Advertiser Disclosure

Auto Loan

RV Buying Tips: Get the RV of Your Dreams

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

RV buying tips
Getty Images

Ever dream of buying an RV? You’re not alone — about 10 million households in the United States already own an RV.“The popularity of RVing is at an all-time high because of the freedom and flexibility RVs offer,” said Kevin Broom, director of media relations at the RV Industry Association (RVIA). “With the same RV, people can take an array of trips, spend time having adventures with friends and family and form memories that will last a lifetime.”

When shopping for a unit, you’ll need to consider what type of RV suits your needs, how much time you plan to spend in the RV, whether you want to buy a new or used unit (or lease an RV) and how you plan to pay for it. This article will explain the costs of owning an RV, as well as how you can get your best price.

The costs of an RV

RVs have a huge range of prices, which vary depending on size, style and other factors, said Broom. As of the date of publishing, here are some estimates for a variety of new RVs, according to the RVIA:

  • Folding camping trailers: $6,000 to $22,000
  • Truck campers: $6,000 to $55,000
  • Conventional travel trailers: $8,000 to $95,000
  • Fifth wheel trailers: $18,000 to $160,000
  • Type B and C motorhomes: $60,000 to $150,000
  • Type A motorhomes: $60,000 to $500,0000

You may be able to save some money by opting for a pre-owned RV instead of a new one, added Julie Bennett, who, along with her husband Marc Bennett, authored the book “Living the RV Life: Your Ultimate Guide to Life on the Road,” and run the RV Success School.

“We have met people who spent less than $5,000 on their RV, and others who spent over $1 million,” said Marc Bennett. “Most of the people we have met that do extended travel in their RVs typically spend between $50,000 and $150,000 on their RV setup, which includes the cost of the truck and trailer, or a motorhome plus the vehicle that they tow.”

You generally don’t need a special license to drive or tow an RV, said Broom, but it’s not a bad idea to look into the laws in your state, especially if you’re buying a very large trailer or motorhome.

The RV, as well as the truck and trailer if the RV needs to be towed, is just one of the costs to consider. You’ll also need to budget for maintenance and repairs, taxes, insurance, vehicle registration, fuel and storage. These expenses can vary from state to state.

There are also an array of optional (though potentially desirable) add-ons, like roadside assistance and extended warranties, that can increase the bottom-line costs of RV ownership.

“RV dealers will try to upsell you on things like paint protection and other options you may not really need,” said Marc Bennett. “You’d be surprised how much all of this can add up, so do your homework in advance and know what you are getting yourself into before committing.”

What kind of RV should you buy?

One of the first things to consider when figuring out which type of RV you should buy is how often you intend to use it.

“If you only plan on RVing a few weeks a year for short vacations, it really doesn’t make sense to spend a whole lot,” said Julie Bennett. “If you’re planning on using your RV for extended travel or even live in it full-time, then it’s easier to justify a bigger investment.”

Here are some other questions you should ask yourself when shopping for an RV:

  • Who will be traveling in the RV? A couple of retirees who are OK roughing it on the road might opt for a travel trailer, while a large family with pets may be better off with a camper van or motorhome.
  • Where do you plan to take the RV? Julie Bennett suggests that potential RV owners think about whether they want to stay in campgrounds with hookups for electricity, water and sewage, or camp off-grid in more remote places, and find an RV that fits those needs.
  • Do you need a special license for the RV? Large trailers or motorhomes may require a special license in certain states, said Broom.
  • What “toys” are you bringing in your RV? You may need to splurge on a larger RV or motorhome if you plan to take bikes, ATVs, kayaks and other recreational gear on your adventures.
  • Does the RV have a floor plan and layout that makes sense for you? “Pay attention to the things you will use most often,” advised Julie Bennett. “Is there sufficient counter space in the kitchen for making meals? Can you fit inside the shower and wash your hair?”
  • How far will you take the RV? If you want to keep costs in check on long-haul trips, you might need to pay more attention to things like the weight and aerodynamics of the RV. You should also consider whether you want a diesel or a gas engine. Gas engines generally don’t get as much power or as efficient mileage as their diesel counterparts, but they tend to be less expensive.

Should you buy a new or used RV?

Every future RV owner is faced with one big question: Should you buy a new or a used RV? Here are some pros and cons to consider.

