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How much should I spend on a new car?

Learn how to find a car in your price range.

Cars can get expensive. When you can pay it in installments the difference between a used 2002 Honda and a brand new Benz might not seem like that big of a deal — especially if you stretch out the term long enough. But buying within your price range can help you stay financially healthy.

How much can I afford to spend on a new car?

The amount you should spend on a new car largely comes down to your finances and your personal tastes, but a suggested range is around 10% to 15% of your annual income. If you’re a car enthusiast or are in your car a lot , you might push the limits and spend 15% to 30% of your income.

Why 10% to 15%?

  • Keeps you from borrowing more than you need. The more you borrow, the more you pay in interest
  • Leaves room for the cost of owning a car. Between insurance, gas, maintenance and repairs, the ongoing costs of owning a car add up quickly.
  • Car value depreciates rapidly. Think of your car as a useful tool, not as an investment. You don’t want to pay for something that’s not worth what you’ve invested in it.

Calculate how much you should borrow

Consider three main factors when deciding how much you should borrow on your car loan: down payment, loan term and vehicle expenses.

You can use the calculator below to find out what car loan amounts and terms you could afford for a new car.

Compare car loans from top providers

1 - 3 of 3
Name Product Filter Values Minimum credit score APR Loan term Requirements
No minimum credit score
3.9% to 27.9%
1 to 6 years
18+ years old, annual income of $4,000+, no active bankruptcies
Get pre-qualified for used car financing and receive competitive, personalized rates.
Monevo Auto Loans
3.99% to 35.99%
3 months to 12 years
Credit score of 500+, legal US resident and ages 18+.
Quickly compare multiple online lenders with competitive rates depending on your credit. Car Loans
Starting at 2.15%
550+ credit score, no open bankruptcies, $24,000+ annual income, US citizen or permanent resident, 18+ years old
Get up to four offers in minutes through one simple application. Multiple financing types available including new cars, used cars and refinancing.

Compare up to 4 providers

Don’t have a car in mind yet? Find one at the right price

By deciding ahead of time that you won’t spend more than 15% of your yearly income on a car, you’ll have a clear price in mind when starting your search.

Annual incomeHow much you should spend on a car (15%)

Buying a car for less than $3,000

  • There are thousands of used cars being sold for less than $3,000. Check eBay, Craigslist, the local classifieds, used car dealerships and online auctions.
  • Know what to look for in a used car. By following a checklist and knowing what to be aware of, you could avoid purchasing a lemon.
  • Consider financing rather than leasing if it helps you get a more reliable or efficient vehicle, or if you’re caught short and urgently need a new car to get to work. Specialized used car loans let you borrow as little as $1,000 with fixed interest rates starting at 5.69%.
  • You may not want comprehensive car insurance for a vehicle under $3,000, even if you’re the kind of person who gives your car a name and emotionally bonds with it. Consider sticking to third party property damage only. This is one of the cheapest types of car insurance, but it still offers minimal protection.

Buying a car for less than $15,000:

  • You can find recent-model used cars online for $10,000 or less.
  • Car loans are available for higher amounts, and you’ll be able to find a cheaper rate if you can use your car as collateral.
  • Vehicle auctions are popular among car dealers. This is where a lot of them go to pick up a bargain for resale at a higher price. When purchase a vehicle at an auction, you can pick up exfleet and government vehicles at a fraction of their value.
  • You could save money by opting for a more recent or popular model, even if it costs a little bit more. Spare parts are easier to find, so it can keep repair, maintenance and car insurance costs down.
  • Comprehensive car insurance may not deliver value for money in this price range. Consider third party property damage insurance for important but inexpensive coverage, or third party fire and theft insurance, which covers legal liability as well as theft and fire damage, while still being relatively affordable.

Buying a car for $15,000 or more:

  • Used vehicles can be a good choice for every budget, including those in higher price ranges. Look around and you might find current-model cars in almost pristine condition for half of what they cost new.
  • If you’re planning on financing your vehicle, it’s could lower your rates to use your car as security when taking out a higher loan amount. Used cars can still be used as security, but you might find that new car loans have a cheaper rate.
  • Vehicles in this price range and above can be loaded with additional features and electronics. If you want to save money, look for the features that deliver value and safety, rather than the luxuries, cosmetic features or unneeded conveniences.
  • If you want to get a lot of use out of your car and plan on treating it like your own child, comprehensive car insurance can deliver a high level of protection.

Bottom line

Remember that everyone’s financial situation is different. Compare every option critically before deciding on a loan. You can compare all your car loan options here.

Frequently asked questions

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