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Incomes Rise and Prices Fall Driving the Affordability Index to New Heights

December 16, 2015

The Auto Buyer’s Affordability Index (ABAI) rose to new heights this month as both the U.S. median household income and the light-vehicle average transaction (ATP) moved in supportive directions. The November ABAI of 59.0 is up from the October value of 58.1, and up more than 11% since November 2014. An ABAI of 59.0 indicates that a prudent, median-income household can only afford 59.0 percent of the new-car average price.

ABAI Results 2015 November

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November’s average price is still lower (-$815) than last December’s average (when prices spiked), whereas the affordable price has increased $1,931 over the same 11-month period. As a result, median income buyers have gained $2,746 of buying power (the affordable price change minus the ATP change).

Affordability 2015 November

Buying Power 2015 November

Pressure on new car prices is anticipated to continue as competition (versus used cars and between automakers) increases and as interest rates rise. New-car affordability should continue to improve well into 2016 as long as U.S. economic growth continues.

Regardless of the state of overall affordability, each new-car buyer can preserve her own financial health by first ensuring that the purchase is affordable. Requisite Press recommends that consumers apply the 20-4-10 auto financing rule (see below) to more easily assess the affordability of a new-car purchase. Consumers can verify affordability throughout the car-buying process with AffordCheck℠, a free online tool based on the 20-4-10 rule. AffordCheck℠ can be used to determine an affordable price range, and it can also be used to assess specific offers as they are received.

20-4-10 Auto Financing Rule

The 20-4-10 auto financing rule consists of a minimum 20 percent down payment, a maximum 4-year loan term, and monthly payments of no more than 10 percent of gross household income (including insurance). The rule is widely recommended by personal finance experts to maintain financial security, avoid excessive interest costs, and preserve future investment opportunities.

ABAI Methodology

The affordable monthly payment (including principal and interest) is calculated by taking 10 percent of the U.S. monthly median household income and subtracting a U.S. average monthly insurance premium. The affordable price is then calculated using the affordable payment, along with a U.S. average 48-month auto loan interest rate and a U.S. average sales tax rate. A 20 percent down payment is assumed. The ABAI is calculated by dividing the affordable price by the average transaction price and then multiplying by 100.


ABAI Data 2015 November

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