One of the hardest parts about buying a new car is deciding whether to buy new or used. There are some great values available for used cars, but nothing beats that new car smell and the feeling of driving a new vehicle off the lot with just a few miles on the odometer. While you might note that a nicer car can be had via the used route, another great thing about a new car is that it comes with a factory warranty; helpful if something goes wrong with the vehicle. To help with this dilemma, here’s a list of some great new vehicle options available for under $15,000, along with some great comparable modern, used cars, to give you an idea of what caliber of vehicle you can get via each route.
2018 Nissan Versa S Sedan
Available for just under $13,000, the Versa Sedan is likely the least expensive sedan sold new today. For your money, you won’t get much beyond four wheels, four doors and a trunk, although a few nice standard features include Bluetooth connectivity, air conditioning, front disc brakes, a trip computer, a 12-volt DC power outlet and an audio system that comes with four speakers, an auxiliary port and a CD player. The Versa Sedan comes with a 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine making 109 horsepower and 107 lb-ft of torque. Like most inexpensive new cars, perhaps the Versa’s greatest selling point is the fact that it comes with a factory warranty, good for three years or 36,000 miles overall and five years or 60,000 miles on the powertrain.
2018 Chevrolet Spark
A small city car, the Spark offers some real value for just under $14,000. A 7-inch infotainment system with both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay is standard, along with ten airbags. Under the hood is a 1.4-liter 98 hp 4-cylinder engine with a standard 5-speed manual transmission or an optional CVT automatic that brings about a $1,100 premium. Thanks to its hatchback design, the Spark has 27.2 cu ft. of cargo space. Other standard features include a backup camera, Bluetooth phone connectivity, a USB port and available OnStar service. Like the Versa and like many other new cars, the Spark comes with a 3-year/36,000-mile basic and 5-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty.
2018 Mitsubishi Mirage
The third least expensive advertised new vehicle in the United States is the Mitsubishi Mirage, which rings in at $13,395. Although it’s light on power, with a 3-cylinder engine making 78 hp mated to a 5-speed manual transmission, Mirage drivers should see around 40 miles per gallon in combined city and highway driving. The automatic transmission option is a CVT unit and adds $1,200 to the base price. Either way, the Mirage offers Bluetooth connectivity, air conditioning, a 7-in touchscreen and a rearview camera for under $15,000, topped off by an excellent 5-year/60,000-mile basic, 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty.
2018 Kia Rio Sedan
While not as practical as the hatchback Rio, the Rio Sedan is less expensive than its 5-door brethren, ringing in at a base price of $13,900. At this price, buyers get a relatively powerful 4-cylinder engine making 130 hp and returning an estimated 32 mpg in combined city and highway driving with either the manual transmission or optional automatic, which adds $1,050 to the price. The base Rio also comes with a 5-in touch screen infotainment system with both an auxiliary input and USB port. Kia’s generous 5-year/60,000-mile basic, 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty helps add some more value to the entry-level Rio.
2014–2018 Mazda3/Mazda3 Hatchback
Long one of the more engaging compact cars on the market, the current generation Mazda3 went on sale for the 2014 model year. Offering buyers their choice of two fuel-efficient 4-cylinder engines, the Mazda3 has always been available in both sedan and hatchback forms. There are over 2,000 current-generation Mazda3s for sale on Autotrader for $15,000 or less, just under 500 of which are the practical hatchback model. Compared to the brand new vehicles listed above, a used Mazda3 means a step up in size, refinement and features, but will also either come without a warranty, or with only a portion of the factory warranty remaining, depending on how old it is. The same goes the for the other used vehicles on this list. Nonetheless, it’s hard to go wrong with a Mazda3.
2014–2018 Toyota Corolla
A 2014 to 2018 Toyota Corolla is a great used option at the $15,000 price point. Now in its eleventh generation, the Corolla offers a 132 hp 4-cylinder engine mated to either a 6-speed manual or continuously variable automatic transmission. 2017 and newer models even offer as standard Toyota’s suite of driver assistance features, referred to as Toyota Safety Sense. Other standard features include eight airbags and Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity. Around 550 2014–2018 Corollas are currently available on Autotrader for under $15,000, around 1,400 of which are 2017-and-newer models offering Toyota Safety Sense, which we highly recommend.
2014–2018 Kia Soul
The SUV-like Soul offers much of the efficiency and driving dynamics of a compact car, making it a great ‘best-of-both-worlds’ option, and second-generation models, which went on sale for the 2014 model year, currently sell for under $15,000; with a few thousand listed on Autotrader that fit the bill. The second generation Soul offered either 130- or 164-hp engine options. With either of these powerplants, Soul drivers will see fuel economy figures in the high 20s in combined city and highway driving.
2010–2014 Volkswagen GTI
If you like to have fun, you’ll love a Volkswagen GTI. Known for being engaging, practical and most of all affordable, sixth-generation GTIs built from 2010 to 2014 have now depreciated to below $15,000, and there are currently around 450 for sale on Autotrader at this price point. The GTI comes standard with a 2-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine making 200 hp. Buyers have their choice of 2- and 4-door body styles along with either a 6-speed manual transmission or a 6-speed DSG; VW’s dual-clutch automatic offering lightning fast shifts, paddle shifters and the always fun-to-play-with launch control feature, designed to help the vehicle achieve maximum acceleration on a launch from a dead stop. While Volkswagen reliability can be tricky sometimes, there really is no better performance vehicle on the market that offers this level of practicality at the $15,000 price point.
2014–2018 Honda Fit
The Honda Fit has been a stalwart in the subcompact category for almost ten years now. Renowned for being practical, economical and fun to drive, the Fit offers a great package for anyone looking for a vehicle that is small, reliable and efficient. With a 4-cylinder engine making 114 hp, the Fit should achieve over 30 mpg in everyday driving. The third generation Fit went on sale starting with the 2015 model year, and there are currently over 700 2015–2018 Fits listed on Autotrader for under $15,000.
2017–2018 Chevrolet Sonic
If you’re looking for something a step up in size from the Chevrolet Spark, a used Sonic is a great option. Offering a practical, engaging and efficient package with an athletic design, updated 2017-and-newer Sonics all come with a 7-in touch screen with Apple Carplay and Android Auto. Engine options consist of a 1.8-liter 4-cylinder making 138 hp and 125 lb-ft of torque, or a turbocharged 1.4-liter 4-cylinder also making 138 hp, but with 147 lb-ft of torque and achieving four more mpg overall; up to 32 from 28 in combined city and highway driving. Currently, there are almost 1,000 2017-and-newer Sonics listed on Autotrader for $15,000 or less, just over 50 of which offer the sporty hatchback body style.