When you are shopping for a car, one of the most challenging decisions comes down to deciding whether to go the new or used route. Purchasing a brand-new car has several upsides, from a full factory warranty to the latest and greatest in-vehicle technology and driver safety systems, to some spectacular dealer incentives. And then there's that unbeatable new car smell.
However, new cars have quite a few downsides, most of which come down to their price. New vehicles depreciate significantly the moment you drive them off the lot. If you have a decent amount saved to spend, then used cars can save you a lot of money in depreciation alone. Maintenance and insurance costs generally tend to be higher, too. Here are 15 cars for $15,000 or less.
1. 2016-2018 Kia Soul
The Kia Soul is one of the most desirable choices in the compact car class, and for several good reasons. The Soul blends a small car's practicality with the style and outward visibility of an SUV, providing an elevated seating position and competitive fuel economy. Its boxy exterior shape makes for a roomy interior, meaning the Soul is an outstanding people hauler. Few rivals can match the Soul's front and rear headroom, while legroom is also near the top of its class. There is also a 24.2-cubic-foot cargo area, which is enormous for such a pint-sized vehicle. The 2016 Soul came standard with Bluetooth hands-free phone/audio, satellite radio, air conditioning, and power side mirrors. More expensive trims added an all-electric powertrain, automatic headlights, leather seats, and a premium audio system. Though it may be tough to find electrified models for under $15,000, the gas-powered Kia Soul in good condition with low mileage is a safe bet for many used car shoppers.
2. 2019-2021 Nissan Versa Sedan
The Nissan Versa is one of the most affordable options on this list, as it retails new for just under $15,000 MSRP. New Nissans include three-year/36,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranties. The Versa Sedan was redesigned in 2020, with more modern styling, better refinement, and standard driver safety technology like lane-departure warning systems.
Buying a lightly-used, low-mileage 2020 model allows shoppers to get these features at a significant discount, with many still covered under that warranty period. You can also go back to the second-generation 2012-2019 Versa to get an even lower price, and a hatchback version is available for those years.
Picking up a 2019 Versa in an upper trim includes automatic climate control, push-button ignition, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, and even satellite radio. Whether one opts for a newer base Versa S Sedan or looks at older model years, it's a fuel-efficient and budget-friendly choice delivering tons of value.
3. 2016-2017 Hyundai Sonata
Midsize sedans have long been a popular choice for North American shoppers. The best among them blend a roomy cabin, advanced safety features, and excellent fuel economy.
The Hyundai Sonata continues to be one of the most sophisticated yet value-minded choices in the four-door midsize sedan market. It's nearly unbeatable when it comes to considering how many features are included for its low price. If you buy from the 2016-2017 model years, you'll likely find many lightly-used examples with pricing between $10,000 and $15,000.
Upper trim levels were equipped with tech features like blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, a hands-free power trunk lid, and leather seating. The top-of-the-line Limited model came with adaptive cruise control, parking sensors, automatic high beams, and a 10-speaker Infinity premium audio system. The Sonata's quiet interior and comfort-tuned suspension made it ride more like a near-luxury sedan than a budget car.
Hyundai even made hybrid and plug-in hybrid variants of the Sonata, capable of returning gas mileage of over 40 MPG. Overall, the Sonata represents one of the most well-rounded packages for this price point.
4. 2019 Chevrolet Spark
Like the Nissan Versa, the Chevrolet Spark is a subcompact car with new models starting under $15,000. Anyone needing affordable transportation can easily find a fully-loaded used Spark with low mileage.
The 2019 Chevy Spark was a hatchback with tiny dimensions that made it easy to maneuver through traffic and into tight parking spaces. Available in four trim levels, it can be found with a five-speed manual or single-speed continuously variable transmission.
Front-wheel-drive was standard, as were a backup camera, automatic headlights, and a 7.0-inch infotainment touchscreen with integrated Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and a wireless internet hotspot. The Spark delivered impressive interior space for a small hatchback, with 41.7 inches of front legroom and 39 inches of headroom.
The back seat had more limited space, but two adults could still fit comfortably for short trips. An ACTIV trim level added a raised ride height and more rugged exterior styling, giving it an SUV-like look. For shoppers needing a straightforward commuter loaded with standard infotainment features, the Chevy Spark is a superb option.
5. 2014 Honda Odyssey
One of the most popular minivans on the market, the Odyssey is packed with features and high ratings for predicted reliability. It has remained at the forefront of the minivan segment since its debut in the early 2000s, inserting Honda's impressive engineering and car-like handling into a large people carrier. Before long, the Odyssey was one of the most beloved and desirable family vehicles on the market, and it retains that coveted reputation today.
Due to the Odyssey's high demand from families seeking a well-equipped van, you'll likely need to go back to the 2014 model year to find several examples under $15,000, but that's okay, as the vintage Odyssey still looks fresh today. When it was new, pricing ranged from around $29,000-$44,500, so a low-mileage find today delivers a ton of value for not a lot of money.
