June Car Sales Hit Highest Level in Six Years

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June was easily the best month for car sales in six years, analysts say, fueled by low interest rates, strong consumer demand for full-size pickup trucks and a slew of new vehicles.

Before the recession in 2008, declining pickup truck sales indicated the economy was weakening. The home construction industry, which gobbles up pickups when times are good, had come to a screeching halt. Truck sales followed, hitting Detroit automakers in their most profitable segment.

The strong showing in June caps a first half that saw auto sales reach their highest level since December 2007. "It's remarkable to think the industry is within striking range of those pre-recession numbers," said Michelle Krebs, senior analyst for Edmunds.com.

Demand in June for pickup trucks boosted Ford (F) sales by 14 percent. Chrysler sales were up 8 percent, followed by General Motors (GM), which was up 6.5 percent.

Japanese automakers reported solid gains as well. Nissan sales jumped 13 percent, while Toyota (TM) and Honda (HMC) each rose 10 percent. South Korea's Hyundai reported a record June, with sales up 2 percent.

Only Volkswagen sales dropped 3 percent, the third straight monthly decline for the German car company as some products like the Jetta start to age.

What to Expect in the Second Half

Analysts say they don't see much that could slow the sales momentum of the first six months. The factors that juiced sales -- low interest rates, wider credit availability, rising home construction and hot new vehicles -- are likely to remain in place. So far, hiccups in the stock market, higher taxes and fluctuating gas prices haven't dampened demand.

"I think the fundamentals for continued growth in the new vehicle sales industry are intact," Chrysler U.S. sales chief Reid Bigland said last week.

Young graduates may have contributed to a rise in small car sales, said Kelley Blue Book analyst Alec Gutierrez. Gas prices, which averaged $3.60 a gallon nationwide in June and were higher than a year ago, may have steered some buyers to more fuel-efficient models, he said.

Consumer confidence hit a six-year high in June. And the Standard & Poor's 500 index (^GPSC) had its best first half since 1998, up 12.6 percent.

At the same time, auto loan rates remained near historic lows in June. The rate on a four-year new-car loan is averaging 2.7 percent, according to Bankrate.com.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

The Best And Worst Vehicles For Under $30,000
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June Car Sales Hit Highest Level in Six Years

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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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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