The average new car transaction in the U.S. was $34,374 in July 2018, according to Kelley Blue Book, but we think you can do better than that. Yahoo Finance partnered with Autoblog to break down the best cars at $30,000. On this list, you’ll notice some cars with base prices much lower than our $30,000 mark, but that’s because these cars are significantly better when you add a few things on that bump the price.
“Usually carmakers advertise [base price] as the cheapest, least expensive, most basic car,” Greg Migliore, editor-in-chief of Autoblog.com, told Yahoo. “You probably don’t want that car.”
Before you buy a car, be sure to analyze the costs of owning one and determine exactly how much you can afford to spend. If you’re able to spend around $30,000 — you’re in the right place. If you can’t quite spend that much, look at some of our other Best Of lists:
2018 Honda Accord
The 2018 Honda Accord has been completely redesigned. After taking it for a first spin, Autoblog wrote it is “the best Accord Honda has ever built.” Their opinion didn’t change after back-to-back test drives with competitors. The base LX model starts at $23,570, so you’ll be able to choose what to add to bring the price up. Consider the EX sport model — it even comes with a manual transmission if you want it — or the EX-L luxury model.
“We also like that Honda now opens up the latter two trim levels to either of its new, more efficient turbocharged engines,” Autoblog writes. Honda is an Autoblog favorite; the Civic made it on our list of best cars for $25,000.
2018 Honda CR-V
So you love Honda but aren’t a fan of sedans: don’t worry — check out the Honda CR-V. The small SUV is certainly a fan favorite. Honda sells more than 350,000 CR-Vs a year.
There’s some wizardry at play here, too. It packs a ton of space inside a relatively small exterior, giving plenty of space for adults in the back seat and luggage and cargo in the trunk. “It’s hard to find areas where the CR-V doesn’t address the needs of its intended audience,” Autoblog wrote.
Similar to the Accord, the base price for the CR-V starts below $30,000 — manufacturer suggested retail price is $24,250. The base model is the only model that doesn’t come without the turbocharged engine, so consider stepping up to the EX-L. The turbocharged engine is responsive, efficient and stepping up a model or two will offer a much nicer driving experience. The CR-V probably won’t be able to tow your boat, but you can still lug some moderate loads around town (the CR-V has a towing capacity of 1,500 pounds.).
While nothing can really compete with the Honda CR-V, the Mazda puts up a pretty strong fight. It’s all new this year, and it focuses on providing what Autoblog calls an “engaging and refined” driving experience. The cabin challenges some higher-end luxury models from the German manufacturers, and the style is unmistakably Mazda.
The base price of the CX-5 is $24,150, which means you’ll get to decide what add-ons and upgrades you want for yours. When it came to a head-to-head comparison test, Autoblog wrote: “Two crossover SUVs, both class leaders, but in completely different ways. Which is better? That really depends on you.”
“At its simplest, the CX-5 is the best choice for the driver while the CR-V is the best choice for everyone else aboard,” Autoblog’s James Riswick wrote in his comparison. “However, each has a clear focus that sets it down a different path toward different target buyers.”
2018 Chrysler Pacifica
Yes, it’s true, we’re putting a minivan on a list of “best vehicles.” But just hear us out.
Chrysler, the first automaker to really capture the minivan market, is out with a new one in the Chrysler Pacifica. The base model starts at $26,995, and Autoblog found several well-equipped, Touring Plus models at dealerships nationwide still under $30,000. The Touring Plus comes with power sliding doors, a power liftgate, three-zone climate control and other creature comforts.
Autoblog even found some Touring L, the third-highest trim level, for around $30,000. The Touring L comes with leather, heated seats and a leather steering wheel.
Honorable mention: 2018 Chevrolet Volt
The Chevy Volt is the only hybrid on this list, and although there are several hybrids you could choose from in this price range (and some even cheaper), the Volt’s all-electric range is the highest among them at 53 miles. That’s more than enough for most there-and-back commutes.
It’s got a gasoline engine onboard too, but the range means you probably won’t spend much time there unless you’re planning a longer road trip. The Volt starts at $33,220, but remember — you’ll get a $7,500 federal tax credit for buying a hybrid.