When trying to conserve financial resources while shopping for a vehicle, it’s tempting to look at the cars with the lowest sticker prices as a means to save money. While this might be beneficial in the short run, the initial purchase price is only one aspect of car ownership responsibilities. As Kelley Blue Book is keen to point out, the cheapest car may not in fact be the most affordable.
Fortunately, KBB performs a lot of research and is endowed with a wealth of data to determine what the most affordable cars actually are. Factors taken into consideration are the sticker price, fuel economy, and the cost-to-own metrics spanning out five years that KBB calculates.
“When you consider a car’s resale value, plus fuel, financing and insurance costs, sometimes the best way to save money in the long run is to spend more up front,” the site says.
Here are the KBB’s ten most affordable to own cars for 2014.
10. Hyundai Accent
Hyundai is perhaps most well-known for offering a lot of car for not a lot of money. Since first coming to the U.S. in the 1990s, Hyundai’s resale values have surged northward, and its cars are now better quality and more efficient than ever before; not only are Hyundai’s still on the cheaper side of the spectrum, but they’re cheap to maintain and offer one of the industry’s best warranties. The Accent starts at $14,645 and offers nearly 40 miles per gallon on the highway, making it a solid choice for the frugal all the way around.
9. Toyota Prius c
At $19,080, the Toyota (NYSE:TM) Prius c is one of the cheapest hybrids on the market, and certainly the most affordable play on 53 miles per gallon in the city (and 46 on the highway). While it’s not as accommodating as its liftback sibling, the Prius c offers nearly the perfect balance of affordable upfront costs, low insurance premiums, and fuel economy. This is one example where putting down an extra few thousand upfront can pay off over time as fuel costs continue to creep upward.
8. Toyota Corolla
Toyota’s Corolla is perhaps the epitome of the small economy car segment. It’s so far the best-selling car of all time, KBB says, and it’s hoping to keep that trend going with its new redesign for 2014. “The new Corolla is the roomiest, most comfortable car on this list, and carries a famous reputation for reliability that serves as a foundation for outstanding resale value and low long-term ownership costs,” KBB said. It starts at $16,800, and can offer up to 28 miles per gallon in the city and 37 on the highway. Additionally, since it’s so popular and ubiquitous, costs for replacement parts will be minimal should you need them.
7. Scion xD
The Scion can be thought of as a differently formatted, more versatile Corolla in some regards. It uses similar powertrains, returns about 30 miles per gallon combined, and costs under even less than the Corolla at base — $16,500. As an added plus, you get Toyota’s reputation for reliability and a ton of Scion’s customizable options to make it 100 percent your own.
6. Ford Fiesta
KBB designated the Ford (NYSE:F) Fiesta as “the most fun car to drive on this list,” and actually commended it on “one of the most robust infotainment offerings in Ford’s Sync and MyFord Touch systems,” apparently in contradiction to how the rest of the auto world feels about it. Regardless, the Fiesta does certainly offer a whole lot of fun for the money and achieves up to 45 miles per gallon on the highway when properly equipped, helping save money at the pump (city mileage is around 30). It starts at just $14,100 at base.
5. Nissan Versa Sedan
The Nissan (NSANY.PK) Versa is one of the cheapest cars one can buy, as it starts at $11,990. It won’t be a star performer at the drag strip, but it can net 40 miles per gallon highway and 31 in the city (when properly equipped), making it one of the most fuel-efficient non-hybrids. Given its status as an entry level car, the Versa also boasts low insurance premiums; interestingly, its hatchback sibling — the Versa Note — was not included in the top ten.
4. Toyota Yaris
The Toyota Yaris is the smallest Toyota-branded vehicle that the company sells here in the States, and not surprisingly also one of the cheapest. “Like its Corolla big brother, the smallest, most affordable Toyota benefits from the outstanding resale values that remain a brand hallmark,” KBB said. A Yaris can be had for as little as $14,430, and like most other cars on this list, it boasts low maintenance costs, low premiums, and low fuel consumption.
3. Scion iQ
The Scion iQ is arguably the most quirky car in Scion’s already quirky lineup and is really the only true mass-market competitor in North America to the Smart ForTwo. “The smallest four-seater in America and tiniest car on this list also boasts one of the lowest 5-Year Cost to Own figures,” KBB said. Fitting four people — adults especially — might be a challenge, but its wallet-friendly $16,250 price tag and 36 miles per gallon in the city should make up for the lack of space for those who don’t necessarily need it.
2. Chevrolet Spark
Chevrolet’s (NYSE:GM) amicable Spark minicar perhaps offers the most for the least amount of money. “With four doors, four seats and surprising roominess, the small Spark is the most practical mini car available,” KBB said. It starts at just $12,170 and is ideally suited to city life thanks to its miniature footprint and commendable fuel economy (31 in the city, and 39 on the highway).
1. Chevrolet Spark EV
This one might come as a surprise, but according to KBB‘s number crunching, the Spark EV is the most affordable car to own for this year. Though it retails for over $26,000, the Spark EV can be had for under $20,000 thanks to the $7,500 federal tax credit. Once the cost of gas is taken out of the equation, the Spark EV the most affordable car of 2014 from a 5-Year Cost to Own perspective, KBB said.