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Home » Auto Insurance, Auto Ownership, Budgeting

The Top 15 Cheapest New Cars of 2011

Last updated by on 65 Comments

Update: I have since published a list of the cheapest new cars of 2014

Thinking of buying a new car? If you’re frugal, the thought of doing some research to find the cheapest new car has probably crossed your mind. Good news. I did the dirty work to find the least expensive new vehicles of 2011.

My 2010 cheapest cars report covered the top 10 low-cost vehicles. This year, I bumped it to 15, because a few of my favorites didn’t quite make the top 10. ALL of the vehicles you will find on the list have automatic transmission. I don’t drive a stick myself, and I’m sure many of you don’t either. However, if you are interested in manual trans, all of these vehicles have a version, and they generally run about $1,000 less than the MSRP’s I quoted.

least expensive new cars

The New Car Caveat

Before we get started, I’ll once again give the caveat that I am not an advocate of buying new cars, however, I do believe that if you buy a cheap new car and drive it into the ground, there is a good chance that it could comparatively save you money versus buying used. Want the best of both worlds? The 3-year resale value of these vehicles is usually around 55-60% and the 5-year resale value is often around 40%.

You’ll notice I also listed dealership costs, which should give you an idea of how much room you have to haggle. The Honda Civic and Hyundai Accent should have a lot of wiggle room, with over $2,000 in difference between dealer cost and MSRP. The Mazda 2 and Kia Rio, on the other hand, are actually both priced below dealer cost, making them loss leaders for the dealership. Wiggle room will be tight.

Current incentives were not factored into the prices, and a few models actually did have up to $1,000 cash back incentives at the moment.

Fuel, Maintenance, & Insurance Costs on Cheap Cars

Other than the price itself, cheap cars tend to have much lower total ownership costs than their more expensive brethren. Small and cheap tend to go hand-in-hand, and so do small and fuel efficient. Most of the vehicles on this list have an average EPA estimated MPG of over 30. The one year fuel cost estimates were based on 45% highway driving, 55% city driving, 15,000 annual miles, and $3.07 for a gallon of regular gasoline (source: fueleconomy.gov).

Maintenance costs are usually cheaper as well. The goal of auto manufacturers is to produce these vehicles as inexpensively as possible. Therefore, their parts are cheap. And so are their replacement parts. And because these vehicles tend to be popular, their parts are easy to find, reducing scarcity and lowering prices.

Insurance costs on these cars are usually lower as well because insurance costs are derived from the market value of the vehicle. The lower the cost of vehicle, generally, the lower the cost of insurance for it.

Once Again, Foreign Automakers Dominate the List of Cheapest Vehicles

All but two of the vehicles to make this year’s list were from foreign automakers. The two that did? The underwhelming Chevy Aveo and the brand new Ford Fiesta. Disappointing, but I have no doubts that you’ll see U.S. automakers continue to make the shift to smaller, cheaper cars in the very near future.

My Picks for the Best Cheapest Car of 2011

It’s a toss-up. I’m a huge fan of functionality, so hatchbacks and utility are big wins in my book. Also, if I’m going to buy a new vehicle, it’s not going to be ugly. I’m going to go with the Fiesta. It’s stylish, and excluding the only golf cart to make the list (ForTwo), the most fuel efficient. The hatchback also gives it functionality. The Soul and Fit come in a close second.

15. Scion XB

2011 Scion XBBase Automatic Transmission model: Scion XB 2.4L
MSRP: $16,950
Dealer Cost: $16,494
City MPG: 22
Highway MPG: 28
Annual Fuel Cost: $1,920
Powertrain Warranty: 5 years or 60,000 miles
Limited Basic Warranty: 3 years or 36,000 miles
Notes: Not the most fuel efficient or attractive, but it does boast the most powerful engine of the bunch.

14. Nissan Cube

2011 Nissan CubeBase Automatic Transmission model: Nissan Cube 1.8S
MSRP: $16,650
Dealer Cost: $15,536
City MPG: 27
Highway MPG: 31
Annual Fuel Cost:  $1,589
Powertrain Warranty: 5 years or 60,000 miles
Limited Basic Warranty: 3 years or 36,000 miles
Notes: Ugly, but in an endearing, futuristic way. The Cube is spacious and functional, which is definitely appreciated in a small, cheap vehicle.

