Cheapest cars by class

Compare 11 of the most affordable models on the market.

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When you’re comparing the variety of options available in each class, you might want to start your search with the cars that offer the lowest starting price. These can give you a good idea of what’s out there for your specific price range. And with many options coming in under the $25,000 mark, you may be surprised to learn you won’t have to sacrifice your budget for quality.

How are car classes defined?

Manufacturers in the US define vehicles using the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) classification system. Cars are subdivided into five categories based on cargo volume:

  • Two-seaters. Less than 85 cubic feet
  • Subcompact cars. 85 to 99 cubic feet
  • Compact cars. 100 to 109 cubic feet
  • Midsize cars. 110 to 119 cubic feet
  • Large cars. Over 120 cubic feet

SUVs, trucks and minivans aren’t included in the EPA system. Because of this, manufacturers classify them similarly to cars. This means you’ll find SUVs listed as either small, compact, midsize or full-size. Trucks are generally only broken into two categories: full-size and compact.

Least expensive cars by class

While we stuck with just one model per class, you’ll find that many options are available at similar price ranges.

EPA classModelStarting MSRPYearly fuel cost*5-year cost to own*
Two-seater passenger car2019 Fiat 124 Spider$25,440Not availableNot available
Subcompact passenger car2019 Nissan Versa$12,460$1,000 to $1,200$25,429
Compact passenger car2019 Kia Forte$17,790$1,000 to $1,200$29,483
Midsize passenger car2019 Hyundai Sonata$22,650$1,250 to $1,400$33,702
Large passenger car2019 Ford Taurus$27,800$1,700 to $1,900$44,469
Small SUV2020 Kia Soul$17,490$1,300 to $1,500$27,029
Compact SUV2019 Hyundai Tucson$23,350$1,400 to $1,600$33,865
Midsize SUV2019 Dodge Journey$23,895$1,700 to $1,900$34,469
Full-size SUV2019 Nissan Armada$47,100$2,400 to 2,700$67,653
Compact truck2019 Nissan Frontier$19,090$1,900 to $2,100$36,048
Minivan2019 Dodge Grand Caravan$27,040$1,800 to $2,000$36,525

*Yearly fuel cost and 5-year cost to own prices are sourced from Edmunds.com’s True Cost to Own calculator. Your specific costs will vary based on where you live, your credit profile, how many miles you drive each year and other factors.

Two-seater car: 2019 Fiat 124 Spider

  • City/highway MPG: 26/35
  • NHTSA safety rating: Not rated
  • J.D. Power reliability rating: 3 out of 5 stars

With other two-seater convertibles coming in with base prices well above $60,000, the Fiat 124 Spider is practically a steal. Even the base trim has a luxurious feel, plus it’s known for good acceleration and low interior noise. But the lack of a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) safety rating could be a major turnoff for some drivers.

Subcompact car: 2019 Nissan Versa

  • City/highway MPG: 31/39
  • NHTSA safety rating: 4 out of 5 stars
  • J.D. Power reliability rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

The Nissan Versa is one of the least expensive options out there with a manufacturer suggested retail price (MSRP) of just $12,460. And because it’s a subcompact car, you can expect good fuel efficiency — which means you’ll pay less at the pump. However, the basic trim is manual transmission. If you’re not comfortable driving of a stick shift, you’ll have to opt for a more expensive automatic trim.

Compact car: 2019 Kia Forte

  • City/highway MPG: 27/37
  • NHTSA safety rating: 4 out of 5 stars
  • J.D. Power reliability rating: 4 out of 5

Taking first place on the U.S. News and World Report list of compact cars, the Kia Forte is a reliable and safe option for drivers looking for a stylish sedan. It has plenty of trunk space and tech features that comes standard with even the most basic trim. And its lower price compared to similar models doesn’t hurt either.

