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10 Used Cars That Cost the Least to Own

10 Used Cars That Cost the Least to Own

2016 Hyundai Accent hatchback 5 door exterior profile

When they’re shopping, many people pay a lot of attention to the price of the cars they consider. It’s hard not to take that into consideration because most of us have to figure out how we can wedge a car payment into our monthly budget. So the price often is a key factor in deciding to choose one model versus another.

But there’s more to the cost of owning a car than its initial price. You will also have state and local fees, insurance, maintenance, and repairs to pay for. If you finance the car, you’ll have the loan cost (interest) to consider as well. A big cost that many people never even think about is depreciation: the car’s loss in value over time. All of these factors go into a car's cost of ownership, and cost of ownership is — all in — what you really pay for your car. Determining the cost of ownership for used cars is more difficult than for new cars because each used car is unique in the number of miles it has been driven and how it has been taken care of. But one thing is certain — smaller cars have the lowest cost of ownership. For this list, we looked most closely at 2016 model year vehicles, but the recommendations hold true for approximately 2014 to 2019. Here are the 10 used cars that cost the least to own.

2016 Hyundai Accent hatchback 5 door exterior profile

2016 Hyundai Accent

Hyundai has been making positive waves in the car market with its stellar product quality and its industry-leading warranty coverage. Those two factors make Hyundais very strong contenders in the cost-to-own sweepstakes, so it is not surprising that the least expensive used car to own — on average — is the Hyundai Accent subcompact sedan and five-door hatchback.

The 2016 Accent is powered by an economical 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine backed by a six-speed automatic transmission or a six-speed manual. EPA fuel economy ratings are good at 26 mpg city/36 mpg highway/30 mpg combined. Traction control, remote keyless entry, and a USB port are among the standard features, and many Accents were equipped with a number of options as well. The five-passenger subcompact has a ride that emphasizes comfort, and it is quieter than many of its competitors.

2016 Hyundai Accent hatchback 5 door exterior profile

2016 Chevrolet Spark

The Chevrolet Spark is one of the most popular small cars in the world, but since minicar aren’t especially popular here in America, it is not as well-known here as other versions are in other areas around the world. The smartly styled four-passenger hatchback is one of the least expensive late-model used cars you can buy.

A front-wheel-drive car, it is powered by a 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 98 horsepower, and it is equipped with a continuously variable automatic transmission or five-speed manual. Thanks to its light weight, fuel economy is stellar at 30 mpg city/41 mpg highway and 34 mpg combined. Traction control and a rearview camera are some standard items you can expect to find on any 2016 Spark. The 2016 Chevy Spark also has Bluetooth connectivity as standard. Because of its tall SUV-like profile, it offers a usable 27.2 cubic feet of cargo space.

2016 Hyundai Accent hatchback 5 door exterior profile

2016 Nissan Versa

The Nissan Versa is one of the most popular subcompact sedans in the American market. That's in part due to its a wide variety of features found on larger, more expensive models, and also because it's bigger and roomier than similarly priced vehicles with a big back seat and 14.9 cubic feet of trunk space.

Its single engine choice is a 1.6-liter four-cylinder that drives the front wheels through a five-speed manual or continuously variable automatic. The manual enables you to wrest more performance out of the engine’s 109 horsepower, but most Versas have an automatic transmission. Fuel economy is excellent at 31 mpg city/39 mpg highway/34 mpg combined. Traction control and Bluetooth are standard features. 

2016 Hyundai Accent hatchback 5 door exterior profile

2016 Toyota Yaris

The Toyota Yaris subcompact hatchback has Toyota’s vaunted reputation for reliability going for it. Frankly, that is a double-edged sword. The Yaris is a reliable car, but because of the Toyota reputation effect, it is often priced substantially higher than other cars of similar size. Despite this, it does offer a low cost to own.

The front-wheel-drive Yaris is powered by a 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 106 horsepower with a choice of a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission. Fuel economy is strong at 30 mpg city/36 mpg highway/32 mpg combined. The Yaris is one of the few cars in its class that already featured a touchscreen interface as standard equipment back in 2016 along with Bluetooth connectivity. Traction control is also a standard feature.

2016 Hyundai Accent hatchback 5 door exterior profile

2016 Kia Rio

The Kia Rio is a subcompact sedan that shares a great deal with the Hyundai Accent since Hyundai owns the Kia brand. It benefits from the Korean automaker’s strong push for high product quality and Kia’s lengthy vehicle warranty. Unlike its much more expressive brother, the Kia Soul that's also on this list, the Rio is a conservatively styled five-passenger sedan or hatchback that offers a subtler hint of youthful flair.

