Category Archives: Affordable

The 10 Least Expensive Cars to Own

When it’s time to buy a new car and desperation comes calling, all other priorities peel away, leaving price alone to govern the decision. But simply buying the cheapest car isn’t necessarily the cheapest route. Cars—even the affordable ones—are expensive to own and operate. So we went in search of the answer to an important question: What is the cheapest car to buy and own? Fuel is an obvious consideration, but insurance can’t be ignored, either.

To normalize purchase-price variations based on the terms of a loan, we’re using MSRP for purchase price and settled on a three-year ownership window. On top of MSRP, we rolled in the cost of insurance over three years for a 28-year-old male, single, living in the same area as our Ann Arbor offices. Fortunately for him, he has no tickets. To that sum, we added the cost of fueling each car during that time based on 12,000 miles traveled annually and using the EPA’s combined fuel-economy rating and the nationwide average price of regular gas over the past year—which, at $2.57 a gallon, sounds mighty appealing. Although the EPA’s figure doesn’t perfectly reflect the fuel economy people will see in day-to-day use, it does provide an accurate prediction of how vehicles will fare relative to one another.

DISCLAIMER: The figures below are accurate as of the publishing date. However, MSRP varies almost daily. Fuel mileage will vary depending on driving conditions, driving style, and other factors. Insurance rates vary town to town, driver to driver, and minute to minute. Cars are listed in descending order of ownership cost. No, we will not buy you one.

Hyundai Elantra

A manual transmission is the short-changed buyer’s best friend, as manuals are typically $1000 or so cheaper than automatics and, except in the case of today’s most bleeding-edge transmissions, are more fuel efficient to boot. This Hyundai is a perfect example, as the only manual transmission available in the entire 2010 Elantra sedan lineup is in the base Blue model tuned for—you guessed it—maximum fuel efficiency. Lower-rolling-resistance tires, a more efficient alternator, and electric power steering—instead of hydraulic—also aid fuel economy. We here at C/D like manuals because they increase driver involvement, too, an area in which the Elantra sedan could use some improvement, so there’s a bonus.

Kia Forte Sedan

Of the 10 cars on this list, five are Korean: Kias or Hyundais. (The Japanese industry has three representatives; the U.S. has one; and a European, as imported by Roger Penske—the Smart—fills the last spot.) Of these Korean cars, the new-for-2010 Forte is the strongest in its respective class. In its slightly more expensive coupe form (only $600 more than a similarly optioned sedan), the Forte is even sort of attractive, too. The cheapest Forte is arguably the most fun, as the larger engine adds pounds without much extra power, and the manual transmission is a six-speed, giving enthusiast drivers plenty of ratios from which to choose. If we were to pick a car from this list, the Forte would be among the front-runners.

Suzuki SX4 Sedan

In its more expensive (by about $2500) and better-equipped hatchback form, the SX4 is one of the most underrated cars on the market. The four-door comes in a more America-friendly three-box shape—although it’s a bit gawky-looking—and it’s actually decently quick for something so affordable, although a nine-second 0-to-60-mph time is only favorable when compared with many other cars on this list, fully laden freight trains, and limping lambs. Although it is moderately fun to drive, the SX4 sedan placed sixth in a recent eight-car comparo, mostly because we just couldn’t get comfortable in it. Be sure to take a long test drive before committing to this Suzuki.

Kia Soul

The small-car explosion that’s been going on over the past few years has reached the point at which we start to see automakers investing in interesting and fun small cars and not simply inexpensive ones. The Kia Soul belongs to both groups. Its presence here is testimony to its affordability—even in the long run—and its appearance immediately identifies it as something different. Kia offers an extensive menu of customization options—including stripe packages, wheels, and body add-ons—and a Scion-esque stream of limited editions sporting exclusive paint and interior trimmings. In the often dreary small-car segment, the Soul stands out.

Toyota Yaris Three-Door Hatchback

The Toyota Yaris is often cited as an example of why the Smart Fortwo needn’t exist. About $1000 more expensive, it feels and looks more like a real car, it has more cargo space, and it won’t hang your buddies out to dry if you occasionally need to accommodate more than one passenger. Even so, the Yaris is as devoid of driving pleasure as the Smart, although its center-mounted instrument panel adds driving excitement by taking the driver’s eyes off the road whenever he wants to know how fast he’s going. So there’s that.