13. Honda Civic

2011 Honda CivicBase Automatic Transmission model: Honda Civic DX, 2-door 1.8L
MSRP: $16,605
Dealer Cost: $14,708
City MPG: 25
Highway MPG: 36
Annual Fuel Cost: $1,589
Powertrain Warranty: 5 years or 60,000 miles
Limited Basic Warranty: 3 years or 36,000 miles
Notes: What can you say? It’s a classic amongst frugal deal seekers. It has stood the test of time longer than any other entry, and probably for good reason.

12. Kia Soul

2011 Kia SoulBase Automatic Transmission model: Kia Soul 2.0L I4 A/T
MSRP: $16,495
Dealer Cost: $16,168
City MPG: 26
Highway MPG: 31
Annual Fuel Cost: $1,644
Powertrain Warranty: 10 years or 100,000 miles
Limited Basic Warranty: 5 years or 60,000 miles
Notes: What’s not to like about the Kia Soul? It’s probably the best looking vehicle of the bunch, it’s functional, and it’s got that awesome warranty on top of it.

11. Kia Forte

2011 Kia ForteBase Automatic Transmission model: Kia Forte LX 2.0L I4 6-speed A/T
MSRP: $15,995
Dealer Cost: $15,052
City MPG: 26
Highway MPG: 36
Annual Fuel Cost: $1,589
Powertrain Warranty: 10 years or 100,000 miles
Limited Basic Warranty: 5 years or 60,000 miles
Notes: A sleeper in the bunch. Sleek, fuel efficient, and that great Kia warranty.

10. Scion XD

2011 Scion XDBase Automatic Transmission model: Scion XD 1.8L
MSRP: $15,970
Dealer Cost: $15,466
City MPG: 27
Highway MPG: 33
Annual Fuel Cost: $1,589
Powertrain Warranty: 5 years or 60,000 miles
Limited Basic Warranty: 3 years or 36,000 miles
Notes: Not a bad looker, but the interior looks tight.

9. Honda Fit

2011 Honda FitBase Automatic Transmission model: Honda Fit 1.5L Hatchback
MSRP: $15,900
Dealer Cost: $14,991
City MPG: 28
Highway MPG: 35
Annual Fuel Cost: $1,487
Powertrain Warranty: 5 years or 60,000 miles
Limited Basic Warranty: 3 years or 36,000 miles
Notes: The Honda Fit might have the best combination of price, functionality, and fuel economy. It’s hard to be in terms of pure value.

8. Chevy Aveo

2011 Chevy AveoBase Automatic Transmission model: Chevy Aveo Sedan 4-door
MSRP: $15025, the 5-door Aveo 5 Hatchback comes in at just $150 more ($15,175)
Dealer Cost: $14,920
City MPG: 25
Highway MPG: 34
Annual Fuel Cost: $1,644
Powertrain Warranty: 5 years or 100,000 miles
Limited Basic Warranty: 3 years or 36,000 miles
Notes: It’s time for GM to give the Aveo a much needed face-lift.

7. Kia Rio

2011 Kia RioBase Automatic Transmission model: Kia Rio LX 1.6L I4 A/T
MSRP:  $14,995
Dealer Cost: $15,052
City MPG: 27
Highway MPG: 36
Annual Fuel Cost: $1,533
Powertrain Warranty: 10 years or 100,000 miles
Limited Basic Warranty: 5 years or 60,000 miles
Notes: I just get a feeling of cheap when I look at this car. And not in a good way.

6. Mazda 2

2011 Mazda 2Base Automatic Transmission model: Mazda 2 Sport 1.5L Hatchback
MSRP: $14,980
Dealer Cost: $15,054
City MPG: 27
Highway MPG: 30
Annual Fuel Cost: $1,589
Powertrain Warranty: 5 years or 100,000 miles
Limited Basic Warranty: 3 years or 36,000 miles
Notes: Wow, where did this one come from? Fuel economy isn’t the greatest for a 1.5L, but you have to appreciate the price. This is a new entry to the market this year.

