Cars seem to be getting more expensive these days. It's true; they are pricier. One of the reasons is all of the additional technology auto brands are including in their cars. But still, it can be a challenge for today's car shopper to find a good car with the features they want for a reasonable price.
Those cars exist. While manufacturers are focusing on electric vehicles and other alternative-fuel solutions, many still offer fairly straightforward entry-level vehicles for a low price point. For this list, we wanted to focus on the lowest price-range available -- the sub-$15,000 cars.
You will find that some 2019 and 2020 models are included here. That was because there simply were not enough 2021 cars to give a good selection. But there are still many new models one or two years old on dealer lots, many of which are heavily discounted to make way for new model years. We also wanted to include cars that were recently discontinued but that deserve a place on this list.
For under $15,000, the same price as many used cars, it is possible to get a vehicle with a warranty, modern features, and that irreplaceable brand-new car smell. While all ten of the cars on this list are subcompact vehicles aimed at commuters, each one offers unique traits like fuel efficiency, sportiness, reliability, and surprising standard technology. We hope this list helps you along your car-buying journey, even if it's just to the next test-drive.
1. 2021 Chevrolet Spark
By a mile, the most affordable new car is the Chevrolet Spark, a subcompact hatchback car with seating for four people. It has a starting price of $13,400 for the LS trim with a five-speed manual transmission. That low price includes a three-year/36,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty and five years of 60,000 miles of roadside assistance. You also get modern amenities like a backup camera, automatic headlights, Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and a WiFi hotspot. Its 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine produces 98 horsepower and 94 lb-ft of torque.
While the Spark may not have the interior space or comfort of some of its rivals, it is unmatched for sheer value. Chevrolet offers the little hatchback in a few trim levels, including the ACTIV model with rugged exterior accents and a raised ride height, giving the Spark a more outdoorsy appeal. Front-seat passengers have excellent space in the Spark, with over 41 inches of legroom.
Space is not quite as generous for those in the back, but that is to be expected in a minuscule hatch. Likewise, the Spark has one of the smaller cargo capacities in its class, but the rear seats fold to expand that space to an impressive 27.2
2. 2021 Mitsubishi Mirage
The Mitsubishi Mirage is something of a record holder in more ways than one. Pricing starts at $14,295 for the base ES Hatchback with manual transmission. Though that doesn't make it the cheapest new car in America, it certainly deserves a place on the podium.
Winning the award for the least-powerful car on this list (and perhaps on the entire new-car market), the Mirage is powered by a 1.2-liter three-cylinder engine producing 78 horsepower and 74 lb-ft of torque. The upshot is a staggering 41 mpg EPA-estimated fuel economy on the highway, with a combined rating of 36 mpg. That motor comes standard with a five-speed manual transmission and front-wheel-drive. The Mirage Hatchback may also win a medal for its incredible 2,040-lb curb weight. If simplicity is what you seek in your new car, the Mirage is hard to beat.
That doesn't mean it lacks features, though. Mitsubishi includes cruise control, automatic climate control, power windows, a 7.0-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto. It also comes with one of the best warranties on the market, with five years or 60,000 miles of bumper-to-bumper coverage and a 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty.
3. 2021 Nissan Versa
The Nissan Versa was redesigned for its third generation in 2020, making it one of the more sophisticated choices on this list. It has the roomiest and most comfortable front seats of any car mentioned here, with 44.5 inches of front legroom and Nissan's excellent bucket seats. It is hard to beat for daily commuting, bolstered by an EPA 35 mpg on the highway. It also looks and drives much more like the larger Nissan Sentra than past generations.
Priced from $14,930, the 2021 Versa S Sedan with a manual transmission makes it just under the coveted $15,000 mark. Power is provided by a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine producing 122 horsepower and 113 lb-ft of torque. It is linked to a five-speed manual transmission, while an automatic is available. Power is sent to the front wheels for a mix of traction and agility.
Other features that enhance the Versa's credibility as a daily driver are its safety features. Nissan's standard forward-collision and automatic emergency braking are hard to find at this price, as is lane-departure warning and automatic high beams. The vehicle can sense pedestrians as well.
Other modern tech features include push-button ignition, adaptive steering, and a voice-activated infotainment system. Those in the back seats get their own USB charging ports, and the Versa has a large trunk for everyone's stuff.
