6 great new cars under $18,000
Buying a new car on a budget can be a challenge, and you should prepare for some compromises. The trick is getting the right balance of value and quality for your money, without accepting one or more significant sacrifices that you may later regret. The good news: Our recent tests show there are several great cars available for under $18,000.
When looking at a car priced in the teens, it is natural to focus on the marketed base prices. After all, you're looking for a bargain and seeing "starting at $13K" can be enticing. Do understand that these cars tend to be very barebones at their starting price, being outfitted with manual transmissions and few frills. Often this rock-bottom price is simply a come-on to lure you to the showroom; you'd be very lucky to find even one of these price-leading models in dealers' inventories.
For our tests, we focus on purchasing popularly equipped models, giving a fair representation of what most customers are likely to buy. The first prices featured below represent the sticker-price for the test cars, although it is likely that you could negotiate that figure down by hundreds, if not more. We have also included the manufacturer suggested retail prices to provide a basic price range. (Detailed pricing is available on the model pages.)
Each car here has met our threshold for a Consumer Reports' Recommendation, meaning they performed well overall in our tests, have average-or-better predicated reliability, and perform adequately if included in government or insurance-industry crash tests.
So, if you're looking for a frugal new car, give these a close look:
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Chevrolet Sonic 1.8 LT - $17,455 as tested
Base MSRP price range: $14,185 - $21,470
The Sonic uses a standard 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine. Uplevel trims offer a modestly quicker and more fuel-efficient 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder mated to a somewhat balky six-speed manual. Handling is fairly nimble and the ride is relatively composed for this class, with excellent braking performance. The sedan has a huge trunk and a better view out, but the hatchback version has better cargo versatility. Both versions offer a relatively quiet cabin, but the rear seats are cramped. Options such as heated seats, a sunroof, and remote start are usually not found in this class. First year reliability has been average. (Read our Chevrolet Sonic road test.)
Honda Fit - $16,915 as tested
Base MSRP price range: $15,425 - $19,790
The subcompact Fit four-door hatchback offers easy cabin access and very good visibility. It has an amazing amount of interior room and various seat-folding arrangements. While the not overly powerful, it feels responsive, with a smooth and willing engine, and agile handling. Fuel economy is an excellent 33 mpg overall for the manual and 30 mpg for the automatic. Although the ride is a bit choppy, it is supple enough. But elevated road noise contributes to the din. (Read our Honda Fit road test.)