5. Hyundai Accent

2011 Hyundai AccentBase Automatic Transmission model: Hyundai Accent GS 1.6L 3-door hatchback
MSRP: $14,695
Dealer Cost: $12,546
City MPG: 27
Highway MPG: 36
Annual Fuel Cost: $1,533
Powertrain Warranty: 10 years or 100,000 miles
Limited Basic Warranty: 5 years or 60,000 miles
Notes: Good warranty and there’s definitely wiggle room on the price with the difference between MSRP and dealer cost.

4. Ford Fiesta

2011 Ford FiestaBase Automatic Transmission model: Ford Fiesta S Sedan 1.6L 6-speed
MSRP: $14,390, Hatchback version runs at $16,190
Dealer Cost: $12,936, $15,473 for the hatchback
City MPG: 29
Highway MPG: 40
Annual Fuel Cost: $1,533
Powertrain Warranty: 5 years or 60,000 miles
Limited Basic Warranty: 3 years or 36,000 miles
Notes: Love it. I showered praise in my Ford Fiesta review last year, and it’s lived up to the hype in its first year. Peppy, fun, and very fuel efficient. Downside? The much better looking hatchback jumps up in price significantly over the sedan.

3. Toyota Yaris

2011 Toyota YarisBase Automatic Transmission model: Toyota Yaris 3 Door Liftback, 4 Speed Auto
MSRP: $13,755
Dealer Cost: $12,517
City MPG: 29
Highway MPG: 35
Annual Fuel Cost: $1,487
Powertrain Warranty: 5 years or 60,000 miles
Limited Basic Warranty: 3 years or 36,000 miles
Notes: The hatchback is an attractive little guy, but I’m not sure it’s as functional as some of its peers due to its small size.

2. Nissan Versa

2011 Nissan VersaBase Automatic Transmission model: Nissan Versa Sedan 1.6L, 4 Door
MSRP: $12,990 ($14,940 for the hatchback)
Dealer Cost: $12,337
City MPG: 25
Highway MPG: 33
Annual Fuel Cost: $1,644
Powertrain Warranty: 5 years or 60,000 miles
Limited Basic Warranty: 3 years or 36,000 miles
Notes: The hatchback might be the sleeper in the whole bunch. It’s very spacious and cheap.

1. Smart ForTwo

2011 Smart ForTwoBase Automatic Transmission model: Smart ForTwo Pure Coup 1.0L
MSRP: $11,990
Dealer Cost: $11,516
City MPG: 33
Highway MPG: 41
Annual Fuel Cost: $1,380
Powertrain Warranty: 2 years or 24,000 miles
Limited Basic Warranty: 2 years or 24,000 miles
Notes: There should be an asterisk next to this entry. Yes, technically, it’s a highway approved vehicle, but it’s little more than a souped up golf car, in my opinion. Everything about this car says ‘cheap’, and not in a good way. And it has an industry worst 2 year, 24,000 mile warranty to back it. For what you actually get, I’d expect this car to retail for about $8k.

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About the Author
I am G.E. Miller, & this is my story. My goal is financial independence ASAP. If you share that goal, join me & 7,500+ others by getting FREE email updates. You'll also find every post by category & every post in order.


65 Comments »
  • Matt says:

    GE, this is extremely helpful. Thanks for doing all the homework, particularly on fuel costs and dealer costs. Also, I don’t drive a stick, and stick’s are a little deceiving on what the actual car price is. Some bump up $1000, others $2000 or more to get to the automatic transmission model.

  • Stacy says:

    I’m curious where you got your info on the Hyundai Accent. I work at a dealership and the dealer cost you provided doesn’t quite match up.

  • Bree says:

    Thanks for the info! My sister is looking for a new car and I’ll send this along to help her out!

    Also, just for reference the xB model you showed is an older model. The newer ones are much more sleek. :) I love my ’08.

    http://www.swagbucks.com/?t=i&p=1&b=0&q=2011+scion+xb

  • Natalie says:

    I love the post. I’m already shopping for the new car I want to buy in early 2013. I tend to buy new and drive for 7-10 years before buying new again.

