Shopping for a car can seem like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be — there are a number of great new and used cars out there for everyone. One thing that can complicate the process is deciding between buying new or used. With a new car, you get the peace of mind that comes with a full manufacturer’s warranty, not to mention the satisfaction of driving a brand new vehicle off the lot. Buy used and you can find some great values thanks to depreciation. Here we’ve listed ten of our favorite options, new and used, for car buyers with a budget of around $20,000. You’ll notice a common theme of fuel efficiency and modern driver assistance features among the vehicles listed below.
The Mazda3 is one of the best new or used cars on the market, and new examples of both the regular 4-door and the 5-door hatchback both start at under $20,000, with the sedan starting around $18,000 and the 5-door hatch starting around $19,000. While in this case your $20,000 won’t get you many options, it will get you Mazda’s great design and interior quality along with the inherent fun-to-drive nature of the Mazda3. If optional nicities like a sunroof, navigation or driver assist features like blind spot monitoring and lane-departure warning are important to you, consider a used one- or two-year-old Mazda 3, close to 2,000 of which are currently listed for sale on Autotrader for around $20,000 or less.
2015-2018 Volkswagen GTI
Anyone who’s owned or even driven one will tell you — it’s hard to beat a Volkswagen GTI. One of the most fun-to-drive cars on the market, it’s also one of the most practical, thanks to its hatchback bodystyle. It’s also one of the more efficient cars on the market, thanks to its small turbocharged 4-cylinder engine. The GTI has been available in its seventh generation in the U.S. since 2015, which means used examples ring in well below the $20,000 threshold. The most important decisions to make when buying a GTI include whether you want a 2- or 4-door body-style (although the 2-door is far less common) and whether you want a 6-speed manual or VW’s trick dual clutch automatic with paddle shifters. VW reliability can be tricky sometimes, and the DSG transmission will require a costly servicing every 40,000 miles, but it’s worth it in order to get to feel like you’re driving the world’s most practical go-kart to work every morning.
2019 Honda Fit
Credited for being a fun-to-drive, well-designed vehicle, the Honda Fit has a starting price of around $16,000, and buyers of even the base model can opt for Honda’s suite of safety features that include adaptive cruise control, collision mitigation and lane-keep assist. Given the Fit’s low starting price, though, there is surely room for options, and at around the $20,000 mark, buyers of a new Fit can opt for the top-of-the-line EX-L, which brings about such features as a standard continuously variable automatic transmission with paddle shifters, alloy wheels and heated leather seats. Fit buyers across the board will see great efficiency — as the Fit earns well over 30 miles per gallon in everyday driving — and practicality, thanks to its spacious hatchback design.
2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback
While pricing has yet to be announced, we fully expect the all-new 2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback to ring in right around $20,000. For your money, you’ll get Toyota’s entire suite of intelligent safety features standard, Apple CarPlay and your choice of two transmissions — a continuously variable automatic with paddle shifters and a fixed first gear for starting from a dead stop, or a smooth shifting 6-speed manual with rev-matching technology. Early reviews call the Corolla far more engaging to drive than its predecessor, the Corolla iM, thanks to the new model’s sport-tuned suspension and increased horsepower from its 2-liter 4-cylinder engine, up to 168 from 137. The new 2019 Corolla Hatchback goes on sale this summer.
2016-2017 Honda Accord
The ninth-generation Honda Accord was sold from 2013-2017, but for around $20,000, we recommend a refreshed 2016 or 2017 model. In that price range, you’ll have your choice of the 4-cylinder model, which made 189 hp and earned upwards of 30 mpg, or the more powerful V6, which made 278 hp and went from 0-to-60 in 5.7 seconds. There was also an Accord Hybrid offered for 2017, which achieved upwards of 45 miles per gallon. 2016 and 2017 Accords are also equipped with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and were available with all of the modern safety features like blind spot monitoring and lane-departure warning. There are currently over 2,000 2016 and 2017 Accords for sale on Autotrader.
