How Much Should You Spend on a Car Based on Your Income?

Using your income as a base so you don’t overextend yourself

Buying a car is oftencarpricevsincome_featured one of the largest expenses an individual will incur, and most will finance such a purchase. It’s crucial to plan ahead so you don’t inadvertently buy a vehicle that you can’t afford.

“Because financing a car means committing to a monthly loan payment for a period of time, your monthly budget plays the biggest role in deciding how much to spend on a car,” explained Managing Editor Jamie Page Deaton in a July 2015 article in U.S. News.

Using your net income as a basis
Before you even start the car shopping process, you should know how much you can afford to spend each month. Then you’ll be able to narrow down your vehicle search to those that fit within your budget.

Start by getting out a piece of paper and writing down your monthly income.

“To calculate how much you have available to spend on your car payments, first take into account your essential monthly expenses. These can include mortgage or rent, utilities, phone, food and entertainment, savings, and other expenses,” reported an August 2014 CarFax article in its CarFox blog.

“The total from this [deducted calculation], your disposable income, is the amount you have left to cover the cost of your new car.” Note that this estimated number is meant to cover all car expenses including gas, insurance and maintenance, and not just the monthly payment for the car.

Calculations: example 1
CarFax suggested you spend 10 to 20 percent of your monthly disposable income on a car payment and expenses. As an example, CarFax shares calculations for an individual with a monthly income of $4,000.

“If your gross pay is $4,000 a month and you spend $2,165 on essentials like mortgage, food and utilities, your disposable income is $1,835 a month. Spending 10 percent of your disposable income would mean a $184 car payment. Twenty percent of this would give you a car payment of $368.”

Calculations: example 2
Deaton suggested a calculation model for spending ability at no more than 15 percent of your net monthly pay, as long as you don’t have major debt other than a mortgage.

As an example, Deaton posited that someone who makes $50,000 per year will likely take home an annual net income of $44,180 after taxes. He noted in a July 2015 article in U.S. News & World Report that other expenses, like health insurance and retirement saving, will likely lower this net amount and offered a monthly estimate of $3,681 in net pay for this example.

At 15 percent, this person should be able to afford, at most, $552 per month for all car-related expenses (not just the car payment). Taking into consideration the median U.S. insurance rate at $100 per month, and assuming this person spends $125 per month on gas and saves or uses $50 per month for repairs and maintenance; this hypothetical person will have $277 left over each month for a car payment.

“Plug this number into a car affordability calculator with a $2,000 down payment, 4 percent sales tax and a car loan lasting five years with no interest, and a car costing just under $18,000 makes financial sense for this person. Of course, this person may not qualify for a no-interest loan, and shortening the loan term will increase the payment. [He or she] could also lower the monthly payment by having a larger down payment,” noted Deaton.

If you do have more debt, such as from credit cards and student loans, Deaton advised you look at your total monthly debt as a whole in determining how much you can afford for a car. You’ll want to spend less than 36 percent of your monthly net income on your total monthly debt.

If you need more help calculating what you can afford, contact us and we’ll be happy to help.

Used with Permission. Published by IMN Bank Adviser Includes copyrighted material of IMakeNews, Inc. and its suppliers.

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