    However, I am having some issues with the figures on the Honda Civic. If you build a Civic at the Honda website the basic car has an MSRP of 17,355. The DX does not include power windows, power doors, or AC. Where I live, AC is a required safety feature. For these basic common requirements you would have to upgrade to the LX and pay 19,305 for a Civic.

    It’s sill a great car, and definitely on my top 10 value list, but it is significantly more expensive than the price listed here.

  • Bernz says:

    Thanks for the info…my daughter and I have been looking at Honda Fit as a good start up car for her. She will start College by September of this year by the way. She like the Honda brand and with the prices of gas not stopping anytime soon, I really think that the Honda fit is a good fit for her.

    • Toni says:

      Being a Honda owner, yes, they are great cars, and pretty good on gas, however, they are somewhat over priced, again, it depends on what your peace of mind is worth. Definitely dependable and has good longevity, so if you have the extra dollars, then go Honda.

      • Lora says:

        Hondas are overpriced and are cheaply made, the leather in them feel cheap and thin compared to a mazda or ford . Mazda and ford have thick comfy leather seats. My 08 honda crv after 3 years the AC broke the compressor fail on it and the automatic door on the drivers side stopped working it makes like this nnnnneeerrrrkkk like a grinding gear noise

    • ronn says:

      I prefer the versa over the fit for room, cost ,etc.

      The fit is more $ for less car.

  • brokeprofessionals says:

    Oh No! Where is my Chevy Cobalt? Do they even make them anymore? Looks like I should have gone with the Aveo….
    Oh well, my car is very popular with rental companies, “so I got that going for me….which is nice….”

  • Brian says:

    Are the horsepower ratings listed in this post or are the numbers so small that I can’t see them?

    :)

  • Retired Jane says:

    If you want to save money, the wise solution is to buy a second hand car. Cars are not really assets, they are losing value over time and don’t generate revenue. But good list anyway!

    • Toni says:

      That may be true, but new cars generally carry better interest rates, and come with much better warranties. There is nothing worse than getting a car and one year later having to sink a few hundred here, and a few hundred there, just to keep it running, it happens more than you know, so I guess it all depends on what your peace of mind is worth to you.

      • Tamera says:

        I agree !!! The price of repairs to a used car far exceeds that of purchasing a new car !!! I have always had to put repairs into a used car and it doesn’t usually last more than 5 years … while I’m paying it off, as in a new car, I can pay it off in 5 years and it will serve me at least 4 more years where I can continue to put the car payment away for another new car, but this time, I get to put the money I’ve saved as a down-payment and lower my monthly payments. Makes perfect sense to me !!!

    • Mikalai says:

      Hi, Jane!
      You are right. I bought 9-year old Skoda (European-Chec-car) and have been runing it for 7 years. Some parts were chanedged at a station, something I fixed myself. The car was in several incedent, but I thnk it’l be working at list several years. It’s already run 210 000 km (150 000m).

  • anne says:

    Why didn’t you mention any Suzuki’s? They have two really great cars that would seemingly fit in this category. They also have a fantastic warrant. I had a Forenza for years and really liked it. Check out Suzuki’s people!

  • Rachael says:

    I would’ve been interested to see prices for sticks. I’m a manual purist, won’t ever change no matter how much the car business tries to make me…but the important thing is that all the cars you listed do have a manual option. Good info!

  • Forex says:

    IMO, the Nissan Versa is a way better car than the Smart. There is just a lot more safety that goes into a Nissan vs. a Smart especially with the american roads being packed with Hummers and Trucks, safety is always going to be one of the biggest issues people face.

  • Oswald says:

    I CAN NOT believe you left the 2011 volkswagen Jetta out!! Starting at just 15,995 it makes the list, IMO. Being of German engineering and a car from the VW group, a group that has; Porsche, Audi, Lamborghini, Bentley, Bugatti, etc… I believe the Jetta enters a Market where it should be a Top dog, people it’s affraid of the stories about how German cars are unreliable, but now that’s just a urban myth, If you give the proper maintenance to it, they will last forever, i have had “Imports” and American cars, and they are good but once you get your hands on a German car, u cant go back, i think they are unrivaled. BTW, hondas and toyotas get more recalls than any german car.

