10 of the Best Cars under $20,000

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Shopping for a new car is difficult for one main reason: There are too many options. Focusing on the factors that will make the greatest impact on your purchase is the simplest way to start narrowing things down.

One of the best factors to start with is budget. Below are the 10 best 2018 models for less than $20,000, according to industry experts and consumer reviews from trusted sources.

If you look at this list and think that they're all compact and subcompact cars, you aren't wrong. All this means is if you  want to buy a large or luxury car for under $20,000, you're going to need to get it used. Because used cars vary in price based on condition and miles, it's easier to pick a model and explore your options before moving on to any next steps. Just make sure you're covered with an affordable car insurance policy.

As for the best cars under $20,000, reviewers and industry experts have given the thumbs-up to the following models:

The Hyundai Kona: Starting at $19,500

The Hyundai Kona is one of the newest cars to hit the subcompact SUV category. It's engaging, powerful and comes with one of the best warranties in the industry. And, most importantly, it comes in cooly under the $20,000 mark for starting models.

Some of the best standard features on the Hyundai Kona include:

  • 2.0 liter, 147 hp automatic engine
  • Keyless entry
  • 19 cubic feet of standard cargo space
  • USB port, Bluetooth, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, and a 7-inch infotainment system screen
  • Wireless cell phone hookup
  • Rear-view camera

The Kona comes in with an EPA mileage rating of 26 mpg in the city and 29 mpg on the highway, making this an efficient subcompact crossover, too.

The Ford Fiesta ST: Starting at $20,000

The Ford Fiesta is an exceptional subcompact car. And, while the sticker price is right around the $20,000 mark, there is plenty of time to get a deal on a model with some additional features thrown in. 

The ST is a sportier trim, and comes standard with:

  • 4-door hatchback design
  • 1.3 liter, 120 hp, EcoBoost 4-cylinder engine 
  • Intelligent Access with Push-Button Start
  • Sony® audio system
  • Leather-trimmed and heated front seats
  • SYNC® with MyFord Touch®, an advanced technology bundle that includes a 6.5-inch color LCD touch screen, two USB ports, an SD card reader and a voice-activated entertainment system. 

It's rare to find so many features  in a car at this price point. Even better, experts find the Fiesta's ride to be quiet and controlled. The Ford Fiesta has an EPA mileage rating of 26 mpg in the city and 33 mpg on the highway.

The Toyota Yaris iA: Starting at $15,950

Formerly known as the Scion iA, the Toyota Yaris iA has one trim and it's well under the $20,000 mark. Loaded with style and tech features, it's easy to see why the iA is a top-rated compact.

Some of the Yaris iA's top features include:

  • 1.5 liter, 4-cylinder engine with 106 hp
  • Standard Bluetooth wireless technology
  • 7-inch touchscreen display
  • Active Safety System: dynamic stability control, traction control, anti-lock brakes, electronic braking, and brake override system
  • Low-Speed Pre-Collision System
  • Remote keyless entry with push button start
  • 60/40 fold-down rear seats

Standard with unique 16-inch split-spoke alloy wheels, this car is budget-friendly without sacrificing on features or style. With an EPA rating of 32 mpg city and 40 mpg on the highway, this car is as efficient as it is stylish.

The 2018 Kia Soul: Starting at $16,200

When it comes to power, safety and spaciousness at a bargain price, it's hard to beat the Kia Soul. 

The 2018 Kia Soul  comes equipped with:

  • 1.6 liter, 130 hp engine
  • Side-mirror mounted LED turn signals
  • 16-inch alloy wheels 
  • AM/FM/MP3/SiriusXM Audio System 
  • Bluetooth wireless technology
  • 60/40 split-folding rear seat
  • Dual and seat mounted airbags, full-length side curtain airbags, electronic stability control (ESC) and electronic brake-force distribution (EBD)

The Soul even received a 4-star crash safety rating from the NHTSA and comes in efficiently at an EPA estimated 25 mpg in the city and 30 mpg on the highway. 

The Kia Forte: Starting at $16,800 (Manual) or $19,400 (Automatic)

The Forte's design, matched with its price, makes it highly competitive in the marketplace. 

The 2018 automatic Kia Forte comes standard with:

  • 2.0 liter, 147 hp engine
  • Side-mirror mounted LED turn signals
  • 16-inch machine finish alloy wheels 
  • Rear-camera display
  • UVO with 7-inch touch-screen display
  • AM/FM/MP3/SiriusXM Audio System 
  • Bluetooth wireless technology
  • Remote keyless entry with trunk opener
  • 60/40 split-folding rear seat
  • Dual and seat mounted airbags, full-length side curtain airbags, electronic stability control (ESC) and electronic brake-force distribution (EBD)

The Kia Forte was awarded the 2018 IIHS Top Safety Pick and has an NHTSA Overall 5-Star Crash Safety Rating. And, with an EPA estimated rating of 32 mpg city and 37 mpg highway, the Forte is fuel-efficient, powerful and ready to go.