Pros and cons of buying a new RV

Pros

  • You know the history of the RV. Buying a new RV means you don’t have to worry that a previous owner cut corners on care and maintenance.
  • You can personalize the RV. “Some may like that they can choose their floor plan, layout, decor, color scheme and options, and some may want the latest technologies,” said Marc Bennett.
  • You can avoid potential allergens. Does your child have a severe peanut allergy? There’s no guarantee a used RV doesn’t contain peanut residue from a previous owner, so you might be safer buying a new one.

Cons

  • You’ll probably pay more. “Not only will you pay more for new, you will also see the sharpest dip in depreciation as soon as you drive it off the lot,” said Marc Bennett.
  • You still may need to make repairs. Just because you’re buying a new RV doesn’t mean it will be trouble-free. “RVs are very complex, and built by hand in relatively low-tech facilities,” he added. “Once new RVs leave the dealer’s lot, they tend to need more repairs and fixes — much like a punch list on a new house build.”

Pros and cons of buying a used RV

Pros

  • You’ll probably save money. The older an RV is, the more of an effect depreciation will have on its price tag, said Julie Bennett.
  • It’s already broken in. The problems associated with a brand new RV may have already been taken care of by a previous owner, which could save you time and money on repairs.
  • It might come with extras. People often include extra items when selling their RVs, said Julie Bennett. You may luck out with an upgraded suspension, RV gadgets or kitchenware at no additional cost.

Cons

  • It comes with risks. If the previous owner didn’t maintain an RV properly, it may need new parts or repairs.
  • You may need to renovate it. If an RV’s aesthetics are dated or simply unappealing, it’s on you to fix it up.
  • It probably won’t have a factory warranty. You may need to shell out for repairs right away before you can drive the RV, said Julie Bennett.

Where can you buy an RV?

There are a variety of places to buy an RV — and according to Marc Bennett, you may need to travel far to find the right one at the right price: “We traveled thousands of miles when buying our first RV. Opening up geographically allows for much more selection,” he said.

Here are some of the places you can start your search for an RV:

  • New RV dealerships: Looking to buy a new RV right off the lot? Then shopping at a new RV dealership might make the most sense. “Buying from a respected dealership might provide some peace of mind that they have checked the unit and it is ready to go,” said Marc Bennett.
  • Used RV dealerships: Used RV dealers might not know as much about the history of a particular unit as its original owner. However, you may be able to purchase an extended warranty for some added protection.
  • RV shows: RV shows offer the opportunity to see a wide variety of models in one place. Should you find the unit of your dreams at an RV show, you may be able to score special discounts.
  • Private sales: Buying a used RV directly from its owner allows you to learn more about its history, maintenance and unique quirks, said Marc Bennett. “An owner will be able to share much more detailed information about the specific RV than a dealership,” he added.
  • Online marketplace: Do you already know exactly what you’re looking for in an RV? An online marketplace could help you find it quickly. RVTrader.com and Craigslist are popular places to find private RV sales online, said Broom.

How do you get your best price on an RV?

The price tag on an RV can give you serious sticker shock. Luckily, there’s lots of room for negotiation, and you should not plan to pay the asking price, noted Marc Bennett.

“There’s no hard and fast rule about how much discount you can get on an MSRP [manufacturer suggested retail price],” he said, “but it is not uncommon to buy a new RV for 15% to 30% off the MSRP.”

Going into the negotiation armed with knowledge can help you get your best price on RV, added Julie Bennett.

“Get a few price comparisons on the RV you want to buy,” she said. “Know what questions to ask, know [what’s] a fair price for the RV you want, and keep an eye out for deals at certain times of year,” also noting that you may be able to get the best price when a dealer is clearing out old models to make room for new units.

If you can’t afford to pay cash, you may be able to take out an RV loan or secure other financing to make the purchase. Here are some ways to finance your RV:

  • Dealership financing: Dealerships may offer financing through lending partners (such as a bank or credit union), or offer in-house financing. This is convenient, as you can get your RV and your loan all in one place. However, dealers may use this type of financing to bolster their bottom line, so if the rate offered isn’t competitive, you might find a better offer somewhere else. Additionally, dealership in-house financing, which is usually offered to people struggling to find financing elsewhere, can carry high interest rates.
  • Banks, online lenders and credit unions: You may be able to secure an RV loan from an online lender, credit union, bank or other financial institution. Since dealers may not have partnerships with lenders you’re interested in, you may need to seek out quotes directly from the institutions themselves. Make sure to shop around to compare offers. Though credit unions may have lower rates, you’ll need to become a member.
  • HELOC or home equity loans: You may be able to use a home equity line of credit (HELOC) or a home equity loan to secure the funds for an RV. With both of these options, you’re borrowing a portion of your home equity. Keep in mind that you’re putting your home on the line with this type of financing, so make sure you’re on firm financial footing before moving forward. However, because the loan is backed by collateral, interest rates tend to be lower. With either option you’ll also need to pay closing costs, a process that can take several weeks or longer.

