7 of the Best Cheap Cars of 2013

Posted on May 30, 2013 by

Even though most people say they want to save a buck on their vehicle costs, few people actually aim to buy a cheap car. Most cheap cars are small, lack power and many of the features you can find on other more expensive models. If you live in an area where the summer temperatures climb into the triple digits, buying one of these cheap cars could mean riding around in a virtual sweatbox that is not outfitted with air conditioning.

Yet there are some shining star vehicles that do not cost an arm and a leg. If you have a tiny budget and do not want to give up comfort or safety, one of the cars on the following list could be an excellent fit for your situation. In a few rare cases these cheap cars provide more driving thrills than more expensive models, adding the value of fun that can be just as rewarding as saving money.

2013 Nissan Versa2013 Nissan Versa (Credit: © Nissan)

1. Nissan Versa S Sedan

You might expect that the cheapest car to buy would be the most stripped down, but that is certainly not the case with Nissan’s Versa S Sedan. The little subcompact sedan comes with standard features like a CD player and air conditioning plus optional features like Bluetooth and navigation. There are some cars that are more expensive that do not come with such features standard. Still, the interior comes with plenty of cheap hard plastics, flimsy controls and plain looks. The Versa S Sedan is valued at $12,780 if you include the destination charge.

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  • shadowx360

    Are you guys crazy? Kia Rio’s engine has plenty of power? Ever test drove one? That thing can’t accelerate to fall off a cliff fast enough! The salesman said it has 138 horsepower for the 2013 version (120 HP on the dyno), but when I dropped two gears and floored it on a highway, it took a good 6 seconds to go from 60 to 80 mph! I bet in the time it takes to go 0-60 I can run a quarter mile in a decent pony car.

    • davedave11

      you are not supposed to drive 80

      • shadowx360

        Everyone in the fast lane on I-4 at 5 AM drives 90 mph. I take my cars 120+ all the time, drive all my cars like they were stolen. Bad habit of mine.

        • n2wind2000

          Uh ya, REAL bad habit. May bite you in the rear one day.

          • Kenneth Lichtig

            …or shadowx360′s wallet

        • Kenneth Lichtig

          You are one lucky S.O.B.

        • Ryun Baik

          So you want to buy a smart car to go 120+? Maybe you’re looking in the wrong section genius.

        • John Taylor

          Wow a self confessed numbskull

    • ZoomZoomDiva

      Shadow, all that proves is that no subcompact (except for MAYBE the upcoming Fiesta ST) is for you. 138hp is generous and one of the most powerful options in the Rio’s class and compared to those other options,, the Rio/Accent does have plenty of power.

    • wittedwarrior

      I worked for Kia and sold many Rio’s to customers who had just come from the Chevy lot next door. THEY confirmed that the Rio walked all over the comparable Chevy in every way. I bought my daughter basic model with a six-speed stick and it is a great value. You’re right, it isn’t a rocket ship. Maybe you were going up hill.

      • Michael DeWald

        I’m curious when this was. Was it recent, or was it a few years ago when the comparable Chevy was the execrable Aveo or Metro or Sprint? By all account, the Sonic and Spark are much better cars than the older models.

      • spin43

        I keep my distance from Government Motors.

    • wasserball

      curiously, do you weigh 350 lbs?

      • shadowx360

        Less than 160 lbs. Guess I’m just used to high performance cars. Never drove anything under 270 horsepower.

        • brenro

          Then why are you responding to an article about cheap cars?

        • Ryun Baik

          Do you actually think before you type? What is your IQ, seriously?

          • Jay Russell

            Ryun wants to know your IQ, seriously seriously. Ryun is so damn smart you can’t compete with him on an intellectual plane. None of us can.

    • Estarianne

      It is average for the segment. I test drove one when buying a car for my daughter and found it perfectly adequate. Not fun, but fine. Almost identical to the Hyundai Accent, slightly less zippy than the Mazda 2 we ended up with (which probably isn’t any faster, but feels sportier).

      • Wondering Woman

        Beware of the Hyundai Elantra – my daughter loved her 2010 Elantra until she wrecked it. Car was totalled -rolled at least 3 times & from the looks of it, probably flipped at least once – not a single air bag was deployed. Our insurance agent gave us the report on the same model from safety complaint center shortly after the wreck. There were 6 complaints from drivers who had wrecks that should have deployed the air bags, but didn’t. A seventh driver complained that she didn’t hit a damned thing except her brake and her airbag deployed. I wonder how many more defective airbag complaints they have had on that model and others since then.

