Have you ever wondered how much it cost to buy a car 50 or more years ago? How about 30? Or 20? The fact is, car costs today have very little in common with the sort of vehicle your mother or grandfather might have kicked the tires on when they were shopping for the next family ride.
To give you a sense of how the average cost of a car has evolved over time, GOBankingRates compiled a list of popular models going all the way back to 1950 using historic prices from the Morris County Library. Listing the new or used car cost in 2020 dollars to reflect inflation should give you a better sense of just how affordable buying a new car was back in the day. And, even though those born in 2020 and more recent years might not yet care about how much cars cost, that information has been included as well so you can accurately compare car prices.
Last updated: April 8, 2020
New Kaiser-Frazer Henry J: $14,259.76
Used 1949 4-Door Oldsmobile 88: $21,909.09
Used 1947 4-Door Studebaker: $11,526.36
Used 1936 2-Door Ford Model 48: $2,744.37
This year marked the start of a brighter financial chapter in U.S. history. American families experienced positive income growth throughout the 1950s, according to a Pew Research Center report. The mean income increased from 1950 to 1960 by an average yearly rate of 2.9%.
New Kaiser-Frazer Henry J: $13,832.93
Used 1949 Ford Custom Tudor: $12,146.98
Used 1948 4-door Packard Sedan: $12,146.98
More people were driving cars in 1951, so roads were being built to accommodate them. Popular shows at this time included “I Love Lucy,” which made its television debut on Oct. 15. The show earned over $1 million per year in reruns by the mid-1950s, according to the Museum of Broadcast Communications.
New Jaguar XK120, Hardtop: $49,306.53
New Porsche Convertible: $43,971.89
Used 1951 Chevrolet Bel Air: $19,420.84
Used 1950 Ford Convertible: $13,579.98
Used 1941 Plymouth Station Wagon: $2,433.69
Cars were growing in popularity, just like another life-changing invention: television. The “Today” show made its television debut on Jan. 14. A black-and-white TV cost $300 — and 1 in families owned one in 1952.
New Packard Clipper: $25,981.36
Used 1950 Chevrolet Deluxe: $12,559.11
Used 1948 Kaiser-Frazer Sedan: $6,740.22
Used 1938 Dodge 2-door: $727.36
Low unemployment rates improved the standard of living for many families. More carmakers started offering longer-term payment options for cars, which had an average price tag of just under $4,000. The average salary for a teacher was $4,254.
New Chevrolet 150 Series Sedan: $16,269.43
New Oldsmobile 88, 2-door: $22,651.58
New Packard Clipper: $25,298.42
Used 1952 Chevrolet Convertible: $14,385.00
Used 1951 Jeep Station Wagon: $4,747.05
Used 1950 Plymouth Deluxe: $8,583.05
The average cost of a car decreased slightly from the year before. The economy was thriving with more women in the workforce, and segregation in public schools was declared unconstitutional as a result of Brown v. Board of Education. For higher education, tuition at the University of Pennsylvania for undergraduates cost $700.
New Buick Sedan, 2-door, 6-passenger: $23,140.10
New Dodge Sedan, 6-passenger: $21,091.79
Used 1953 Ford Crestline Victoria: $5,777.78
Used 1948 Ford Station Wagon: $3,140.10
Used 1947 Pontiac Sedan, 2-door: $1,545.89
Seven out of 10 families in the U.S. owned a car by this year. A new law required seat belts in all new cars.
In Montgomery, Alabama, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a public bus to a white man — a violation of the city’s segregation laws. She was arrested and released on a $100 bond, but her actions ultimately resulted in the Supreme Court’s ruling to declare segregated seats unconstitutional. This would prove to be a key moment in the civil rights movement.
New Jeep Dispatcher: $13,158.45
New Oldsmobile 88, Holiday Sedan: $28,196.71
Used 1951 Chevrolet Deluxe Sedan, 4-door: $4,812.89
Used 1948 Pontiac Sedan: $1,443.87
Used 1947 Oldsmobile Coupe Sedan: $1,905.91
Musician and actor Elvis Presley became a star with his good looks, music and risque performances. In 1956, he released the album “Heartbreak Hotel,” which sold over 1 million copies. Meanwhile, the average car price edged closer to the $4,000 mark.
Used 1955 Pontiac Catalina: $19,581.49
Used 1954 Chevrolet Delray: $15,842.78
Used 1952 Ford Station Wagon: $7,430.69
In 1957, the Soviet Union launched Sputnik, the world’s first artificial satellite. The U.S. launched its first satellite, the Explorer, in early 1958.
