Special Report

10 Cheapest Cars in America

Traffic JamU.S. auto sales appear to be having a record year. With auto buyers encouraged by dealer discounts, inexpensive credit, and depressed gas prices, car and light-duty truck sales in September were up by 15.8%, compared to the same month last year.

While cheap fuel has led to a significant rise in SUV sales, many Americans are still looking to buy entry-level vehicles. The average purchase price of a vehicle was $33,730 in September, but there are several vehicles available for sale in the U.S. for less than half this value, including a Nissan Versa, which can be purchased for $11,742. Based on vehicle valuation site Kelley Blue Book’s (KBB) estimate of fair purchase price, which determines what buyers should be paying for a car considering actual sales as well as supply and demand, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the 10 cheapest cars available to purchase in the U.S.

The class, or size, of the vehicle, is usually a clear determinant for the purchase price. While there will be variations based on features and brand pedigree, large SUVs, for example, will generally be more expensive than mid-size sedans. For this reason, the cheapest vehicles are all compact or subcompact cars.

These are the 10 cheapest cars in America. 

In an interview with 24/7 Wall St., KBB analyst Tim Fleming agreed that “vehicles on this list are on the very, very small end of the spectrum.” He noted that two of these — the smart fortwo and the Scion iQ — “are the smallest models by size on the U.S. market right now.”

Because these vehicles tend to be among the smallest, they are often marketed as entry-level vehicles by manufacturers. “These are the entry-level models for the different manufacturers. They’re small, they don’t have as many features as some of the other models on the market, and they’re marketed mostly for people buying their first car,” Fleming added.

If a particular model is in low demand, dealers are more likely to sell these vehicles for less. As American car buyers have gravitated towards large SUVs, some of these inexpensive smaller cars appear to be suffering from particularly low demand. While U.S. car sales are up by more than 5% so far in 2015 over the same period last year, sales of six of the 10 cheapest models are down over the same period. Three of these are down by more than 30%.

While low demand may be a factor in the low cost of these vehicles, Fleming cautioned that demand is likely not as significant a driver as it would be for other car types: “One thing we tend to see is that even on the smaller, cheaper cars: they’re already priced so low that we don’t really see dealers giving huge discounts on them, because they can’t go much lower.”

To identify the 10 cheapest cars for sale in the U.S., 24/7 Wall St. reviewed Kelley Blue Book’s current fair purchase price, which is the site’s estimate for how much an autobuyer should expect to pay for a vehicle based on existing purchase data. In addition, we considered monthly and year-to-date car sales data through September. Model specifications, including fuel efficiency, were obtained on dealer websites.

These are the 10 cheapest cars in America.

10. iQ
> Fair purchase price: $14,898
> Trim: Hatchback 2D
> YTD U.S. sales: 465

A Toyota (NYSE: TM) spin-off company, scion introduced its first car to American motorists in 2004. With a fair purchase price of $14,898, the Scion iQ is one of the least expensive cars in the country. Since last year, U.S. sales of the Scion iQ have dropped 73.5%. In 2015, Scion has sold only 465 iQs — well below the 1,752 sold by this time in 2014. Due in part to plummeting sales, Scion is removing the iQ from its product line. Along with one of its main competitors, the smart fortwo, the Scion iQ is physically one of the smallest cars for sale in the U.S.

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9. Accent
> Fair purchase price: $14,580
> Trim: GLS sedan 4D
> YTD U.S. sales: 48,625

According to KBB, most Americans can expect to pay just under $14,600 for a new Hyundai Accent. Hyundai has sold 48,625 Accents so far this year, up from 46,405 over the same period last year. While the Accent is the Korean automaker’s most affordable vehicle, it is not its best selling. The Accent is far less popular than its slightly more expensive cousin, the Elantra, which sells for about $16,849. Hyundai has sold nearly 194,000 Elantras year to date, making it the 15th most popular vehicle in America in 2015.

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8. Yaris
> Fair purchase price: $14,549
> Trim: L hatchback Coupe 2D
> YTD U.S. sales: 15,535

Marketed for its fuel economy, the Toyota Yaris gets 32 miles per gallon in the city and 36 miles per gallon on the highway. The Yaris is one of the fastest growing car models in the country. Year to date, sales of the Yaris have increased by 50.3% from the same time last year. The Yaris’s sales are especially impressive as many economy cars are experiencing a year-over-year decline in sales. Whereas earlier models were shipped from Japan, the 2015 Yaris is both designed and manufactured in France.

