You don’t have to spend a lot of money to get a great car. Check out these great picks!

These Deals Prove You Needn't be Independently Wealthy to Score a Fresh Set of Wheels

-- by Manuel Carrillo III

In today's market, buying a new car is a well-off person's game. The most responsible advice recommends you spend no more than 10 percent of your gross monthly income on car expenses (which beyond just the car payment, also includes maintenance, insurance and fuel.)

Looking at a loaded $35,000 midsize sedan like the Honda Accord or a lightly optioned Nissan Pathfinder three-row crossover SUV? Go ahead with that down payment as long as you're bringing home more than $100,000 per year.

If, like most people, you're below the top 14 percent of income earners in the US, and make closer to the median personal income of $40,000, the 10 vehicles below will better suit your budget.

The Chevy Spark is the cheapest car on sale today, but it’s no penalty box.

2020 Chevrolet Spark

At $14,095*, the Chevrolet Spark hatchback is the cheapest new car you can buy today, but it's no penalty box. Standard features include ten air bags, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a seven-inch touchscreen, and 27.2 cubic-feet of cargo space with the rear seat folded.

The Spark's 1.4-liter, four-cylinder engine makes 98 horsepower and 94 pound-feet of torque, which isn't racy by any means, but good enough for getting around town. The engine's power is channeled to the front wheels through a five-speed manual transmission. If you can't drive stick, an extra $1,100 gets you a continuously variable transmission (CVT).

When paired with the automatic transmission, the Spark is good for an EPA-estimated 30 miles per gallon in the city and 38 mpg highway. The manual is slightly less efficient at 29/38 city/highway mpg**.

The Nissan Versa has been fully redesigned for the 2020 model year.

2020 Nissan Versa

The Versa is all new for the 2020 model year, leapfrogging the 2019 model in terms of quality, refinement and standard features. Starting at $15,655, the Versa sedan boasts advanced driver-assistance features like pedestrian-detecting automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning, automatic high-beams, and even rear automatic braking. Standard infotainment features include a seven-inch touchscreen display with Google Assistant and Siri Eyes Free.

The Versa is powered by a 1.6-liter, four-cylinder engine that makes 122 horsepower and 114 pound-feet of torque. A standard five-speed manual transmission channels power to the front wheels, while a CVT adds $1,670 to the bottom line.

But the more fuel-efficient CVT will save you about $200 per year on your annual fuel costs, according to the EPA, meaning you'd recoup the added money spent on the automatic transmission after eight years of ownership. With the CVT, the Versa is estimated to achieve 32/40 city/highway mpg versus the five-speed manual's 27/35 city/highway mpg**.

The Hyundai Accent is backed by the best warranty in the business.

2020 Hyundai Accent

When Hyundai entered the US market in 1986, the Korean automaker made a name for itself by offering economically priced cars that would often undercut the Japanese competition. More than 30 years later, that's no longer the case as entrants from Chevrolet and Nissan now undercut the Hyundai Accent sedan's $16,125 starting price.

The Accent lacks the impressive array of standard features equipped on the Versa, but does offer the peace of mind of Hyundai's 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty, and five-year/60,000-mile new-vehicle limited warranty.

All Accents are powered by a 1.6-liter, four-cylinder engine sending 120 horsepower and 113 pound-feet of torque to the front wheels. A six-speed manual transmission comes standard. The optional CVT will set you back an extra $2,355, but only saves you $100 per year on your annual fuel costs versus the manual, which returns an estimated 29/39 city/highway mpg versus the CVT's 33/41 city/highway mpg**.

The button-cute Yaris sips fuel and comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto standard.

2020 Toyota Yaris

At $16,605*, the Yaris sedan is the least-expensive Toyota you can buy now, and is the fourth least-expensive car on this list. But when you opt for one of the more expensive entrants in the subcompact segment, you're bound to get more standard features. Right out of the gate, the base Yaris is equipped with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a seven-inch touchscreen, as well as HD and satellite radio. Standard safety features include low-speed automatic emergency braking.

All Yaris sedans are powered by a 1.5-liter, four-cylinder engine making 106 horsepower and 103 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed manual transmission is standard. A six-speed automatic is available only on the top-spec Yaris XLE, which starts at $19,705*. With the manual, the Yaris returns an EPA-estimated 30/39 city/highway mpg. The automatic returns 32/40 city/highway mpg, or 35 mpg combined**. That's only 1 mpg more than the manual, which means a savings of only $50 in annual fuel costs versus rowing your own.

The Yaris also comes in a hatchback version, but its $18,705* starting price is $2,100 dearer than the sedan.

The Honda Fit is fun to drive, and will swallow cargo like a magic tent from Harry Potter.

