carmax's auto loan calculator.
The average cost for a new car is based on figures from Kelley Blue Book, Edmunds and J.D. Power, which came to $34,047. For used vehicles, the consensus average price is $20,200. Autowise used credit information from Experian, 72 months as the average 2019 car loan term and an average down payment of 11.7%.
Here are the estimated average monthly loan payments for new and used cars in every U.S. state, based on Autowise's calculations:
Louisiana ($596), Nevada ($587) and Georgia ($573) ranked near the top for most expensive monthly payments for new cars, while New Hampshire ($487) and Oregon ($491) had some of the lowest, based on Autowise's calculations. Louisiana also tops the list for used car payments, averaging $393 per month, while buyers in Montana are paying the least at $289.
Autowise notes that while payments vary widely across the country, data from the Federal Reserve shows that they have been increasing across the board over the past few years. In 2018, the average new-car monthly payment hit an all-time high of $531.
There are a few things to watch out for when shopping for a car, besides the literal price of the car: The repayment term length, which has been steadily increasing, and the interest rate. those two factors will significantly impact how much you're paying each month and over the length of the loan.
"Over the last 15 years, the average loan balance has gone up considerably all across the U.S.," says Autowise. "This seems to be the norm now as Americans prioritize monthly payment amounts rather than total loan amount."
Seven-year loan repayment terms are now common, as buyers opt for pricier cars like SUVs that they can't pay off more quickly, Edmunds notes. While lengthening the loan term can lower what you pay each month, it will likely mean you're paying more over the course of the loan.
Not only that, but your car will likely have a lower resale value if you sell once it's finally paid off, Edmunds reports. If you can afford to pay more each month for a shorter loan term, you should. Edmunds recommends a 60-month, or five year, car loan.
Beyond that, CNBC Make It offers four steps to getting the best deal on a car:
- Determine exactly what you want to buy: Know what model car you want before you head to the dealership, and what your budget is so you don't over-extend it.
- Research prices online: Use tools like Kelley Blue Book or Edmunds' True Market Value pricing so you have a ballpark figure in mind before heading to the dealership.
- Reach out to multiple dealerships: Get quotes from at least three different companies so you can get a better sense of pricing.
- Don't play too hard to get: Rather than threatening to walk away, work with the dealer to come to a consensus.
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