Power came from a 246-horsepower V6 engine, and there was ample passenger space for eight. Honda offered many available features some rivals couldn't match, like a built-in vacuum cleaner, multi-zone climate control, and even a rear-seat DVD entertainment system. The used Odyssey remains one of the best choices for those needing high-quality transportation for the whole family.
6. 2020 Mitsubishi Mirage
This list features a few cars that retail for under $15,000, and the Mitsubishi Mirage is another small car that will have shoppers deciding whether to buy new or used. Available as a sedan or hatchback, the Mirage comes fresh from the dealership with a best-in-class 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty, meaning a lightly used 2020 version will certainly have quite a bit of life left on its coverage.
It came with a tiny 78-horsepower three-cylinder engine that gave it impressive fuel economy, attaining up to 43 MPG on the highway. Mitsubishi doesn't have the name recognition or lofty reputation of Toyota and Honda, meaning it's pretty easy to find low-mileage examples of the Mirage for well under budget.
It's a great choice as a first car or essential transportation for city dwellers who don't worry about getting a few paint scratches. The small size allows for quick parking, and the cabin is relatively spacious, especially in the front row. Cargo space is quite good in the hatchback. The Mirage is one of the simplest to operate cars in its class and delivers superb fuel efficiency.
7. 2016 Nissan Maxima
This eighth-generation model represented a significant step forward in technology and performance, but preowned prices remain prohibitively high for many in the used car market.
All of the attention surrounding the new model has made the seventh-generation Nissan Maxima quite the bargain. With proportions somewhere between a midsize and full-size car, the Maxima has the sharp handling of a sport sedan and a large cabin with great standard features.
Power comes from a 290-horsepower V6, which accelerates rapidly. Rear-seat space is a bit cramped compared to rivals, but like other Nissans, the Maxima has some of the most comfortable and supportive seats in its class. Dual-zone climate control and Bluetooth are standard, and top models have Bose audio and leather seats. The 2014-era Nissan Maxima is an answer for drivers wanting a sport-focused family sedan that won't break the bank.
8. 2020 Kia Rio
The Kia Rio is a subcompact car that's thrifty and easy to drive, available as a little sedan or practical hatchback. In its fourth generation of production, the current Rio remains the South Korean automaker's most affordable car, meaning 2020 model-year examples should be no problem to find within budget.
It comes in two trim levels, LX and S, and standard features include 15-inch wheels, a backup camera, automatic headlights, power heated mirrors, a split-folding back seat, air conditioning, and more.
The little Rio also comes with Kia's generous warranty coverage, like a 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty, so it's almost certain a one-year-old used model will still be well within those terms. Some competitors are sportier to drive and have more standard tech amenities. Still, the Kia Rio is a refreshingly straightforward and likable small car that is indeed one of the newest choices on this list.
9. 2011-2013 Toyota Sienna
To compete with the super popular Honda Odyssey, Toyota redesigned the Sienna for the 2011 model year. Some of the changes included extra features, a more stylish exterior, a better driving feel, and a roomier cabin.
Like the Odyssey, the Toyota Sienna minivan has a well-established reputation for being reasonably trouble-free. Some things to look out for include water pump failure and sliding door issues, though the latter seems to result from lack of lubrication mostly.
A 2011 Sienna with under 100,000 miles will generally cost well below the $15,000 mark. Some lucky shoppers should be able to find a fully loaded Limited trim with all-wheel-drive for just under budget. If in need of even more value, go for a higher mileage vehicle, and you may be able to get closer to $10,000.
10. 2017-2018 Mazda3
The third generation of the Mazda 3 ended with the 2018 model year. Since the fully redesigned 2019 model started at $21,000, it's relatively easy to find deals under $15,000 if you return to the third generation.
That recent Mazda 3 offered two fuel-efficient four-cylinder engines and both a sedan and hatchback body styles.
The good news is that you'll likely be getting relatively low mileage and excellent features in an almost new car. The Mazda 3 is consistently raved about by reviewers for its fun driving characteristics and better-than-expected interior quality. You may also be able to get the remainder of a factory warranty, depending on the mileage and age.
11. 2015 Honda Accord
Easily one of the most popular cars ever sold in the United States, the Honda Accord tends to hold its value exceptionally well. Its resale values are amongst the highest of any midsize family car. It's why shoppers will likely have to go back to at least 2015 to find one under $15,000.
The good news is that you will undoubtedly see many examples from that model year under 100,000 miles, though the Accord is known to make it well past that mark with proper maintenance. The Accord's available 3.5-liter V6 engine includes a cylinder deactivation feature to save gas when not accelerating. Available in coupe and sedan body styles, the Honda Accord has sporty handling and a fun-to-drive spirit.
A manual transmission is optional. When combined with the 278-horsepower V6, this powertrain delivers rapid acceleration and an engaging driving experience.