        • Estarianne

          Um, yeah, I didn’t mention the Elantra, but just FYI, all cars have defects. When a manufacturer produces as many of a model a Hyundai has the Elantra, some are going to be defective. 6 complaints? Out of how many owners? And airbags aren’t going to help you when you roll the car 3 times. I can see you are setting up for a lawsuit. It always shocks me when people get cars into horrendous crashes and then blame the car when they didn’t come out without a scratch. Safety measures can only do so much, and there is no such thing as zero failure manufacturing. Your best bet is defensive driving.

          Thanks for using my post as your soapbox on a completely unrelated subject.

          • Wondering Woman

            When a mandatory safety feature on a new vehicle costs as much as seat belts, the public deserves the safety feature they have paid for to work and if they don’t the manufacturer should get busy finding where the problem is. The failure was reported to the Hyundai company, along with the knowledge of the other failures that had been reported. No law suit was filed, because everyone doesn’t base their actions on the love of money.
            Since I have seen no action being taken to correct the problem with their airbags, I will keep warning the public every chance I get.

  • davedave11

    Smart for 2 — any consumer product with SMART in the name isn’t – for the price of a smart plus $1000 you get two more seats, an air conditioner, and a chance to live through a collision at 20 mph

    • Michael DeWald

      The Smart is slow, and the gas mileage isn’t great. Your point about 2 more seats is well taken. However, its crash safety is exceptional for such a small car.

      • Mysterydude

        I once watched a crash test between a Smart car and a Mercedes at high speed. While the Mercedes was totaled, the Smart car went airborne and did a 360.

        • Michael DeWald

          Yup. Mercedes owns Smart. There is no overcoming physics. There is a huge mass difference. The crash data showed that despite the Smart car going flying, the passenger compartment was intact, and the passengers had minor injuries.

          • Michael Frost

            I would like to see the 40mph offset crash results
            in a smart car.

          • alvord1430

            40 mph Smart offset crash test has been on YouTube for years.

      • Scot McCoy

        Crash safety needs to be exceptional- period

  • Mike García

    I still prefer my Toyota Corolla..

  • banjo kid

    I didi not see Hyundai accent it has air and is cheap and reliable

  • Philo Kvetch

    The Smart’s cvt tranny is junk.

  • Jerry

    Vell den, vere did ya get dat dere red vun???

    • Dayne

      For 2013 they only offered those four colors. Starting now in 2014 they are offering about double the choices.

  • The_Mick

    It’s strange not seeing the Fit here, considering the Honda Fit was Consumer Reports Best Car for the money for 4 straight years and finished in 2nd place this year, and has a base price just $320 more than the 2-door Yaris L, with 4-doors plus the hatchback, with cargo space in the same ballpark as Ford Edge. It has ACTUAL real-world mileage at fueleconomy.gov and fuelly.com that’s as good as the Chevy Cruze (33.5 mpg combined), 2 to 4 MORE than the Hyundai Elantra GT and with an actual spare tire -which those other two, the Ford Fiesta, and a number of others don’t have anymore to get their mileage ratings up.

    • Rob

      Maybe they had a cut off for price, as the average Honda FIT costs 3 k more than the highest priced car on this list. They have to draw the line somewhere…

      • John Lewinski

        Save up the money and upgrade!

    • Kenneth Lichtig

      Consumer Reports yanked the Honda Fit Best Buy because the recent Off Side Crash Test which the Fit……. FAILED

  • Sam300

    I will never buy a GM or Chrysler vehicle = junk. Plus both companies are crony capitalist leeches who ripped off taxpayers. Kia=junk also. Toyota makes decent cars and the Yaris will run forever but it is so small. Subaru doesn’t have the reliability that Toyota has but I would go with their vehicle.

    • Kenneth Lichtig

      Speak with Toyota owners whose cars were recently recalled. KIA and Hyundai used to make throw-away cars. Not any more. Check out Consumer Reports or Consumer Guide. There is also Itellichoce and J.D.Powers. The jury is still out on Chrysler. Hopefully Fiat guiding Chrysler in the right direction. GM, You were anti-bailout. Packard, Studebaker and AMC were never bailed-out.. You are dead-wrong about Subaru. They ARE very reliable.

