There are still some lower-priced new cars and trucks, including even some electric vehicles, on today’s high-priced market, with a desirable level of features and options — but you may have to downsize, and bear in mind, even relatively affordable new vehicles may be more expensive than you think.
That’s according to a recent Affordability Report by the editorial department at Cars.com, which is independent from the Cars.com listings of new and used cars for sale.
While electric vehicles have a reputation for being priced in luxury-vehicle territory, there really are some battery electric vehicles that qualify as affordable and desirable at the same time, such as 2023 versions of the Chevy Bolt EV, the Hyundai Kona EV and others, says Jane Ulitskaya, Cars.com editor
“It was surprising to us, ourselves, how many cars and trucks fall below the median price in their category, including EVs,” she said in a recent phone interview. The median is the price at which half the segment is below that price, and half above.
Here are the median prices for the product categories Cars.com considered in the Affordability Report: cars, $25,745; small SUVs, $34,195; small pickup trucks, $43,070; EVs and plug-in hybrids, $59,670.
“If somebody is willing to downsize or compromise in that department, they’re not necessarily going to have to compromise on features, safety and convenience,” Ulitskaya said.
For the purposes of the study, Cars.com defines “affordable” as models priced below the median price of their respective product segments. Desirable but affordable cars and trucks aren’t stripped-down, entry-level econoboxes, either, she said.
In the study, Cars.com required all models to offer Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, blind spot monitoring, forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, and pedestrian detection and lane departure warning, as either standard or optional equipment.
Cars.com excluded luxury brands from the study, and also full-size pickup trucks. “That’s not to say those are not going to be a good value for somebody,” Ulitskaya said. “We did start off by identifying the segments that would be more applicable for consumers that would be focused on affordability.”
For example, Cars.com looked at mid-sized and compact pickups, like versions of the 2023 Ford Maverick and the 2023 Hyundai Santa Cruz.
Most people who have done any shopping are well aware that most new vehicles are in short supply, and therefore prices are high, and incentives are low, by historical standards, Ulitskaya said.
Even so, she said almost half of customers in the study said they expect to put down a down payment of less than $5,000. That might be OK in the small-car category, but in higher-priced categories that may not be enough.
“Five thousand dollars may be shooting too low,” Ulitskaya said. She said a 20% down payment is a commonly quoted rule of thumb.