What's the Most Affordable Car in 2014?

2014MitsubishiMirage

Shoppers may face legitimate sticker shock when they're shopping for a new car. TV and radio advertisements may lead them to believe that new cars all get at least 35 mpg for less than $15,000, but the price of entry for even a modestly equipped new car is well above that.

Related: What's the Most Affordable Compact SUV for 2014?

That's why we've taken the cars with the lowest sticker prices and added a dose of reality. A vast majority of buyers never consider buying a car with a manual transmission (often the standard equipment on inexpensive new cars), so right out of the gate the car they're shopping for costs significantly more than they thought it would. Opting for an automatic transmission can cost $1,000 or more.

Our other requirements for this most affordable car list included power windows and door locks (pretty common in all cars these days) as well as Bluetooth capability and USB port(s). Those last two may seem trivial to some, but Bluetooth is becoming essential to abide by the many hands-free-phone laws, and USB is vital to a generation attached to its digital music.

In our consideration, we include five years of gas costs. That can make a seemingly expensive car that gets great mileage land much higher up the list of affordability; see the Toyota Prius c hybrid below as a test case. It had the highest starting price (MSRP plus a destination fee) of the group, but the least expensive fuel costs.

We capped our total costs at $28,000 to keep the list focused on the most affordable on the market.

What's The Most Affordable Car for 2014? (Click for larger version)

The Mitsubishi Mirage is a small car that has a low starting price, decent features and incredible fuel economy, which put it firmly at the top of this list by nearly $2,000. That is a considerable margin compared to Most Affordable lists we've done, with some being decided by less than $100. The Mirage and the other models that make up the top four on this list might not be the cars we'd recommend for everyone, however, as there are always tradeoffs when purchasing a vehicle in any segment.

We found some interesting tidbits from this group.

  • Mileage matters a lot. Gas costs helped the Prius c, but it knocked the Kia Soul, which cost $17,495 after adding the $1,800 automatic transmission and a destination charge, off our chart entirely.
  • It costs $2,150 to fuel a Kia Soul for a year and $1,100 to fuel a Prius c, according to the EPA's website, fueleconomy.gov.
  • The three most affordable cars on our list are incredibly small in size. It would cost less than $1,000 over five years to go from the smallest Scion iQ to a significantly roomier Honda Fit.
  • While most cars on the list are subcompacts or smaller, four compacts still came in under the wire.
  • It would cost just an additional $235 over five years to move from a Scion xD to a Toyota Corolla, or an extra $3.91 a month in payments.
  • Only five of the cars on the list needed to have option packages added to their trim level to meet our requirements, and all five of the option packages were needed to add Bluetooth connectivity.
  • Toyota had three cars on the list, and five if you include its Scion brand. Honda had one, as did Ford, Mazda and Mitsubishi.

Cars.com photo by Evan Sears

Editor’s note: The chart above was updated to account for a $100 increase in the price of the Mitsubishi Mirage's CVT option for the 2015 model year.

Comments 

Bill Ray

Horrible advise, I wouldn't consider half the cars on this list as cars, go carts would be closer. We just got 3 2014 avengers for our kids back in April. List was close to $23000 paid $15800, and that was with the rallye package and 6 speed auto. Best car ever NO but it's cheap great warranty looks nice and it's simply huge compared to the cars in the list. And mpg is 25-27 driving around omaha. 1 white 2 silver.

AladdinSane

The Mirage isn't all that bad. In fact I would consider it on my short purchase list for 2015 models to check out. To each their own, but considering that the Avenger is to be phased out for '15, plus the fact that it isn't considered to be a great vehicle to own by many professional reviewers online, I would say nay to it. But automobile choices are subjective to each and every one. What may be great for one may not be great for another. Peace! AladdinSane<-

The Mistubshi is what we are looking into getting.

carma

Thanks for not trashing the Mirage, which seems to be a favorite sport of many car reviewers. The concept of a basic, unpretentious economical car designed for lower income folks is hard for some to comprehend. I only wish such a car would have been available in the bad old days of the vega and pinto and other mediocre small cars in the 70s. Consumer reports hated the mirage but did admit it rides good, has good rear seat room and achieved 47 mpg on their highway test. Not bad for a non-hybrid, and a great option for working folks on low incomes. They're selling the mirage for under 12k in our town.

Buryl

THIS IS A GREAT CAR!!! We got ours in March and it's Far nicer then the reviews we love it.and the MPG s it Awesome 44 city and 48.9 hwy. And the. Car is not broke in.This car does more then what it was designed to do.and it's fun to drive .Everyone needs to have one and catch the Mirage Fever!

aLADDINsANE

Bravo, carma and Buryl...I compliment you Buryl for your purchase choice, and Carma what you said is so true. I prefer to play the minimalist when it comes to automobiles to own and I'm sure the Mirage is just the right ticket for my lady and myself. The ES model is my choice, and I'd add certain things to it aftermarket to really make this machine the apple of my eye (so to speak). Good luck to the both of you, sincerely. Peace!
AladdinSane<-

Six

This always drives me nuts - the most affordable car in 2014 is a used car, every time. A good used car is always the best choice if "affordable" is the primary concern.

Lots of people want a new car because it's exciting, it's a status symbol, it's gratifying, and those are valid reasons if you'll pay new car money.

$15k is the purchase price of the "cheap" car in this example. You can buy just about anything on the used market for $15k -- nicely optioned mid-sized car, sports car, SUV, even a used luxury car.

Amy K

Not listed: the Mitsubishi i-Miev. Listed at $23980 with optional USB port (I don't know if it has bluetooth support, so perhaps that's why it isn't mentioned). If the buyer qualifies for the $7500 federal tax credit that brings the cost down to 16,480. 5 years of fuel according to fueleconomy.gov runs $2,750 for a 5 year cost of $19,230.

Add in the reduced maintenance of an electric car and I'm pretty close to sold!

Caveat: many people looking for an affordable car won't have enough income to pay enough in taxes to get the full credit.

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