Top 10 Cheapest New Cars You Can Buy

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There's a certain crowd of people who don't really care what car they drive, in particular. They just want whatever is the cheapest way to get from A to B, period. They want something new, something with a warranty, something efficient. They probably don't even take into consideration the well-written expert reviews on a site like Cars.com penned by experienced automotive journalists.

More Top 10s

It is for those people that we've compiled the following list, the top 10 cheapest cars to buy and fuel, the cars that deliver the biggest financial bang for your hard-earned buck.

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The formula is simple: Start with the sticker price plus destination fees of the most fuel-efficient yet least-expensive cars on the market, figure how much gas they'll use over eight years based on the EPA's combined mpg rating and 15,000 miles driven per year, add it all together and there you go. The last time we ran this test was in 2008 (click here to see it), and what a difference six years makes. Some things to note about this year's list:

  • The average cost of gasoline is now 70 cents per gallon cheaper ($3.30 a gallon as of this writing, versus $4 a gallon back then), but the average new-car sticker price went up more than $2,600 for regular gasoline-powered cars. 
  • The average cost of a hybrid car fell by nearly $1,200. In 2008, the least-expensive hybrid on our list of cheapest cars to own was the $21,100 Toyota Prius, but now there are three models less expensive than the current Prius - and even less expensive than the 2008 Prius!
  • Note that the models that made the list may not be the most fuel-efficient version of that car. For example: The Ford Fiesta is available with a 1.0-liter EcoBoost three-cylinder engine that gets 37 mpg combined, but that optional engine comes only in the midlevel SE trim and costs a total of $2,475 more than a base S 1.6-liter model. The extra cost over a base manual-transmission Fiesta 1.6-liter that gets 31 combined mpg isn't recovered with fuel savings in eight years of driving, meaning the base Fiesta has more bang for your buck.
  • Our list includes only the one model of any given car that has greatest bang for your buck - but the winning Mitsubishi Mirage, for instance, can also be had with an automatic transmission that changes its fuel economy rating yet still comes in as a lower-cost option than many other models on the list. The Ford Fiesta, Nissan Versa and Chevrolet Spark all have a few versions in which this is the case, but a list with just four cars wouldn't be very useful.

Editor's note: The Top 10 Cheapest New Cars chart above has been updated as of Feb. 25 to correct a pricing error in the Nissan Versa sedan. Our original price was for a Versa S trim with an automatic instead of the Versa S+ with a CVT. However, the fuel-economy figures are correct for the S+ with CVT. The MSRP is $800 higher than the original price, but it is still the cheapest version of the Versa sedan you can buy. The price discrepancy does not impact the Versa's ranking on our list.

By Aaron Bragman | February 24, 2014 | Comments (26)

Comments 

responder

If a car with a base sticker price of nearly $18,000 makes the list of cheapest new cars, it's clear our automakers don't want to serve the needs of young drivers starting out or lower income folks. Come on GM, we bailed out your company, workers and suppliers. It's time for you to provide some public service by offering a bare bones four door car for $10,000. Crank windows, analog controls, with the only amenities being air conditioning and keyless entry. Make it easy for people to do their own oil changes - oil filter on top of the engine as nissan was doing in the early 90s. Incomes have been falling and more jobs are on the lower end of the pay scale, so this would help lots of folks. You might even attract some of the generation that seems to be shunning car ownership.

Card13

responder,

Unfortunately, I think the number of people interested in a model like that are too few to justify the costs. Those people would probably be better off with a used car and possibly purchasing an extended warranty. It would probably cost more to add the tooling at a plant for manual windows than it would save (considering I'm sure the take rate would be single digit percentages). Other than expected convenience features such as radios and A/C, automakers can't decontent cars nearly as much as they could in the 90s. Almost all safety equipment (airbags, ABS, traction control, etc) is mandated. The cost of being competitive with safety scores and advanced technology for fuel economy is just being passed to the buyer.

responder

You're probably right, used might be a better option. Still there's too many people working full time who don't get to experience buying a new car, IMO.

Steve

If you took the UAW out of the equation the cost of cars would go down...

Kit

Responder - that's what I drive. It's a 1974 Tercel with 130,000 miles on it and I'm praying it continues to run well.

gpolee

I would do anything for manual windows. Power window motors break too easily and are expensive to repair.

I agree; I can't stand power windows. My last two cars have had power windows that quit working (three of the four windows on my current Focus don't work). I find them to be an inconvience as well; if I ever need to put the windows up or down while the car is off, instead of just opening the door and rolling them up, I have to get in and switch the ignition on. I'm glad there's still a few cars with manual windowns, but finding one that has cruise control (which is a huge convenience on long trips) as well is impossible

bolobill

Look out, the Elio is coming early next year. $6800 and 84 mpg.