2019 Honda Fit

The Honda Fit is spacious and fun to drive, but is relatively pricey at $17,120*. The lower-priced vehicles above offer more standard features and are also fun to drive. But the little Honda hatchback offers up to 52.7 cubic-feet of cargo space, which is competitive with vehicles one size class larger. This is thanks in part to Honda’s innovative Magic Seat system, which allows for a variety of interior configurations.

The Fit is also more powerful than its competition with a 1.5-liter, four-cylinder engine that makes 130 horsepower and 114 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed manual transmission is standard. The CVT costs $800 more and lowers horsepower and torque figures to 128 and 113, respectively.)

The slight CVT power deficit makes up for itself with 33/40 mpg city/highway and 36 mpg combined versus the manual's 29/36 mpg city/highway and 31 mpg combined rating**. That means the CVT will save you an estimated $150 per year on your annual gasoline expenditures.

The FIAT 500 doesn’t come with a ton of standard features, but you can’t beat the Italian style.

2019 FIAT 500

The FIAT 500 is arguably the most stylish car on this list, but pretty much every other car here is a better buy. Starting at $17,990*, the 500 offers no noteworthy standard infotainment or driver-assistance features.

Powering the FIAT 500 is a 1.4-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder engine that makes 135 horsepower and 150 pound-feet of torque. The 500 comes standard with a five-speed manual transmission. A six-speed automatic is $995 more, and also costs $200 per year to fill up versus the manual.

With the manual, the 500 gets an EPA-estimated 28/33 city/highway mpg. The automatic returns 24/32 city/highway mpg**.

The Nissan Sentra is the cheapest compact on sale today, and comes standard with a seven-inch touch screen.

2019 Nissan Sentra

The Nissan Sentra may be in sixth place on this list of the cheapest cars on sale in America, but at $18,915*, the Sentra earns a first-place spot for being the least-expensive compact car on sale today in the US. (Every car above this is in the smaller subcompact class.)

That said, the 2019 Sentra's low price is this car's biggest draw. The most notable standard feature is the seven-inch touchscreen. But an an all-new Sentra is going on sale in 2020, albeit for a slightly higher price, and should provide robust for the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla.

The Sentra is powered by a 1.8-liter, four-cylinder engine good for 130 horsepower and 128 pound-feet of torque. That engine is mated to a six-speed manual transmission. Opting for the CVT will cost you $690 more. At 29/37 city/highway mpg, though, the automatic will save you $700 in fuel costs over seven years versus the manual transmission, which gets 27/35 city/highway mpg**.

The Veloster is a blast to drive, and comes standard with some great driver assistance features.

2020 Hyundai Veloster

The 2020 Hyundai Veloster is one of the strongest buys on this list at $19,520*. The fun-to-drive hatchback comes with driver-assistance features like automatic emergency braking and lane-keep assist. A seven-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto also comes standard.

The Veloster is powered by a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine pushing 147 horsepower and 132 pound-feet of torque to the front wheels via a six-speed manual transmission. A six-speed automatic costs $1,000 more.

With the automatic, the EPA estimates the Veloster will return 27/34 city/highway mpg versus the manual's 25/33 mpg**. It takes ten years of ownership before the automatic transmission pays for itself in fuel savings.

The Subaru Impreza is the gold standard for all-wheel drive capability on the cheap.

2020 Subaru Impreza

If you're looking for all-weather, all-wheel-drive capability on the cheap, your sole option is the Subaru Impreza. With standard features like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto on a 6.5-inch touchscreen, the Impreza sedan is a pretty great deal for a starting price of $19,595*.

The Impreza comes standard with a 2.0-liter, flat-four-cylinder engine with 152 horsepower and 145 pound-feet of torque. A five-speed manual is the base transmission. Opting for the CVT will set you back an additional $1,300. With the CVT, the Impreza is estimated to achieve 28/36 city/highway mpg versus 23/31 city/highway mpg for the manual**. It would take about five years of ownership to recoup the higher cost of the automatic transmission.

The Hyundai Elantra is a great buy, but Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are optional extras.

2020 Hyundai Elantra

The Elantra may be the most expensive car on this list, but it's also one of the best buys you'll see here, making it a sound way to spend $19,880*. Standard features include automatic emergency braking, lane-keep assist and a knee airbag, but unlike the Veloster, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are optional.

The Elantra employs a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine generating 147 horsepower and 132 pound-feet of torque through a standard CVT. The Elantra is also one of the most fuel-efficient vehicles on this list with an EPA rating of 31/41 city/highway mpg**.

*Vehicle MSRP of $18,390 excludes taxes, title, transportation, options, and dealer fees.
**Fuel economy values (mpg) are EPA estimates. Actual mileage will vary and depends on several factors including driving habits and vehicle condition.
Categories: Research