The cabin is comfortable and refined, with many standard amenities and several optional active safety aids. Despite its high asking price, the Accord is still one of the best used cars on the market.
12. 2017-2018 Toyota Corolla
The Toyota Corolla is currently in its twelfth generation, thanks to a redesign for the 2019 model year. The MSRP for a new Corolla starts slightly under $20,000, meaning you won't have to go back all that far to find one for less than $15,000.
Specifically, the model years of 2017 and 2018 were the last ones before the significant redesign and included many similar features to the latest car. All came with Toyota's comprehensive driver safety technology, with standard forward-collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning, adaptive cruise control, and automatic high beams. It made the Corolla the best-equipped car in the compact class when it came to standard safety tech.
Only a few years old, this technology remains easy to use and intuitive. This previous generation Corolla also had a roomy cabin, excellent fuel economy, and excellent build quality. Some rivals have sportier handling and were more fun to drive, but few could match the Toyota's all-around practicality. Buyers needing even more versatility and cargo space should check out the Toyota Corolla iM hatchback.
13. 2016 Toyota Camry
Like the Toyota Corolla, the Camry boasts strong reliability ratings, high resale value, and few legitimate trouble spots. The Toyota Camry features a smooth ride and a planted feeling on the highway. It has secure handling for getting around town and avoiding obstacles, and the interior is very well-crafted for the price.
Good regular maintenance will likely keep this car running for a long time. Like any modern car, it will still require periodic oil and filter changes to assist its variable valve timing engine.
Some V6 models had water pump issues, but these were rare. Mechanics tend to describe this car as one of the best choices around, and many automotive journalists praise its predicted reliability and low cost of maintenance.
Searching for a 2016 Camry under $15,000, you can expect to find mileage somewhere around 30,000 and 50,000 miles. Older and less well-equipped versions can be found with even lower mileage and a few thousand less than a fully-loaded one. The midsize Camry was available with four-cylinder, V6, and hybrid powertrains. Automatic headlights, cloth upholstery, and keyless entry were standard.
14. 2013-2014 Volkswagen Golf GTI
With the Mazda MX-5 Miata's possible exception, the Volkswagen Golf GTI might be the most fun car on this list of used vehicles. The GTI was the original 'hot hatch,' and a used example is an even more practical way to combine driving thrills with everyday practicality.
Most of the sixth generation cars have gone down below $15,000 due to depreciation. The standard GTI engine is a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that generates 200 horsepower, and you'll have a choice between either a four-door and two-door body style as well. The available manual transmission and dual-clutch automatic transmission were fast and helped give the little hatchback quick acceleration.
Volkswagen's reliability can't quite match a Honda or Toyota's likes, but the Golf GTI is hard to beat for a performance model. A 2013-2014 version with low mileage will probably cost you roughly $12,000-$13,000.
15. 2014 Toyota Avalon
If you're shopping for a family car with a soft ride, plenty of comfort features, room for five people, and an expansive trunk, then the Toyota Avalon fits the bill completely. Despite being made under the Toyota nameplate, the Avalon offers Lexus-like levels of luxury.
Like the smaller Toyota Camry, the Avalon has remained largely trouble-free for owners, with a rock-solid dependable reputation. Some older Avalon model years have had occasional water pump issues before reaching 75,000 miles, so it's a good idea to check on this if you're looking at a vehicle around this mileage.
The base Avalon XLE trim came loaded with popular amenities, including heated front seats, keyless entry, push-button start, dual-zone climate control, and Bluetooth.
Options included a JBL audio system, ventilated front seats, three-zone climate control, and heated rear seats. The Avalon has one of the quietest and most elegant interiors in the full-size class, making it a genuine rival for much costlier European luxury sedans.
The Avalon is also a sturdy daily commuter. While it's not the most agile vehicle in traffic, the large Toyota is user-friendly and delivers a relaxing driving environment. A hybrid powertrain was available, too, returning 40 MPG combined. There are many 2014 examples of the Toyota Avalon available on the used market.
16. 2014-2018 Subaru Forester
The Forester is another crossover that provides SUV utility in a car-like package. Still, with Subaru's famous all-wheel drive, the Forester is an excellent pick for buyers wanting a four-season daily driver in wintery or more rugged climates. The large interior, excellent gas mileage, and Subaru's reputation for safety make the Forester a compelling option.
The Forester earned a 'Top Safety Pick Plus' award from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety in 2017. It's worth keeping an eye out for one equipped with EyeSight, Subaru's suite of driver safety aids that includes blind-spot monitoring, automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning, and adaptive cruise control.
The Forester also has perhaps the best outward visibility of any small crossover SUV, thanks in part to its narrow roof pillars and tall windows. It's possible to pick up a Forester under the $15,000 mark, though they understandably can command a premium in northern parts of the country where all-wheel-drive cars and SUVs are more necessary.