You can still find a handful of new cars for less than $15,000. But the market doesn't seem to notice, because the average transaction price of a new car keeps rising, and for 2016, it'll hit a record once again.
The average new vehicle transaction price for 2016 will hit a record $34,077, according to research from Edmunds. That's 2.7 percent higher than 2015, and 12.6 percent higher than it was in 2011, which, yes, is already five years ago. Next year, Edmunds expects that price to jump even higher, to about $35,000.
So what's causing this? Edmunds believes the primary factor is growth in the light-duty truck market. It currently engulfs about 62 percent of the new-car market, and if you've ever been to a truck manufacturer's site to play around with Build and Price tools, you'd know those suckers get expensive, and quick. A newLimited SuperCrew is about $60,000, but lease deals can put these trucks in the hands of those who may not be able to afford actual financing.
Speaking of financing, that's playing a strong part, too. As car-note terms now regularly stretch to 72 months and beyond, buyers are finding that more expensive cars seem more affordable, when it's really just lower payments stretched out over longer periods. Low interest rates only compound matters further.
"Although automakers have ushered in a crop of smaller, lower-priced vehicles, strong market demand for SUVs and trucks have caused overall prices to rise," said Jessica Caldwell, Edmunds executive director of industry analysis, in a statement. "This is yet another example of how trucks and SUVs are driving change in the market and influencing every part of the industry."
Thankfully, frugal buyers still have options. Both the Ford Fiesta and Mitsubishi Mirage can be found under $14,000 in base trim, and the strong desire for crossovers caused many automakers to release smaller, more affordable variants, like the, and .