The Top 21 Cheapest Cars To Drive

Last Updated on December 6, 2019

When you are on the hunt for a brand new car, you are usually going to use the price of the car as one of the main determining factors in your final decision. While finding the best value is always a better option than simply searching for the lowest price, the reality of the situation is that many of the cheapest cars available today receive high marks when it comes to longevity and reliability.

By going with a cheaper vehicle, you are actually going to be able to save money in more ways than one. Since the MSRP price of the car is going to be low, you should be able to put down a larger initial payment on your new car loan. This leads to a lower amount of interest paid over the long term, which can add up to hundreds of dollars over time. There is also a good chance that your new, cheap car is going to save you money at the pump. With all of these cost-saving advantages, it is no wonder that more people are searching for cheap car options than ever before.

Let’s take a look at the 21 cheapest cars available right now to see if one of them could be the right option for your life. The following list is based upon the three-year price of owning the vehicle – including how much it will cost you to buy new, the 3-year price for insurance 1, and the 3-year price for gasoline 2.

List Of The 21 Cheapest Automobiles

(The following list is in descending order, with the #1 car having the least expensive average 3-year cost.)

21. Toyota Prius


  • MSRP – $25,010
  • Insurance – $5,040
  • Gas – $3,175
  • Total 3 Year Cost – $33,225

The car on this list that helps you out the most when it comes to the cost of fuel is also the most expensive option. Although saving money on fuel is great, the fact of the matter is that insurance costs and the MSRP of the Toyota Prius will be too much for some people to handle. This is a great example of fuel economy not being the end-all-be-all when it comes to saving money.

20. Mini Cooper


  • MSRP – $20,242
  • Insurance – $4,608
  • Gas – $5,386
  • Total 3 Year Cost – $30,234

Most drivers enjoy the solid fuel economy on the Mini Cooper, but there is a lack of comfort found in most of the seats in this car. The cabin has a retro vibe that will excite some car buyers while turning off others. Three standard accessories that are hard to come by on this list are a USB port, Bluetooth, and HD radio, but all three are included in the Mini Cooper.

19. Volkswagen Golf

Volkswagen Golf

  • MSRP – $17,932
  • Insurance – $4,140
  • Gas – $7,277
  • Total 3 Year Cost – $29,349

The first thing that people notice in the Volkswagen Golf is the high-quality interior. The fuel economy is quite good in the grand scheme of things, but it actually looks bad on this list of affordable cars. The Golf is actually one of the most expensive cars in its class, but its class is known to be affordable to pretty much everyone.

18. Honda Civic

Honda Civic

  • MSRP – $17,965
  • Insurance – $5,073
  • Gas – $4,631
  • Total 3 Year Cost – $27,669

Many people like to buy used versions of the Honda Civic, but the 2013 version is still a great value. The 28/39 MPG city/highway is better than nearly every affordable small car on the market, and more standard features are now included in this car. The most important feature now included is the rearview camera.

17. Subaru Impreza

Subaru Impreza

  • MSRP – $17,895
  • Insurance – $3,888
  • Gas – $4,913
  • Total 3 Year Cost – $26,696

The Subaru Impreza is a practical car that can get you from point A to point B rather comfortably. This car leads the rest of the cars on this list when it comes to safety. You can get the 2013 Impreza as a sedan or a hatchback.

16. Mazda Mazda3

Mazda Mazda3

  • MSRP – $16,700
  • Insurance – $4,932
  • Gas – $5,335
  • Total 3 Year Cost – $26,967

Some people view the Mazda3 as the best small, affordable car on the market, but doesn’t even crack the top 10 of this list when it comes to price. It includes a four-cylinder engine, and this is also one of the more powerful options on this list. The one negative mark against this ride is the interior, which some say is below the level seen in other vehicles in this class.

15. Chevrolet Cruze

Chevrolet Cruze

  • MSRP – $17,130
  • Insurance – $4,032
  • Gas – $5,512
  • Total 3 Year Cost – $26,674

You won’t get the fastest or smoothest ride with the Chevy Cruze, but you will feel secure while you are driving around in one of the cars with the best crash test results. You can add on the turbocharged engine to take things to the next level on the highway. One of the most overlooked features of the Cruze is the massive size of the trunk in the back of the car.