Back on Earth, popular toys included the Hula-Hoop and the Slinky. And, the average car price increased by just over $100 from the previous year.
New Renault Dauphine: $15,288.84
Used 1957 Ford Fairlane: $17,994.83
Used 1956 Cadillac Eldorado: $35,628.86
Used 1955 Plymouth Sedan: $8,523.87
The first economic downturn since the Great Depression occurred this year. The recession forced nearly 7% of the labor force out of work — but car costs still climbed.
New Ford Anglia: $13,6885.96
New Oldsmobile 88, 6-passenger: $25,681.46
New Pontiac Star Chief: $31,134.43
Used 1957 Dodge Sierra Custom Wagon: $19,525.74
Used 1953 Jaguar XK120 Convertible: $8,895.55
Used 1950 Pontiac: $1,334.33
The first Barbie Doll debuted in 1959, costing $3. The same year, Fidel Castro came to power in Cuba. Meanwhile, car prices got 1.7% more expensive from the year prior.
New Austen Healy Sprite: $15,804.03
New Rambler Deluxe, 2-door: $16,244.25
New Volkswagen: $14,324.87
Used 1959 Dodge V8: $14,043.13
Used 1956 Chevrolet Convertible: $6,163.13
Used 1951 Jeep Station Wagon: $1,298.51
Birth control pills were introduced in 1960, costing $10 per month, according to Time. That’s expensive in today’s numbers — $80.
Chubby Checker started a new dance sensation called “The Twist.” And, car buyers started to demand smaller cars in 1960, while the average auto cost went up incrementally.
New AMC Rambler Ambassador V8: $26,169.34
New AMC Rambler American: $20,291.41
New AMC Rambler Classic 6: $22,853.81
Used 1960 Chevrolet Impala, Convertible: $19,001.56
Used 1958 Oldsmobile Super 88, Celebrity Sedan: $12,941.83
The Bay of Pigs Invasion ended up being an unsuccessful attempt to overthrow Fidel Castro. The five-day ordeal cost the country $46 million, according to NPR. Construction of the Berlin Wall also began in 1961. On U.S. soil, the average new car cost just under $4,300.
New Ford Galaxie: $22,744.44
New Triumph Herald: $13,715.46
Used 1960 Chevrolet Bel Air: $15,048.31
Used 1956 Chevrolet Station Wagon: $5,073.43
Used Oldsmobile 88: $4,213.53
Used 1950 Studebaker: $300.97
On May 28, there was a dip in the stock market. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 5.7% that day, down 34.95 points, according to The Wall Street Journal.
The first Walmart made its debut in Arkansas in 1962, paving the way for the big-box discount shopping phenomenon. And, the average price of a car grew by 1.35%.
New Cadillac Series 62: $41,538.42
New Volkswagen Karmann Ghia, Convertible: $21,163.81
New Volkswagen Sedan: $14,001.72
Used 1961 Volkswagen, 2-door: $11,676.58
Used 1960 Ford Fairlane, 2-door Standard: $58,348.97
Used 1959 Chevrolet Impala, Convertible: $1,162.57
Many events in 1963 had a major historical impact on America. In August, Martin Luther King Jr. gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. In November, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated.
Stock prices fell drastically at the news of his death — a nearly 3% drop in one day, according to USA Today. The average price of a car in 1963 barely increased from the year before.
New Renault Dauphine: $12,147.18
Used 1960 Chevrolet Bel Air, Station Wagon: $9,141,69
Used 1958 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadster: $50,049.71
Used 1961 Volkswagen DeLuxe Sedan: $10,811.41
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was signed into law, which made some of the Jim Crow segregation in the South illegal. As for pop culture, Beatlemania swept the country with The Beatles’ release of a series of No. 1 hits. A 1964 vinyl record of “Can’t Buy Me Love” with the picture sleeve is worth at least $1,000 today, according to a CBS report. The average car in 1964 cost less than $4,500.
New Volkswagen Beetle: $13,187.94
New Dodge Dart: $16,197.60
New Chevrolet Impala: $18,975.75
Used 1959 Pontiac Catalina: $5,746.47
Used 1961 Chevrolet Corvair: $9,053.79
In 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson sent more troops to Vietnam, and Malcolm X was killed in New York.
Meanwhile, Congress passed legislation to put a surgeon general’s warning on cigarette packaging. This step drastically changed how people viewed cigarettes and related health risks. A pack of cigarettes cost about $1.60, and a car cost around $4,500.