The bottom line

RVs offer the freedom to travel the country on your terms. Whether you dream of a life on the road or you’re just looking to spend a couple of weeks in the great outdoors every summer, you can get an RV to make it happen.

Remember: There’s no one-size-fits-all solution to finding or financing the RV of your dreams. Do your homework, know what you’re looking for and don’t be afraid to walk away from a bad deal. The right RV is out there waiting for you — and with enough legwork, you’ll find it.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Joni Sweet
Joni Sweet |

Joni Sweet is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Joni here

Advertiser Disclosure

Personal Loans

Discover Personal Loan Review

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

APR

6.99%
To
24.99%

Credit Req.

Not specified

Terms

36 to 84

months

Origination Fee

No origination fee

SEE OFFERS Secured

on LendingTree’s secure website

Advertiser Disclosure

Discover is a financial services firm that offers credit cards, deposit accounts and personal loans. ... Read More


The APR ranges from 6.99% to 24.99% APR based on creditworthiness at time of application. Loans up to $35,000. Fast & Easy Process. Terms are 36 to 84 months. No prepayment penalty. This is not a firm offer of credit. Any results displayed are estimates and we do not guarantee the applicability or accuracy to your specific circumstance. For example, for a $15,000 loan with an APR of 10.99% and 60 month term, the estimated monthly payment would be $326. The estimated total cost of the loan in this example would be $19,560.

Discover personal loan details
 

Fees and penalties

  • Terms: 36 to 84 months
  • APR range: 6.99% to 24.99% APR
  • Loan amounts: $2,500 to $35,000
  • Time to funding: You can find out if you’re approved for the loan the same day of your application. Funds may be sent to you as early as the next business day. Discover may take up to seven days to disburse the funds if your application has errors, if the loan is funded on a weekend, or you request funds with some disbursement methods.
  • Hard pull/soft pull: Checking your rate will result in a soft pull.
  • Origination fee: None
  • Prepayment penalty: None
  • Late payment fee: $39 if payment is not received in full by the due date.

Discover personal loans has no fees as long as you make your monthly payments in full and on time. To help avoid late fees, you can set up automatic payments for free. You can also set up the automatic payment to withdraw more than the monthly payment amount if you want to pay off your loan early.

The repayment terms with Discover personal loans are more flexible than with most other personal loan lenders, with 36 to 84 months to repay your loan.

One cool perk from Discover is that the company allows you to see your free Credit Scorecard with your FICO Score on its website, even if you’re not a customer. This feature does not impact your credit.

Discover personal loans come with a 30-day guarantee. This means you have 30 days after the date your loan is funded to return the entire amount without interest and the loan will be canceled. However, Discover states that if the money was paid directly to your other lenders, it will not be able to get that money returned.

Personal loans from Discover can be used for many different purposes, including vacations, financing a wedding, home improvements, car repairs, medical bills, debt consolidation and more.

Eligibility requirements

  • Minimum credit score: Discover seeks applicants with “good credit.”
  • Minimum credit history: The lender says it prefers borrowers with a “strong financial history.”
  • Maximum debt-to-income ratio: Not specified.

Discover doesn’t specify a minimum credit score, minimum credit history or maximum debt-to-income ratio required to qualify for a personal loan; instead, its website says that Discover personal loans “may be an ideal solution for people with good credit and a strong financial history.” The exact definition of a good credit score is subjective, but Experian suggests that a FICO score must be at least 660 to be considered “good.”

Discover also specifies that in order to be eligible for a personal loan, you must:

  • be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident
  • be at least 18 years old
  • have a minimum household income of $25,000

Applying for a personal loan from Discover

You can apply for a personal loan from Discover on its website, or by calling 1-866-248-1255. If you received an invitation in the mail to apply, you can also fill out and mail the application.

