How Much Car Can You Afford? Understanding the Numbers

Clarification of Phrases

Month-to-month Fee: When deciding how a lot of a month-to-month automotive fee you possibly can afford, you will need to contemplate your take-home pay—which is the quantity you make every month after taxes and different payroll deductions. Ideally, your month-to-month automotive fee should not be greater than 10% to fifteen% of your take-home pay. 

Down Fee: The down fee is the quantity you pay up-front for the automotive. Usually, a bigger down fee will imply decrease rates of interest and decreased month-to-month funds, which may considerably cut back the general value of the automotive.

Mortgage Time period: A mortgage time period is the period of time till your automotive mortgage is paid off. Longer phrases enable for smaller month-to-month funds, however they typically include larger rates of interest that improve the whole quantity you find yourself paying for the automotive.

Curiosity Charge: A automotive mortgage’s rate of interest is determined by a number of elements. Usually, consumers with excessive credit score scores, massive down funds and brief time period lengths can be eligible for the bottom rates of interest.


3 guidelines for financing a automotive

In case you’ve established that financing is the correct transfer for you, what are your subsequent steps? What are some good guidelines of thumb to observe to make sure you get the very best deal out of your auto mortgage? 

Put at the least 20% down

The important thing goal of any mortgage is that this: Don’t go the other way up.

You’re “the other way up” on a mortgage while you owe your lender greater than the asset is price — that means that even if you promote it, you continue to owe cash on one thing you don’t even have anymore!

Yeah, the other way up is not a enjoyable place to be. 

That’s why you’ll typically see the quantity 20% thrown round in terms of a automotive mortgage, a mortgage, and so forth. Giant down funds not solely assist to scale back your month-to-month funds, and function an excellent litmus check as as to if you possibly can afford the automotive — in addition they erect a dam to forestall you from going underwater. 

Decide a mortgage time period shorter than 48 months

It could be tempting to push out your automotive mortgage time period on the Automotive Affordability Calculator to decrease your month-to-month funds. In spite of everything, in our earlier instance, if we lengthen the time period from 48 to 72 months, the month-to-month fee drops to only $175.23. 

But pushing out your loan term means you pay much

However pushing out your mortgage time period means you pay way more in complete

For instance:

  • 48 months X $252.89 month-to-month fee = $12,138.72.
  • 72 months X $175.23 month-to-month fee = $12,616.56.

That’s nearly $500 extra simply in curiosity. Plus, that’s two extra years you might need to pay a lender’s larger insurance coverage necessities. Lastly, you don’t need to nonetheless be paying off your automotive as its worth plummets after 4 years, for the reason that danger of going underwater goes larger. 

Your complete automotive month-to-month fee (curiosity, principal, gross sales tax, and insurance coverage) shouldn’t exceed 10% of your gross month-to-month earnings

That is type of a extra granular model of the 35% rule. 

The 35% (or much less) rule provides you a normal finances to plug into the search filters on Carmax, Edmunds, and so forth.

However when it comes right down to brass tacks, you’ll need to zero in on the month-to-month fee. Take your annual earnings, divide it by 120, and that’s probably the most you’ll need to pay for a automotive every month together with insurance coverage. 

Learn extra: Tips for saving on your car loan

Take into account Your Buying Choices

In case you’re on a decent finances, discover your entire choices earlier than buying a automotive. A number of decisions can be found, together with leasing or shopping for a used or new automotive.


A automotive lease permits you to primarily lease a automotive from a dealership for a sure size of time and mileage. It may be an excellent choice for the reason that month-to-month funds are decrease than these for purchasing the automotive outright. Nonetheless, remember that you’ll have a mileage restrict and the cash you pay towards your automotive received’t convey any worth to you.

Shopping for a Used Automotive

Buying a used automotive provides you extra freedom than a automotive lease. Used automobiles are usually priced considerably decrease than new automobiles, making month-to-month funds extra inexpensive. Moreover, automotive bills corresponding to insurance coverage are usually decrease for used automobiles.

Shopping for a New Automotive

If you wish to buy a brand new car, do your analysis so you already know which make and mannequin you need. Understanding a automotive’s truthful market worth will assist you to negotiate the very best deal potential at a dealership.

The right way to use our automotive affordability calculator?

Are you curious how a lot you possibly can spend on a automotive? Strive our automotive affordability calculator and discover out. Utilizing the calculator is less complicated then you definitely assume.

All you’ll want to do is to offer some fundamental data:

  • Month-to-month fee you possibly can afford is a most quantity you possibly can spend on a automotive mortgage every month. When establishing this worth keep in mind the rule of 1 third, which we offered within the earlier part.
  • Cash you may have is cash you may have and might spend on a automotive (it might both be money or the cash in your checking account).
  • Present automotive trade-in worth is a price of your present automotive (solely if in case you have one, clearly).
  • Rate of interest is the price of a automotive mortgage (in our calculator it needs to be supplied on a yearly foundation – APY.
  • Mortgage time period is the time period of your automotive mortgage. We advise it to be not than 48 months.
  • Gross sales tax is the automotive gross sales tax fee. It’s completely different in every state (this area is accessible in superior mode).

After you fill within the final area, our automotive affordability calculator will instantly present you your outcomes. Probably the most fascinating worth is the most automotive worth. It informs you what the higher restrict of worth is which you can afford to spend on a brand new automotive.

The automotive mortgage affordability calculator will even estimate the mortgage quantity which is calculated on the premise of the month-to-month fee you possibly can afford. Furthermore, it’s going to additionally compute the whole sum of curiosity paid and the whole worth of gross sales tax (within the superior mode).

Shorter Time period Loans Have One Extra Benefit…

They’ll preserve you from being “up-side-down”. This time period refers to owing extra in your automotive than the fairness in it. If you make a fee, a part of your cash goes to curiosity and half to principal. At first of the mortgage, many of the cash is positioned on curiosity. With long run loans it takes a for much longer time for extra of your cash to be positioned on principal, due to this fact delaying the quantity of fairness you construct. In case you resolve to promote your automotive, you might owe extra on it than the fairness in it, thus being “up-side-down”. Placing down a bigger down fee might help to keep away from this example.


The golden rule to automotive shopping for is to by no means spend greater than 35% of your gross annual earnings on a automotive. 

Now, your response could also be eh, I hoped I might spend extra…however keep in mind: There are lots of used automobiles you possibly can nonetheless get inside your finances, and all the cash you don’t spend could be invested and multiplied. 

In case you’re sensible and frugal along with your cash, the Mazda you purchase at the moment can turn out to be the brand new Mercedes you drive tomorrow.

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