Every year, cars get just a bit more expensive. There was a time, which doesn't seem too long ago, that ten grand and a signature was all you needed to walk out of a dealership as the owner of a brand new car. Today, not so much. In fact, according to J.D. Power and Associates, $15,000 gets you just two-thirds of the choices you had just two years ago. Holding up the bottom of the list is the Chevrolet Aveo, which, along with the base-model Cobalt, makes GM the only American player in the cheap-car sweepstakes. The 2009 Aveo, however, has a higher base price than before thanks to the elimination of the lowest price value model. The Koreans in the form of Hyundai and Kia offer three choices, and the remaining five slots are ably filled by Japanese manufacturers.
While there may be a few more vehicles that have base prices below the $15,000 mark, J.D. Power's numbers actually reflect transaction prices rather than MSRPs. Some vehicles, like the Honda Fit, are able to maintain some driving enjoyment to go along with their low prices, and these cars often command higher prices because of the demand for them.
[Source: JD Power via Winding Road]