2015-2017 Toyota Sienna
Need more room than what you get in an everyday sedan? Consider one of the longest running minivans on the market: the Toyota Sienna. Now in its third generation, the current Sienna has received a number of updates since it was first introduced for the 2011 model year, and we’d recommend finding a 2015 or newer model, 300 of which are currently listed on Autotrader for $20,000 or less. Under the hood of the Sienna is a 268-hp V6 engine, mated to a 6-speed transmission up until 2017, when it was replaced with an 8-speed. Family friendly features include seating for up to eight, 3-zone climate control, a sliding and reclining second row and an available panoramic sunroof and rear-seat entertainment system. There’s even an SE version offered, with 19-inch wheels, a more aggressive body kit and sport-tuned suspension and steering. AWD can also be had on LE, XLE and Limited trim levels; a feature otherwise unheard of in the minivan class. We should note that while we think the Honda Odyssey is a better minivan overall, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a newer model under $20,000 — so the Sienna is a great option.
2018 Ford Fiesta ST
With Ford having recently announced the demise of much of its car lineup after the 2020 model year, now is a great time to get a deal on a Fiesta, and we highly recommend the sporty Fiesta ST. With new 2018 Fiesta STs displaying sticker prices of around $21,000, current incentives or some good old-fashioned negotiating should help get that price below the $20,000 mark. If you’re willing to take the used route, there are currently 550 pre-owned Fiesta STs for sale on Autotrader for under $20,000. Whether you go new or used, with the Fiesta ST you get a sporty subcompact 4-door hatch with a 1.3-liter EcoBoost 4-cylinder engine making 197 hp and 214 lb-ft of torque, a 6-speed manual transmission, 17-in wheels, an aggressive body kit and Recaro sport seats.
2018 Hyundai Elantra
For $20,000, buyers have their choice of just about any trim level in the Elantra lineup. The Elantra comes with three different 4-cylinder engines to choose from, making either 128, 147 or 201 hp, and three transmission choices: A manual, a traditional automatic or a dual-clutch automatic. Opt for the Elantra Eco and expect to see around 35 mpg, while the Elantra Sport pairs the dual clutch automatic with the 201-hp turbocharged powerplant, making for an engaging ride. Trim levels SEL and up come with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility through their standard touch-screen infotainment systems. The best value at the $20,000 mark, though, is the Elantra Limited, new or used, as in addition to everything else mentioned, it includes Hyundai’s lineup of driver-assistance safety features. Right now there are over 20,000 new and used Elantras to choose from on Autotrader.
2017-2018 Ford Fusion
The Fusion was redesigned for the 2013 model year and there are many, many 2013 and newer models available at the $20,000 price point, but we recommend an updated 2017 or newer model. Ford was an early adopter of driver assistance features, and many Fusion models as old as 2013 include the technology. The Fusion’s 2017 update brought about refreshed styling and added such features as a dial-controlled transmission, Sync 3 with Android Auto and Apple Carplay connectivity, an available V6 engine and an upscale Fusion Platinum trim level. An engine start-stop system is available to help with fuel economy, while optional all-wheel drive allows for added peace of mind. Right now there are over 5,000 2017-and-newer Ford Fusions listed on Autotrader, 35 of which come with all-wheel drive.
2014-2016 Kia Cadenza
Just because you only have $20,000 to spend doesn’t mean you have to forgo luxury. The Kia Cadenza is a great upscale offering for a budget of $20k. Given that it wears a Kia badge and employs front-wheel drive, the Cadenza has experienced rapid depreciation since new, meaning you can now scoop one up for a bargain, and there are currently around 400 listed on Autotrader that fit our requirements. Powering this luxury sedan is a 3.3-liter 294-hp V6 mated to a 6-speed automatic. The Cadenza also offers a Napa leather interior, heated driver and passenger seats and a ventilated driver’s seat. Heated rear seats along with a dual sunroof are optional. To round it out, any used Cadenza comes with a 5-year/60,000-mile overall warranty. While it isn’t a Lexus or an Audi, the Cadenza offers great luxury at a bargain price.