The past 12 months were great for the auto industry - and for drivers. Not only did gas prices fall at the end of the year, falling rapidly and making long-distance travel more affordable, but the sheer volume of car sales remained strong throughout all of 2014. Now that 2015 has arrived, it's time to take a look back to determine how the previous year ended.
A strong December
In December, figures throughout the auto industry reached particularly high points. Kelley Blue Book reported that the average transaction price for light vehicles reached $34,367 in December, which represents a 2.5 percent increase
- or an additional $842 - from the same time in 2013. It also marks a 1.6 percent jump from November 2014.
"Pricing is strong across most of the industry with the exception of the hybrid/alternative energy segment, which dropped 1.2 percent as gas prices hit a five-year low," said Alec Gutierrez, senior analyst for Kelley Blue Book. "Lower gas prices will further help the market for trucks and utilities, which are traditionally popular in December."
Not all brands are equal
Value may be up across the auto industry as a whole, but not all brands experienced the same success. Hyundai-Kia led the way with a 5.5 percent growth in transaction price from December 2013 to 2014. Most of this increase came from Hyundai and its Sonata, which jumped 6.1 percent to $26,046. However, the costs were relatively stagnant when comparing December to November.
The manufacturer outpaced second-place General Motors. Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet and GMC came together to post a 4 percent change in price. Other automakers that had a significant year-over-year increase are Ford, Fiat Chrysler - including Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and Ram - and Toyota.
Don't let high prices get you down
Although the sticker price for a new car may be higher than you want, that doesn't mean you're facing a tighter budget or more restricted options. In fact, there are many ways to manage your money so you still wind up with your dream vehicle.
It all starts with research. Drivers who take their time to shop around, search for special promotions and incentives, and find savings opportunities can easily stick to a budget. You also need to make sure you're looking at the big picture. For instance, a vehicle may have a higher transaction price near the top of your budget, but if it also offers opportunities for fuel savings or low average vehicle maintenance
expenses, it could be a smart investment.