New Oldsmobile 98 Town, Sedan: $27,573.69
New Oldsmobile Cutlass: $22,690.09
Used 1965 Buick Skylark, Convertible: $20,240.18
Used 1961 Ford Falcon 2-door: $3,650.53
Used 1960 Chevrolet Impala: $8,071.73
The war in Vietnam continued to worsen, and many Americans showed their disapproval of the war by protesting. The TV series “Star Trek” made its debut. The average new car price in 1966 jumped 3.8% from the previous year.
New Ford Custom Sedan: $17,242.50
New Ford Galaxie, 2-door, Hardtop: $18,544.12
Used 1964 Mercury Comet Caliente: $11,722.39
Used 1962 Chevrolet Station Wagon: $6,978.55
Used 1957 Lincoln Continental Mark II Hardtop: $10,036.56
This year brought significant unrest — at home and abroad. The U.S. increased its presence in Vietnam, resulting in more protests on U.S. soil against the war. Meanwhile, parts of Detroit and other cities were destroyed by race rioting.
The Green Bay Packers beat the Kansas City Chiefs in the first-ever Super Bowl. Commercials for that game cost only $42,000, according to Syracuse.com. Average car prices continued to climb, nearing $5,000 in 1967.
New BMW 1800: $19,646.65
New Chevrolet Impala, Sport Coupe: $26,235.88
New Toyota Corona: $14,600.70
Used 1967 Ford Mustang: $15,848.95
Used 1965 Plymouth Sport Fury: $12,066.39
Used 1959 Ford Galaxie Sunliner: $1,513.03
In 1968, civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, followed by Sen. Robert Kennedy later that year.
The minimum wage was $1.60 — that’s $11.18 today, adjusted for inflation.
New Ford Mustang: $23,007.25
New Ford Galaxie 500: $30,434.78
New Ford Torino: $30,913.04
Used 1968 Plymouth Fury III: $15,905.80
Used 1965 Chevrolet Impala: $6,485.51
Used 1963 Chevrolet Corvair: $2,862.32
The first-ever Woodstock made its debut on a dairy farm in New York in 1969. More than 400,000 people gathered for the three-day music event. Jimi Hendrix was paid $18,000, according to Variety.
New Dodge Dart: $18,098.92
New Ford Galaxie 500: $21,675.02
New Ford Pinto: $13,096.46
Used 1968 Chevrolet Camaro: $15,662.53
Used 1968 Chevrolet Impala, Sport Coupe: $16,344.99
Used 1965 Chrysler Newport: $6,108.04
The Ohio National Guard opened fire on Vietnam War protesters at Kent State University in Kent, Ohio, killing four and wounding nine on May 4. Music icons Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin both died this year.
The voting age was lowered from 21 to 18 under President Richard Nixon. Meanwhile, car prices jumped 5.6% from the previous year.
New Ford Torino, Squire Station Wagon: $25,246.16
New Ford Mustang: $22,005.32
New Ford Maverick: $14,227.30
Used 1967 Pontiac Firebird: $7,745.61
Used 1966 Ford Galaxie, Convertible: $5,509.43
Used 1964 Ford Falcon, Station Wagon: $2,560.26
In 1971, Mariner 9 became the first spacecraft to orbit another planet. The total program cost was about $554 million, according to NASA.
The Walt Disney World theme park also opened in Orlando, Florida.
New Ford Maverick: $13,432.07
New Ford Pinto: $13,149.62
New Plymouth Fury: $17,549.56
Used 1971 Chevrolet Malibu: $18,798.62
Used 1967 Ford Mustang GT V8: $8,755.95
Used 1963 Chevrolet Impala: $627.67
The economy was expanding during this period, according to the Department of Labor. The average household income was $11,419, an increase of more than 70% from 1960 to 1961.
New Mercury Montego, 2-door: $25,924.27
New Plymouth Duster: $13,776.62
New Volvo 1800ES: $24,525.41
Used Toyota, Land Cruiser Station Wagon: $27,825.75
Used 1969 Chevrolet Malibu: $10,264.34
Used 1965 Triumph Spitfire: $4,208.68
In 1973, Roe v. Wade legalized abortion, U.S. troops withdrew from Vietnam and popular music included Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon.” The average car price increased by nearly $500.
New AMC Gremlin: $13,330.35
New Mercury Capri: $18,794.24
Used 1971 Dodge Dart: $6,615.35
Used 1962 Mercury Comet: $1,633.08
Used 1971 Ford Pinto: $8,248.43
The Watergate scandal led President Nixon to become the first U.S. president forced to resign. The investigation alone exceeded $8 million, according to a 1974 Time report.
