Just the other day we gave you some tips on buying a $1,000 beater car from Craigslist. Let’s say your financial circumstances are a little better, and you actually want to buy something new, with a warranty. Fun really isn’t in your price range; instead, you’re looking for practical and affordable. I’ve got good news for you, Mr. Bargain Hunter: you can still buy a new car for under $15,000, and in some cases quite a bit under $15k. If you’ve got good credit and put some money down, you can be rolling in low budget style for less than the cost of breakfast and lunch out every day.
There’s some variety on the list as well, since it includes sedans, hatchbacks and even a coupe or two. You’re not buying luxury here, so you’d better be able to drive a manual transmission and, in some cases, go without air conditioning. The prices I’m showing are the sticker price for the cheapest version of the model, including destination charge. Ranked in order of cheapest to most expensive, the award-winners are:
1. 2010 Hyundai Accent Blue Coupe, $10,690.00
For about the same money as a liter class sportbike, the Hyundai Accent Blue Coupe is as cheap as you can get four wheels, a motor and some doors in the United States. You won’t get A/C at this price, and you’ll be shifting your own gears, but it sure beats waiting for the bus in the snow or the rain.
2. 2010 Nissan Versa 1.6 Base Sedan, $10,730.00
If you need four doors and a trunk, this is as cheap as you’re going to get them in the United States. Like the Hyundai Accent Blue, the Nissan Versa doesn’t come with A/C, so you may need to keep looking up the list if you live south of the Mason-Dixon line.
3. 2010 Kia Rio Base Sedan, $12,390.00
We’re still in “no A/C” land, but the Kia and the Hyundai both come with 10 year, 100,000 mile warranties. You may be sweating in the summertime for a lot of years, but at least your powertrain is still covered by a manufacturer’s warranty. Ironically, Kias are hot commodity on the used car market, so clean used examples hold their value better than you’d think.
4. 2010 Chevy Aveo LS Sedan, $12,685.00
There are two Chevy Aveos on this list, and the cheapest comes in the form of the LS sedan. You’re still not getting A/C at this price, but you can order an Aveo LS with A/C ductwork and dealer installed air conditioning. I’m guessing, but it would probably cost you about another $1,500 to have A/C installed, which may be cheap enough if you want a bowtie logo and year-round comfort.
5. 2010 Chevy Aveo5 LS Hatchback, $12,835
You can also get a Chevy Aveo in five door hatchback flavor if you’re willing to spend an extra $150. Like the sedan, the five door hatch can be ordered with A/C ductwork, and your dealer can add the rest for a nominal fee.
6. 2010 Toyota Yaris 3 Door Hatchback, $13,365.00
If you’re a fan of Toyota, the cheapest one on the list is the three door hatchback Yaris. The good news is that the Yaris is the first car on the list that comes with A/C as a standard feature. If you live where summer starts in May and ends in October (like Florida, for example), this is probably where you want to start your new car shopping.
7. 2010 Toyota Yaris 5 Door Hatchback, $13,665.00
If you need two more doors, the Toyota Yaris comes in five door hatchback flavor for just $300 more. The additional two doors almost make the larger Yaris look like a real car instead of a Mini that shrank in the wash. As with the three door, the five door includes A/C as a standard feature.
8. 2010 Kia Soul Base, $13,995.00
I’ll admit it: I like the Kia Soul and it’s cross brand competitor the Nissan Cube (which would have made the list if I dragged it out to 15 cars). It’s as close as you’re going to come to “fun to drive” in this price range, and it’s probably the most practical vehicle on the list so far. Like the Toyota Yaris models, even the base Kia Soul has A/C. If I were shopping in this price point, this is probably where I’d begin my search.
9. 2011 Ford Fiesta S, $13,995.00
If I were handing out the award for best value on the list, it would go the the new Ford Fiesta S (which is the only 2011 model on the list). Ford has packed a lot of content into the Fiesta, including power mirrors, capless fuel filler, aux in / USB jacks and A/C, yet has managed to keep the price reasonable for the entry level model. I was pleasantly surprised at the handling of the Ford Fiesta, and can easily say that it’s the sportiest ride on the list. If you enjoy getting your freak on with a twisty road, this is where you should begin shopping.
10. 2010 Suzuki SX-4 Base Sedan, $14,094.00
The Suzuki SX-4 is one of the better looking cars on the list, but no air conditioning would be a deal breaker for me at this price. If that’s not important to you, shop on, since the Suzuki is nearly as entertaining to drive as the Fiesta.
One more word of caution: it isn’t easy to find base models on dealer lots, since they take up as much room as loaded models, have less margin and can be hard to move. If you have to special order one, expect to pay full sticker price instead of haggling over invoice plus $500. On the other hand, sometimes a dealer can be very motivated to sell a year old entry level car, even if it’s in a higher trim level. It may take some time (and travel) to find exactly what your looking for, but I’ve always thought that the hunt is half the fun.