Midsize car: 2019 Hyundai Sonata

  • City/highway MPG: 26/35
  • NHTSA safety rating: 5 out of 5 stars
  • J.D. Power reliability rating: 3 out of 5 stars

While it may not have the most impressive engine and isn’t the most reliable option out there, the Hyundai Sonata does have its benefits. It’s a midsize car that won’t cost an arm and a leg to buy, has plenty of space and comes with an intuitive infotainment system. Plus, it earns a 5-star rating from the NHTSA.

Large car: 2019 Ford Taurus

  • City/highway MPG: 18/26
  • NHTSA safety rating: 5 out of 5 stars
  • J.D. Power reliability rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

The Ford Taurus has been called dated — but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad buy. In fact, it’s one of the most affordable large cars out there. And with high safety ratings, it may be a good choice if you don’t want to spend a lot to have a roomy trunk. However, if you’re looking to haul kids or friends around in the backseat, prepare for a cramped ride: It seems the Taurus sacrificed leg room for that spacious trunk.

Small SUV: 2020 Kia Soul

  • City/highway MPG: 27/33
  • NHTSA safety rating: Not yet rated
  • J.D. Power reliability rating: Not yet rated

The Kia Soul frequently ranks near the top of nearly every category it’s thrown into. And the small/subcompact SUV category is no different. It has plenty of space, intuitive technology and a curvy exterior redesigned for the 2020 model year. But if you’re looking for a sporty SUV, there may be better options out there — they just won’t beat the low starting price for the Soul’s basic trim.

Compact SUV: 2019 Hyundai Tucson

  • City/highway MPG: 23/30
  • NHTSA safety rating: 5 out of 5 stars
  • J.D. Power reliability rating: 4 out of 5 stars

While it doesn’t have the most top-of-the-line fuel economy or cargo space, the Hyundai Tucson offers a reliable and quiet ride for the price. If you don’t plan on going off-roading or hauling a ton of equipment around, the Tucson is a competitive choice among compact SUVs.

Midsize SUV: 2019 Dodge Journey

  • City/highway MPG: 19/25
  • NHTSA safety rating: 4 out of 5 stars
  • J.D. Power reliability rating: 2 out of 5 stars

With a low reliability rating, slow acceleration and minimal safety features, the Dodge Journey doesn’t have much to offer beyond its sticker price. If you’re looking to invest in a car that can last, it may be worth opting for a slightly more expensive midsize SUV.

Full-size SUV: 2019 Nissan Armada

  • City/highway MPG: 14/19
  • NHTSA safety rating: 4 out of 5 stars
  • J.D. Power reliability rating: 4 out of 5 stars

The Nissan Armada ranks well for large SUVs. But even with a more affordable MSRP than similar models, you’ll still end up paying a hefty sum over five years. And it may not be worth it. The Armada has an older infotainment system that hasn’t kept up with new technology, and it’s not known for having a lot of space compared to other vehicles in its class.

Compact truck: 2019 Nissan Frontier

  • City/highway MPG: 19/23
  • NHTSA safety rating: 4 out of 5 stars
  • J.D. Power reliability rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

The Nissan Frontier may have a nice exterior, but U.S. News places it at the bottom of its compact pickup truck list. This is largely because the Frontier lacks the hauling capacity found in similar compact trucks. But it’s certainly the most affordable option. The base trim comes in under $20,000, and its luxury trim is just under $37,000.

Minivan: 2019 Dodge Grand Caravan

  • City/highway MPG: 17/25
  • NHTSA safety rating: 4 out of 5 stars
  • J.D. Power reliability rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

With a slightly lower base MSRP than the Kia Sedona and Chrysler Pacifica, the Dodge Grand Caravan has a versatile seating arrangement and a V6 engine. But its reliability rating isn’t great. And it’s missing some updates that other minivans come equipped with. If you’re looking for advanced tech features in your new minivan, you might want to compare the basic trim Grand Caravan against others in its class.

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Bottom line

While some of the larger vehicles on this list may not be the most inexpensive, they all represent some of the lowest prices you’ll find for vehicles in each class.

When you’re ready to buy, be sure to compare your car loan options to ensure you’re getting a good deal.

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