M Walence

The cost also doesn't include insurance. Insurance costs are unreasonable high.

Jesse

@Steve, re: UAW,
if that was the case, why isn't Volkswagen on the list for cheapest cars?

Kathy

I own 2 cars, a 2001 alero (170k miles) and a 2010 Yaris. Both have crank windows and wouldn't mind looking for the same in any future cars cars. Never needed all the electric stuff and the pain that goes with it.

Linda Hays

I have had an automatic 2013 Chevy Spark for 16months now and I totally love it. Great mileage, good pickup, easy to drive and surprisingly roomy. I would change the gas peddle some but that is all.

Vik

Steve- might want to drink a little less of the ditto-head Kool-Aid. :) As Jesse points out, non-unionized car manufacturers don't necessarily sell for less, and in fact aren't usually cheaper buys.

wain

It baffles me how people refuse to purchase bare bones even do when the thing go bad they have no means to fix it, so they start to bad mouth the manufacturer. We own two base cars however on that brand base means: A/C, premium sound, power windows, power locks, alarm, cruise control, electronically and heated outside mirrors, ABS, Stability control, skid control, disk brakes on all wheels. I think that's base trim industrywide?

Rohn Johnson

Steve -- If you are blue collar, but non-union, don't bang on the UAW. It's only because of unions that you have something like a living wage, paid holidays and vacation, paid health insurance, sick leave, overtime pay, and the list goes on. If you don't think those can go away, I invite you to take a look at Wal-Mart's compensation package for laborers. If you are management, then go take a leap. You are the enemy.

J

Rohn Johnson,

Please explain briefly about the UAW vote at Chattanooga VW plant?

I specially appreciate for adding price list here. It will really help to people in taking decision to buy.

nick

Lets also consider maintenance costs. Import dealers may charge more for their work.

John

Some of these cars are nice, but most are ugly... and they all cost around $20k new.. I thought we were trying to save money? If you really want to save while driving, I would:
1) Get a used Honda Civic (cheap to repair, fill up, and buy)
2) Insurance with 4AutoInsuranceQuote ($35/month full coverage is what I found there)
3) Always find gas using the Gasbuddy app
4) Drive as little as possible

There are many things to consider when buying a new car and cost is definitely one of them. Know what you can afford and how it will affect you financially before you make a purchase.

francis

Getting and economical base gasoline model priced say 12k. In this economy, there are too many variables to figure out TCO. It's a wish and a dream and until some sense of economic stability returns, to the world, reduce, reuse, recycle. (Buy used, drive less, [penty of options] repair with used parts). For every season:There's a time for unions and a time for independence from unions. The time has returned.

David

Although this is based on Purchase price & 8 years there are cheaper alternatives: Leasing a Leaf. I did the math and leasing a new leaf would save me $2000 over two years over continuing to own and drive my paid-for 2009 Honda Civic. This was in Oct of 2012. Considering that a three-year old Honda Civic is pretty close to the bottom of ownership costs, that was impressive. $2000 down, $167 per month lease, and about $35 a month in electricity. Maintenance is virtually nil. No repairs as it was new. And depreciation was already figured in the lease cost. No brainer. Love the car but will trade it in to get newer Leaf with more efficient heater & other improvements.

GMA

Why cant a major car manufacturer use Saturn LX technology? I used to get 42 mpg and in Ecuador, I drove a 3 cylinder susuki forsa which had an impressive 52 mpg. Anyhow, this is the kind of reports I'd like to see more of - so please, bring on more topics than will actually help the 80% of the population to survive.

Melissa

I hate the power windows because I have had several cars that if it gets to hot then the motor gets stuck...than to try to fix it is awful on the wallet....Americans cars are going to keep making smaller cars that tall people cant be comfortable in and the price will be outrageous for us working folk low income...they need to look at need and demand and we need a car but cant afford our life expenses so car manufactures start looking into going into looking at our income and let us take longer to pay it off with a affordable low payment bc they would sell more cars if that considered us & the economy not increasing the wages but the cost of living is going up every minute...

gary

what about replacement battery costs for hybrids, is that factored in to fuel costs?

Jennifer

I've driven two cars past 250,000 miles, and still own a 1993 F-350 that runs fine. The key to saving money on cars is to not buy them any more often than you really have to, and take care of them. In a combined 54 years of driving, my husband and I have only owned 10 vehicles. We still have 4 of them right now.

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