I hear from time to time about the "average" price of a new car in the United States, and how it is absurdly high. I presume this has something to do with how four people buying a $13k car and one person buying a $100k car have an average of $30k.

Knowing this, I have on at least two occasions attempted to find median prices for car sales. I cannot find anything even approaching official numbers. If I was just looking in the wrong place, please enlighten me. If you know why I have a hard time finding these numbers, I'd like to hear that, too.

If possible, please separate car prices from truck prices.

There are several posts on PF&M about buying cars that are too expensive, and an entire class of questions about co-signing with someone who is determined to finance a vehicle they cannot afford. It strikes me as helpful to be able to point to "normal" new car prices when answering these posts. (Even though I know it is almost universally better to buy used.)

closed as off-topic by Hart CO, Dheer, mhoran_psprep, JoeTaxpayer Dec 18 '18 at 13:20

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  • 1
    Not sure how this relates to Personal Finance, but individual manufacturers appear to report monthly sales: corporate.ford.com/content/dam/corporate/en/shared-content/… Which means that for years (decades?) automotive analysts have collected & parsed sales data, provided additional value like tagging car size segments, and placed those results behind paywalls cause they did the work. Perhaps someone out there can use their access to give you an idea, but again those results based on the collected data of XYZ group. – Morrison Chang Dec 17 '18 at 7:35
  • @MorrisonChang A good point in asking about relevance. I have edited in my rationale above. Also, thanks for the link! – Michael Dec 17 '18 at 14:15
  • I suggest you limit your question to the US and add the appropriate tag: (1) Car prices depend on a lot of factors, so comparing across countries is not very useful, (2) Your question becomes a 'list type' question with many possible answers, and these are too broad on SE sites. – Jan Doggen Dec 17 '18 at 16:39
  • This Q seems like it would go stale. It could be improved by turning it into "How can I find the median new auto price?" – shoover Dec 17 '18 at 22:17

I don't have a data source but I think this is an interesting question so I'm just going to share my thoughts on the topic. If you just compare unit sale numbers between a base model $13k Hyundai Accent or whatever against the sale numbers of the "average" Ford F150 (the top selling truck in the country) with a base models ranging from $29k to $52k, I'd suspect the mean/median spread probably isn't as wide as you'd expect.

I'm sure the spread plays a part but I think what's really happened relates to the prevalence of captive auto lenders (all the major manufacturers have subsidiary financial services companies), long-term loans and the increasing trend toward leasing.

People tend to buy the payment. I can pay $300/month and I WANT that. If I need to sign a 96 month loan to get that, that's ok.

If you take the average car payment over time and compare it to the average car price over time you'll see that it's the financial instruments available that have changed; car sale price has grown a lot faster than car payment. 10 years ago the average car loan duration was in the 60 month range and it's about to crack 70 months now. Even if you increase both numbers (payment and sale price) for inflation you see that the price has risen faster than payment. Really, low interest rates and longer loan durations have "bought" more average car than dollars have. Leasing has a similar effect.

From the Ford link in the comments above:

Demand for F-Series was strong all year, with customers requesting the newest technologies in our highseries trucks. High-series Super Duty and new 2018 F-150 trucks pushed overall F-Series ATPs to a new record level of $47,800 per truck, $3,400 higher than a year ago.

An 8% YoY increase in average price is certainly not explained by the average buyer actually parting with 8% more money.

IMO, "average" new car sale price does little more than illustrate that on average people make bad decisions. Kind of like the "average" american diet when the "average" american person is overweight.

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