Discover’s website allows you to check your interest rate and monthly payment amount with a soft pull on your credit. You have to share how much you need to borrow, the purpose of the loan and the length of the loan term, as well as personal information, like your address and phone number.

If you’re happy with the rates and you’d like to move forward with the loan, you’ll need to finish the application with the following information:

  • An invitation number, if you received one
  • Household income
  • Employment history
  • The bank account number and routing number to receive the funds
  • Creditor information (balances and account numbers) if funds will be sent directly to creditors to consolidate debt

After your loan application is received, a loan specialist may call you to confirm your information.

If your application is complete, you can receive a decision the same day. Funds may be sent as soon as the next business day, depending on the disbursement method you’ve chosen.

Pros and cons of a Discover personal loan

Pros:

Cons:

  • Flexible terms. Borrowers can choose from a range of repayment terms, from 36 to 84 months.
  • No origination fee or prepayment penalty. Discover does not charge borrowers an origination fee nor does it penalize them for paying off the loan early.
  • Check your rate with a soft pull. This means shopping around to see your rate won’t impact your credit score.
  • Interest rates may be higher than with some other lenders. Interest rates on Discover personal loans start at 6.99%, while other lenders’ rates may be as low as 3.99%. Take advantage of the pre-qualification form so you can compare your rate with other offers.
  • Late fees. You may be charged a fee of $39 if you don’t make the full monthly payment on time.

Who’s the best fit for a Discover personal loan?

If you have high-interest debt to consolidate, a personal loan from Discover may help you get a lower interest rate. You’ll also get a fixed monthly payment amount, which can make budgeting easier compared with fluctuating monthly payments.

Borrowers looking to spread their loan payments out over a long period of time may also be a good fit for a Discover personal loan, since the term can be as long as 84 months.

Discover personal loan consumer reviews

Reading about other borrowers’ experiences with a lender can help you decide whether or not you want to borrow money from that company. So what do people think about Discover personal loans? While Discover personal loans are not rated by the Better Business Bureau, its parent company, Discover Financial Services, has earned an A+.

Discover personal loans have earned 4.9 out of 5 stars from reviewers on LendingTree, the parent company of MagnifyMoney. Customers said they appreciated Discover’s rapid approval time, quick disbursement of funds and helpful customer service representatives.

One customer from Phoenix, Arizona said, “[I] had no idea Discover even did personal loans, [I was] so excited that I got an offer in the mail. [I] got online and filled out the application and got instantly approved … and within 48 hours had my disbursements being sent out to pay off my other debt.”

However, there were some complaints in the reviews of Discover personal loans, as well. High interest rates were the biggest criticism from negative reviewers. Some customers felt that their high credit scores should have earned them a lower APR. Overall, though, the vast majority of the reviews gave Discover personal loans four or five stars, making this company one potential borrowers should consider.

Discover personal loan FAQ

You can see if you qualify, check your rate and see your monthly payment without impacting your credit score through the Discover website.

Borrowers incur no origination fees, processing fees or prepayment penalties from a Discover personal loan. However, you may get hit with a fee if you make a late or incomplete payment.

A personal loan from Discover can be used for a large variety of purposes. You can use it to pay for a wedding, a dream vacation, home renovations, medical expenses, adoption costs, car repairs and more. You can also use the loan to consolidate high-interest debts.

Discover personal loans are commonly used to consolidate debt from credit cards and store cards. You can also use a Discover personal loan to consolidate home and auto loans, but if you already have a low interest rate on those debts, you might not save money by consolidating.

Discover will send you the money as early as the next business day after you accept the terms of the loan, as long as the application has no errors and the loan is being funded on a weeknight. Funding can take up to seven days if you make a mistake on your application, the loan funding is happening over a weekend or you request a different disbursement method.

Discover only offers personal loans to individuals. You can not take out a loan with a co-signer.

Discover will lend you up to $35,000 with a personal loan.

Discover personal loans come with a 30-day guarantee. If you decide within 30 days of funding that you no longer want the loan, you can send Discover a check for the full amount with zero interest and a request to cancel.

Alternative personal loan options

Upgrade

Upgrade
APR

6.98%
To
35.89%

Credit Req.

620

Minimum Credit Score

Terms

36 or 60

months

Origination Fee

1.50% - 6.00%

SEE OFFERS Secured

on LendingTree’s secure website

Advertiser Disclosure

Upgrade is an online lender that offers fairly priced personal loans for a term of either 36 or 60 months.... Read More .


