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Top 10 Cheapest Cars To Own & Operate

Susan J

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Deep Pockets Are Not Required to Own One of These Affordable Vehicles

According to a report by Kelly Blue Book, U.S. consumers paid an average of $36,113 for a new car in 2017. If that seems like a lot to you, you’re not alone. Your fellow Americans are plunking down an average of $515 a month on a new car payment or $371 a month on used car loans. The fact is that most people spend around 5% of their total annual income on a car payment and an additional 5% on maintenance, repairs, and insurance.

For 2017, AAA estimates the average cost of owning a vehicle clocks in at $8,469 a year. That measure includes fuel costs, repairs, and depreciation. If all of those stats have you down, don’t despair. You don’t have to be average! By choosing a smaller and more reliable car, you can buck the trend and save more of your hard-earned money for more exciting things than replacing a slipping transmission. To help, we’ve put together our list of 10 of the cheapest cars on the road with the lowest operational costs.

10. Nissan Rogue


The only sport utility vehicle to make this list, the Nissan Rogue claims the number ten position. Its starting price of $24,800 is a little higher than the others featured here, but you’re getting a lot more vehicle here too. It has a higher clearance and a lot of space for people and their stuff, and this vehicle gets excellent gas mileage. The 170 hp engine approaches a city/highway combined average of 30 mpg. Keeping this compact SUV rolling down the road for 10 years will set you back a measly $6,500.

9. Kia Optima

Full Size Car

Taking the number nine slot is the Kia Optima. This sporty-looking four-door sedan starts at $22,600 for the 2018 base model. The 185 hp engine sips gas gingerly for a combined city/highway average of 29 mpg. Even the lowest-priced model boasts a host of safety features, including airbags nearly every place they’ll fit, electronic stability control, and four-wheel, anti-lock brakes. The 10-year estimated cost for maintaining this little wonder was $6,400.

8. Toyota Yaris

Subcompact Car

The postage stamp-sized Yaris is the smallest vehicle Toyota offers and rightly lays claim to the number eight position in our list. Even with its petite frame, it’s still a four door car that’s designed to seat five people. Its starting price of $15,635 will appeal to even the most frugal of drivers. The combined city/highway average of 33 mpg means rising prices at the pump are less likely to crimp your style. Most impressively, it comes with Toyota’s suite of safety features, like a pre-collision avoidance system and lane departure alert. The price to keep the Yaris on the road for 10 years is only $6,100.

7. Nissan Versa

Compact Car

Ringing in at the number seven, this plucky compact car will deliver some serious cost savings. Its base purchase price is a mere $12,310. The 109 hp engine delivers an average fuel economy of 35 mpg. With the money you save on gas alone, you’ll be headed out to your favorite restaurant a little more often. 10 years of ownership will only set you back $5,900.

6.Toyota Corolla

Compact Car

This mainstay of the compact car market does it again. Claiming the number six spot, the Toyota Corolla delivers an excellent value for the frugal driver. For a base price of $18,600, the 2018 model sports a tried-and-true 132 hp engine that offers an average fuel economy of 35 mpg. $5,800 will keep this popular car rolling down the road for the next decade.

5. Toyota Tacoma

Pickup Truck

Proving that trucks don’t have to be money pits is the Toyota Tacoma. The only truck to make our most affordable cars list, the Tacoma slides in at number five. With a base price of $25,200, it is the most expensive vehicle on the list, but you’re getting JD Power’s most reliable mid-sized truck for that price. The 159 hp engine delivers a somewhat-less-impressive 20 mpg city/highway combined average, but what you spend in gas you’ll save in maintenance. Keeping this truck road running over the next 10 years costs $5,800.

4. Honda Fit

Subcompact Car

The smallest iteration by this manufacturer takes the number four position. The light-weight price tag on the 2019 model rings up at $16,190. The 128 hp engine delivers an impressive combined average fuel economy approaching 33 mpg. 10 years spent on the open road carries a price tag of only $5,500.

3. Toyota Camry

Midsized Car

One of the most iconic mid-sized cars in America rolls in at number three. It’s the most spacious sedan on the list with far more space than many of the others vying for the top spot. With the 2018 model starting at $23,645, you get a lot of car for the money. The peppy 203 hp engine goes easy on the gas to deliver an impressive combined fuel economy of 35 mpg. $5,200 is your out-of-pocket expense to keep this vehicle in road-ready condition for the upcoming decade.

2. Kia Soul

Subcompact Car

If visions of boomboxes and hipster rodents came to mind when you think of the Soul, you’re likely already familiar with our second place contestant, the Kia Soul. The entry-level price for this bread box on wheels is $16,200. The boxy design makes it extra roomy with lots of interior space for a subcompact car. The 130 hp engine delivers a combined driving fuel efficiency of 27 mpg. While the gas mileage isn’t impressive, the $4,700 total ownership cost over ten years helps to easy the pain you’ll feel at the pump.

1. Toyota Prius

Compact Car

Occupying the most coveted spot on the list is the Toyota Prius. It’s the only hybrid vehicle to make the cut. Starting at $23,475 for 2018, the gas/electric engine combination leaves the competition in the dust when it comes to fuel efficiency. The 121 hp engine clocks an impressive 52 mpg with a combination of city and highway driving. The cost savings isn’t limited to fewer stops at the gas station. The ten year cost of maintaining the Prius is meager $4,300, making this one cheap car to own and operate.

Owning a reliable car that’s inexpensive to maintain frees up your finances. Having a car you can trust not to bust your budget provides a greater peace of mind to the cost-conscious consumer. After all, there are far more enjoyable places to lay down a few grand each year than at your local repair shop!

You can also reduce car ownership expenses by covering your car to protect it from UV rays that damage your car’s clear coat and paint. Washable seat covers will prevent stains and damage to upholstery, so you won’t have to pay for detailing or replacing seat fabric.

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