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15 new cars you can buy for less than $200 a month

Itching for a new car but feel you can't afford one?

If you can squeeze $200 a month out of your budget, you can -- and we're not talking about a lease or the choice between one or two tiny sedans you've never heard of.

Thanks to the bargain "friends and family'' deals now popular with U.S. manufacturers, as well as aggressive pricing on some entry level models among foreign manufacturers, there are at least 15 new car and truck models that can be bought for $200 a month or less.

But first, here's the math on the $200 car payment:

Here are our assumptions: You have $2,000 cash you can put in as a down payment, and you can afford a payment of $200 a month.
Current loan rates for a 60-month term are averaging 6.47 percent. At that rate, a $10,200 loan would cost $199.43 a month. Counting your $2,000 down payment or trade value means you can afford a car that costs $12,200.

Of course that doesn't include such things as sales tax, license fees or other charges that may be unique to your state. That could mean you'll need $700 to $800 more in cash to close the deal, or if you roll it into the loan it could push your payments up by about $14 a month.

And you may have to shop hard for the right car, since in most cases we're talking about cars without a lot of options -- although many are equipped with air conditioning and some have automatic transmissions.

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So what can you buy for $12,200 before taxes and fees?

  • Chevrolet Cavalier -- At Chevrolet, there are two vehicles that meet our $200 a month threshold, the 2005 Aveo and the larger 2005 Cavalier. Although the Cavalier has been replaced by the Cobalt (which just barely missed the $200 a month limit), there are still Cavaliers on dealer lots. Roomy for a compact, a Cavalier with air conditioning and a five-speed manual transmission can be bought for $11,862.
  • Chevrolet Aveo -- A subcompact sedan, the Aveo easily falls within our parameters. An LS four-door sedan can be bought for $10,404. Add an automatic transmission at $850, and you're still driving out with a payment of less than $200 a month.

  • Dodge -- DaimlerChrysler's Dodge division has the familiar Neon sedan, and under that company's Employee Pricing Plus deal, a Neon SE that lists for $14,395 can be bought for $11,624. Add air conditioning and you'll be at the limit for the $200 payment.
  • Ford Focus -- How about a 2005 four-door Ford Focus? Under Ford's Family Plan pricing, a Focus ZX4 with a base list price of $14,620 can be bought for $10,816 after all applicable discounts and incentives. Add in air conditioning and an automatic transmission and the sales price should come in right at our $12,200 target price.
  • Ford Ranger-- Need a pickup? Check out the Ford Ranger XL two-door, two-wheel drive model. It lists for $15,245. After taking the $2,500 rebate and the Ford Family Plan deal, that truck would cost $11,597. That won't get you air conditioning or much in the way of extra trim, but it's a solid work truck at that price.

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