New Ford Maverick: $17,949.04
New Volkswagen Rabbit: $14,849.42
New Toyota Corolla: $13,423.40
Used 1972 Ford Mustang Mach 1 Fastback: $12,329.13
Used 1973 Pontiac Ventura: $10,878.35
Used 1971 Plymouth Duster: $8,897.77
The Vietnam War ended, leaving more than 58,000 Americans dead. The Department of Defense spent about $168 billion on the war.
The year also saw the birth of the Apple 1 prototype computer and the genesis of “Saturday Night Live.” Meanwhile, car prices skyrocketed 7.4% over the previous year.
New Chrysler Cordoba: $22,711.66
New Plymouth Volaré: $14,940.05
New Ford Pinto: $13,432.12
Used 1974 Dodge Colt, 4-door: $10,648.26
Used 1972 BMW Bavaria: $30,135.28
Used 1970 Ford Country Squire, Station Wagon: $5,813.63
Jimmy Carter won the presidential election over incumbent Gerald Ford. The U.S. also produced the $2 bill this year.
New Mercury Bobcat: $15,822.22
New Toyota Corolla: $12,656.01
New Triumph TR7: $22,026.75
Used 1974 Lincoln Continental, Mk IV: $23,812.71
Used 1973 Opel Manta Luxus: $7,937.57
Used 1970 Ford Torino: $3,527.81
The first Apple computer was released in 1977. Disco became the latest dance music craze thanks to “Saturday Night Fever,” and leading man John Travolta gained instant stardom. The movie grossed more than $139 million.
New Honda Civic: $17,744.28
New Plymouth Voyager Van: $26,494.65
New Pontiac Sunbird, Sport Hatch: $10,195.01
Used 1977 Buick Regal: $5,365.80
Used 1976 Toyota Corolla: $10,731.59
Used 1973 AMC Gremlin: $7,0223.19
In 1978, Japanese cars made up half of U.S. imports. The first mobile phone was introduced.
New Nissan Datsun 280ZX: $40,240.45
New Pontiac Grand Lemans Sedan: $28,157.74
New Toyota Celica ST Coupe: $21,136.25
Used 1977 Jeep CJ5 Renegade: $18,866.25
Used 1975 Oldsmobile Delta 88: $9,423.68
Used 1971 Ford Pinto: $2,832.77
The average cost of a car moved into the five-figure range. Margaret Thatcher was elected prime minister in the U.K. And technology started to downsize, with Sony offering the Walkman for a whopping $200.
New Buick Regal: $26,808.43
New Pontiac Grand Prix: $25,621.36
New Plymouth Volaré: $19,523.56
Used 1975 Ford Pinto Squire Wagon: $6,615.07
Used 1974 Chevrolet Malibu Classic, Chevelle: $5,222.42
Used 1973 Pontiac Firebird: $8,272.98
The U.S. economy was in a recession at the start of 1980, from January to July. The Iraq-Iran War started just months before Ronald Reagan was elected president.
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New Nissan Stanza, Datsun: $19,807.43
New Dodge Colt: $18,366.35
New Volkswagen Rabbit, Diesel: $22,224.05
Used 1979 Pontiac Trans Am: $23,718.51
Used 1978 Buick Regal: $17,189.17
Used 1977 Pontiac Bonneville: $11,857.77
Notable in pop culture, this year was the debut of music video channel MTV. Record companies quickly learned that music videos sold records and were willing to dish out the cash to make them. For example, Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” video cost $1.5 million to make, and the album has sold 66 million copies to date. Car valuations increased more than $1,200 from the previous year.
New Lincoln Town Car: $36,906.54
New Buick Regal: $21,882.40
New Chevrolet Chevette: $18,908.75
New Toyota Starlet: $12,832.65
Used 1980 Cadillac Eldorado: $30,089.32
Used 1980 Mercury Bobcat: $13,122.87
Used 1974 Chevrolet Malibu Classic, Chevelle: $1,367.82
The economy was deepening into recession in 1982, with the unemployment rate higher than any time in post-World War history at 10.8%. About 12 million people were jobless, according to the Department of Labor. The average car price topped $14,000.