4. 2021 Hyundai Accent
If you don't necessarily want to look like you drive a car that shows up on a 'best cars under $15,000' list, the Hyundai Accent may be the one. Its sleek exterior styling is more reminiscent of a near-luxury car than a budget choice. Automatic headlights and well-balanced proportions frame a large grille.
The Accent SE Sedan with a manual transmission technically costs over $15,000 ($15,420 to be exact). Still, many dealerships are offering this car for much less than that. Entry-level vehicles like the Accent benefit from great discounts, and cars equipped with manual transmissions can sometimes have difficulty finding a home in more densely-populated markets -- i.e., cities where people commute a lot and don't want to row their own gears.
The Accent uses a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine generating 120 horsepower and 113 lb-ft of torque. It's the first car on this list to come standard with a six-speed manual transmission, a sporty gearbox that gives the little Hyundai a spritz of driving fun. Buyers get things like cloth seats, cloth door trim, a CD player, Bluetooth, and Hyundai's superb warranty terms. It's not the sportiest or roomiest car on this list, but the Accent may be the most elegant.
5. 2019 Chevrolet Sonic
Chevy did not discontinue the Sonic until 2020, and it is easy to find examples from that model year for under $15,000. So, why did we include the 2019 model here? We included the 2019 Sonic because it was the last year to offer the brand's manual transmission in the tiny sedan. The manual LS Sedan's MSRP was $15,420, making it the cheapest Sonic of them all. That's not a long way from $15,000, and many dealerships will be happy to accommodate.
The Sonic is more expensive than the Chevrolet Spark mentioned previously. One of the reasons to go with it is the more potent engine under its short hood. A turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder -- the only forced-induction engine to make it on this list -- churns out an impressive 138 horsepower and 148 lb-ft of torque. That is a lot of power in a car as small and light as the Sonic. Thankfully, Chevy equips the Sonic with a six-speed manual transmission for quick gear shifts, and its little chassis handles admirably for a budget car.
Like the Spark, the Sonic comes with the same impressive set of tech features, like a wireless internet hotspot, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto. It even has a leather-wrapped steering wheel.
On top of being affordable, sporty, and well-equipped, another thing the Sonic is is safe. The 2019 model scored a 'Good' in all of its IIHS crash tests and received an overall five-star rating from NHTSA. This well-rounded nature makes the Sonic an excellent choice for budget-minded families, commuters, first-time drivers, and nearly everyone else.
6. 2020 Toyota Yaris
Why Toyota dropped the Yaris from its American lineup after 2020 is a head-scratcher. A sleek hatchback model had just joined the subcompact sedan, and both were fun to drive and exceedingly reliable. You could get your hands on a base L Sedan with manual transmission for $15,650.
Arguably the most enjoyable car to drive on this list, the Yaris is ironically one of the least powerful. Its 1.5-liter four-cylinder only makes 106 horsepower and 103 lb-ft of torque, giving it acceleration and speed that require a little patience on the driver's part. Where the Yaris finds its magic is in its suspension and transmission.
The Toyota Yaris -- once known as the Yaris iA -- is just a thinly-veiled Mazda 2. The two Japanese automakers made a deal to sell the tiny Mazda in the US with minor modifications as a Toyota model. The results are astounding. The Yaris has all of the 'Zoom-zoom' spirit Mazda drivers love. Its slick-shifting six-speed manual is undoubtedly the sportiest in its class, reminding drivers of the effortless shifter in the Mazda MX-5 Miata.
You also get a nimble suspension. Mazda's technical wizardry is quickly felt around turns, with incredible flexibility that induces confidence in the driver. That is all paired with the extra peace of mind provided by an overall five-star rating in NHTSA crash tests and standard low-speed automatic emergency braking. The Yaris really does give you the best of both worlds -- Mazda's sporty driving expertise matched with Toyota's lofty resale value. If your next Toyota must be a 2021 model year or newer, then the brand’s legendary Toyota Corolla is your least-expensive option.
7. 2021 Kia Rio
The new Rio LX Sedan stickers at $16,050, but most shoppers won't be paying that price. Manufacturers are offering generous savings due to the current market trends. The only car on this list to match the Mitsubishi Mirage's stellar fuel economy, the Kia Rio uses a thrifty 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine producing 120 horsepower and 112 lb-ft of torque. That is significantly more power than the Mirage musters and in a larger and more family-friendly car. The EPA estimates the Rio will achieve 41 mpg on the highway and 36 mpg in blended driving.
