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2015 Mazda 3 - passenger side front view

10 Low Cost Cars that Fit Any Budget

Finding Cheap Cars the Right Way

Updated June 7, 2018

When you are in the market for a low cost car, you might head to the Internet or your local used car dealer looking for a deal. What you need to be careful with is that a low price doesn’t necessarily make it a good car. The last thing you want to do is shell out a few thousand dollars and end up with a heap of garbage. That’s why we’ve put together a list of low cost cars that are great options when purchased used. Here’s our top ten for your review.

Honda Fit (2+ Years Old)

2016 Honda Fit - low cost cars

The Honda Fit is now over a decade old and it’s become a fan favorite for those looking for cheap cars. It could be the unique styling or flexible configurations that make this car something worth mentioning. In addition, the Fit has always gotten good gas mileage and has a fun-to-drive mentality.

In 2015, the Honda Fit was redesigned and the rear suspension was moved around to make some additional room for rear passengers. Despite the size of this vehicle, even a 6-foot man won’t feel tightly squeezed in the back seat.

The downside is that when that seating was expanded, the luggage space decreased slightly. Don’t forget that if you don’t have rear passengers at all, those seats fold and flip to create room enough to carry your mountain bike if you desire.

Newer models of the Fit might come with some higher-quality options such as heated leather seats, touchscreen interface and smartphone integration.

You don’t have to go too many years back to get a deal either. I found lots of options in my area that were only two or three years old and under $10,000.

Hyundai Genesis Coupe (5+ Years Old)

2013 Hyundai Genesis - drivers front view

Hyundai has always been a company that created cars to offer value to the everyday driver and the Genesis Coupe is no exception. Back in 2013, this Hyundai got a mild redesign that involved giving it a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine which produces 274 horsepower. There was also a V6 model that boasted of 348 horsepower.

In addition to that, it received a revised suspension to maintain ride comfort with the extra power. You might be able to find coupes with a wide range of options inside including telescoping steering wheel, BlueLink telematics system and nice looking gauges as well.

Even these horsepower options today are quite competitive with newer budget-friendly cars. They are also fun to drive and functional for the daily commute. I was able to find several of these not too far from me for under $10,000.

If you are looking for a sport coupe just a few years old, you might also have some success with the Scion FR-S (which is now the Toyota 86) or a Subaru BRZ. In comparison, the Hyundai seems to be more powerful than the competition which is reflected in the price tag.

Mazda 3 (3+ Years Old)

2015 Mazda 3 - passenger side front view

When you are looking for the best low cost cars and you desire a compact option, the Mazda 3 is a good choice. It has decent fuel economy, overall value and reliability. Yes, most of the modern compacts come with that, but the Mazda 3 has a unique personality.

This car has been a praised as being fun to drive with sharp steering and strong acceleration. It also features a well-tuned suspension for a smooth ride. The Mazda 3 seems to have secret powers that give it some extra oomph when needed.

If you can find a newer model, you might even end up with some advanced features such as adaptive cruise control, head-up display and collision-mitigation technology.

There are a few downsides to a used Mazda 3. First, it tends to be a little noisier than its competition. This is most prevalent when traveling over choppy roads. In addition, it will never win awards for having the most interior space. The trunk space is just average, but you might be able to find the hatchback version for some additional versatility.

If you like the Mazda 3 but are having trouble finding one for under $10,000, you might want to also consider the dependable Honda Civic or a Kia Forte instead.

Toyota Prius (6+ Years Old)

2012 Toyota Prius - drivers side front view

A few years ago when you discussed hybrid vehicles, the Prius is what you thought of first. That’s because it was the main hybrid for many years. In 2012, the Prius got a third-generation refresh that gave it some additional features worth holding out for.

The Prius Two could be found with Bluetooth capability and a touchscreen interface from this year forward. Plus, all trims received the Entune system which bundled satellite radio with a suite of other useful apps. Technology isn’t all the fun the Prius has. It boasts of 50 mpg plus it has a generous back seat.

Yes, you might pay a little more for a used Prius, although I was able to find plenty in my area for around $10,000. The tradeoff is that you’ll buy less fuel, so you’ll make it up in the long run.

Let’s take a peek at some downsides to the Prius. The interior quality is meh. There also isn’t much excitement when it comes to driving ability. With that said, it’s hard to compete with the prices you’ll find if you want a low cost hybrid vehicle.

Honda Accord (5+ Years Old)

2013 Honda Accord - drivers side front view

Back in 2013, the Honda Accord had a complete redesign which left it with a slimmer look and more fuel efficiency. Then, in 2014 the Accord Hybrid was born. Chances are you won’t find the hybrid version for a decent price yet, but the Accord itself is up for grabs.

Honda has a strong reputation for building cars that last, so your investment in an Accord will pay off. These low cost cars have intense popularity on the road maybe due to the impressive powertrains, stylish looks and roomy interiors. The Accord is a roomy and comfortable midsize sedan that is an excellent option for anyone watching their budget.

Not only will you be able to get one for a decent price on the used market, but it should also retain its value fairly well. This is good if you plan to sell or trade it in the next few years. If you are lucky enough to find a 2014, even in the base model, you can expect to get dual-zone automatic climate control, USB integration plus a rearview camera all as standard equipment. These are things you won’t find on many other used vehicles.

If you are interested in shopping other low cost cars like the Accord, you might consider the Nissan Altima or the Mazda 6 instead.

Toyota Camry (5+ Years Old)

2012 Toyota Camry - drivers side front view

While the Camry might not stand out in a crowd, it does have a lot of things going for it. First, it has a long record of reliability. Add low running costs and a nice interior to the list, and you have a solid car. In addition, the Camry’s powertrain offers a peppy performance, even with a four-cylinder engine.

