You can get a great vehicle for $40,000
What's the best car for $40,000? There are certainly a lot of fine choices, and the answer really depends on what kind of vehicle you're looking for. Do you prioritize performance or practicality? Have you decided fully electric cars aren't just the future, but perfect for your present?
No matter what you're looking for, a budget of $40,000 opens up a wealth of possibilities, from eco-friendly hatchbacks, to V8-powered super sedans, to off-road-ready specialists. We've assembled a diverse set of options to satiate any buyer's wants and needs.
You might find that you don't need to spend quite so much money to find your perfect car. We'd suggest perusing our list of the best cars for $30,000 to see some other nice options for a bit less money, too.
Note, too, that we didn't just look at the manufacturer's suggested price. We poured over current vehicle listings, singling out specific trim levels and we took into account discounts and real-world pricing before making any decisions. You can do the same using Autoblog's new car inventory pages.
2019 Acura RDX
The Acura RDX is all-new for the 2019 model year, and we like it a lot more than the somewhat boring 2018 edition. There's a new turbocharged four-cylinder engine underhood that delivers 272 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque. It's hooked up to a 10-speed automatic transmission that does a great job of maximizing performance and efficiency.
We'd suggest the sporty A-Spec version of this crossover if it weren't just a bit beyond our budget, but you should at least be able to find an RDX with all-wheel drive. And if you do have the ability to stretch the budget a bit, you'll find that a loaded-up RDX undercuts its primary rivals by thousands of dollars.
Research the 2019 Acura RDX
2018 Alfa Romeo Giulia
We're big fans of the way the Alfa Romeo Giulia looks and drives. Yes, the Giulia Quadrifoglio might get all the headlines, but lesser models like the TI that falls nicely into our $40,000 budget cap are very nice vehicles, too. The 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine with 280 horsepower and 306 pound-feet of torque manages to feel even stronger than those ratings suggest, and the Giulia's steering feel is the best in its segment.
Research the 2018 Alfa Romeo Giulia
Chevy Bolt EV
Electric cars have gone mainstream. The Chevy Bolt EV, which is sometimes marketed as a crossover but is really the very definition of a hatchback, boasts a range of 238 miles on a single charge of its onboard battery pack. That ought to be enough for most Americans to completely forget about the notion of range anxiety.
Plus, the Bolt EV is pretty fun to drive. It does 0-60 in under 7 seconds, and the battery pack's position low in the chassis means the Bolt feels stable and secure out on the road. Even if you don't consider federal tax incentives (which are getting close to running out for Chevrolet), the Bolt fits into our budget, and ought to leave you some money left over to install a quick charger in the garage.
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Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid
The Chrysler Pacifica enjoys a well-earned spot on our list of the best vehicles for $30,000. And the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid is just as deserving of a spot on this list of the best vehicles for $40,000. Note, though, that there are currently federal (and possibly state) rebates available that help drive the price of this electrified minivan down even further.
We grabbed one of these minivans for a long-term test because "the Pacifica Hybrid is a landmark vehicle, the first and only hybrid minivan, ever. It's a clever idea, considering many families would use the 33-mile electric capability for errands and not even need gas." If that describes your driving needs, the Pacifica Hybrid may be perfect for you.
Research the 2018 Chrysler Pacifica
Dodge Challenger and Charger Scat Pack
If you've got $40 grand to spend and want something with a full-bore American flavor, look no further than your nearest Dodge dealership. There you'll find a pair of Hemi-powered muscle cars, one two-door coupe and one four-door sedan. Either way you'll get a 485-horsepower V8 under the hood for exactly $5 bucks less than our self-imposed budget cap.
Research the 2018 Dodge Charger
Ford Mustang GT
The Ford Mustang is much more than just a pony car. These days, it drives like a legitimate sports car, with crisp handling to go with its honkin' V8 engine. You could certainly choose an EcoBoost turbocharged four-cylinder, and we wouldn't fault you for your choice, but we'd stick with the excellent 5.0-liter V8 engine.
There's something special about a Mustang with a classic American V8, particularly one that sends with 460 horsepower and 420 pound-feet of torque to the rear wheels through a manual transmission. See if you can find one with the GT Performance Package, which comes with upgraded wheels and tires, brakes, rear differential, and more.
Research the 2018 Ford Mustang
Honda Civic Type R
The Honda Civic Type R comes in several thousand dollars below our $40,000 limit. And it brings with it a sweet turbocharged engine with 306 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque. It'll hit speeds up to 170 miles per hour, and that should tell you that this is no ordinary Honda Civic.
Despite its prodigious performance, the Civic Type R makes a perfectly good daily driver, with a reasonably roomy interior and a hatchback for utility.
Research the 2018 Honda Civic
Jeep Wrangler Rubicon
The Jeep Wrangler in base trim starts at a little under $30,000. It's great fun at that price. But if you can stretch your budget to $40,000 for a Rubicon, well, you've got access to one of the best factory off-roaders the world has to offer.
We're specifically looking at the two-door Jeep Wrangler Rubicon (savvy negotiators may be able to score a four-door Unlimited for a little bit more). It's got a 285-horsepower V6 engine, a six-speed manual transmission, a locking part-time four-wheel-drive system, and lots of ground clearance. Have fun out there.
Research the 2018 Jeep Wrangler
Kia Stinger GT
People may not think of Kia as a performance brand, but the Stinger GT might just be the car to start challenging those preconceptions. With a 365 horsepower twin-turbo V6 sending power to either the rear or all four wheels, the Stinger GT is a proper Grand Touring car. And best of all, it comes in well under our $40,000 price limit, even when equipped with a few options.
Research the 2018 Kia Stinger
Mazda Miata RF
The Mazda Miata is one of our favorite cars, full stop. And it's a bargain, with a base price of just $26,625 for 2019. But even if you choose the RF model with its retractable hardtop, and add every single option Mazda offers for the Miata, you'll still fall well below our $40,000 price ceiling.
It's not the most expensive vehicle on this list – not by a long shot – but it might just be the most fun.
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Subaru WRX STI
This version of the Subaru WRX STI has been around for a while now. And we like it just as much today as we did when we first strapped ourselves behind its rally-inspired wheel several years ago. The WRX STI comes with a 310-horsepower turbocharged engine, a six-speed manual transmission, and all-wheel drive.
It's a true driver's car, with quick reflexes and stunning performance. And if you're good at negotiating, you might even find a WRX STI Limited for under $40,000.
Research the 2018 Subaru WRX
You could choose to "subscribe" to the Volvo XC40 for $600/month with $500 down through the Care by Volvo program. Or, you could just buy it outright, and do so at a base price that starts right around $35,000.
Either way, you'll enjoy a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder producing 250 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque, and an eight-speed automatic. And perhaps most importantly, you'll enjoy a healthy dose of Swedish style.