Going Car Shopping This Weekend? Read This First

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Planning to do some car shopping this weekend? DailyFinance asked the experts at AOL Autos for this week's best car shopping tips and advice, whether you're considering a new vehicle or a used one. Here's a quick rundown of the latest news, hottest deals and smartest negotiating strategies to help you find the car that best suits your needs and your wallet.

Deals of the month. The best deals of May, which we calculate as the highest average discount off a vehicle's sticker price, include the Acura MDX, Honda Odyssey minivan and Ford F150 pickup. Check out the full list of the the top 10 best deals of May to see if one of the vehicles on your radar is among them.

Crossover dreams. Are you shopping for a small SUV, often known as a "crossover?" If you are, then you'll want to read this story about how safety ratings are not high for many of these vehicles. That's an important consideration since many families by these vehicles as the family car.

Gone in 60 seconds. Perhaps you've had your eye on a certain vehicle for the last couple of years, and when you're finally ready to buy you discover that the car has been taken out of circulation. Automakers cull out slow sellers every year, and some companies, like Saab and Fisker, just go out of business. So if your dream vehicle is gone or going, AOL Autos editors offer some sound substitutes for the model you may be missing.

Don't pay at the pump. Curious about the new extended-range electric cars? These can run solely on battery power for some distance, then switch over to a gas motor when the battery runs out. Check out the Ford C-Max Energi, an all-new model and brand that will go about 17 miles on a battery charge before the gas kicks in. Why bother? Because some 70 percent of U.S. drivers drive less than 30 miles a day, so covering that many miles on battery can save you big bucks over time at the pump.

Going Car Shopping This Weekend? Read This First

By Michael Zak | AOL Autos

A recent Interest.com study looked at the 25 largest metropolitan areas in the United States to see which median-income households in those respective areas can afford to purchase a new car, the average price of which was $30,550 in 2012, according to TrueCar. The study found that in only one city can residents actually afford a car with this sticker price -- Washington, D.C.

Households with an average income in Washington, D.C. can afford a payment of up to $628, which would allow for purchase of a $31,940 vehicle. The next closest city, San Francisco, can only afford $537 per month, equating to a $26,786.

While it's not news that Americans like to buy things that they can't afford, the data is a little surprising given how many great cars there are out there for well under $30,000. Solid hybrids, CUVs, sedans and sports cars can all be had for less than this.

We've racked our brains and come up with 5 of the best cars that are cheaper than the average car's purchase price. These are affordable, versatile, fun and fuel efficient. Of course, there are some stinkers in this price range, as well, so we've included 5 vehicles we think you should avoid.

Subaru BRZ

MSRP: $25,495 - $27,495
Invoice: $24,327 - $26,112
Fuel Economy: 22 mpg City, 30 mpg Highway

The Subaru BRZ proves that driving bliss doesn't have to cost a fortune. The rear-wheel drive sports coupe is one of the most engaging vehicles on the road today, with utterly superb dynamics and looks. The best part? You can have one for $25,495.

Research the Subaru BRZ
Subaru BRZ Photos & Information
Subaru BRZ Best Deals
Subaru BRZ Local Dealer Price Quote

Volkswagen Golf

MSRP: $18,095 - $25,200
Invoice: $17,371 - $24,192
Fuel Economy: 23 mpg City, 33 mpg Highway

Although the redesigned 2014 version of this handsome hatch will be on sale in the near future, the current generation is still worth buying. It's fuel efficient, fun and surprisingly versatile. Starting at less than $20,000, the Golf is also quite affordable.

Research the Volkswagen Golf
Volkswagen Golf Photos & Information
Volkswagen Golf Best Deals
Volkswagen Golf Local Dealer Price Quote

Toyota Prius v

MSRP: $26,650 - $30,295
Invoice: $24,809 - $28,202
Fuel Economy: 44 mpg City, 40 mpg Highway

The Toyota Pirus v is essentially a bigger version of the popular Prius hybrid. This hatchback acheives stellar fuel economy while allowing for transport of numerous people and all of their stuff. Starting at $26,650, you can have all the benefits of a versatile hybrid for an agreeable price.

Research the Toyota Prius v
Toyota Prius v Photos & Information
Toyota Prius v Best Deals
Toyota Prius v Local Dealer Price Quote

Mazda CX-5

MSRP: $20,995 - $28,595
Invoice: $20,396 - $27,771
Fuel Economy: 26 mpg City, 35 mpg Highway

The Mazda CX-5 is one of our favorite crossovers here at AOL Autos even when taking more expensive ones into account. Remarkably fun to drive, fuel efficient and starting at a low price, there's a lot to love about this agile utility vehicle.

Research the Mazda CX-5
Mazda CX-5 Photos & Information
Mazda CX-5 Best Deals
Mazda CX-5 Local Dealer Price Quote

MSRP: $16,695 - $21,115
Invoice: $16,208 - $20,218
Fuel Economy: 28 mpg City, 38 mpg Highway

This small sedan continue to be the darling of both critics and consumers nationwide. Available with tons of standard features, great looks and sweet fuel economy, the Elantra is one of the best cars on the planet right now.

Research the Hyundai Elantra
Hyundai Elantra Photos & Information
Hyundai Elantra Best Deals
Hyundai Elantra Local Dealer Price Quote

MSRP: $18,995 - $32,820
Invoice: $18,770 - $31,334
Fuel Economy: 21 mpg City, 29 mpg Highway

The 200 is a holdover from when Chrysler was owned by Daimler and then private equity-firm Cerberus Capital. It's not that this car is awful, especially since the new Chrysler, managed by Fiat, made a series of improvements. It's that the other cars in this category are so good, and much better designed and engineered.

Research the Chrysler 200
Chrysler 200 Photos & Information
Chrysler 200 Best Deals
Chrysler 200 Local Dealer Price Quote

MSRP: $18,725 - $21,815
Invoice: $17,789 - $20,725
Fuel Economy: 23 mpg City, 31 mpg Highway

The Scion tC is intended to be a sporty coupe. The problem? It's not sporty. At all. In fact, the tC finds itself on the Consumer Reports list of the least fun cars to drive and we're inclined to agree with that assessment.

Research the Scion tC
Scion tC Photos & Information
Scion tC Specs
Scion tC Local Dealer Price Quote

MSRP: $18,995 - $30,795
Invoice: $18,800 - $29,276
Fuel Economy: 19 mpg City, 26 mpg Highway

Short on features and with pretty poor driving dynamics, the Dodge Journey is one you should skip if you're shopping for a sub-$30,000 crossover. We're looking forward to Dodge's next attempt.

Research the Dodge Journey
Dodge Journey Photos & Information
Dodge Journey Best Deals
Dodge Journey Local Dealer Price Quote

MSRP: $25,900 - $29,200
Invoice: $24,452 - $27,507
Fuel Economy: 24 mpg City, 35 mpg Highway

Don't be fooled by the badge. This is not really a luxury car. With uninspired driving dynamics and a lackluster interior, you should pass on the ILX even though its low sticker price seems very tempting.

Research the Acura ILX
Acura ILX Photos & Information
Acura ILX Best Deals
Acura ILX Local Dealer Price Quote

MSRP: $12,490 - $17,890
Invoice: $11,616 - $16,638
Fuel Economy: 34 mpg City, 38 mpg Highway

The idea of the smart fortwo is great. It's the execution that's the problem. The fortwo is loud, terrible to drive and really isn't all that fuel efficient, considering its size. There are way better options between $10,000 and $20,000.

Research the smart fortwo
smart fortwo Photos & Information
smart fortwo Specs
smart fortwo Local Dealer Price Quote

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