      • Sam300

        Packard, STudebaker and AMC deserved to go out of business…as did GM and Chrysler. Crap cars. Public taxpayer money should NEVER be used to bail out private companies and their unions – PERIOD.

        And. while Hyndai has come up in the world…I pass. Ditto for Kia. As for ITALIAN owned Chrysler which NEVER paid the taxpayers a dime of the BILLIONS it took…to hell with them. Crap cars. Socialist company.

        • Robert Gonzalez

          You apparently aren’t aware of the financial impact that would occur if they had gone bankrupt. There would have been a giant ripple effect on all of their suppliers and the economy would have really tanked because everything is inter-related.

          • Sam300

            They would NOT have closed…just re-organized. The airlines NEVER closed. Just re-organized. And, NOTHING is too big to fail. That includes the USA which is now going to bail out the health insurance companies when the USA is bankrupt.

            . It is Socialist/Fascist to use taxpayer money to support or bail out ANY private company and it should NEVER be done.

          • HM

            And over hyping no it alls should never have access to a caps key.

          • Jay Russell

            Yeah, we gotta prop em up now so barack HUSSEIN obama could get re-elected. Your CHILDREN, Robert Gonzalez, will be paying the bill for the Chrysler & GM govt debacles for years to come out of their taxes. barack HUSSEIN obama did it all with funny money.

        • HM

          But it’s okay to bail you out.

      • Jay Russell

        “Fix It Again, Tony” is now in charge of Chrysler. Another marriage made in hell.

    • rob

      Since Toyota had the highest recalls in 2011 and 2012 maybe their quality really isn’t very good. The high rating only comes from the first 90 days of ownership. Toyota sold cars that killed several owners and was hiding information. I think this is important to consider.

      • Coloradodcw

        I have a Toyota 4Runner and I have had such an excellent track record I will never buy anything but a Toyota.. Going on 250,000 miles strong.

    • HM

      It is a good thing that no one will listen to you.

    • Kenneth Lichtig

      Your opinion…. but check out the facts about Hyundai/KIA, better yet while GM and Ford sales were lower last month, Chrysliat/Fiatysler, Suburu Hyundai/KIA were UP. Toyota recently had a giant recall over heated seats not complying with U.S Regulations

  • agunrunner

    versa gets bad reviews also read and found out that dealerships do not carry the cheaper models and will not order them for you the cheapest versa I found was $16500 plus destination charge plus tax

    • Greg H

      Car dealers hate “stripper models” like the $12,000 vehicles shown here. There are virtually no profit made on these vehicles.

      • Jay Russell

        Most don’t even carry more than one stripper model anyhow and will fire the salesman who sells it.

        • Steve Clark

          Don’t let the manufacturer off the hook. They want to advertise the low price model, and then they do not build many of them, but funny they anyways build lots of the fully loaded models??

  • gregmlr

    The chances of getting these cars for the price shown are slim to none. My sister just paid over $17,000 for a new Sonic LS and it didn’t even come standard with a CD player.

    • Richard Johnston

      I remember on a recent car shopping trip that the salesman said they rarely have the cheapest base models of the cars on site because nobody wants them- probably a lie just less profit.

      • Steve Clark

        I have also been told that lie many times… I think you are right,,less profit for them and the manufacturer. But the manufacturer wants the low priced model for advertising and then they simply do not stock them.

  • Estarianne

    Except if you look at reliability records, Nissan Versa sucks. Why do people review economy cars without considering build quality? Resale value of the Versa is low for a reason.

  • spin43

    The Kia Rio is the only one I would consider. Great warranty and do you really want to be on the open highway in a Spark, Sonic, or Smart?

    • HM

      Or Rio?

  • HisMajestyOKeefe

    Won’t buy a Kia until they stop eating dogs

    • Jay Russell

      Hey, DOGS are tasty! Whatsamatta you?? Especially Chihuahuas.

  • Marcus A. Tucker

    I own a Smart Car and it is fast, great on gas, and fun. 4 new tires cost $167.00 at Wal-Mart and maintenance is just $225 a year. The Smart uses premium gas which adds up to $25 -$30 a week. Reliable, sporty, and great for those of us on a budget. :-)