Kia Rio Sedan

Her name is Rio, and although she doesn’t exactly dance like a river twisting through the dusty land, she does manage more than just an anemic shuffle. In a comparison test of econocars, we placed the Rio third, finding it actually kind of cute and almost fun to drive—certainly when considered in the spectrum of under-$15,000 hatchbacks. Buyers looking for a similar driving experience with a little more funk in the styling—and who can shake loose a few more bucks—would do well to consider the Kia Soul, just two notches pricier on this list.

Chevrolet Aveo Sedan

Remember Daewoo, the poorly received Korean subsidiary whose products GM thought would be the next big thing after it gave them to college kids for free? As Oprah would prove again with the Pontiac G6, giving cars away doesn’t help anyone’s perception of their value. Daewoo lives on outside our shores and sends an undercover agent here as the Chevrolet Aveo. The little Chevy has improved dramatically in the past few years, but if you’re drawn to this little four-door, might we suggest waiting another year or so? A replacement is due in 2011, and it should be wholly more exciting than the current car while being similarly thrifty.

Smart Fortwo Coupe

Think of the Smart as the perfect cure for parallelparkusphobia, or as a motorcycle for people with chronic vertigo. The Fortwo actually is a good idea: Just look around and notice how few cars actually have more than one person in them. It’s a strong argument for the smallest possible vehicle, period. Still, we fall short of wholehearted endorsement—heck, even half- or quarter-hearted endorsement—for one reason alone: The sole transmission choice is a total bummer. If all you want is small, cheap, and fuel efficient, get a Suzuki Hayabusa superbike. It, unlike the Smart, at least will pop wheelies.

Hyundai Accent Three-Door Hatchback

The Accent is something of a darling at our office. It’s a delightfully tossable little blob, and there’s something liberating about driving around in a brand-new car with a replacement price of less than $11,000. But the Accent illustrates an interesting trend we noticed in researching this roundup: Korean cars tend to have higher insurance rates than similarly priced and matched cars from other countries. The Accent is actually the cheapest car on this list in purchase price, yet the Accent’s insurance cost over three years is nearly $750 higher than the Versa’s. So remember, if your decision will be based strictly on dollars, your insurance agent can be more important than your salesperson.

Nissan Versa 1.6 Base

The Nissan Versa is a competent and capacious car in any trim, and even people with no criterion but price of entry might be a bit shocked at how little a base Versa includes. Both the engine (1.6 liters) and the wheels (14 inches) are smaller on the ultra-cheap 1.6 than they are on other Versas. It has no ABS and no power locks, mirrors, or windows. Not even a radio is standard. The transmission is manual, Nissan skimps on the seat padding, and even the clock is gone. If all you want is cheap, then all you get is this. It’s still not a bad package, but if you want the cheapest car possible, for goodness’ sake, buy used.

HOW MUCH DOES A CAR BATTERY COST

How Much Does a car battery Cost and What Determines Its Specific Price? When you’re in the market for a new car battery, the question “how much does a car battery cost?” is among the most important ones, especially if you’re on a slightly lower budget. Fortunately, the price ranges available today are much wider and more diverse than they used to be, so making up your mind is no longer a big issue. The real problem is checking all your facts in advance and knowing enough about your vehicle and the battery it needs, in order to make an informed choice regarding quality and long term resilience. Which battery is right for your vehcile.

THE TYPICAL COST OF A CAR BATTERY

Compared to other vehicle maintenance tasks, replacing your car battery is relatively inexpensive, but a good battery can still easily top $100. Experts estimate that the average price tag of a battery is between $60 and $120, and premium batteries are rated above this interval, with the least expensive ones cost maybe $75 apiece.

WHAT FACTORS DETERMINE HOW MUCH CAR BATTERIES COST?

How much does a car battery cost, and what would lead to a higher or lower cost? Estimated lifespan is one of the major factors that determine the price of a car battery as well as the size of battery you actually need for your vehicle.. While most batteries are estimated to last up to 4 years, more expensive brands can even last more than 5-6 years before needing to be replaced. Moreover, size groups, the type of vehicle you drive and any special requirements such as increased resistance to cold and corrosion will weigh in when it comes to determining the overall cost. Lightweight batteries are also less expensive, since they reduce the load on your car, and the performance of lithium-ion versus lead-acid technologies also warrants a sizable price increase.

