Best cars for $15,000
"What's the best car you can buy?"
As car reviewers, we get asked that question all the time. However, responding literally with "Rolls-Royce Phantom" or "Bugatti Chiron" isn't exactly productive. It's like asking "where's the best place to live?" and being told "Buckingham Palace." No kidding.
Because of that we always turn the question around and ask, "how much money do I have to spend?" That usually yields far more helpful results so we decided to put those answers into this series, letting you know what we think are the best new cars at various price points. We made sure to provide a variety of car types and didn't just look at MSRP, either. We checked out actual cars on sale at actual dealerships using our new car listing pages here on Autoblog.
Here we start off at the bottom of the market at $15,000.
The Ford Focus won't be around much longer here in the United States. But that doesn't mean it isn't still a good car. 2018 will be the final model year, so don't bother looking for anything newer on dealership lots.
The suggested retail price for a base model Focus S is $18,825 after destination, but there are big discounts available that knock the real-world price down below $15,000. We even see some slightly nicer Focus SE sedans fall into our range.
We were surprised to find how many new 2018 and 2019 Elantras are on sale at dealers with advertised prices below $15,000. They're not even base models either, with plenty of mid-grade SEL and Value Edition trim levels available. This is a great deal, as the Elantra was recently redesigned, is well equipped, offers an industry-leading warranty and is actually pretty good to drive. You won't be paying a lot, but you sure will be getting a lot.
Looking for the biggest, most comfortable car for the least amount of money? Well, you've found it in the Versa Sedan. There's a reason it's so popular with Uber and Lyft drivers, who appreciate its big car back seat and small car price tag and fuel economy. We can't say much for the way it drives or looks, but on the value front, it's definitely hard to argue with. Even brand-new 2018 and 2019 models come well under the $15,000 threshold.
The Kia Rio got a nice redesign for the 2019 model year, and it offers style, ample feature content and a choice of body styles for a low, reasonable price. Plus, as a Kia, it provides lengthy 5-year limited vehicle and 10-year powertrain warranty coverage. It may not provide the space of the Versa, but it's ultimately a more desirable subcompact car.
Toyota Yaris iA
Unlike the other cars here, the Toyota Yaris iA keeps things simple. It comes fully loaded with no options -- alloy wheels, keyless push-button start, a rearview camera and even a forward collision warning system with automatic braking are all standard. That's tremendous value. Yet, the Yaris iA is also one of the most desirable subcompact cars regardless of price. Blessed with superior handling and a comparatively high-end interior courtesy of Mazda (the Yaris iA is sold as the Mazda 2 in other markets), it stands out in a segment that can be a bit dreary.
Toyota drops the iA part of the Yaris' name for 2019, but its basic goodness remains intact. Its higher price might mean you'll need to wait for incentives or opt for the ending model year (2018) to pick one up.
The Chevy Trax certainly isn't the most overtly appealing vehicle out there, but for those looking for the least expensive new SUV, here's your ticket. It'll let you sit up higher than in a car, delivers a decent amount of equipment and its fuel economy of 28 mpg combined is pretty thrifty. Now, the Trax is officially more expensive than our $15,000 limit, but you should be able to find a new or lightly used one for that price depending on the time of year you're looking to purchase. We found plenty of new 2018 and 2019 models in our range. Check out the link below.