Is Right Now The Very Best Time To Buy A Car? Discuss

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Slowly, the economic recession is winding down and consumer moods are improving.

Plus, today's new cars get better gas mileage than they did just a few years ago.

Is this year the best time to buy a new car?

According to several industry analysts quoted in The Detroit News, the answer is unequivocally yes.

Their confidence rests on the idea that all cars and trucks are getting better fuel economy now than they ever have.

But, they say, future vehicles--with better gas-mileage yet, as mandated by last year's EPA rules through 2025--are going to cost so much more that some consumers won't be able to afford them.

The EPA itself has said that vehicle prices will rise roughly $3,000 (in real dollars) between 2012 and 2025 to comply with the fuel-efficiency mandates.

That's not quite 10 percent of today's average vehicle-sale transaction price of roughly $31,000, according to TrueCar.

Future cars, the analysts fret, will not only cost more, but also sacrifice power and performance compared to today's vehicles.

They'll weigh less, and be more aerodynamic, but their engines are likely to be considerably smaller--and even advances like turbocharging or hybrid-electric propulsion may not deliver the blazing stoplight acceleration that U.S. buyers supposedly demand today.

Stll, auto engineers tend to be very good at working out ways to meet regulations that their company lobbyists screamed about, yelled over, and fought against.

(Auto companies, remember, fought essentially every single safety, emissions, and fuel-economy regulation ever proposed in the U.S. Many of those regulations were passed anyway; the world did not end.)

So we think the level of performance offered by future vehicles remains to be seen.

But the analysts' arguments ring true to some extent, especially on gas mileage. Averaged across all vehicles, the gas mileage of new cars is now pushing 25 mpg.

Early last year, we had already seen a 3-mpg increase since 2008--when the average was 18.5 mpg. Now, the March 2013 number of 24.6 mpg is a whopping 33 percent higher than in 2008.

In other words, trading the 5-year-old car you have now for a new car of the same size and type might save you one-third of your gasoline costs over the life of the car.

Hmmmmmmmmmmm ....


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Comments (15)
  1. Ah, well my 7 year old Prius that gets better mileage than almost anything and costs less than the average price of a new car will have to do.
    Oh wait, does that just undermine everything the analysts are saying?

  2. Just about anything with a plug will cost less on per miles basis than your 7 yr Prius excluding purchase price.

    But you only care about having a transportation, so keeping an used car going will always be cheaper than a brand new car in any form or shape.

    For example, Prius Plugin cost less than the average price of a new car (including federal discount and various dealer incentives due to low demand) and will potentially cost less to run on per mile basis than your 7 yr old Prius due to plug based on your commute pattern.

  3. Fair enough, but the context of the articles wasn't really about plug-in.

    Taking your point.
    Prius 50mpg $4/gal = 8 cent/mile.
    Leaf 29 KWH/100 $0.16/KWH = 5 cent/mile.
    Or about $400/year in energy savings with the LEAF.

    So for a new LEAF S with $7500 fed rebate versus a new Prius, yep the LEAF is a winner.

  4. As long as you don't have far to go, EV's are winners. The Volt fixes the range anxiety that plagues the Leaf.

  5. So does the Ford C-Max energi.

  6. And Betteridge's law of headlines
    (hat tip: John Voelcker)

  7. I will likely be hammered by the true believers, but I disagree with your premise.

    I don’t buy that the "recession is winding down" because I believe that our deficit spending is the only reason that it currently looks like we are growing.

    Consumer moods may be improving because they are told that things are improving by most of the media. For example, instead of looking at employment figures that don’t look very good, they are told to look at unemployment figures.

    This is important if one obtains a 90% loan on the $31,000 at 2.4% for 5 years. That is a payment of about $500/month. If the economy tanks and people lose their jobs or are forced to take pay cuts to remain employed, $500/month might seem like a lot of money for a car.

  8. I agree with you. Short of more trading at Wall Street, the economy might be moving in that stratosphere but what I see down in the trenches doesn't reflect that. YOu really have to take everything i to consideration when talking about the economy. I see more and more people paying cash locally, which is a sign that... well, anyone can figure that one out. And yes, if people are being told over and over again that the "recession is gone", they might believe it. What works even more is floating that cash down to their wallets, and quite that's quite another subject.

    Of course modern cars with better fuel economy will cost more. Someone has to pay for the research and development. The trick is to educate consumers to see long term.

  9. Many plugins are running the 0% 48month to 60 month deals.

    Also, some of the BEVs have super cheap Leases.

    Most of those leases will more than pay for the gas saved each month.

  10. Let's get away from "true believer" narratives on the economy. Auto & home sales indisputable show that the economy is recovering. As far as new vehicles.. it would seem that the keys to future auto sales are down payment amounts and monthly payments. Used car values have held up well helping the downpayment. As long as banks will lend for longer terms, the monthly payments should be able to be maintained in the same ranges as today's vehicles even if there is a $3k increase in price. And the overall total costs of ownership should be lower with lower fuel costs every month. If prices were increased to an extreme I could see a big slide in sales, but it isn't clear to me that $3k average will sink sales.

  11. That is certainly NOT the case with anything that has a plug.

    1. Any plugins will blow away the efficiency of any ICE and plugins will get cheaper.

    2. More diesels are coming and they are also getting cheaper with more choices.

    3. Future cars will have more better safety and more advanced features.

    When to buy should be mostly based on the buyer's financial situation more than anything else. Any other talks are just non$sense, IMHO.

  12. It depends on what your personal financial situation is. I am working towards the freedom to buy the EV that I really want. My wife is okay with me buying one, but she knows I won't buy until our budget can take that kind of hit. It's coming, but not this year. I sure hope incremental improvements {miraculous break-throughs are welcome, too} make the price of admission into the EV fraternity easier to bear.

  13. The winding down of the economic recession is an illusion. There is more than $120 trillion in debt in the US alone yet to be paid off. The recovery was built on the Fed's massive printing of dollars with no real value behind them.

  14. Yeah, I am so sick and tired of the Fed Printing. It is NOT working and yet they keep printing. It has done nothing for the real growth. All it is doing is to inflate the next bubble in assets.

    People also fail to understand that "printing" is a form of tax. It dilutes all dollars out there. So, in a way, the Fed is taxing every dollar out there so the holders are getting a "tax" that they aren't aware of...

  15. Power and performance? That's marketing hype for waste of resources.

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