The COVID-19 pandemic initially slowed car sales, but now many new-car buyers are making more expensive purchases than ever before, according to sales data from Edmunds.
The average transaction price for a new car in the third quarter of 2020 was slightly above $39,000, with payments averaging just under $570 per month. That’s a price increase of about $2,000 from 2019.
But a monthly payment approaching $600 just isn’t in reach for many shoppers. With this in mind, we sought to find a number of new vehicles that could be had at a more attainable $399 monthly payment. Factoring in today’s average annual percentage rate (4.6%), a popular loan term (72 months) and a lower-than-average down payment amount of $4,000, a vehicle with a manufacturer’s suggested retail price of $29,000 will match that monthly payment target.
Here's a list of vehicles that can be financed for less than $399 a month using the above parameters. Remember that with a little research, you can easily secure a deal for less than MSRP. Note: Sales tax and fees are not included and can vary by location.
4 cars under $400
2021 Kia Forte
Small sedans are no longer the drab, soulless econoboxes of yesteryear. The Kia Forte, for example, is a sharp little four-door with lots of features and personality. Redesigned for 2019, the Forte has all the latest driver conveniences and safety features, as well as a cabin with a sporty design aesthetic and high-quality materials. Buyers looking for a sportier edge should check out the GT model, which features a more powerful engine and unique transmission options.
Recommended trim: EX ($24,055). Unless you want the GT’s turbocharged engine, the EX is the way to go. It has almost every feature the Forte offers, and using the parameters above, payments will be roughly $320 per month.
2021 Honda Insight
Think of the Honda Insight as an electrified Civic. The two match up pretty closely in terms of size, price and equipment, and both have plenty of passenger and cargo room. The Insight’s hybrid powertrain is the primary differentiator. Depending on trim, the Insight earns 48-52 mpg in the EPA’s combined cycle, while the turbocharged Civic gets 33-36 mpg combined.
Recommended trim: EX ($25,765). The EX is only a little more expensive than the base LX and adds features such as a touchscreen infotainment system and blind-spot monitoring. Payments using our calculations will run just under $350 per month.
2021 Kia K5
The Kia K5 is the latest version of Kia’s midsize sedan, formerly known as the Optima. The K5 is notable for its sleek and sophisticated sheet metal and near-luxury cabin. The K5 presents a strong value statement, with nifty features including wireless smartphone compatibility and ventilated seats available at a price that is commensurate with more lightly equipped rivals.
Recommended trim: GT-Line ($26,355). The midtier GT-Line gives the K5 a sporty look and feel while adding desirable creature comforts. It’s one of the only models available with all-wheel drive. Payments on a K5 GT-Line with our parameters will run about $355 per month.
2021 Mazda CX-5
The Mazda CX-5 is one of our favorite compact crossovers. Though a little smaller on the inside than its primary competition, the CX-5 makes up for that with an eye-catching design and interior materials that rival what you’ll find in luxury SUVs. It’s also fun to drive, with excellent handling and sharp steering.
Recommended trim: Touring ($28,110). The CX-5 Touring adds a lot of features for the money and opens the door to the budget-friendly yet comprehensive Preferred SV package. Monthly payments with our calculations check in at just under $385 per month.