Under the hood is a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine that drives the front wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission. The engine provides 138 horsepower, giving the Rio a bit more bang that many of its subcompact brethren. Electronic stability control and hill-start assist are two welcome pieces of standard equipment on all 2016 Rios. The vehicle delivers good fuel economy of 27 mpg city/37 mpg highway/31 mpg combined.

2016 Hyundai Accent hatchback 5 door exterior profile

2016 Volkswagen Jetta

Many people consider the Volkswagen Jetta to be a premium compact sedan, but it is the model in its segment with the lowest cost-to-own figures. The car’s great looks, fun-to-drive nature, and excellent fuel economy all contribute to its strong cost-to-own showing.

The base 2016 Jetta is powered by a 150-horsepower 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine. It’s one of the few cars on this list to offer forced induction and the sportiness that accrues from it. At the same time, fuel economy is top-notch at 28 mpg city/39 mpg highway/32 mpg combined. The six-speed automatic transmission contributes to the high fuel efficiency and the performance feel. Electronic stability control and Bluetooth streaming are standard across the 2016 Jetta lineup. With European-bred looks and driving composure, the Jetta is one of the biggest bargains on this list.

2016 Hyundai Accent hatchback 5 door exterior profile

2016 Kia Soul

Speaking of bargains, the Kia Soul belongs in that category as well. The subcompact hatchback offers the dimensions of a small crossover SUV, so it brings a lot of versatility to the party. And no one will wonder what it is, because the Soul has exterior styling all its own.

The base 2016 Soul is powered by a 130-horsepower 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine backed by a six-speed automatic or six-speed manual. Other engines are available in 2016 model-year Souls, but the base has the lowest cost-to-own figure. Compared to other vehicles on this list fuel economy is only so-so at 24 mpg city/30 mpg highway/26 mpg combined, but you have to factor in the Soul’s big carrying capacity and versatility. It has a giant interior and offers an amazing 61.3 cubic feet of cargo space.

2016 Hyundai Accent hatchback 5 door exterior profile

2016 Hyundai Elantra

The Hyundai Elantra sedan brings with it the Hyundai benefits we’ve already alluded to — excellent build quality and top-rate warranty coverage. Beyond that, the Elantra is a very pleasant five-passenger compact sedan that brings a lot to this list.

First, there is power. Under its sleek hood is a 145-horsepower 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine, one of the stoutest powerplants on this roster. It drives the front wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission, which contributes to its laudable 27 mpg city/37 mpg highway/31 mpg combined fuel economy. The 2016 Elantra also is graced with a lot of standard equipment others lack, like cruise control and remote keyless entry. The Elantra rides on a long 106.3-inch wheelbase, and it has 14.8 cubic feet of trunk space.

2016 Hyundai Accent hatchback 5 door exterior profile

2016 Fiat 500

While most of the cars profiled here are fine “transportation appliances” and nothing more, the Fiat 500 minicar is much more emotional than that... or at least its buyers are. Capturing the classic styling of the legendary Fiat 500, the 2016 version revels in its unique looks and European cheekiness.

It’s a front-driver with just 101 horsepower from its 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine, but its diminutive size, upright seating position, and clever interior bestow it with a driving joy that others just don’t offer. Even base 2016 Fiat 500s offer upscale niceties like heated mirrors, cruise control, and remote keyless entry. Interior space for the rear passengers isn't ample and the 500 has less than 10 cubic feet of luggage space, but the rear seat folds down to turn the car a roomy and versatile two-seater.

2016 Hyundai Accent hatchback 5 door exterior profile

2016 Kia Forte

The Kia Forte is a steadfast and well-built compact sedan that is beginning to get recognition for those two traits. That means its acquisition cost is rising, but it still managed to make this list of cars with the lowest cost to own.

The 2016 Forte shares honors with the Hyundai Elantra as the car with the highest-horsepower base engine among vehicles cited here. Its 145-horsepower 1.8-liter engine is very similar mechanically to the Elantra’s. Fuel economy doesn’t quite meet the Elantra’s level, though, with EPA numbers of 25 mpg city/37 mpg highway/30 mpg combined. Bluetooth, remote entry, and heated mirrors are among the standard niceties on 2016 Fortes. Additional standards include electronic stability control and hill-start assist. The 14.9-cubic-foot trunk is one of the biggest sedan trunks in the segment.