New Chevrolet Chevette: $19,221.21
New Ford Thunderbird: $24,792.12
New Mitsubishi Starion, Turbo: $29,421.36
Used 1980 BMW 320i: $30,861.56
Used 1978 Oldsmobile Delta Royale, 4-door: $11,869.83
Used 1976 Ford Pinto: $2,532.23
In 1983, unemployment was at its highest since 1941. Meanwhile, Microsoft Word was introduced to the world, and Cabbage Patch dolls also hit store shelves, retailing for roughly $30, according to HuffPost.
New Chevrolet Chevette: $13,389.68
New Ford Mustang, Convertible: $34,174.20
New Mercury Topaz: $20,250.34
Used 1977 Buick Regal: $7,063.19
Used 1980 Pontiac Grand Prix: $14,923.84
Used 1979 Volkswagen Rabbit: $8,328.99
President Ronald Reagan was re-elected for a second term in 1984. “Ghostbusters” was a big hit and Michael Jackson’s single “Beat It” was the record of the year.
New Buick Skyhawk, 2-door: $22,004.56
New Pontiac Sunbird, Sport Hatch: $21,214.75
New Chevrolet Astro Van: $15,893.95
Used 1975 Ford Mustang II: $2,433.00
Used 1981 Dodge Colt: $7,580.19
Used 1983 Mercury Capri: $16,872.04
Michael Jordan was named rookie of the year in 1985, and “Back to the Future” and “Rocky IV” claimed the top movies. Car prices continued to go up at a steady pace.
New Dodge D-50 Pickup: $13,169.23
New Ford Mustang, 2-door: $19,957.45
New Dodge Colt, 3-door Hatchback: $11,766.40
Used 1984 Buick Riviera: $22,125.25
Used 1980 Chevrolet Camaro: $9,885.75
Used 1972 Dodge Charger: $3,530.63
The year got off to a tragic start with the explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger in January. The space vessel broke apart just 73 seconds after takeoff.
Also this year, smoking was banned on all public transportation, including planes, trains and buses. It was 1.5% more expensive to get a new car this year.
New Chevrolet Sprint: $16,227.58
New Dodge Dakota: $18,327.08
New Nissan Stanza XE: $23,887.84
Used 1986 Toyota MR2: $30,105.12
Used 1985 Oldsmobile Cutlass Calais: $19,997.64 (research doc incorrect)
Used 1983 Ford Thunderbird: $17,577.75
The year started off strong, but then the U.S. stock market crashed on Oct. 19, falling 22.6%. Popular movies included “Fatal Attraction” and “Moonstruck.”
New Buick Skylark: $25,208.47
New Nissan Sentra: $17,538.46
New Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme: $29,600.89
Used 1985 Dodge Daytona Turbo Z: $16,722.41
Used 1983 Plymouth Turismo: $4,236.34
Used 1980 Honda Accord: $4,414.72
George H.W. Bush won the presidential election in 1988. For the first time, CDs outsold vinyl records, and 98% of households owned at least one television.
New Chevrolet S10 Blazer: $33,551.14
New Ford Escort LX: $21,768.83
New Nissan Stanza E: $27,367.08
Used 1988 Ford Mustang GT: $25,028.09
Used 1987 Honda Civic: $17,009.90
Used 1985 Buick Regal: $10,555.30
Automobile prices continued to climb in 1989. The year was also a monumental year in world history when the Berlin Wall fell. “Batman,” starring Michael Keaton, dominated the box office.
New Chrysler New Yorker: $33,584.83
New Jeep Cherokee Laredo: $36,026.84
New Plymouth Voyager, SE Minivan: $30,363.23
Used 1988 Dodge Caravan: $19,236.46
Used 1987 Honda Accord LX: $17,211.57
Used 1986 Ford Escort, Station Wagon: $7,481.97
The Hubble Space Telescope was launched aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery, which has helped to advance astronomy.
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New Chevrolet Astro Van: $37,969.27
New Ford Explorer XL 4×4: $30,663.28
New Nissan Maxima GXE $32,579.86
Used 1990 Ford Escort: $11,211.96
Used 1987 Dodge Omni: $5,270.58
Used 1984 Honda Accord LX: $6,133.04
The internet went public in 1991, and Nirvana’s “Nevermind” album was released, which started the “grunge” era. The movie “Thelma and Louise” was also released this year, which helped make Brad Pitt a star.
New Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme: $29,691.88
New Oldsmobile 98 Regency: $36,984.56
New Plymouth Voyager: $24,274.68
Used 1991 Dodge Dynasty LE: $23,520.01
Used 1989 Toyota Tercel: $10,638.27
Bill Clinton was elected president in 1992, after President Bush’s single term. Popular films in 1992 included “The Bodyguard,” “Home Alone 2” and “Batman Returns.”