14. Smart ForTwo Pure

Smart ForTwo Pure

  • MSRP – $13,240
  • Insurance – $6,696
  • Gas – $4,634
  • Total 3 Year Cost – $24,570

Most people are aware of the more compact coupe version of this car, and most of these same people are undecided as to whether any car from ForTwo offers a good value to the consumer. This is the definition of an entry-level car, and this two-seater will give you the bare bones when it comes to hitting the road.

13. Honda Fit

Honda Fit

  • MSRP – $15,425
  • Insurance – $3,924
  • Gas – $4,904
  • Total 3 Year Cost – $24,253

For most people, the Honda Fit is not the most attractive car on the road. Having said that, it offers a large amount of cargo space for a car that is so small. Most people who drive this car for the first time are left unfulfilled by the rather weak engine underneath the hood. Although the engine is not that powerful, many drivers have stated that the nimble handling offered by the Fit still adds a bit of fun into the mix while driving.

12. Ford Fiesta

Ford Fiesta

  • MSRP – $13,995
  • Insurance – $3,888
  • Gas – $4,553
  • Total 3 Year Cost – $22,436

Another car just under $14,000 is the Ford Fiesta. Not much about this car has changed over the years, but Ford doesn’t really need to change anything when they have a winner on their hands. Don’t expect power windows with this car as you will have to use the old-fashioned crank to get the job done.

11. Hyundai Elantra

Hyundai Elantra

  • MSRP – $14,865
  • Insurance – $3,527
  • Gas – $3,194
  • Total 3 Year Cost – $21,586

The high-end model on this list of cheapest cars is the Hyundai Elantra. The base MSRP of this ride is $14,865, and you can expect to pay roughly $3,500 for insurance on this car over three years. This car gets a combined 28 MPG, which means the average driver can expect to pay a little over $1,000 in gas per year at current price levels.

10. Kia Forte Sedan

Kia Forte Sedan

  • MSRP – $14,390
  • Insurance – $3,835
  • Gas – $3,308
  • Total 3 Year Cost – $21,533

Another cheap car option in 2013 is the Forte Sedan from Kia. At a base MSRP price of $14,390, almost anyone should be able to drive home in this car today. This is the most elegant Korean car to be placed on this list, and its combined 29 MPG will keep your yearly fuel costs at around $1,100. Insuring this car can be a bit expensive, and it will usually cost almost $4,000 over three years.

9. Suzuki SX4 Sedan

suzuki sx4

  • MSRP – $14,094
  • Insurance – $3,830
  • Gas – $3,563
  • Total 3 Year Cost – $21,487

The upgraded version of the Suzuki Sedan is actually one of the most underrated vehicles on the market right now. This vehicle has an American-friendly shape, and the nine second 0-60 MPH time is actually one of the better times on this list. Some people find that they do not like the ride that this car offers, so make sure that you take it for a test spin before you make your purchase.

8. Chevrolet Spark LS

Chevrolet Spark LS

  • MSRP – $12,995
  • Insurance – $3,717
  • Gas – $4,415
  • Total 3 Year Cost – $21,127

The Spark is a brand new option from General Motors, and this car comes in a variety of different colors that pop. Although this car is a manual by default, the automatic version can be purchased for under $1,000 more. Unlike some of the other cheap options on this list, the ride feels rather smooth and stable when you are in the Spark.

7. Kia Soul

Kia Soul

  • MSRP – $13,995
  • Insurance – $3,760
  • Gas – $3,308
  • Total 3 Year Cost – $21,063

As the first car to dip below the $14,000 MSRP price tag on our list, the Kia Soul is an affordable option when you need to carry around extra passengers. This is basically a compact SUV, if such a thing can exist, and it definitely stands out when you compare it to the other small cars on this list.

6. Toyota Yaris Three-Door Hatchback

toyota yaris

  • MSRP – $13,355
  • Insurance – $3,597
  • Gas – $2,895
  • Total 3 Year Cost – $19,847

Another one of the more unique options on this list, the Toyota Yaris Three-Door Hatchback looks more like a smart car than your traditional hatchback. There is not much pleasure to be found in driving this car, but it definitely gets the job done. You will even be able to toss some friends in the back seat in a pinch.