While the Camry offers drivers a comfortable ride and respectable handling, it doesn’t do anything mind-blowing. It just is.

Thankfully, you don’t have to go back too many years if you want to find low cost cars from Toyota that are under $10,000. Of course, there are several other vehicles you might be more apt to consider. The Accord as mentioned earlier would be another sedan worth checking out. You may also want to examine the Hyundai Sonata as a comparable model.

Honda CR-V (10+ Years)

2008 Honda CR-V - driver side view

If you want a compact SUV for under $10,000, you might have to go back a good chunk of years, but Honda brand vehicles last for quite some time, so you should be fine. Older models of the CR-V do look a little strange and they don’t come with a third-row seat.

Despite all the reasons why not to buy a Honda CR-V, most Americans still enjoy them. It’s been a best-seller for many years, often beating out other brands. Unfortunately, it does lack slightly in power, especially with the four-cylinder engine and 166 horsepower, but it saves fuel. It’s also received top honors from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety plus the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, so it would be a great family vehicle.

Inside the cabin, you’ll find more cargo room than with a standard vehicle. There are also plenty of cupholders, bins and cubbies throughout. If you find yourself in a 2008 or newer, there is also a reclining rear seat that is comfortable and spacious.

If you are browsing low cost cars with the hopes of finding an SUV, you really can’t go wrong with the CR-V. Of course, you can also search the market for a Nissan Rogue or Mitsubishi Outlander, but you’ll probably realize why Americans have loved the Honda instead.

Ford Fusion (3+ Years)

2014 Ford Fusion - driver side rear view

The Ford Fusion has been around since 2013 and it changed the marketplace entirely. It was a sporty, stylish and fun family sedan full of features. With the 2015 lineup, Ford revised their midsize sedan.

You’ll have a hard time finding another family car under $10,000 that offers such a sharp driving performance and offers as many configurations. Shop carefully because there have been many trim levels, several different engines and the option for front or all-wheel-drive.

It’s also important to note that the Fusion came with many convenience features and high-tech safety offerings as well. The Fusion can easily rival a luxury car with its adaptive cruise control, blind-spot warning system and automatic parallel parking.

If you are mainly looking for fuel-efficient low cost cars, you might be more interested in the Accord instead. If style, technology and practicality are on your list, then the Fusion is the way to go. Plus, you don’t have to go back too many years to get your price under $10,000.

Scion xB (4+ Years)

2013 Scion XB - left side view

The Scion xB was produced from 2003 through 2015 and offered a boxy wagon appeal while remaining affordable and practical at the same time. The second generation (2007-2015) was bigger, better and more powerful than the first. In addition, the Scion xB is small and easily manageable but still provides an abundant amount of room for cargo and passengers.

The cargo capacity of this car is 70 cubic feet with the rear seats folded down. That doesn’t just beat out most wagons and hatchbacks but also rivals some small crossover SUVs. There were also plenty of upgrades that could’ve been done with an xB. Some of the highlights include a sport muffler, cargo management items and a BeSpoke Premium Audio system.

While interior space is the biggest selling feature, fuel economy lacks. It also performs worse than the Kia Soul and Nissan Cube which are small vehicles like the xB. On top of that, you’ll find that small crossovers like the CR-V and Mazda CX-5 get better fuel economy.

Dodge Dakota (8+ Years)

2010 Dodge Dakota - passenger side rear view

If your low cost cars list consists of finding a truck, you might be in luck with the Dodge Dakota. This truck had a long run of sales from 1987-2011 which made it a fan favorite. In 2010, Dodge brought some refined shock absorbers plus springs to give this truck a better ride.

It also had class-leading towing ability at 7,200 pounds due in part to the beefy V8 engine. The Dakota offers some innovative storage bins found under the rear seats and comfortable seating. With all that said, if you aren’t towing, you might not be happy in a Dakota. The interior lacks and is filled with flimsy switchgear and cheap plastics.

If capability is your main concern, then jump right into a Dakota. You will be hard-pressed to find something similar at the same price. But, if you aren’t worried about the towing capability and you have a little more to spend, you might be better off in a Chevy Colorado instead.

Tips for Finding the Best Low Cost Cars

When you are on the hunt for low cost cars, you could be in danger of making a poor decision based solely on price. Here are some tips to help you find the best cheap cars on the market.

– Avoid anything under $2,500. They most likely will not be reliable.
– Every additional $1,000 you can put together will put you in a vehicle with fewer miles that’s newer.
– Do plenty of research – shop online and through local car dealers.
– Try to avoid buying a vehicle with over 150,000 miles.
– Used Japanese cars have the highest J.D. Power satisfaction ratings, but they will also come with a higher price tag.
– Avoid purchasing a European vehicle because they’ll have a higher cost of repair and maintenance.
– Never purchase a car with a salvage title.
– Inspect the vehicle closely – even a new set of tires could cost you $400.
– Have a mechanic look it over.
– Don’t invest your entire savings in any cheap car because you might need money for repairs down the road.

The key to finding low cost cars is diligence and patience. You may not find exactly what you are looking for today, but keep searching. It is simple to invest your money in one of the best low cost cars and have a reliable ride for many years to come. Make a list of what is important to you and don’t quit until you find it. The right car is out there and waiting for you.

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Brian Jones
About Brian Jones

I am an ASE Certified Master Tech, but spend more time with my awesome family now than I do on cars. In my spare time, you'll still find me playing with tools, cars and many other "manly" gadgets.

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