Nothing ignites the adrenal glands while sitting in the driver’s seat like an American muscle car. Powerful engines. Masculine body designs. High-performance driving. Plenty of enjoyment waits to be had on the open road. Muscle cars have gained popularity in recent years, but how are cash-strapped Americans affording them?
According to a recent analysis from Experian, new registrations of American muscle cars jumped 35.4% over the past nine years. That’s an impressive growth rate considering the attention given to fuel efficiency these days. Unsurprisingly, Texas was the biggest fan. Residents were 79% more likely to buy American muscle than consumers in other areas of the country. The next highest-ranking states were Oklahoma (75%), Louisiana (67%), and New Mexico (63%).
“The love of the Mustang combined with the reintroduction of the Camaro, Challenger, and Charger has sparked a resurgence of the muscle car,” said Brad Smith, Experian’s director of automotive statistics, in a press statement. “While the growing popularity might run contrary to conventional wisdom, consumers are continuing to show their appreciation for a part of American history and not steering away from raw horsepower to focus solely on fuel efficiency.”
Let’s take a look at the most popular muscle cars based on new registrations and how people are paying for them. Undoubtedly, some car enthusiasts will disagree with what classifies as a true muscle car these days, but let’s at least agree these six cars will turn heads.
6. Dodge Viper
The Dodge Viper ranks as the No. 6 most popular muscle car, logging 1,000 new registrations over the past year. That hardly makes a dent compared to the other muscle cars on the list, but Viper sales have struggled recently, so much so that Dodge decided to slash prices by $15,000 last year. Despite the venomous coupe being the the most expensive muscle car in the rankings, 34.5% of Viper buyers paid cold hard cash. Only one other muscle car had a higher percentage of cash buyers.
5. Chevrolet Corvette
The Chevrolet Corvette ranks as the No. 5 most popular muscle car. Corvettes are routinely considered one of the best bangs for your buck by reviewers. Consumers apparently agree. The Corvette generated 32,000 new registrations, and nearly half were paid in cash. Experian finds 40.3% of Corvette buyers paid with cash, the highest percentage amount on the list. Only 56.9% of buyers used a loan.
“With the Viper and the Corvette being on the higher end of the muscle cars reviewed, it’s not that surprising that a higher percentage of consumers paid for them in cash. Our findings show that those buyers had the highest credit scores (with the average a full 26 points higher than the other models), which could indicate that they have more disposable income,” said Melinda Zabritski, Experian’s senior director of automotive finance.
4. Dodge Challenger
The Dodge Challenger ranks as the No. 4 most popular muscle car. Thanks to third generation being introduced in 2008, the Challenger picked up 50,000 new registrations. However, drivers appear to be stretching their dollars further than they should. The Challenger is one of the most likely muscle cars to be bought with an extended term loan. For example, 49.6% of Challenger buyers had loan terms between 73 and 84 months. In fact, 18.3% of buyers had a credit score of 600 or below, indicating they are in dire need of a financial tune up.
3. Dodge Charger
The Dodge Charger ranks as the No. 3 most popular muscle car. Performing slightly better than the Challenger, the Charger logged 55,000 new registrations. Nonetheless, this now four-door sedan still attracts buyers who should probably steer clear of expensive upgrades, as 52.4% of Charger buyers had loan terms between 73 and 84 months. A whopping 22.8% of buyers had a credit score of 600 or below, making it the most subprime muscle car.
“Alternatively, what was surprising is the picture that emerged around Challenger and Charger buyers. With so many of those buyers falling into the subprime category and such a high percentage taking out longer loans, these consumers were probably offered higher interest rates, which motivated them to find ways to help keep their payments low,” said Zabritski.
2. Chevrolet Camaro
The Chevrolet Camaro ranks as the No. 2 most popular muscle car, with 66,000 new registrations. A redesigned model featured in the 2007 blockbuster Transformers accelerated the Camaro’s 2009 comeback. In fact, Chevy offered director Michael Bay a new version of the Camaro for each sequel, keeping the popular machine in front of audiences worldwide. Experian finds 79.3% of Camaro buyers used a loan to afford their new wheels, while 7.3% used a lease.
1. Ford Mustang
The Ford Mustang ranks as the No. 1 most popular muscle car. The Mustang took the top spot with 77,000 new registrations. Buyers use a variety of methods to pay for this American classic. Loans are used by 75.3% of Mustang buyers, but a surprising 17.1% use cash, well ahead of the cash rates used on the Camaro (13.4%), Challenger (11.7%), and Charger (10.3%). In 2015, Mustang sales have been racing higher once again, posting its best May and year-to-date sales results since 2007.