5. Kia Rio Sedan

Kia Rio Sedan

  • MSRP – $12,390
  • Insurance – $4,000
  • Gas – $2,988
  • Total 3 Year Cost – $19,378

As far as small, affordable cars go, the Kia Rio Sedan is actually a rather fun drive. The only real problem with this car is that the general makeup of the car is rather boring. Having said that, it is hard to say no to this vehicle at an EPA combined mileage of 31 MPG.

4. Chevrolet Aveo Sedan

Chevrolet Aveo Sedan

  • MSRP – $12,685
  • Insurance – $3,536
  • Gas – $3,088
  • Total 3 Year Cost – $19,309

The Chevrolet Aveo Sedan is one of the only American cars to make this list. It is not as big and bad as most of the cars that come out of the United States, and it doesn’t look out of place on this list of compact, cheap cars. One perk of this car is that it gives you four doors in the type of car that usually only has room for two.

3. Smart Fortwo Coupe

Smart Fortwo Coupe

  • MSRP – $12,635
  • Insurance – $3,279
  • Gas – $2,573
  • Total 3 Year Cost – $18,487

This car is the perfect option for anyone who has a problem with parallel parking. It’s almost impossible to not find a parking spot in the city when you are in the Fortwo Coupe. The 36 EPA combined mileage of 36 MPG is definitely the main selling point of this ride.

2. Hyundai Accent Three-Door Hatchback

Hyundai Accent Three-Door Hatchback

  • MSRP – $10,690
  • Insurance – $4,351
  • Gas – $2,988
  • Total 3 Year Cost – $18,029

The Accent can be bought for less than $11,000 brand new, but it also comes with the increased insurance rates that are often found with Korean cars. This is actually the cheapest option for some people, but the increased insurance costs keep it off the top spot on this list. This car is all the proof you need that there are more important factors than just the MSRP.

1. Nissan Versa 1.6 Base

Nissan Versa 1.6 Base

  • MSRP – $10,710
  • Insurance – $3,602
  • Gas – $3,194
  • Total 3 Year Cost – $17,506

The Nissan Versa definitely does not look like a car that costs less than $11,000. This version of the Versa comes with a smaller engine and 14-inch wheels. There are a lot of accessories missing from this car, and it doesn’t even come with a radio in the default model. Even so, this car is CHEAP to own, insure, and fuel up.  The total three-year cost on this vehicle is a mere $17,506, making it the #1 car on our list of the 21 cheapest cars to drive.

Choose the Right Car for Your Needs

At the end of the day, you are going to have plenty of options to choose from when you want to find an affordable car. It’s important to find a car that fits your needs more than anything else because that is the only way you are going to be able to find the largest amount of savings. Think about how often you will drive your car because that will have a huge impact on how much the fuel factor plays into your three-year cost. It’s also important to make sure that you are picking the car that you actually enjoy driving because you are going to be using that car for many years to come. If you have to spend a few extra dollars to get the car that you really want, then go ahead and spend the extra money. You cannot put a price tag on the enjoyment that you get out of your car.

Article Notes

  1. The insurance costs listed for each vehicle are merely educated estimates. As insurance costs can vary greatly from person-to-person, state-to-state, car-to-car, etc., it’s hard to get an exact assessment for insurance rates. For each vehicle we list, the assumptions are as followed: the driver is under age 65, the driver has more than six years of driving experience with no chargeable accidents, the car is for personal use only, and the driver purchases the following insurance coverage: collision ($500 deductible), comprehensive ($500 deductible), medical ($25,000), property ($50,000), personal liability ($100,000/$300,000), and uninsured driver ($25,000/$50,000).
  2.  The fuel costs are based on the US government EPA mileage figures which take into account 60% highway driving and 40% city driving. The numbers listed assume that fuel cost is $3.57/gallon for regular, $3.82/gallon for premium, and $3.88 for diesel.
James Shaffer
James Shaffer James Shaffer is a writer for and a well-seasoned auto insurance industry veteran. He has a deep knowledge of insurance rules and regulations and is passionate about helping drivers save money on auto insurance. He is responsible for researching and writing about anything auto insurance-related. He holds a bachelor's degree from Bentley University and his work has been quoted by NBC News, CNN, and The Washington Post.
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