TYPES OF CAR BATTERIES AND THEIR SPECIFIC PRICES

The cheapest types of car batteries are traditional lead/acid batteries, which are typically rated at about $65 to $130 or so. Calcium-calcium batteries are only slightly more expensive, while the more advanced fluid regulation technology of valve-regulated lead-acid batteries will typically drive the price up to a maximum of $250. From there on, you only get the highest quality and best technology. How much does a car battery cost above the range of normal lead-acid batteries? The more durable, deep-cycle batteries will cost you at least $200, while the top-of-the-line lithium-ion battery has a starting price of $1,000.

NEWER VS. OLDER CARS AND BATTERIES

If you have an older car, it stands to reason that you may not be hanging on to it for much longer and don’t want to spend a lot of money on a battery, so a price that’s less than $100 is usually warranted. In addition, older vehicles don’t require the current draw of newer, more sophisticated cars and put less demand on a battery. As a result, buying a new car will likely require a pricing range of $150 to $350 for a brand new battery. That isn’t necessarily just a result of the need for better technology, but for the greater amperage and CCA values demanded by modern standards. In most cases, if you ask “how much does a car battery cost in today’s market,” experts will refer to these prices, while also pointing out the possibility of buying cheaper or more expensive units, depending on the vehicle you own.

Which cars are the cheapest to repair?

When it comes to choosing a car, it makes good financial sense to opt for one that won’t cost you an arm and a leg should it need any repairs. So before you buy your vehicle, it’s well worth doing some research into which cars are the cheapest to repair and which manufacturers are the most reliable (inasmuch as they make vehicles that, statistically at least, are less likely to need repairs in the first place). Here’s a quick round-up of some of the best options…

Cheapest cars to repair

MoneySupermarket and Warranty Direct investigated which cars are the cheapest to repair and put together the top 10. At number 10 was the car manufacturer Seat, with repairs costing an average of £273.35.

This was followed by Citroen, where repairs cost an average of £270.72. Vauxhall (£270.42), Hyundai (£269.90), Smart (£268.27), Skoda (£261.02), and Fiat (£260.25), took eighth, seventh, sixth, fifth and fourth place respectively.

Third place went to Peugeot at £251.57 and Suzuki took second place, with repairs costing £234.96 on average. But at number one was the car manufacturer Ford, with repairs on Ford vehicles found to cost an average of £223.92.

Most reliable cars

When it came to reliability, Japanese manufacturers took the top three spots – Honda, Suzuki and Toyota. The fourth and fifth most reliable manufacturers were found to be Ford and Kia.

Maintaining your car

The best way to avoid paying out for expensive repairs is to look after your car and carry out regular checks. It’s a good idea to check the tyre pressure every two weeks and check the tread is above the minimum legal requirement of 1.6mm. You should also regularly check that the car’s horn, lights, handbrake, seatbelts, mirrors and windscreen wipers all work properly.

Replacing light bulbs if they have blown is relatively easy to do and it won’t cost you much. Topping up brake fluid, windscreen washer and oil levels is also a simple task. If there are any problems with your car, getting them fixed while they are still relatively small will prevent them from escalating into a larger, more expensive problem. What’s more, it will also increase the chances of your car passing its MOT. All cars have to have an MOT every year once they reach their third birthday.

Maintaining your car becomes even more important when winter strikes. Ice and snow can affect how well your car grips the road, so it’s crucial to check that the tyres are inflated correctly and the tread hasn’t worn down. Checking the windscreen for cracks is also important as even the smallest of chips could turn into a large crack as soon as temperatures drop. Keep the windscreen clean too because a build up of dirt can reduce visibility and increase dazzle from headlights and the low winter sun. Also ensure the battery is in good working order because it can quickly run itself flat in the winter months.

Most batteries are reliable for two to four years, so if your car’s battery is older than this it could be worth replacing it. Keep a few essentials in the car boot, such as a spare tyre, tool kit, jump leads, ice scraper, torch, blanket and first aid kit so that you’re prepared in the event that your car breaks down. And, of course, make sure you have breakdown cover. You can compare quotes on the MoneySupermarket comparison service. Similarly, use our car insurance comparison service to find the best deal on your car insurance.

You can keep the costs down by taking care of your car and parking it somewhere secure such as your driveway or garage. Fitting an alarm or immobiliser will also help to keep your premiums down. But avoid modifying your car as this will only help to push up the cost of your car insurance. Finally, don’t forget to take your car to be serviced. Generally-speaking this should be done every six months, but your car’s manual should tell you how frequently your car should be serviced.