How much car can you get for $25,000? More than you might think.
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From two-seat convertibles to sport-utility vehicles, family sedans and minivans, a wide range of new vehicles can be purchased for that price or less. Chevrolet's hot-selling 2010 Camaro LT muscle car costs $23,880. It comes with air conditioning, power-operated windows, locks and seats, a CD player and a 304-horsepower engine. It isn't the most powerful version of the car or the most luxurious, but it looks sharp and gets attention.
A Honda Accord EX sedan with a four-cylinder engine and automatic transmission costs $24,630. A well-equipped diesel-powered Volkswagen Jetta station wagon that gets 41 miles per gallon costs $24,615. Toyota's mid-level Prius hybrid goes for $23,800.
People perceive $25,000 as a price they can manage, analysts say -- without having to settle for a low-end car such as a Hyundai Accent Blue ($9,970) or a Chevrolet Aveo ($11,965). Car makers, facing a prolonged sales slump, are trying to keep prices below that perceived sweet spot in order to lure recession-weary consumers.
Subaru sells most of its cars for just under $25,000, spokesman Michael McHale says. The auto maker lowered the price of its top-of-the line 2010 Outback by $1,100, in part to help keep the model's average price down.
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Crucially, at $25,000, buyers can keep monthly car payments between $400 and $500 on a four-year loan with an interest rate of 6.56% and a down payment, trade-in or combination equal to 20% of the sticker price, according to Bankrate.com. Lower-cost loans are more important for buyers than in the recent past because lease offers have been cut back substantially and are harder to find.
Often, a $25,000 sticker gets customers into showrooms, where dealers assume buyers will wind up spending closer to $30,000 after adding options, tax, and registration and document fees, car companies and industry analysts say. "If you want to end up paying $25,000, you should start with a car in the low 20s," says Philip Reed, senior consumer advice editor for Edmunds.com, a market-research Web site.
The sweet spot itself keeps rising. A decade ago, consumers searched for cars for less than $20,000 -- a price that allowed you to get a mid-range Honda Accord, a low-end Ford Explorer or a Camaro, but not an entry-level BMW.
Of course, there are things a driver must give up with the typical $25,000 car, including leather seats, navigation systems and eight-cylinder engines. A full-size pickup truck is available for well below $25,000, but not the family-friendly four-door model. Seven- or eight-passenger minivan: yes. Rear-seat DVD screens: no.
Here's a look at some notable 2010 vehicles with a sticker price of $25,000 or less without options:
Dodge Ram 1500 Quad Cab 4x2 pickup truck
What you get: Aggressive looks and cargo-carrying space, back seat for kids or friends, relatively weak V6 engine. Appeals to men cultivating a rugged, outdoorsy image.
What you give up: More-expensive versions offer four-wheel drive and a more-powerful eight-cylinder engine.
Honda Accord EX se
What you get: Four-cylinder engine, automatic transmission, sunroof, antilock brakes, stability control.
What you give up: More-powerful six-cylinder engine, leather seats, navigation system.
Chevrolet Camaro LT sports coupe
What you get: Eye-catching styling, bright colors such as "synergy green" and "rally yellow," 18-inch wheels, fog lamps, stability control, a 304-horsepower engine, 29 miles per gallon on the highway. Car appeals to boomers who remember the muscle-car era and younger thrill-seekers.
What you give up: A more-powerful V8 engine, 20-inch wheels, leather seats.
Hyundai Santa Fe GLS AWD cross
What you get: All-wheel drive, V6 engine with 185 horsepower, four-speed automatic transmission, stability control. Appeals to SUV fans seeking a more-carlike ride.
What you give up: Bigger 242-horsepower V6 engine, five-speed transmission, sunroof, power leather seats, navigation system.
Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sport 4x4 S
What you get: Novelty of a four-door SUV with a removable roof, off-road capability, stability control, a fun-to-drive, back-to-basics vehicle. Appeals to fun-seekers and outdoor enthusiasts.
What you give up: Power windows and door locks.
Mazda MX-5 Miata two-seat convertible
What you get: Midlife-crisis car on a budget, five-speed stick shift, antilock brakes.
What you give up: Sportier six-speed transmission, standard power locks, stability control, traction control.
Subaru Outback 2.5i Premium station wagon
What you get: All-wheel-drive, stability control, roomy interior with lots of cargo space. A good family car with a bit of an edge.
What you give up: Leather seats, navigation system, sunroof.
Toyota Sienna CE minivan
What you get: Room for eight passengers (up from the typical seven), stability control, front-wheel drive. Appeals to families and carpoolers.
What you give up: Sunroof, leather upholstery, powered adjustable seats, navigation system, all-wheel drive.
- automatic transmission