New Chevrolet Lumina: $22,792.26
New Isuzu Geo Storm, Sport Coupe: $18,023.60
New Oldsmobile 88 Royale, Special Edition: $34,362.97
Used 1990 Mercury Topaz: $10,836.23
Used 1988 Honda Accord: $18,000.08
Used 1984 Chrysler LeBaron: $5,398.22
This was arguably an iconic year in entertainment — from movies like “Jurassic Park” to “Groundhog Day” and “Dazed and Confused.” “The X-Files” premiered on TV, and the popular show “Cheers” aired its final season.
New Dodge Intrepid: $30,838.30
New Nissan Altima GXE: $25,885.33
New Toyota Camry: $26,441.15
Used 1993 Chrysler New Yorker: $27,838.64
Used 1992 Dodge Caravan: $27,838.64
Used Ford Bronco II: $22,015.76
There were many famous deaths in 1994, including Kurt Cobain, former President Nixon and former first lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. This was also the year Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman were found murdered, leading to the arrest of football star O.J. Simpson. The average new car price was $21,372.
New Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera, Sedan: $28,483.23
New Volkswagen Jetta, GL: $25,222.11
New Dodge Neon, 4-door: $19,908.22
Used 1992 Acura Integra: $16,605.92
Used 1991 Pontiac Grand Am, LE coupe: $13,348.24
Used 1986 Plymouth Duster: $1,330.19
O.J. Simpson was put on trial and the jury found him not guilty. The movie “Forrest Gump” won an Oscar, and Sheryl Crow’s album “All I Wanna Do” was the record of the year.
New BMW 328is: $49,756.32
New Plymouth Voyager: $26,731.08
New Subaru Legacy Wagon: $25,060.28
Used 1993 Chrysler LeBaron, GTC, Loaded: $22,555.75
Used 1990 Ford Crown Victoria: $8,855.22
Used 1986 Oldsmobile Delta 88 Royale Brougham, 4-door: $2,673.27
Tragically, Flight 747 crashed in the Atlantic Ocean off of Long Island, New York, killing all 230 passengers on board. Rapper Tupac Shakur was killed, and Alanis Morissette’s album “Jagged Little Pill” was named the album of the year.
New Chrysler Concorde: $28,367.08
New Plymouth Neon, 4-door: $18,476.30
New Plymouth Voyager: $28,853.51
Used 1995 Oldsmobile Aurora: $38,095.72
Used 1993 Toyota Camry: $21,067.36
Used 1992 Mercury Grand Marquis: $16,201.42
Hollywood blockbuster “Titanic” set new box-office records, grossing $2.1 billion worldwide. This was also the year Princess Diana and Mother Teresa died. Car prices increased 2% over the previous year’s average cost.
New Ford Taurus: $25,522.53
New Honda Civic LX: $26,092.43
New Toyota Camry LE: $25,533.70
Used 1997 Honda Accord: $27,776.58
Used 1994 Chevrolet Cavalier: $7,183.60
Used 1990 Lincoln Continental: $6,225.79
In 1998, President Bill Clinton denied having sexual relations with White House intern Monica Lewinsky, and St. Louis Cardinals’ Mark McGwire hit 70 home runs.
New Chevrolet Tracker, Convertible: $25,734.30
New Ford Escort LX: $21,832.54
New Oldsmobile Intrigue GX: $37,989.10
Used 1998 Lincoln Navigator: $56,508.68
Used 1997 Mazda Protege CX: $17,255.64
Used 1993 Ford Escort, Wagon: $7,206.86
In 1999, President Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial was underway. Unemployment was at a low 4.2%.
New Buick Regal: $30,563.76
New Chevrolet Malibu: $27,959.59
New Nissan Pathfinder: $42,789.87
Used 1998 Volkswagen Golf GL: $20,596.42
Used 1997 Chevrolet Geo Prizm: $11,454.34
Used 1996 Acura Integra: $16,810.91
George W. Bush won the presidential election, and people celebrated the turn of the millennium. Businesses and government agencies spent about $100 billion to keep the Y2K computer glitch from causing widespread chaos, according to The Washington Post.
New Jeep Wrangler: $22,091.81
New Plymouth Voyager: $17,671.97
New Toyota Corolla CE: $16,198.69
Used 1998 Toyota Camry: $17,671.97
Used 1997 Honda Accord, EX: $19,145.25
Used 1992 Chevrolet Geo Prizm: $4,412.47
Sept. 11, 2001, was a date that would forever change the U.S. In New York, two hijacked planes took down both World Trade Center towers, a third crashed into the Pentagon and another crashed near Pittsburgh. In response to the terrorist attacks, the U.S. launched a war in Afghanistan.