    • Toni says:

      The biggest issue with Jetta is parts, especially when they need to be replaced. Once those wonderful German cars begin to age, “and they all do,” you will lose $500 dollars of your hard earned money with every trip to the mechanic. Parts an labor on these babies is no joke. “Been there, done that!”

    • ronn says:

      Have a buddy with a 3 year old Jetta he bought new- bad wiring! Broke down 3 different times.

      I rented one last weekend and to be quite frank, will take my son’s versa all day long over the jetta. The jetta excelled in one area, it cruised nicely in the 70-90mph range, which I rarely drive at that speed. The steering is heavy and the visibility lacking….

      Just my opinion. I was very disappointed with the jetta.

  • zaheer sarwar says:

    i need a car free of cost…. i hav no money

  • Arby says:

    I can’t see any of the bunch being worth over 10K retail. they are all terribly overpriced for what you get.

  • Alex says:

    Great job,
    Just wanted to thank you for the effort :)

  • Bernie says:

    My timing belt broke so my car died. No way to get another one.

  • Alex says:

    GE thanks for the report. It was very informative and well written. I just want to point out one error you made that you may want to fix. The dealer costs you posted are for the MANUAL models on truecar.com. You have to edit the car options to account for the automatic transmission.

    For example, for the Ford Fusion S you listed a dealer cost of $12,936. This is correct for the manual transmission. If you update turecar.com under options to account for the automatic transmission the dealer cost will be $13,857. Maybe this is why Stacy said that the deal costs didn’t match up.

    I just thought I would point this out so people don’t read this report and attempt to haggle a price that’s impossible for the dealer to give.

  • Zoe says:

    Good list. Nice to see so many hatches. I would like to add the Hyundai Elantra Touring (great MPG, spacious back, great safett and warranty, but not too exciting in terms of driving thrill–a step up over a Toyota though) and the underestimated Subaru Impreza hatchback (AWD standard, zippy ride, spacious and practical, long-lasting albeit not luxurious interior, and scores perfect safety ratings. I hear the MPG is better than the estimates. I am craving one big time. My engineer brother is in love with them too.) Also a good idea for anyone looking to buy a car for just under 20000 is to get a 5-6 year old BMW 3 series or equivalent. This is great value and the higher-end makes introduce better features earlier than the budget brands, so a 5-year old car is very relevant. The luxury interior and engine prowess of something like that comes of course by default.
    Oh, and as an aside, I encourage those of you who want to try out stick shift to just go ahead and do it. It’s not that hard–if I can do it, then anyone can (and I’m a girl, not a hard-core driver).

  • TJW says:

    Anything over 16 grand is not a cheap car, in my book.

  • sherry says:

    Hi, I agree with buying cars 2-3 years old rather than new. But for some reason, alot of the used models are priced higher. I am looking to buy a 3 year or less Honda CRV (very basic model with no extra options/features), The cheapest price I have found locally is $21,700 and that is a new one from dealer. I need 36K miles or less, automatic transmission as it is for my daughter in college. I live in Georgia but am willing to travel up to 400 miles to get the best price. Do you have any suggestion as to the best place to buy from and also what is the dealer cost for a basic 2011 CRV?
    I appreciate your help.

    • Toni says:

      We’ve just purchased a brand new Nissan Versa, automatic from Hudson Nissan in Charleston SC, for under 15,000. Our payments are $258.00 for 60 months with a 2.9 APR. Our payments are deferred for 3 months and the service was excellent. We have a 3 year bumper to bumper warranty. If you mention my name, you will get a great price. Toni M.

      P.S. Ask for Ron

  • YMP says:

    This prices are not real because the Nissan Versa in the dealerships where i live have the minimun price of $16K

  • Toni says:

    Cars, generally speaking, are far from “cheap, even used cars with ungodly miles on them sell for thousands! In a perfect world, safety should be #1 on the priority list, however, with the economy being so uncertain for most, we must purchase what we can afford, so yes, price does matter!

