By David Thomas on July 21, 2014
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.
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.
Cars.com graphic by Paul Dolan
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.
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.
Managing Editor David Thomas has a thing for wagons and owns a 2010 Subaru Outback and a 2005 Volkswagen Passat wagon. Email David