New Mazda MPL LX: $33,495.44
New Ford Taurus, LX: $19,894.79
New Pontiac Grand Am: $19,663.19
Used 2001 Chrysler Voyager, LX: $25,885.96
Used 1999 Chevrolet Lumina: $12,946.62
Used 1999 Chevrolet Monte Carlo: $17,468.03
In addition to the war in Afghanistan, the top headlines of 2002 included the Maryland sniper attacks. The popular TV show “American Idol” made its debut.
New Honda Accord, LX Sedan: $26,499.88
New Mazda Protege, DX Sedan: $16,320.18
Used 2002 Chevrolet Cavalier: $14,055.66
Used 1997 Cadillac Seville: $22,006.33
This year was marked very much by the Iraq War and the upcoming presidential election. The average cost of a new car was $26,447.64.
New Ford Taurus SE: $23,029.34
New Lincoln Navigator: $55,710.31
New Toyota Camry: $22,243.73
Used 1990 Honda Accord: $1,385.97
Used 1996 Jeep Cherokee: $8,357.59
Used 2001 Lincoln Continental: $22,279.95
Car prices in the U.S. continued to rise in 2004. President George W. Bush won a second term and a thing called Facebook made its debut.
New Lincoln LS V6 Sedan: $35,969.84
New Chrysler Town & Country: $35,841.33
New Chevrolet Impala: $25,005.74
Used 2001 Honda Civic LX: $16,226.34
Used 2004 Nissan Sentra: $14,877.64
Used 1998 Chevrolet Malibu: $5,404.27
This year had its share of natural disasters, from Hurricane Katrina to the Indian Ocean tsunami and South Asia earthquakes.
New Chevrolet Impala: $25,889.46
New Dodge Grand Caravan: $21,710.93
New Toyota Camry: $20,536.21
Used 2002 Nissan Pathfinder: $23,403.42
Used 2001 Toyota Corolla: $8,976.30
Used 1998 Chevrolet Malibu: $3,772.65
In 2006, Saddam Hussein was put on trial and sentenced to death. The Nintendo Wii was released, forever changing the video game landscape with a price of just $249.99.
New Chrysler Sebring: $24,208.36
New Ford Explorer, Eddie Bauer Edition: $40,884.66
New Toyota Corolla: $15,929.47
Used 2003 Mercury Grand Marquis: $14,649.91
Used 2000 GMC Jimmy SLT: $7,614.90
Used 1997 Ford Escort: $1,624.94
This was the year the housing bubble burst. It was also the year of the Virginia Tech massacre, which put the country on edge. In the tech world, the first-ever release of the iPhone was all the rage.
New Chevrolet Trailblazer: $31,415.31
New Hyundai Accent GS: $17,220.07
New Toyota Camry: $21,386.37
Used 2006 Ford Explorer, Eddie Bauer Edition: $24,436.85
Used 2005 Chevrolet Malibu LS: $16,492.89
Used 2004 Hyundai Elantra: $9,777.18
The housing crash was in full swing and taking a toll on America. People tightened their financial belts as banks fell into trouble.
New Chevrolet Malibu, Hybrid: $28,099.80
New Honda Civic, LX: $23,122.25
New Jeep Grand Cherokee: $29,865.37
Used 2006 Honda Accord EX: $15,761.01
Used 2002 Ford Focus $4,881.02
Used 1996 Jeep Cherokee: $4,887.13
In 2009, President Barack Obama was sworn into office, and Michael Jackson’s death rattled the country.
New Buick Regal: $30,054.77
New Chrysler Town & Country: $21,131.79
New Ford Fusion: $23,447.36
Used 2007 Dodge Grand Caravan: $17,851.90
Used 2002 Chevrolet Trailblazer 4×4: $13,089.81
Used 1997 Nissan Maxima GLE: $7,137.19
The cost of a car increased slightly from 2009. Meanwhile, WikiLeaks created a firestorm over the publication of sensitive government information. A devastating earthquake in Haiti killed over 200,000 people.
