As a kid growing up, all I could do was drool about having the best new car.
I could have cared less if it was the least expensive car.
What kind of kid wants a cheap car, right?
I just wanted the car to be new and slick. Aka “Legit”.
Unfortunately, my mom had other plans for me.
When I was 16 and living with my mom, I was allowed to occasionally drive a 1991 Ford Mustang convertible (similar to what you see pictured).
While that sounds sleek, it wasn't. Far from it actually.
But it was a car and it got me to school and work when I needed it to.
If you are in the market for a new car but don’t have a lot to spend, take heart. 2013 looks to be another year where a savvy shopper and good negotiator can still get a brand new automobile for not much more than $10,000. That does not mean that dealerships will be giving their cars away; you are likely going to have to look carefully to find the best deals. But with patience and a good knowledge of what you need (and don’t need) in a new car, the right automobile for you is within reach.
Before you run out and start test driving the new 2013 models, consider waiting a bit. Dealerships typically do not discount their new model-year cars at the start of the year. If you can wait until closer to the end of 2013, you are likely to get a better deal on a new 2013 car.
Do not expect to find many surprises on the list of cheapest cars for 2013. Most offerings are smaller sedans and many of them were on the list in 2012. Other than Ford and Chevy, the list of cheapest cars for 2013 is heavily weighted with foreign models.
While several of the automakers – such as Smart and Scion – are newer to the list of inexpensive autos, most of the names should be familiar to you. That is a good thing when quality is a concern. Although these cars are inexpensive, with a name like Honda or Hyundai on the back, you know you are getting a car that is likely to last.
New vs. Used
When price is a major consideration, the first question you should ask yourself is if you really need a brand new car. Remember, any new car – no matter the price – loses at least 10% of its value the minute you drive it off the lot. Think about whether it might be better to look for a late model used car in good condition and with low mileage instead.
That way, you can take advantage of the fact that someone else took the depreciation hit when they bought the car new and you get the advantage of a lower price. Unlike a generation ago, when used car dealers had the reputation of being dishonest, today it is possible to buy a pre-owned vehicle with confidence.
If you plan to hold onto your car for many years and basically drive all the value out of it, then a new car might be the best for you. After all, if you buy a new car for around $10,000 and then drive it for ten years, you will have paid only $1,000 per year for it. Of course, some cheap cars are not built to last that long, and if you end up spending a lot of money on repairs and upkeep then you really won’t be saving any money after all.
If you cannot find a new car model that meets all your needs with respect to gas mileage, size and maintenance history, it might be better to look for a well-made used car or a more expensive new car.
More than Price
If you have decided that you really need to buy a new car, the next thing to think about is what model and make of car is best for your needs. There is more to finding an inexpensive car than the sticker price. Look at fuel economy, dealer costs, warranty, extras, the model’s repair history (if available) and even the engine size and horsepower. Will you use your car mostly in urban areas for short trips or do you plan to spend a lot of time on the highway? Will you be driving alone or hauling people or equipment? Your answers will impact your decision.
If you are not familiar with the process of buying a new car or get nervous when it is time to haggle over price, find a knowledgeable friend or family member to come with you when you start car shopping. In most cases, sticker price, or MSRP, is only a starting point. Do your research so you know what the dealer paid for the car (the invoice price) and don’t be afraid to negotiate.
The Best and Cheapest Car List
While there are other cheap cars on the market, here are a number of different options at the lowest price-point. From true “city cars” to those that are more versatile, the list is sedan-heavy but offers some other options. Absent from the list is last year’s Toyota Yaris – an inexpensive (and rather weak-engined) auto that is being retooled as a hybrid for 2013. You may also want to keep an eye out for the traditionally low-priced Nissan Versa. Although the company has not announced its 2013 pricing yet, it is still likely to be low, and Nissan has reportedly improved the car’s fuel efficiency and styling.
Fuel Efficiency: 29 MPG in the city, up to 40 MPG on the highway
The Ford Fiesta is a fairly small subcompact, which means it really won’t fit more than 4 people comfortably, and those in the back seat won’t have a lot of leg room. But the car gets great mileage even without the more expensive fuel economy package and is fun to drive, according to owners.
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Fuel Efficiency: 26 MPG in the city, 35 MPG on the highway
Chevy’s Sonic has been a strong option inexpensive car option for several years. According to reviewers, it is fun to drive and has nice design features.
3 Chevy Spark
Fuel Efficiency: 32 MGP in the city, 38 MPG on the highway
New in 2012, the pocket-sized Spark was designed with the urban driver in mind. With great gas mileage in the city and a small footprint that will make parking a breeze, this inexpensive car may be perfect for the city dweller.
4 Smart ForTwo
There is a reason this car is called the “fortwo” – the tiny car won’t comfortably fit any more than a driver and passenger. It still turns a few heads but people are getting used to seeing its miniscule body and box-like shape on the road.Fuel Efficiency: 34 MPG in city, 38 MPG on the highway
Fuel Efficiency: 30 MPG in the city and 40 MPG on the highway
This entry from Hyundai is a solid choice; reviewers seem to indicate that they consider the exterior fairly attractive and that the interior is very stylish for the money.
Fuel Efficiency: 36 MPG city, 37 MPG highway
The IQ is another “super small” four-seat automobile with a profile similar to that of the Smart Fortwo.
7 Kia Soul
Fuel Efficiency: 26 MPG city and 35 MPG on the highway
8 Kia Rio
For just a few hundred dollars more, the Kia Rio sedan offers considerably more gas mileage than its boxier hatchback cousin. Pay just a little more again and you can buy the Kia Rio5, which is a traditional hatchback. It may come down to your preference in styling and storage capacity when it comes to choosing between these autos.
9 Fiat 500
Fuel Efficiency: 28 MPG in the city, 38 MPG on the highway
The Fiat is a “cute” car that gets good gas mileage. Its engine is weaker than some of the others in its class, so if you plan to spend a lot of time on the highway, you may want to consider a different model.
10 Honda Fit
Fuel Efficiency: 27 MPG in the City, 35 MPG on the highway
If you are one of those buyers for whom the name “Honda” means quality, you may want to spend a bit more for the car maker’s entry-level automobile.
With decent fuel efficiency in both the city and on the highway, the Fit works for those who have varied driving needs and want the Honda name. Add just a couple of thousand more to your budget and you can likely afford the cushier and extremely reliable Civic.
Would you consider buying a new car if they were this cheap?