Average New-Car Price Tops $45,000, an All-Time High

A Consumer Reports analysis helps car shoppers find the best deals amid record prices

line of SUVs at Kia car dealership Photo: David Zalubowski/AP Images

For the first time ever, the average price of a new car has edged past $45,000, according to a new report from Kelley Blue Book and data from TrueCar, a CR partner that provides market analysis and an online marketplace for cars. Buying a car—just about any car—has been difficult for months now, and new data shows that new cars, like used ones, are costing consumers more than ever. Blame it all on the pandemic, and the resulting global semiconductor shortage that has hobbled automakers’ ability to crank out new cars, crimping supply, pushing up prices and limiting availability.

“We are seeing new transaction prices hit all-time highs,” says Nick Woolard, an analyst with TrueCar. “In September, we saw the average transaction price increase 7.7 percent over a year earlier.”

Woolard says that new-car inventory at dealerships is generally pretty thin right now. “You see dealers parking their vehicles sideways to make it look like they have more vehicles on the lot,” he says, adding that even a modest increase in the availability of new cars may lead to some relief in pricing.

Over several years, a variety of factors has contributed to pushing up the average new-car price. For one thing, consumer tastes have gravitated toward more expensive truck and SUV models. And the recent scarcity of all models has led to more extreme price increases among traditionally more affordable models.

In a detailed analysis of new-car pricing, Consumer Reports and TrueCar have identified which models have gotten more expensive quickly, as well as identifying the best deals—including good deals on great cars.

More on Car Buying

According to CR’s analysis, the most discounted cars include a quartet of outgoing 2021 models, including the BMW 7 Series 740i xDrive, which is selling 10 percent below MSRP, the Cadillac XT6 Premium Luxury FWD, and the Volkswagen Arteon SEL R-Line 4MOTION, which are 10 percent below MSRP, on average, and the Alfa Romeo Giulia AWD, at a 9 percent discount.

Some of the worst deals were found among vehicles that have been traditionally thought of as good bargains—Hyundai and Kia models. Transaction prices for the 2022 Hyundai Accent SE and the 2022 Kia Telluride EX AWD, for example, were up to 20 percent higher than their manufacturer’s suggested retail prices (MSRP) of $16,645 and $39,790, respectively, depending on version bought. Among other models selling significantly above MSRP are the 2022 Chevrolet Spark LS CVT and the 2022 Kia Seltos S 2.0 AWD, at 18 percent above MSRP, and the Kia Carnival EX, at 17 percent above MSRP.

According to the latest Consumer Price Index report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the rise in new- and used-car prices leveled off a bit since this summer, when they spiked and became one of the leading causes of inflation.

As always, local pricing may differ from national averages. You can see the transaction prices for these and every other mainstream vehicle from the model pages at CR.org/cars. Woolard points out that waiting for better times may not be the best strategy, as recovery from today’s elevated car prices is likely to be gradual.

“If the question is wait or buy now, I don’t think that it’s going to be drastically different between now and the near future,” he says. “The best advice is that if you need a new car, get a new car.”

Be sure to check out Consumer Reports’ lists of the current best deals on new cars and new SUVs that meet our stringent criteria to be recommended, the worst deals, and browse the list of the most discounted cars.

CR's Build & Buy Car Buying Service

When buying a car, in addition to research and reviews, Consumer Reports offers members access to the Build & Buy Car Buying Service at no additional cost. Through this service, a nationwide network of over 12,000 participating dealers provide up-front pricing information and a certificate to receive guaranteed savings off MSRP (in most states). The pricing information and guaranteed savings include eligible incentives. Consumer Reports members have saved an average of $3,218 off MSRP with the Build & Buy Car Buying Service.

Head shot of CR Autos Editor, Benjamin Preston

Benjamin Preston

My reporting has taken me everywhere from Baghdad, Iraq, to the Detroit auto show, along the U.S.-Mexico border and everywhere in between. If my travels have taught me anything, it's that stuff—consumer products—is at the center of daily life all over the world. That's why I'm so jazzed to be shining light on what works, what doesn't, and how people can enrich their lives by being smarter consumers. When I'm not reporting, I can usually be found at home with my family, at the beach surfing, or in my driveway, wrenching on my hot rod '74 Olds sedan.