PORTLAND, Ore. (TheStreet) -- When it comes to auto sales, “affordable” is a debatable term.
The U.S. auto industry reached 15.6 million vehicle sales last year after bottoming out at 10.4 million in 2009. While the industry is on pace for 15.9 million sales this year, the average price of a new car in this country sits at $32,000, according to Kelley Blue Book. That's more than half of the U.S. median household income of $51,000, which is technically affordable but not realistic for many folks looking to buy a new vehicle outright.
Sales of new cars have increased 4.3% year to date, but used cars have continued to be hot commodities as inventory recovers from the economic downturn and buyers seek deals. Publicly traded used car dealers have watched vehicle sales rise for 19 consecutive quarters and by double-digit percentages in three of the past four quarters alone. Prices for used vehicles are up across the board, with cars that were selling for $8,000 to $10,000 less popular this year than models going for $11,000 to $14,000.
As a result, automotive data service Polk found that the average age of cars and light trucks on U.S. roads to be 11.4 years. That's up from 8.9 years a decade ago and 9.8 as recently as 2007. The average U.S. driver not only isn't in the market for another car -- new or used -- but will have to be pried away from his or her vehicle by force before heading to a dealership.
“Shoppers face legitimate sticker shock when shopping for a new car,” said Joe Wiesenfelder, executive editor of new and used car pricing site Cars.com. “While advertisements often lead shoppers to believe that cars are quite affordable, the reality is that the price of entry for even a modestly equipped new car is well above what many shoppers expect.”
The sticker isn't the only shock drivers are in for when buying a new vehicle. A base model at the lowest price will typically be stripped down to nothing, while the cost of putting fuel into that car can add significant costs to the vehicle's purchase price. Cars.com recently went looking for the most affordable vehicles on the road and considered the cost of each car, the destination fee and the five-year cost of fueling each vehicle. Minimum amenities included power windows and door locks as well as Bluetooth capability and a USB port.
With that in mind, they were able to find the following 10 vehicles, with starting prices below $18,000 that will cost their buyers less than $27,000 to own over the next five years:
10. 2014 Ford Fiesta SE Sedan
Purchase price: $17,500
Five-year fuel cost: $9,000
Total cost: $26,500
There's always somebody out there who's going to buy the sedan version of the subcompact that was meant to be a hatchback.
That's who this car is made for: People who like small cars and their mileage but don't care about looking cool or having a little extra space. The Fiesta sedan may not be as sexy as the hatchback version, but it still has Bluetooth and digital media player compatibility through Microsoft's SYNC system, ambient lighting, tons of available apps and its 28 miles per gallon city in the city and 36 on the highway. You have to make do without available playthings such as a power moonroof, heated leather-trimmed seats and capless fuel intake, but there's a price to be paid for frugality.