Personal loans made through Upgrade feature APRs of 6.98%-35.89%. All personal loans have a 1.5% to 6% origination fee, which is deducted from the loan proceeds. Lowest rates require Autopay and paying off a portion of existing debt directly. For example, if you receive a $10,000 loan with a 36-month term and a 17.98% APR (which includes a 14.32% yearly interest rate and a 5% one-time origination fee), you would receive $9,500 in your account and would have a required monthly payment of $343.33. Over the life of the loan, your payments would total $12,359.97. The APR on your loan may be higher or lower and your loan offers may not have multiple term lengths available. Actual rate depends on credit score, credit usage history, loan term, and other factors. Late payments or subsequent charges and fees may increase the cost of your fixed rate loan. There is no fee or penalty for repaying a loan early. Personal loans issued by WebBank, Member FDIC.

While Upgrade charges an origination fee of 1.50% - 6.00% of your loan amount and offers fewer options for loan terms, you can borrow up to $50,000.

Marcus by Goldman Sachs®

Marcus by Goldman Sachs®
APR

6.99%
To
28.99%

Credit Req.

Not specified

Terms

36 to 72

months

Origination Fee

No origination fee

SEE OFFERS Secured

on LendingTree’s secure website

Advertiser Disclosure

Marcus by Goldman Sachs® offers personal loans for up to $40,000 for debt consolidation and credit consolidation. ... Read More


Your loan terms are not guaranteed and are subject to our verification of your identity and credit information. To obtain a loan, you must submit additional documentation including an application that may affect your credit score. Rates will vary based on many factors, such as your creditworthiness (for example, credit score and credit history) and the length of your loan (for example, rates for 36 month loans are generally lower than rates for 72 month loans).Your maximum loan amount may vary depending on your loan purpose, income and creditworthiness. Your verifiable income must support your ability to repay your loan. Marcus by Goldman Sachs is a brand of Goldman Sachs Bank USA and all loans are issued by Goldman Sachs Bank USA, Salt Lake City Branch. Applications are subject to additional terms and conditions. For New York residents, rates range from 6.99% to 24.99% APR.

Marcus by Goldman Sachs® offers loan amounts up to $40,000. However, this lender has shorter repayment terms, meaning you’ll have less time to pay off a personal loan than you may with another lender.

LightStream

APR

4.99%
To
16.79%*

with AutoPay

Credit Req.

Not specified

Terms

24 to 144*

months

Origination Fee

No origination fee

SEE OFFERS Secured

on LendingTree’s secure website

Advertiser Disclosure

LightStream is the online lending division of SunTrust Bank.... Read More


*Your APR may differ based on loan purpose, amount, term, and your credit profile. Rate is quoted with AutoPay discount, which is only available when you select AutoPay prior to loan funding. Rates without AutoPay may be higher. Subject to credit approval. Conditions and limitations apply. Advertised rates and terms are subject to change without notice. Payment example: Monthly payments for a $10,000 loan at 4.99% APR with a term of 3 years would result in 36 monthly payments of $299.66.

With low APRs available for qualified borrowers and longer terms on personal loans, LightStream is a competitive lender. However, there’s no preapproval process to check rates, so you have to apply and take a hit on your credit score if you want to see your rate. Plus, in order to get the lowest rates, you have to sign up for autopay.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Joni Sweet
Joni Sweet |

Joni Sweet is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Joni here

Kayla Sloan
Kayla Sloan |

Kayla Sloan is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Kayla here

Get Personal Loan Offers
Up to $50,000

$

Won’t impact your credit score

Advertiser Disclosure

Life Events

Places Where You Can Earn Six Figures and Still Be Broke in 2019

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

expensive metros to live in
iStock

A household bringing in $100,000 each year should be on firm financial footing. But depending on where you live, that amount might be barely enough to scrape by — or might not even be enough to cover the basics. Taxes, housing, transportation and other typical expenses can easily eat up six figures a year in certain cities, leaving families strapped for cash, according to a recent analysis by MagnifyMoney.

For this study, we looked at data from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)’s Location Affordability Index (updated in March 2019), which also uses data from the 2012-2016 American Community Survey, to see which cities would leave a dual-professional households earning $100,000 with little to no disposable income. We considered the average cost of housing (e.g. insurance and taxes), transportation (e.g. car payments, parking, tolls, bus fare, etc.), childcare, food, retirement contributions, utilities and other line items in a typical family’s budget.

