How Much Car Can You Afford? Understanding the Numbers

How Much Car Can You Afford? Understanding the Numbers

When it’s time to purchase a automotive, you’ll in all probability need to know: “How much car can I afford?” Financial consultants reply this query by utilizing a easy rule of thumb: Car patrons ought to spend not more than 10% of their take-home pay on a automotive loan cost and not more than 20% for whole automotive bills, which additionally consists of issues like gasoline, insurance, repairs and upkeep.

Once you recognize the month-to-month automotive cost you’ll be able to afford, you’ll be able to calculate how a lot you’ll be able to afford to borrow in your automotive loan. With that, you’ll be able to set a sensible goal worth and eventually reply the query, “What car can I afford?”

Use our automotive affordability calculator to rapidly see what’s proper in your funds.

Car affordability calculator

Enter some fundamental data to learn the way a lot you might be able to borrow.

Estimated loan quantity


Before gross sales tax and costs

Average APR


Based on credit tier; precise phrases might differ


3.99% to 9.99% (for brand new vehicles with autopay low cost)


NerdWallet score 

Capital One

As low as 2.99% (for wonderful credit and new car buy)


NerdWallet score 



NerdWallet score 


As low as 2.69% (with reductions)


NerdWallet score 

Note: APR is used to guage the true price of borrowing cash and consists of the rate of interest.

How to make use of the automotive affordability calculator

Most automotive cost calculators begin with the whole loan quantity you need and different inputs to see what your month-to-month cost can be. NerdWallet’s automotive affordability calculator begins with the month-to-month cost you select and exhibits you what loan quantity you’ll be able to afford, and the way the APR and loan time period change the whole loan quantity.

To use NerdWallet’s automotive affordability calculator, enter the month-to-month automotive cost you’ve determined you’ll be able to afford and the size of loan you need. Then choose “new” or “used” and your credit tier. NerdWallet estimates an APR based mostly on the typical APR for brand new or used automotive loans in that credit tier utilizing knowledge from Experian Information Solutions. You can strive totally different loan phrases and modify the inputs to additional customise your loan quantity.

How to find out how a lot automotive you’ll be able to afford

Calculating how a lot automotive you’ll be able to afford earlier than you go to the dealership can prevent a whole bunch, perhaps hundreds, of {dollars} in the long term — and also you gained’t be putty within the fingers of a automotive salesman.

We’ll stroll you thru the important thing steps:

1. Calculate the automotive cost you’ll be able to afford

NerdWallet recommends spending not more than 10% of your take-home pay in your month-to-month auto loan cost. So in case your after-tax pay every month is $3,000, you would afford a $300 automotive cost.

It’s vital to be real looking about how lengthy you’ll be able to or need to be making this month-to-month cost. NerdWallet recommends most loan phrases of 36 months for getting a used automotive and 60 months for brand new vehicles.

Taking an extended loan time period will cut back your month-to-month cost, however over time you’ll pay rather more in curiosity. Also, an extended loan time period will increase your threat of changing into upside-down on the loan, that means you owe greater than the automotive is price.

2. Calculate the automotive loan quantity you’ll be able to afford

Now that you simply’ve calculated your inexpensive month-to-month automotive cost quantity, you can begin to get a way of how a lot you’ll be able to borrow. This will rely upon a number of different components, together with:

  • Your credit rating, which can partially decide your annual proportion price, or APR, on the loan.

  • Your loan time period: what number of months you need to repay the loan.

  • Whether you purchase new or used. New automotive loans are inclined to have decrease APRs.

With a month-to-month cost, an estimated APR and loan time period, the automotive affordability calculator works backward to find out the whole loan quantity you’ll be able to afford.

3. Set a goal buy worth

The whole loan quantity you’ll be able to afford isn’t essentially the value of the automotive you’ll be able to afford. If you’re making a down cost or buying and selling in your outdated automotive, you’ll have the ability to purchase a higher-priced automotive, or borrow much less cash. (Use our auto loan calculator to see how your down cost or trade-in credit impacts your month-to-month cost and loan quantity.)

Additionally, there will likely be gross sales tax and costs, so take into consideration extra than simply the value on the window sticker. Once you estimate the automotive loan quantity you’ll be able to afford, and assuming no trade-in credit or down cost, you’ll be able to start to get a sensible concept of the acquisition worth it is best to take into account.

You’ll must think about gross sales tax and costs, which range by state, to the marketed price of the automotive to get your whole automotive worth. An straightforward option to estimate these additional bills is so as to add 10% to the marketed worth of the automotive (though you would possibly negotiate a cheaper price). For instance, in the event you see a automotive marketed for $20,000, it is best to assume your whole price — the “out the door” worth — will likely be $22,000.

If you need to get a extra exact estimate, right here’s a breakdown of the everyday additional prices:

  • Sales tax: Typically 5% to 10%, and will embrace state, county and native taxes.

  • Registration charges: Estimate these charges by utilizing your state’s division of motor automobiles web site.

  • Documentation payment: Ranges from $80 to $400, relying in your state.

This signifies that in the event you can afford a $20,000 automotive loan, once more, assuming no down cost or trade-in credit, you’ll need to store for a automotive with a sticker worth of round $18,000 so that you simply’ll have the ability to cowl gross sales tax and costs together with your whole loan quantity.

Finding a automotive you’ll be able to afford

Many automotive websites, comparable to Kelley Blue Book, Edmunds and AutoTrader, have automotive finder search instruments to indicate you totally different fashions listed by worth. But bear in mind to set the bar low. When looking for vehicles, set your most worth under the whole loan quantity you assume you’ll be able to afford. Sales tax and costs can simply add as much as an additional few thousand {dollars}.

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