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Study: D.C. home to best auto affordability

Wednesday - 3/12/2014, 9:37am  ET

car dealership Ford (Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
D.C. was the only metro area where the median household is able to afford a maximum monthly payment of $641. (Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON -- Does D.C. have it best when it comes to car buying?

While median-income families around the country are having a difficult time paying for new cars and trucks, the one exception can be seen in the nation's capital, according to a new study.

An Interest.com study of how much the median household in America's largest metro areas could spend every month on car payments and auto insurance found that 24 out of 25 metro areas could not afford to pay for the average-priced new car or truck, according to CNBC.

The numbers may come as a shock for car buyers nationwide.

D.C. was the only metro area where the median household is able to afford a maximum monthly payment of $641, according to the research. Baltimore ranked No. 5 on the list for best auto affordability with a $479 maximum monthly payment.

Ranked the lowest on the list was Tampa, where median-income buyers could afford a $280 maximum monthly payment.

Differences are seen not only with median household incomes but also in tax rates and insurance costs, according to the study.

Interest.com makes its calculations assuming buyer's put down 20 percent and take out a 48-month auto loan.

The average price of a new car or truck sold in the United States in 2013 was $32,086, according to Kelley Blue Book. Interest.com's researchers say most American households can't afford to spend as much as they do on new cars and trucks.

"I'm concerned the average transaction price is so much higher than the median income for families," Interest.com Managing Editor Mike Sante told CNBC.

Sante says many people are spending more than they can afford.

To save money, Sante recommends following a "20/4/10 Rule."

  • Put down 20 percent.

  • Take out an auto loan for no longer than four years.

  • Spend no more than 10 percent of the monthly gross pay on a car payment and auto insurance.

"You really should have a game plan when you start looking to buy a new car or truck," Sante said to CNBC.

Below is the list of the top five metro areas for car affordability, according to the study:

  1. Washington, D.C.: $32,531 affordable purchase price/$641 maximum monthly payment

  2. San Francisco: $28,009 affordable purchase price/$563 maximum monthly payment

  3. Boston: $26,669 affordable purchase price/$520 maximum monthly payment

  4. Minneapolis: $24,846 affordable purchase price/$494 maximum monthly payment

  5. Baltimore: $24,591 affordable purchase price/$479 maximum monthly payment

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