Detroit is still in many ways the home of the American auto industry. But a new report out by shows that Metro Detroit is second to last when it comes to being able to actually afford those cars, compared to our incomes.

Metro Detroit ranked 24 out of 25 regions across the nation when it comes to being able to afford a new car, according to a new affordability survey.

Bankrate used the “20/4/10” rule as their guide. They say you should aim to put down at least 20 percent of a vehicle’s purchase price, take out a car loan for no longer than four years, and devote no more than 10 percent of your annual income to car payments, interest and insurance.

If you stretch your loan out for more than four years, like many do, you’re in danger of owing more than the car is worth at the end of the deal.

According to Experian, three quarters of car loans are written for longer than five years. That length of time for the loan is usually done in the name of keeping the monthly payment more manageable, but it ends up hurting the customer in the long run.

“Low and middle-income households are having to stretch loan terms to six or more years and/or spend huge percentages of their paychecks to afford reliable transportation,” Claes Bell, an analyst for, said in a statement.

Under the Bankrate assumptions, they worked with a median household income of $55,237 for Metro Detroiters. They figured out that the price a metro Detroiter could actually afford a new car is $13,912.

Only Miami, Florida was lower on the list.

Nowadays, the average new car is costs in the neighborhood of $33,000. Michigan’s car insurance premiums are also the highest in the nation.

“In the past 35 years, the cost of a new car has gone up 35 percent, a used car is up 25 percent, and at the same time, the median household income is only up 3 percent,” says Michelle Krebs, a senior analyst for Autotrader.

To be sure, this is an issue nationally. Although metro Detroit was near the bottom, only one region in the United States can afford a new car under Bankrate’s 20/4/10 assumptions: The nation’s capital, Washington, D.C.

This is interesting data especially in light of controversial topics around here like mass transit, as well as analysts saying that domestic car sales are plateauing.

Although many people in the Detroit area do not think we want mass transit or other options for getting around, it turns out that financially we might just need it.

Share this post