Most Affordable Cars in America
Cars are an expensive commodity, and for many Americans an automobile can be the most expensive purchase of a lifetime. According to analysts at car research website Edmunds.com, the average transaction price for a new car is now more than $40,000 (December 2020 data), but there are plenty of options available well below that average for folks on a budget. With prices starting around $13,000, quality new vehicles are available — complete with new-car warranties, a surprising number of standard features and the latest advanced safety technology. Here’s a look at new cars for less than $20,000 — the least expensive 2021 models available in America. Note: Prices shown are for base-level trims and do not include destination charges or additional options.
2021 Ford EcoSport
Base MSRP: $19,995
The entry-level crossover in the Ford lineup, the EcoSport is designed to offer the versatility of an SUV in a compact package. EcoSport is available in four trim levels with two engine choices and available all-wheel drive; however, the sub-$20,000 version is the front-wheel-drive EcoSport S, powered by a fuel-efficient 1.0-liter EcoBoost 3-cylinder engine producing 123 horsepower and 125 lb-ft of torque. The U.S. EPA rates the EcoSport 1.0-liter engine at 29 mpg highway / 27 mpg city / 28 mpg combined. Standard equipment on the EcoSport S incudes a rearview camera, two USB ports, air-conditioning, an AM/FM stereo, SYNC-enhanced voice recognition and a 4.2-inch LCD screen.
2021 Hyundai Elantra
Base MSRP: $19,650
Hyundai introduces an all-new Elantra for the 2021 model year. This seventh generation gets a longer wheelbase, a wider stance and a lower roof profile than the outgoing mode, as well as a new aggressive exterior similar to the recently redesigned Hyundai Sonata. The base-level Elantra SE comes in below the $20,000 mark with a long list of standard features such as wireless Apple CarPlay / Android Auto and Bluetooth connectivity, as well as advanced safety technology including forward collision avoidance with pedestrian detection and blind-spot collision avoidance. A fuel-efficient 2.0-liter engine produces 147 horsepower and is EPA rated at 43 mpg on the highway.
2021 Nissan Kicks
Base MSRP: $19,500
The entry-level model in Nissan’s crossover lineup, the 2021 Kicks gets fresh styling highlighted by a new front bumper, slim headlights and a much larger take on Nissan’s signature Double V-Motion grille. One of a growing number of crossovers that do not offer all-wheel drive, the front-drive Kicks comes well equipped featuring air-conditioning, Bluetooth connectivity, a 7.0-inch color touchscreen display, an AM/FM/CD audio system with eight speakers, Apple CarPlay / Android Auto, a rearview camera, three USB ports and 60/40 split-folding rear seats. Every Nissan Kicks is equipped with Nissan’s Safety Shield 360 suite of advanced safety features including automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane departure warning, blind-spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert, high-beam headlight assist and automatic rear braking.
2021 Nissan Sentra
Base MSRP: $19,410
A member of the Nissan lineup for more than 35 years, Sentra was all new for the 2020 model year. With styling that matches the rest of its siblings, the 2020 Sentra gets added safety features, more power, better handling and a range of other improvements. The entry-level Sentra S comes well equipped with air-conditioning, Bluetooth connectivity, a 7.0-inch color touchscreen display, an AM/FM audio system with four speakers, a USB port, pushbutton start, a rearview monitor, a 60/40 split-folding rear seat and 16-inch steel wheels with covers. Also standard is Safety Shield 360 which includes automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, forward collision warning, blind-spot warning, rear-door alert, rear cross-traffic alert, high-beam headlight assist, rear automatic braking and lane departure warning.
2021 Chevrolet Trailblazer
Base MSRP: $19,000
It’s been more than 10 years since Chevrolet sold a Trailblazer — and now the nameplate is back, worn by a stylish small crossover in the Chevy lineup. With styling that fits well with the recently returned Blazer, the Trailblazer is available in a variety of trim levels with the L front-drive version having the lowest base price. Trailblazer features Chevrolet’s latest infotainment system that includes wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as well as the ability for occupants to use two paired Bluetooth devices simultaneously. Power comes from an ECOTEC 1.2 turbo creating 137 horsepower teamed with a continuously variable transmission. Chevy Safety Assist with automatic emergency braking and lane-keeping assist is standard equipment on all Trailblazers.
2021 Volkswagen Jetta
Base MSRP: $18,995
Last year Volkswagen introduced an all-new Jetta built on a completely new platform, and it has a sleek coupelike design giving it a sporty look. The car is longer, wider and taller than the previous version, which not only gives the Jetta its new look, but it also translates into a more spacious cabin. The S trim anchors the Jetta lineup; a well-equipped car with standard features that include LED headlights, a 6.5-inch color touchscreen, two USB-C ports, Bluetooth connectivity, a rearview camera, automatic post-collision braking and 16-inch alloy wheels. A 6-speed manual gearbox is standard on the Jetta S; an available 8-speed automatic adds $800 to the price.
2021 Hyundai Veloster
Base MSRP: $18,900
This sporty coupe from Hyundai continues to stand out with its unique 3-door configuration: one door on the driver side, two on the passenger side. Updated for the 2019 model year, the base Veloster 2.0 is powered by a 147-horserpower engine and comes with a 7.0-inch touchscreen display, Bluetooth connectivity, Apple Carplay, Android Auto, a rear spoiler, a 6-speed manual transmission and 17-inch alloy wheels. Forward collision avoidance and lane-keeping assist are also standard.