A single-speed CVT automatic transmission is partly to thank for the Rio's excellent efficiency. Kia's car-building wisdom can also be attributed. The brand has been making affordable cars with added value for decades. The Rio also benefits from the brand's superb warranty coverage, another similarity to Mitsubishi. The Rio has a 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty, giving owners good peace of mind about their purchase.
The Rio has a coupe-like body style that gives it a sporty look for a practical new vehicle. It's no Lexus, but the Kia Rio has surprising comfort, features, and style for a small and economical car.
8. 2020 Honda Fit
One of the best subcompact cars ever made, the Honda Fit, was the Japanese automaker's smallest car until its untimely discontinuation after the 2020 model year. There are still plenty of new examples to be had, and the hatchback-only Fit had a starting price of $16,190 for its LX trim with -- what else -- a manual transmission.
The Fit's six-speed manual gearbox is one of the best to be found on the auto market. Among small cars, it ranks second only to the Mazda-sourced six-speed in the Toyota Yaris. It is still plenty quick, and the clutch is pleasantly light. The transmission links to a 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine producing 130 horsepower and 114 lb-ft of torque. Front-wheel-drive comes standard, and the Fit's driving reflexes nicely blend comfort and sportiness.
The Fit may be the best overall package in its class. Its hatchback versatility offers owners similar cargo space and interior configurations to a small SUV. The entire cabin benefits from Honda's excellent build quality. Other small cars can't match its interior polish and refinement. The Fit also has an incredible amount of rear legroom, surpassing many larger sedans. Well-equipped upper trim levels round it out with premium upholstery, upgraded audio, and a suite of driver safety technology.
The Fit's city-friendly size and fuel economy make it a natural competitor in the subcompact segment, with interior space and refinement exceeding nearly every other car around its price point.
9. 2020 Hyundai Venue
The only crossover SUV to sneak its way onto this list, the Hyundai Venue is a modern and practical vehicle with a tiny commuter car's proportions and efficiency. It debuted for the 2020 model year. We chose that model over the 2021 because it was offered with a cost-saving manual transmission. The Venue SE with a stick-shift gearbox retailed for $17,350. That may sound like a lot compared to other cars on this list, but many dealerships today are eager to get rid of older model years to make room for incoming 2022s.
The Venue shares much of its powertrain and other components with the Hyundai Accent, one of the most comfortable and well-executed subcompact sedans available. The Venue's 1.6-liter inline four-cylinder produces 121 horsepower and 113 lb-ft of torque. It is linked to a six-speed manual transmission and front-wheel-drive. Though it isn't as rugged off-road as AWD SUVs like the Ford EcoSport, the Venue still benefits from a raised ride height and excellent outward visibility. It also returns an incredible 35 mpg on the highway, according to the EPA.
As this was a brand-new model in 2020, the Venue provides current styling and technology to match. The standard 8.0-inch touchscreen includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto for seamless smartphone integration. Hyundai also includes a suite of driver-assistance systems, from forward-collision warning with pedestrian detection to lane-departure warning.
10. 2021 Kia Forte
Don’t be fooled by its $17,890 MSRP. It is possible to buy a brand-new Forte from a dealership for under $15,000. The larger and sportier sibling of the Kia Rio, the Forte is a compact sedan that is in its third generation of production. It is more fun to drive than many of the choices on this list, with available manual or automatic transmissions.
The base FE trim comes with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine producing 147 horsepower and 132 lb-ft of torque. The motor provides adequate acceleration, though it isn’t exactly quick. The Forte’s expertise is in handling tight turns. Kia offers five trim levels, including the top-of-the-line GT model that has its own 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder producing 201 horses, a sport-tuned suspension, satellite radio, and a Harman Kardon sound system. That model is also available with a manual transmission, though it isn’t available new for under $15,000.
The Forte still has Kia’s excellent warranty coverage, and EPA-estimated fuel economy of up to 37 mpg highway. An 8.0-inch touchscreen comes standard, with voice controls, Bluetooth, and air conditioning to help make daily commutes more comfortable.
The Forte doesn't have the interior fit and finish of rivals like the Volkswagen Jetta, but it makes up for it with excellent standard features and a roomy interior for pricing that rivals smaller vehicles.