New Chevrolet Camaro: $43,783.72
New Hyundai Accent: $18,941.67
Used 2011 Subaru Forester: $26,097.80
Used 2008 Honda Civic: $15,222.45
Used 2006 Dodge Caravan: $11,708.22
Used 2004 Jeep Cherokee 4×4: $14,051.04
In 2011, the average cost of a car edged over $32,000. The year was also monumental for the war on terror. The 9/11 mastermind, Osama bin Laden, was killed. Plus, the trials of Casey Anthony and Amanda Knox, as well as Charlie Sheen’s meltdown, captivated the country.
New Kia Sportage: $26,683.12
New Nissan Pathfinder: $29,463.54
New Subaru Impreza: $20,590.79
Used 2004 Honda Accord EX: $10,237.35
Used 2007 Jeep Wrangler: $18,204.16
Used 2010 Ford Focus, SES: $18,204.16
This was the year of the U.S. consulate attack in Benghazi, Libya; the Costa Concordia shipwreck and the London Olympics.
New Chrysler Town & Country: $34,302.03
New Honda Accord: $38,334.93
New Toyota Sienna: $29,781.83
Used 2010 Toyota Corolla: $13,440.75
Used 2009 Jeep Grand Cherokee: $17,918.39
Used 2006 Ford Focus: $9,953.41
The Boston Marathon bombing shook up the country on April 15, killing three people and injuring nearly 300. In lighter news, “selfie” was added to the dictionary.
New Honda Civic, Hybrid: $29,374.04
New Toyota Prius: $33,090.60
Used 2012 Honda Fit: $14,335.77
Used 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo: $23,154.04
Used 2008 Chrysler 300 Touring Sedan: $19,845.33
The Ebola outbreak became a global health epidemic in 2014. Also in major news was the Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 that disappeared with 239 passengers on board, making it one of the greatest aviation mysteries.
New Toyota Prius: $29,915.79
New Honda Accord: $30,760.22
New Chevrolet Malibu: $29,220.38
New Dodge Grand Caravan: $29,135.39
This was a big year for legal rights and for entertainment. The Supreme Court legalized gay marriage and “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” broke box-office numbers during opening weekend.
New Nissan Rogue: $30,885.83
New Honda Accord: $30,969.67
New Toyota Rav-4: $31,174.38
New Ford F-150: $48,373.10
This year was very much defined by the presidential election, with President Donald Trump’s win at the end of 2016. Other major headlines included the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida, and the Zika outbreak.
New Subaru Outback: $33,909.03
New Ford Fusion: $32,591.76
New Honda CR-V: $30,722.09
New Nissan Rogue: $29,495.12
There are many stories that will come to define 2017, everything from politics to gun control. The #MeToo movement, America’s reckoning with sexual assault and abuse, also made major headlines.
New Chevrolet Equinox: $43,951.46
New Toyota Camry: $30,569.31
New Chevrolet Silverado: $43,660.04
New Toyota Prius: $29,078.94
America was gripped by the hearings on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, Democrats retook the House of Representatives in midterm elections and France won the 2018 World Cup held in Russia.
New Honda CR-V: $30,997.06
New Kia Sorrento: $38,365.85
New Toyota Avalon, Hybrid: $41,630.05
New Tesla Model 3: $55,547.72
2019 gave us the final season of “Game of Thrones,” the tragic fire that consumed much of the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris and the completion of the lengthy investigation into the 2016 election and President Trump by special prosecutor Robert Mueller.
New MINI Cooper: $30,900.00
New Lexus IS: $41,452.50
New Ford Escape: $30,860.00
New GMC Canyon: $33,250.00
While the death of basketball superstar Kobe Bryant in late January and the kick-off of the Democratic primaries in February captured the nation’s attention, 2020 will ultimately be defined by the new coronavirus. The global pandemic has resulted in thousands of deaths worldwide and brought about unprecedented shifts in our daily lives. Meanwhile, gas prices have plummeted, and the auto industry has seen car sales dip as automakers shut down North American plants in response to the outbreak.
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Joel Anderson contributed to the reporting for this article.
Methodology: GOBankingRates analyzed cars from 1950 through 2020 to find the cost of a car for each year in both current dollars and 2020 dollars. GOBankingRates used Historic Car Prices from the Morris County Library which recorded both new and used car prices advertised from 1900 to 2014. For the years 2015 through 2020, GOBankingRates used both Kelley Blue Book and U.S. News & World Report to find the original MSRP range of each car for that given year and then took the average of the car’s range values. GOBankingRates then used the Bureau of Labor Statistics inflation calculator to find the February 2019 dollar value of each car.
Photo Disclaimer: Please note photos are for illustrative purposes only. As a result, some of the photos might not reflect the automobiles listed in this article.
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