  • Dianne says:

    I am trying to find an older Subaru. I need all wheel drive since I live in a very rural area. Any suggestions where I should look? Dealers are way too expensive.

  • meme says:

    Thank you. I do drive stick. Going back to work after a long period of unemployment. My credit score must be really, really bad, bankruptcy, repossession, IRS and about to go defaulted student loan, not to mention having losing it all.
    But I will need transportation. I guess there are used versions of these cars. Thank you again.

  • Thomas says:

    Ew the Smart fourtwo hardly qualifies as a car in my book! And where is the truck love? The 2011 Toyota Tacoma is about $16k!

  • Shibby Shibouski says:

    Wish they would come back out with the Geo Metro(later models)/Chevrolet Sprint(early models)/Pontiac Firefly(Can.). My family owned 3 Chevy Sprints, and 4 Geo Metros, still have one in Florida from 1994 with just under 55,000 miles. The 3-cylinder Suzuki engine ran excellent and you can’t beat 48mpg with the auto and 54mpg with the manual. I remember 3 accidents with no fatalities. First one i was with my dad and we hit a deer doing 80mph, it messed up the front end but after a headlight replacement witha little duct tape we made it back to Illinois from Idaho. Second time I was with my grandfather and we got T-boned by a Renault Alliance doing 40mph as we crossed an intersection, smashed the passenger side where I was sitting and I didn’t even get a scratch. Third time my father and I were at a stop light and a Ford F-150(with a horseshoe welded to it’s front bumper) smashed into the rear of the car, no one was hurt. They just don’t make them like that anymore!!!

  • Sandra Bon says:

    I bought a Chev Vaio new in 2005. it was a 2004 with only miles driven by people trying it out. I paid cash for the car during time when cars were not selling very well and got a big incentive. I only paid $8500 for this four door. no a/c/, manual trans. I am 77 now and only drive about 4000 miles per year but this cars has required nothing but regular maintenance and the mileage runs about 24mpg in city. I have never checked it on a trip. I like the car.

  • Nick says:

    I’m sorry, but what is the name of the red car at the beginning of the caveat? I can not quite tell what it is. It is not one of the top 15. It looks really nice though. Something I would definitely consider buying. Please comment back.

  • Sandra Ledford says:

    Do you have a list yet for 2012 cheapest cars?

  • winperk+- says:

    I am retired and about 5 years ago I bought a 1988 Lincoln Town Car for $1,000.00. I replaced the diferential for $800.00.
    Had the front frnder fixed for $350.00. Last year a Tune up for $80.00. Now I need brakes. The car runs like new and has no noticeable body or interior damage. I don’t drive much but I believe people should look at the older American cars for bargains. Especially if you don’t drive much. What I have spent for the car and repairs most likely would not cover a down payment on most cars.

    • ronn says:

      you are right on all counts with the exception of fuel mileage.
      I run an old Mercedes 450sl and absolutely love it! I am able to get antique auto insurance for about 50. a year-pop the top and have fun!
      The downside is, I get around 10 miles a gallon for fuel. Since I don’t drive it much, there is not much downside and repairs have been minimal. However, if driving everyday, fuel mileage really needs to be considered.

  • JacKi3 says:

    So what suv would be considered the cheapest with best value .. I am a single mother of 2 and have 7 thousand cash .. Should I lease ? Buy certified used car? Or new? Helpppp

  • lizzie says:

    thank you G.E Miller! im a first time buyer, looking for my first car, this helped me feel less bombarded, straight to the basics (:

  • DavidMR says:

    @CreditShout,

    Forget safety. I have NO interest at all in safety. I want affordable! Price matters most. After that reliability. If they sold a car with no airbags, no seat belts and no anti-lock breaks for half price, I’d buy it. You can keep your safety.

  • em286 says:

    hye… I’m looking for 7seater car.. between Toyota wish and mitsubishi Grandis, which of this vehicle have a low maintanance cost of parts?
    ane other suggestions for 7seater cars?

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