After tallying up all of the expenses, we were able to calculate the disposable income of families living a typical six-figure lifestyle in various metro areas around the United States. Then, we ranked the top cities where families earning $100,000 a year would have the least (and most) amount of money leftover at the end of the month. Here’s what we learned.

Key takeaways

  • In San Jose, Calif., considered the capital of Silicon Valley, a joint income of $100,000 with a preschool-aged child means a couple may have to run up their credit cards $1,046 a month just to cover what the typical two-earner household spends on the basics (not including compounded interest on that credit card debt).
  • In seven of the 100 metro areas we reviewed, the average professional couple spends more than $100,000 on the basics.
  • In McAllen, Texas, a couple earning $100,000 can expect to have around $1,795 left over every month after paying the typical bills for a local dual professional household.
  • Seven of the 10 places where couples can expect the most disposable income are in Texas, Florida and Tennessee, where there’s no state income tax.
  • More than half of married couples have six-figure incomes in 19 of the 100 metros we reviewed.

Worst places in the U.S. to make six figures

Although rising incomes are outpacing housing cost increases, according to one of our previous studies, families in certain metros are continuing to struggle to make ends meet — even after pulling six figures. In seven of the 10 worst cities in the U.S. to make six figures, a household income of $100,000 isn’t enough to cover basic expenses.

For example, in Oxnard, Calif., a coastal city in Southern California, families need to scrounge up another $195 to break even each month. Meanwhile, those in the northern California city of San Jose have a whopping total of $1,046 in unmet expenses each month.

Things get slightly better as families head east. Those in the Big Apple have about $65 in disposable income each month (not even enough for the average Broadway show ticket). But families making $100,000 a year in Minneapolis have an extra $149 to play with after expenses, so at least not all Minnesota families are doomed after making six figures.

Breaking down the expenses by line item can give you a sense of what’s costing families the most in these metros.

The majority of household budgets is devoted to housing, transportation and childcare. Housing was the single largest expense in the top 10 places where you can earn six figures and still be broke, with families in San Jose, Calif., paying the most ($2,760 each month) and families in Worcester, Mass., paying the least ($1,779). Transportation ate up the second largest portion of the budget, ranging from $1,082 to $1,532 depending on the city, with childcare costing slightly less.

Best places in our rankings to make six figures

Everything’s bigger in Texas — including the amount of disposable monthly income for families making $100,000 a year. In McAllen, a city along the state’s southern border, households have $1,795 left in their bank accounts after covering basic expenses; meanwhile, families in the western city of El Paso have just slightly less ($1,679) to spend at the end of the month.

Cities in Florida took third and fourth place, followed by Tennessee metros in fifth, sixth and eighth place. No city in our list of the top 10 places where you can earn six figures and still be flush left families with a surplus of less than $1,400.

A relatively low cost of housing helps families keep more money in their pockets in the best places to make six figures; none of the average households in the top 10 metros spent more than $1,299 to keep a roof over their heads. Families in McAllen, Texas, barely pay more than four figures for housing, which costs $1,004 a month on average.

Seven of the top cities are in places with no state income tax, giving families another roughly $200 to $400 to play with each month, compared with those in the worst cities for families earning $100,000. Childcare was also significantly less in these cities, ranging from $514 to $694 a month, roughly half (or less) of what families making $100,000 pay in the most expensive city, San Jose, Calif.

Our full rankings

Check out the full rankings of the 100 places where you can earn six figures and still be broke (or flush).

For the most part, the percentage of the population that makes over $100,000 in these cities inversely correlates with the average amount of disposable income those families have. None of the average families making $100,000 in these 100 cities saw housing or transportation fall below four figures, making those categories the most significant line items in everyone’s budgets.

Overall, families on the East Coast and West Coast tended to have less disposable income than households in other parts of the country.

Understanding the metrics

There are a few changes to the methodology in our 2019 study. We focused on the largest 100 metros this time around as opposed to some 381 metros last year. We also took a more detailed approach to calculating variables that impact a family’s disposable income.

We based our case study on a family earning a gross income of $8,333 per month. Then we subtracted their monthly expenses, debt obligations and savings to come up with an estimate of how much cash they’d have left over at the end of the month.

