• Image Credit: Toyota

    A recent study looked at the 25 largest metropolitan areas in the United States to see which median-income households in those respective areas can afford to purchase a new car, the average price of which was $30,550 in 2012, according to TrueCar. The study found that in only one city can residents actually afford a car with this sticker price -- Washington, D.C.

    Households with an average income in Washington, D.C. can afford a payment of up to $628, which would allow for purchase of a $31,940 vehicle. The next closest city, San Francisco, can only afford $537 per month, equating to a $26,786.

    While it's not news that Americans like to buy things that they can't afford, the data is a little surprising given how many great cars there are out there for well under $30,000. Solid hybrids, CUVs, sedans and sports cars can all be had for less than this.

    We've racked our brains and come up with 5 of the best cars that are cheaper than the average car's purchase price. These are affordable, versatile, fun and fuel efficient. Of course, there are some stinkers in this price range, as well, so we've included 5 vehicles we think you should avoid.

    Click through to see what we picked.

  • Best - Subaru BRZ
    • Image Credit: Subaru

    Best - Subaru BRZ

    MSRP: $25,495 - $27,495
    Invoice: $24,327 - $26,112
    Fuel Economy: 22 mpg City, 30 mpg Highway

    The Subaru BRZ proves that driving bliss doesn't have to cost a fortune. The rear-wheel drive sports coupe is one of the most engaging vehicles on the road today, with utterly superb dynamics and looks. The best part? You can have one for $25,495.

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  • Best - Volkswagen Golf
    • Image Credit: VW

    Best - Volkswagen Golf

    MSRP: $18,095 - $25,200
    Invoice: $17,371 - $24,192
    Fuel Economy: 23 mpg City, 33 mpg Highway

    Although the redesigned 2014 version of this handsome hatch will be on sale in the near future, the current generation is still worth buying. It's fuel efficient, fun and surprisingly versatile. Starting at less than $20,000, the Golf is also quite affordable.

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  • Best - Toyota Prius v
    • Image Credit: Toyota

    Best - Toyota Prius v

    MSRP: $26,650 - $30,295
    Invoice: $24,809 - $28,202
    Fuel Economy: 44 mpg City, 40 mpg Highway

    The Toyota Pirus v is essentially a bigger version of the popular Prius hybrid. This hatchback acheives stellar fuel economy while allowing for transport of numerous people and all of their stuff. Starting at $26,650, you can have all the benefits of a versatile hybrid for an agreeable price.

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  • Best - Mazda CX-5
    • Image Credit: Mazda

    Best - Mazda CX-5

    MSRP: $20,995 - $28,595
    Invoice: $20,396 - $27,771
    Fuel Economy: 26 mpg City, 35 mpg Highway

    The Mazda CX-5 is one of our favorite crossovers here at AOL Autos even when taking more expensive ones into account. Remarkably fun to drive, fuel efficient and starting at a low price, there's a lot to love about this agile utility vehicle.

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  • Best - Hyundai Elantra
    • Image Credit: Hyundai

    Best - Hyundai Elantra

    MSRP: $16,695 - $21,115
    Invoice: $16,208 - $20,218
    Fuel Economy: 28 mpg City, 38 mpg Highway

    This small sedan continue to be the darling of both critics and consumers nationwide. Available with tons of standard features, great looks and sweet fuel economy, the Elantra is one of the best cars on the planet right now.

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  • Worst - Chrysler 200
    • Image Credit: Chrysler

    Worst - Chrysler 200

    MSRP: $18,995 - $32,820
    Invoice: $18,770 - $31,334
    Fuel Economy: 21 mpg City, 29 mpg Highway

    The 200 is a holdover from when Chrysler was owned by Daimler and then private equity-firm Cerberus Capital. It's not that this car is awful, especially since the new Chrysler, managed by Fiat, made a series of improvements. It's that the other cars in this category are so good, and much better designed and engineered.

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  • Worst - Scion tC
    • Image Credit: Toyota

    Worst - Scion tC

    MSRP: $18,725 - $21,815
    Invoice: $17,789 - $20,725
    Fuel Economy: 23 mpg City, 31 mpg Highway

    The Scion tC is intended to be a sporty coupe. The problem? It's not sporty. At all. In fact, the tC finds itself on the Consumer Reports list of the least fun cars to drive and we're inclined to agree with that assessment.

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  • Worst - Dodge Journey
    • Image Credit: Chrysler

    Worst - Dodge Journey

    MSRP: $18,995 - $30,795
    Invoice: $18,800 - $29,276
    Fuel Economy: 19 mpg City, 26 mpg Highway

    Short on features and with pretty poor driving dynamics, the Dodge Journey is one you should skip if you're shopping for a sub-$30,000 crossover. We're looking forward to Dodge's next attempt.

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  • Worst - Acura ILX
    • Image Credit: Honda

    Worst - Acura ILX

    MSRP: $25,900 - $29,200
    Invoice: $24,452 - $27,507
    Fuel Economy: 24 mpg City, 35 mpg Highway

    Don't be fooled by the badge. This is not really a luxury car. With uninspired driving dynamics and a lackluster interior, you should pass on the ILX even though its low sticker price seems very tempting.

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  • Worst - smart fortwo
    • Image Credit: smart

    Worst - smart fortwo

    MSRP: $12,490 - $17,890
    Invoice: $11,616 - $16,638
    Fuel Economy: 34 mpg City, 38 mpg Highway

    The idea of the smart fortwo is great. It's the execution that's the problem. The fortwo is loud, terrible to drive and really isn't all that fuel efficient, considering its size. There are way better options between $10,000 and $20,000.

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