2021 Subaru Impreza
Base MSRP: $18,795
Not only is the Subaru Impreza one of the most affordable cars in America, it is also the lowest priced vehicle with all-wheel drive (standard on all Imprezas). Subaru’s compact entry received a slight refresh for the 2020 model year and has a 2.0-liter Boxer engine producing 152 horsepower. The stylish small car is also fuel efficient, achieving up to 36 mpg on the highway when equipped with the continuously variable transmission. Standard features on the base-level Impreza include a 6.5-inch touchscreen display, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, a split-folding rear seat, a rearview camera and a 5-speed manual transmission. The CVT adds $1,300 to the price, but CVT-equipped Imprezas also come with Subaru’s EyeSight driver assist technology.
2021 Hyundai Venue
Base MSRP: $18,750
Last year Hyundai broadened its SUV lineup with the all-new Venue. Now Hyundai’s smallest crossover, the Venue brings its own unique style to the brand. All trims are front-wheel drive and powered by a 1.6-liter engine producing 121 horsepower, teamed with a 6-speed manual transmission. The base-level Venue S comes well equipped with air-conditioning, an 8.0-inch touchscreen display, an AM/FM/HD audio system, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay and Bluetooth connectivity. All Venues come with Hyundai SmartSense as a standard feature, which includes forward collision avoidance with pedestrian detection, lane-keeping assist and driver attention warning.
2021 Kia Forte
Base MSRP: $17,890
Completely redesigned in 2019 with updated features and a fresh new look, the stylish Kia Forte is powered by a fuel-efficient 2.0-liter 147-horsepower engine matched to a 6-speed manual gearbox. According to the U.S. EPA, the base-level Forte FE is rated at 37 mpg on the highway. Standard equipment on this small sedan includes air-conditioning, an 8.0-inch touchscreen display, a rearview camera with dynamic parking guide, Android Auto / Apple CarPlay, Bluetooth connectivity, forward collision avoidance, lane-departure warning and driver attention warning.
2021 Kia Soul
Base MSRP: $17,590
The Kia Soul was all new for the 2020 model year with fresh styling and an array of new features. Even as the Soul retains its iconic shape, it features a modern look with slim headlights, LED daytime running lights and boomerang-shaped taillights that frame the rear window. Available in multiple trim levels, the Soul’s entry-level LX comes with cloth seat trim, a trip computer, a 7.0-inch color touchscreen display, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, Bluetooth connectivity, one USB outlet, a split-folding rear seat and 16-inch steel wheels. A 6-speed manual gearbox is standard on the Soul LX —a continuously variable transmission is available for an additional $1,500.
2021 Kia Rio Sedan
Base MSRP: $16,050
The least expensive car in Kia’s lineup, Rio receives refreshed exterior styling for 2021 for a sportier look, including a new front bumper, grille and rear bumper treatments. Inside, Rio adds a larger 8.0-inch touchscreen display with a rear camera and standard wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto for all trim levels. Last year Kia upgraded Rio’s engine to a new 1.6-liter unit with multi-port injection producing 120 horsepower and 112 lb-ft of torque, combined with a new Intelligent Variable Transmission replacing the previous model’s 6-speed automatic. This resulted in a fuel economy increase to 36 mpg combined — up from 32 mpg combined for 2019. A new available Technology Package includes LED headlights, automatic temperature control, 15-inch alloy wheels, a smart key with pushbutton start and new or enhanced Drive Wise features.
2021 Hyundai Accent
Base MSRP: $15,395
A few years ago Hyundai updated the Accent with fresh styling that fit well with the rest of the lineup. Last year this affordably priced Hyundai received an updated Smartstream 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine producing 120 horsepower. When teamed with the new Intelligent Variable Transmission, fuel economy improves to 41 mpg on the highway. The base-level Accent SE is the only trim with a 6-speed manual transmission, and it comes with air-conditioning, Bluetooth connectivity, a 5.0-inch display screen, a rearview camera, an AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio system with four speakers, and 15-inch steel wheels.
2021 Nissan Versa
Base MSRP: $14,930
The Nissan Versa had been the lowest priced car in America for a number of years, but last year the Japan-based brand gave up that title with the introduction of an all-new Versa. The new Nissan Versa features new styling, a premium interior, the latest high-tech safety features and a much-improved ride. The base-level Versa S is equipped surprisingly well for the price, with features that include Zero Gravity front seats, a pushbutton start, three USB ports, a 7.0-inch color touchscreen display, Bluetooth connectivity and streaming, a rearview monitor and 15-inch steel wheels. Also standard is Nissan Safety Shield 360, which includes automatic emergency braking, high-beam headlight assist, rear automatic braking and lane-departure warning.
2021 Mitsubishi Mirage
Base MSRP: $14,295
Not only one of the most affordable new cars in America, Mitsubishi’s entry subcompact Mirage is also the lowest powered new car with a mere 78 horsepower emanating from its 1.2-liter 3-cylinder engine. Although power output is low, the Mirage delivers great fuel economy with an EPA-rated 36 mpg city / 43 mpg highway. For 2021 the Mirage gets fresh exterior styling as well as a range of new features. Standard equipment on the base-level Mirage ES include automatic climate control, Bluetooth connectivity, a 7.0-inch touchscreen display, Apple CarPlay / Android Auto, a rearview camera and an AM/FM audio system with four speakers. Forward collision mitigation with pedestrian detection is also standard equipment on every Mirage.
2021 Chevrolet Spark
Base MSRP: $13,400
The least expensive new car available in America, the stylish fun-to-drive Spark is available in several bright colors with funky names such as Passion Fruit, Toasted Marshmallow and — new for 2021 — Cayenne Orange Metallic. The Spark’s 1.4-liter engine produces 98 horsepower while delivering up to 38 mpg on the highway. Standard equipment on the base-level Spark LS includes a 7.0-inch touchscreen display, Bluetooth connectivity, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, two USB ports, a rearview camera and a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot.