2020 Nissa Versa exterior in driveway ・ Photo by Nissan
There’s nothing like the smell of a new car, knowing that the future holds plenty of miles and memories. But hold on. The average transaction price for a new vehicle in America today is almost $40,000. You were thinking lower. Much lower. If you have about $15,000 to spend, you’ve only got three choices when it comes to a brand spanking new car, and we list them in this article.
However, when it comes to saving money, just about the smartest thing you can do is buy a reliable used car. Even smarter is buying a certified pre-owned (CPO) vehicle that a dealership scrutinizes and reconditions to high standards determined by the automaker, and which comes with a warranty, roadside assistance, and more. Because there’s no point in saving money by buying a used car if you have to spend money fixing it. On the pages that follow are the three remaining new cars under $15,000, plus seven great alternatives offered through CPO programs that also cost less than that amount. They are listed in alphabetical order.
The 2020 Chevrolet Spark isn’t necessarily a top pick, but with a starting price of $13,220 (not including destination charges), this tiny hatchback is one of the most affordable new cars on the market. Additionally, Chevy gives you your first maintenance visit on the house and provides a three-year/36,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty, a five-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty, and free roadside assistance for the duration of the powertrain warranty.
A 98-horsepower, 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine sits under the Spark’s stubby little hood, and the EPA says it should average about 33 mpg in combined driving. Transmission choices include a five-speed manual gearbox or a continuously variable transmission (CVT). Right out of the box, the Spark includes a 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Chevrolet Connected Access preparation including a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot. An overall length of 143.1 inches makes the Spark one of the shortest cars in America, but that should make it a cinch to find street parking. With the rear seats in use, the trunk offers 11.1 cubic feet of space. Fold the back seats down 27.2 cubic feet of volume.
Photo by Chevrolet
Hyundai’s subcompact sedan, the Accent, was redesigned for the 2018 model year and took a major leap forward in terms of quality, safety, and sophistication. Now, you can find certified-used examples of the 2018 and 2019 Accent at Hyundai dealerships for less than $15,000.
Available in SE, SEL, and Limited trim levels, the Accent has a fairly strong 130-hp 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine paired with a manual or an automatic transmission. Fuel economy averages 32 mpg in combined driving with the automatic, and the car’s trunk holds up to 13.7 cubic feet of luggage. When you buy a CPO Hyundai, the company provides the remainder of the original five-year/60,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty, the remainder of the original five-year and unlimited mileage roadside assistance service, and the remainder of the original 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty. Additionally, the vehicle undergoes a 173-point inspection and reconditioning service, and buyers get a vehicle identification number (VIN) background history report and 90 days of free satellite radio.
Photo by Hyundai
Hyundai’s compact Elantra sedan not only looks like a much more expensive car, but it also drives like one too. For less than 15 grand, you can get a lightly used and fully reconditioned example of the Elantra and enjoy its upscale styling, roomy interior, sizable 14.4-cubic-foot trunk, and a variety of features.
Offered in SE, SEL, Value Edition, Eco, Sport, and Limited trims, the Elantra offers plenty of choices. In crash-testing performed by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), this compact car earns the highest possible ratings. And depending on which powertrain you choose, it gets between 25 mpg and 35 mpg in combined driving. Not convinced of the Elantra’s inherent goodness? Then consider Hyundai’s CPO program, which includes a thorough 173-point inspection, a full reconditioning, a VIN history report, and the remainder of the original five-year/60,000-mile bumper-to-bumper and 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranties. Hyundai even includes free roadside assistance and satellite radio in the deal.
Photo by Hyundai
Kia redesigned the Forte sedan for the 2019 model year, upgrading the car in every way. Stylish on the outside and sophisticated on the inside, a certified pre-owned Kia Forte is a great alternative to one of the brand-new cars on this list.
Sold in FE, LXS, S, and EX trim levels, each 2019 Forte derived power from a 147-hp 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine matched to a six-speed manual gearbox or a CVT automatic. Fuel economy ratings range from 31 mpg to 35 mpg, the Forte received a Top Safety Pick+ rating in IIHS crash testing, and has an absolutely huge 15.3-cubic-foot trunk. Topping all of this off, Kia’s CPO program includes the remainder of the car’s original 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty as well as a one-year/12,000-mile bumper-to-bumper coverage policy. Additional perks include a 164-point car inspection, a VIN history report, and 90 days of free satellite radio.
Photo by Kia
The subcompact Rio is Kia’s least expensive car, but it’s a stylish and practical vehicle available in sedan and hatchback form. It was fully redesigned for 2018, so, like its mechanical twin, the Hyundai Accent, it got an upgrade in terms of safety, technology, and all-around competence.
A 130-hp 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine powers the Rio, which comes with a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic transmission. Trim levels include LX, S, and EX, and the 2019 model year versions earn a Top Safety Pick designation from the IIHS. Sedans hold 13.7 cubic feet of luggage in the trunk, while hatchbacks can handle 17.4 cubic feet behind the rear seat and 32.8 cubic feet with it folded down. Kia’s CPO program helps ensure you get a well-inspected and -protected vehicle. It gets a 164-point inspection, a full reconditioning, a VIN history report, and 90 days of free satellite radio. Plus, Kia offers the remainder of the original 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty and provides full bumper-to-bumper coverage for one year or 12,000 miles.
Photo by Kia
The Kia Soul may be one of the more unusual-looking vehicles on the road, but rest assured that there’s real substance behind the unique styling. A multi-purpose vehicle that Kia insists is a crossover, this five-door hatch offers up-high seating and a surprisingly refined cabin.
No fewer than four powertrain choices are available, including a pure electric version offering more than 100 miles of driving range, and the Soul offers 18.8 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seat and up to 61.3 cubic feet of space when it’s folded down. Crash-test ratings impress, and in 2018 and 2019 the Soul earned Top Safety Pick laurels from the IIHS. If that’s not peace-of-mind enough, Kia’s CPO program gives you the remainder of the original 10-year/100,000-mile warranty, a one-year/12,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty, a 164-point inspection with a full reconditioning, a VIN-check report, and free satellite radio for 90 days.
Photo by Kia
Mitsubishi sells the subcompact Mirage hatchback for $13,995 and the Mirage G4 sedan for $14,995 (not including destination charges). Plus, the car comes with a long five-year/60,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty, a 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty, and five years of unlimited-mileage roadside assistance.
Trim levels include ES, LE, SE, and GT (hatch only), and standard equipment includes a 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Bluetooth, cruise control, remote keyless entry, a reversing camera, and automatic climate control. Mitsubishi says the hatch holds 17.1 cubic feet behind the rear seat, and 47 cubic feet with the back seats folded down. The Mirage G4’s trunk holds 12.6 cubic feet of luggage. A 1.2-liter three-cylinder making 78 hp is the only engine choice, and it powers the front wheels through a five-speed manual or a CVT. Official fuel economy estimates range from 35 mpg to 39 mpg in combined driving. Unfortunately, the Mirage does not get very good crash-test ratings from the IIHS.
Photo by Mitsubishi
You can easily find a CPO Nissan Sentra for less than $15,000, in part because so many of the cars were sold to rental fleets when they were new. However, with Nissan’s generous seven-year/100,000-mile CPO powertrain warranty with roadside assistance for the same period, you can rest assured a Sentra will last. Plus, Nissan performs a 167-point inspection, a full vehicle reconditioning, a VIN history report, and 90 days of free satellite radio.
Nissan offered the Sentra in S, SV, SR, SR Turbo, SL, and NISMO trim levels. The turbocharged SR and NISMO are actually fun, but most you’ll find under $15,000 have a 130-hp engine with a CVT. Fuel economy estimates range from 27 mpg to 32 mpg in combined driving. This is a big car, too, with a roomy interior and a 15.1-cubic-foot trunk. And it earned Top Safety Pick ratings in 2017 and 2018, too.
Photo by Nissan
Redesigned for 2020, the Nissan Versa sedan is a massive improvement over the car it replaces and is easily the recommended new car on this list. Granted, with a starting price of $14,730 (not including destination charges), the 2020 Versa you can buy for less than $15,000 has base S trim with a five-speed manual transmission, but it still squeaks under the price cap. If the S trim won’t work, Nissan also offers the Versa sedan in SV and SR trim, which include a CVT. A 122-hp 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine is the only engine choice, and it gets 30 mpg with the five-speed and 35 mpg with the CVT.
The S includes a 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Bluetooth and hands-free text-messaging support. Numerous advanced driving assistance systems are standard, and should your cargo needs exceed the Versa’s 14.7-cubic-front trunk, you can utilize its 60/40-split rear seats for greater flexibility.
Photo by Nissan
Redesigned for 2019, the Volkswagen Jetta grew in size and sophistication while retaining the value and German driving dynamics the car was known for. Now, you can find CPO examples of the latest Jetta for less than our price cap.
Available in S, SE, and SEL trim levels, the Jetta has a turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine making 147 hp and a healthy 184 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed manual or eight-speed automatic feeds the power to the front wheels, and the Jetta gets 34 mpg in combined driving. This is a roomy, safe, high-tech car offering a 14.1-cubic-foot trunk. In IIHS crash testing, only the unimpressive headlights prevent it from earning a Top Safety Pick rating. The CPO versions provide plenty of peace of mind, too, by offering the balance of the original six-year/70,000 bumper-to-bumper warranty and two years of roadside assistance, as well as 90 days of free satellite radio.
Photo by Volkswagen