11 Best Cars for $20K That Are Totally Worth Buying

Drive smarter and smoother with these 11 wallet-friendly cars that deliver beyond price.

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Updated May 28, 2024
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If you need a new car but want to avoid wasting money on an overpriced vehicle that's not as reliable as you hoped, there are plenty of affordable options to choose from.

Check out these vehicles priced under $20,000 to see if any of them could be right for your garage.

Kia Soul

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The Kia Soul gives you the option of an SUV at an affordable price.

The Soul comes equipped with standard safety features and a 10.25-inch touchscreen to help you navigate streets.

Pick one up at a manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP), starting at $19,890.

Nissan Versa

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The Nissan Versa is an excellent option if you’re looking for something that’s affordable and gets good gas mileage. The car is rated to get 32 miles per gallon in the city and 40 miles per gallon on the highway.

You can buy one for a base price of $15,980, making it one of the most affordable options under $20,000.

Hyundai Venue

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The Hyundai Venue is a subcompact SUV that you can pack with groceries or use to pick up friends.

Kelley Blue Book also named the 2023 model as having the lowest cost-to-own over five years in its class. The Venue’s cost-to-own is around $5,000 less than its competitors in the segment.

The Venue has a base price of $19,650. That’s just below the $20,000 mark, so make sure you factor in other potential costs if you’re on a tight budget.

Nissan Sentra

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The Nissan Sentra has earned several awards over the past few years, including being named a top safety pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and Highway Loss Data Institute.

Autotrader also named it one of the 10 best cars for recent college graduates.

It’s not technically under $20,000, but barely exceeds that mark with an MSRP of just $20,200.

Hyundai Accent

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Another affordable sedan from Hyundai is the Accent, which includes three trims that all start with a base price under $20,000.

The SE is the lowest-priced trim model, with a starting base price of $16,645. The SEL starts at $17,900. On the higher end is the Hyundai Accent Limited, which starts at $19,600.

All three are gas-efficient vehicles, each getting 33 miles per gallon in the city and 41 per gallon on the highways.

Volkswagen Jetta

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The Volkswagen Jetta is a sedan that has a digital dashboard, including a digital speedometer and heads-up maps for easy navigation.

The Jetta squeaks by the $20,000 limit, coming in at $20,665 for a base price. That’s still good enough for our list, but remember that the MSRP doesn’t include add-ons or upgrades.

Kia Forte

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The Kia Forte sets itself apart with a stylish front end, sport-tuned dual exhaust, and multi-linked rear suspension.

You also get good gas mileage with the Forte, coming in at 41 miles per gallon for highway driving and 30 miles per gallon in the city.

Check out a Forte with a suggested base price of $19,690.

Hyundai Elantra

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The Elantra’s unique exterior will make it stand out from other sedans.

Its safety features can also make an impression, with the car earning a 5-star overall safety rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

One issue with the Elantra, however, is the price. The sedan comes with an MSRP of $20,950, so this car’ll be a bit above your $20,000 budget.

Kia Rio

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The Kia Rio has some key safety features tucked into its subcompact frame when you upgrade to the S model. Features include lane-keeping and following-assist technology and auto emergency braking with pedestrian detection.

You can choose the LX version of the Rio for $16,750 or upgrade to the S model with a starting base price of $17,390.

Nissan Kicks

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The Nissan Kicks is an excellent option if you’re looking for an affordable subcompact SUV. You also get up to 31 miles per gallon in the city and 36 miles per gallon on the highway.

The Kicks subcompact SUV is slightly above your $20,000 budget, with the base model starting at $20,590.

Mitsubishi Mirage

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The sporty Mitsubishi Mirage can easily get you from place to place in style.

Check out the versatile cargo space or save some cash with the model's fuel efficiency. The Mirage can get 36 miles per gallon in the city or 43 miles on the highway.

You can also get it at an affordable price: The Mirage has a base price of $16,245, giving you extra room to add extras.

Bottom line

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Buying any of the cars on this list can save you money compared to purchasing a more expensive model.

Another way to cut costs on your vehicle is to lower your car insurance by shopping around and comparing quotes. Choosing a fuel-efficient car with low maintenance costs also reduces your cost to own.

  • You could save up to $600 with some companies
  • Compare dozens of providers in under 5 minutes
  • Fast, free and easy way to shop for insurance
  • Quickly find the perfect rate for you

Author Details

Jenny Cohen

Jenny Cohen is a freelance writer who has covered a bit of everything, from finance to sports to her favorite TV shows. Her work has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and FoxSports.com.