These are the assumptions we made for this study:

Savings. We assumed the family contributed $500 monthly to their 401(k). In previous years, we assumed the family set aside 5% of their savings in a regular savings account. This year, we changed the savings to 401(k) contributions because it’s something of a bastion of corporate middle-class personal finance, and it offers a tax benefit.

Tax assumptions. Our study assumes the couple will file jointly for 2019. They took the standard federal deduction and received a federal $2,000 credit for their one child. They also took the standard deductions and credits offered by their state, and took advantage of the pretax Dependent Care FSA child savings plan to deduct the $5,000 maximum from their taxable income by their employer. The couple had insurance premiums paid from their pretax income by their employer and their 401(k) contributions paid from their pretax income by their employer.

Debt. We assume the family had a monthly student loan payment of $393 — the median student loan payment according to the Federal Reserve — in order to be consistent with the other metrics (which also look at the mean). Housing and auto debt are bundled in with the housing and transportation cost budget line items in monthly expenses.

Monthly expenses. We based monthly expenses — housing, transportation, food, utilities, household operations, child care and entertainment — for each location on data taken from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Care.com, Kaiser Family Foundation and the Federal Reserve. We calculated an average for these expenses taking into account the lifestyle costs of a six-figure earner. We also removed entertainment and combined household expenses with housekeeping supplies and apparel. The cost of apparel is the average amount for a woman, man and child under the age of 2 in each metro.

Compared with last year, we beefed up the monthly necessity expenses — although by no means hit them all — by adding costs like household operations costs and utilities to get a more realistic sense of how much people would have left over after paying their basic bills.

Unfortunately, we haven’t located updated childcare costs compared to last year, so that remains the same in our numbers, but is likely to have increased. We’ve also added the average (mean) income for married couples in each metro, as well as the percentage of married couples in each metro with incomes over $100K.

Further, while the median cost of each expense would have painted a more accurate picture of what half the population experiences, this data only included the average, or mean, of the metrics, so the results may overstate what typical people earn and pay, especially for housing and transportation. With that being said, we recognize we may be lowballing some expenses a typical family faces. For example, our data on health insurance includes monthly premiums, but not copays for visits to the doctor and the cost of prescription drugs.

Methodology

The hypothetical family we created is a typical one that earns a combined income of $100,000 (the average income for a married-couple family in 2017 was $110,786 (the median was $85,031), and 41% of such couples earned at least $100,000 that same year).

We were conservative about the couple’s financial and debt obligations by making the following assumptions:

  • Both have corporate-style employers who offer typical benefits.
  • They have one child currently in day care.
  • Between them, they contribute 6% of their income to their 401(k)’s to maximize typical matching, which is considerably less than the median rate of 10% from an employee in a matching plan (page 7).
  • Only one of them has student loans and is making the average payment of $393 a month. (Student Loan Hero and MagnifyMoney are both owned by LendingTree.)
  • The entire household is on one person’s group insurance plan.
  • The family has average spending habits and expenses for where they live.

To calculate federal and state taxes, we assumed the following:

  • The couple will file jointly for 2019;
  • Took the standard federal deduction;
  • Received a federal $2,000 credit for their one child
  • Took the standard deductions and credits offered by their state;
  • Took advantage of the pre-tax DCFSA child savings plan to deduct the $5,000 maximum from their taxable income by their employer;
  • Had insurance premiums paid from their pre-tax income by their employer;
  • Had their 401(k) contributions paid from their pre-tax income by their employer.

The following variables were used to create their hypothetical expenses (each is the average cost for the geography indicated in parentheses):

  • Federal tax contribution (national, but adjusted for state average health care premiums)
  • State tax contribution (state)
  • FICA contribution (national)
  • 401(k) contribution (national; see notes on assumptions)
  • Insurance premiums for family coverage (state)
  • Housing costs for dual professional families (MSA)
  • Transportation costs for dual professional families (MSA)
  • Food costs (regional)
  • Utilities cost (regional)
  • Household operations, housekeeping supply, and apparel costs (regional)
  • Child care costs (MSAs where available (half of the MSAs), and state averages where not)
  • Student loan payments (national)

Sources include the Bureau of Labor Statistics; the Department of Housing and Urban Development; the Tax Foundation; Care.com; the Kaiser Family Foundation; the U.S. Federal Reserve; and the U.S. Census Bureau.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Joni Sweet
Joni Sweet |

Joni Sweet is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Joni here