7. Sonic
> Fair purchase price: $14,335
> Trim: LS sedan 4D
> YTD U.S. sales: 50,535

One of the least expensive cars available to American buyers, GM’s (NYSE: GM) Chevy Sonic was first introduced in 2012 as a replacement for the Aveo. With a fair purchase price of $14,335, the 2015 Sonic was named a Top Safety Pick in the small car segment by the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety. The Sonic is slightly less fuel efficient than many cars in its class. A manual-transmission Sonic will get 26 miles per gallon in the city and 35 miles per gallon on the highway. Sales of the Sonic have dropped significantly since 2014. Chevrolet has sold 50,535 Sonics year to date, a 35.2% decrease from the the 77,947 they had sold by this time last year.

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6. Fiesta
> Fair purchase price: $14,271
> Trim: S sedan 4D
> YTD U.S. sales: 53,868

The Fiesta is not only Ford’s (NYSE: F) most affordable vehicle, it is also one of the least expensive cars available from any automaker. According to KBB, a typical American consumer can expect to pay $14,271 for a new four-door Fiesta. The Fiesta gets about 28 miles per gallon on city streets and 36 miles per gallon on the highway. Ford accounts for over 15% of all cars sold in the U.S. Along with Chevrolet, it is one of only two American automakers offering models that are among the cheapest in the country.

5. Rio
> Fair purchase price: $13,754
> Trim: LX sedan 4D
> YTD U.S. sales: 20,276

With a fair purchase price of $13,754, the Kia Rio is the fifth least expensive car on the market. A Rio with automatic transmission gets 37 miles per gallon on the highway and 27 miles per gallon in the city. The Rio competes primarily with the Chevrolet Sonic, Ford Fiesta, Nissan Versa, and Hyundai Accent. A South Korean company, Kia Motors America accounts for 3.5% of all vehicles sold in the U.S. As with many economy cars, sales for the Kia Rio are lagging. Year to date, Kia has sold 20,276 Rios, significantly less than the 29,387 sold by this time last year.

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4. Mirage
> Fair purchase price: $12,959
> Trim: DE hatchback 4D
> YTD U.S. sales: 17,971

The Mitsubishi Mirage is a small, four-door, five-passenger subcompact car. With a highway fuel economy of 44 miles per gallon, it is the most fuel-efficient non-hybrid car on sale in the U.S. After selling nearly twice as many Mirages in 2014 than was expected, Mitsubishi is not making any changes to its current Mirage model until the 2017 model year. The Mirage is the first mass-produced car imported from Thailand.

3. fortwo
> Fair purchase price: $12,657
> Trim: Pure hatchback coupe 2D
> YTD U.S. sales: 5,432 (all smart cars)

The smart car was first introduced to European drivers in 1997, after the Swiss watchmaker Swatch partnered with German automaker Mercedes-Benz to create an affordable car for efficiency-oriented city drivers. With two seats and a three-cylinder engine, smart’s base model’s name is also an apt description of its size — the fortwo is the smallest car sold in the U.S. Smart’s fortwo pure hatchback is also one of the least expensive cars on the American auto market. Drivers can expect to pay $12,657 for a new smart fortwo pure hatchback.

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2. Spark
> Fair purchase price: $12,262
> Trim: LS hatchback 4D
> YTD U.S. sales: 27,839

At $12,262, the Chevrolet Spark is one of the cheapest new cars available to American motorists. Spark owners also spend less at the pump. The Spark, classified as a subcompact car by the EPA, gets an estimated 39 miles per gallon on the highway. While the vehicle’s low cost appeals to a certain segment of consumers, its compact size may also be appealing to drivers living in cities where parking options are limited. Chevrolet has sold 27,839 Sparks so far this year, slightly less than the 30,937 it had sold by this time in 2014.

1. Versa
> Fair purchase price: $11,742
> Trim: S sedan 4D
> YTD U.S. sales: 109,832

At just $11,742, the Nissan Versa is the least expensive car in today’s market. Like most of the cars in this category, the Versa is classified as compact by the EPA. The Versa underwent a full redesign in 2012, in part to improve fuel economy. An economy car, the Versa ranks slightly below average in J.D. Power and Associates’s studies of comfort, style, performance and design. A manual-transmission Versa has an EPA estimated fuel economy of 36 miles per gallon on the highway and 27 miles per gallon in the city. It is one of the top-selling cars in the U.S.

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