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The Mazda3 4-Door or 5-Door Hatchback: Starting at $18,000

The Mazda3 isn't just affordable, it's quality, design and fun wrapped up in a compact model. The Mazda3 was overhauled in 2014 and Mazda has been making minor improvements each year since. 

The 2018 model comes standard with a 2.5 liter engine with the Touring model, and comes with additional feature availability (if you're willing to go above the $20,000 limit).

The interior of the Mazda3 is spacious, while still sporty. The car handles well and comes equipped with a number of safety features as well as other conveniences, including:

  • Push-button start
  • Keyless entry
  • Power windows and locks
  • 60/40 split folding back seat

The Mazda3 rated very well in safety testing and fuel economy and has an EPA rating of 27 mpg in the city and 31 mpg on the highway.

The Ford Focus: Starting at $17,950

This fuel-efficient economy car comes in a variety of trims and is a great bargain for any savvy new-car shopper looking for a resourceful vehicle. With seating for up to five passengers, the Ford Focus is efficient at an estimated 30 mpg in the city and 40 mpg on the highway. 

Some of the best standard features include:

  • 2.0 liter, 160 hp engine
  • Personal Safety System for driver and front passenger includes dual-stage front airbags, seat belt pretensioners, seat belt energy management retractors, seat belt usage sensors, driver’s seat position sensor, crash severity sensor, restraint control module and Front-Passenger Sensing System 
  • Rear-view camera
  • 60/40 split fold-down rear seat

The 2012 Ford Focus was the best-selling car in the world and with good reason. The 2018 model of this car is even better than its award-winning predecessor. 

The Toyota Corolla: Starting at $16,800

The Toyota Corolla has an impressive history of  reliability and performance in the affordable car market. 44.1 million Corollas have been sold since the car debuted in 1966, and for good reason.

The Kelley Blue Book awarded this model its Best Resale Value Award. The 2018 Corolla includes a number of standard features worth noting, including:

  • 1.8 liter 132 hp engine
  • Split-folding rear seatback
  • Remote keyless power door locks
  • Eight airbags (dual front side-mounted and front and rear head) and Toyota’s own Star Safety System

The 2018 Corolla is efficient at an EPA estimated 28 mpg in the city and 36 mpg on the highway. Reviewers who have taken this new model for a test drive have been impressed. When it comes to economical best cars, it’s hard to go wrong with the Corolla.

The Honda Civic: Starting at $18,940

The Honda Civic is a classic favorite in the affordable car market. Not only is it fast, coming in at 158 hp, but it's efficient, with an EPA estimated 32 mpg city and 40 mpg highway. In fact, the fuel economy and engine performance are two of the Civic's most-loved features.

Inside, the roomy cabin, quality materials and advanced features are impressive, especially for this price point. Some standard features include:

  • 17-inch alloy wheels
  • Advanced Front Airbags and Side Curtain Airbags with Rollover Sensor
  • Bluetooth
  • Apple CarPlay and Android Integrations

You can never go wrong with a Civic, and the 2018 model is no exception.

The Honda Fit: Starts at $17,080

The Honda Fit - available as both a sedan and hatchback - gives you more space and versatility for your money than most subcompacts. And at under $20,000, you can comfortably afford all but the top model.

The car comes equipped with a number of safety features, including:

  • Vehicle Stability Assist™ (VSA®) with traction control
  • Anti-lock brakes
  • Tire-pressure monitoring system 
  • Dual-front and side-curtain airbags
  • Multiple rear seat configurations for increased hauling capacity

The 2018 model comes with new features, including:

  • Adaptive cruise control
  • Lane-keeping assist and lane-departure warning
  • Automated emergency braking 

This ultra-low-emissions vehicle boasts 33 mpg in the city and 36 mpg on the highway. Though some find the 2018 model lacking in some of the fun of previous models, it's a responsive, reliable vehicle worth considering.

Consider Insurance When You're Considering Your Budget

Insurance should be a cost you consider as you determine which car you want, and can afford. Most states have mandatory minimums for insurance coverage, and you may want more coverage for your car than the bare minimums. 

Independent agents can help you find the auto coverage you need at a price that fits  your budget. Independent agents work with several insurance companies, not just one - which means they can advocate for your needs, not for a parent company.

The bottom line: our agents make it easy to work the cost of insurance into a car you'll love, all for under $20,000.

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