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Best New Cars Under $20,000 for 2018

If you’re looking for a new car on a budget, you’ve come to the right place. Here we’ve listed ten of our favorite new cars available for under $20,000. While a new car on a budget won’t often afford you the nicest options and the newest features, it will afford you a full manufacturer’s warranty and the satisfaction of that new car smell while you drive it off the lot.

2018 Ford Fiesta

New Fiesta models start at around $14,500 in both sedan and hatchback form. This leaves a lot of room for options, and buyers can opt for the Fiesta Hatchback Titanium while still ringing in below $20,000. The Titanium introduces heated leather seats, push-button start, a rearview camera, Ford’s reverse sensing system, fog lamps and other upscale features and design elements, all for just $19,495. With a 1.6-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine making 120 horsepower, Fiesta buyers should see fuel economy around 30 miles per gallon. For a hair over $20,000, buyers can opt for the high-performance Fiesta ST, which brings a more powerful engine and a number of other sporty features. Overall, the Fiesta is one of the best bang-for-your-buck hatchbacks on the market.

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2018 Hyundai Elantra

The starting price of a new Hyundai Elantra rings in well below $20,000, thus enabling buyers to spec out a nicely optioned example and still come out well under of this mark, making the Elantra one of the more value-packed new cars on the market. Three different 4-cylinder engines are offered with outputs of either 128 hp in the 35 mpg Elantra Eco, 147 hp in the SE, SEL and Limited models, or 201 hp in the Elantra Sport, which also receives a dual clutch automatic gearbox. SEL-and-above models come with a standard touch-screen infotainment system touting Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, while the Elantra limited brings with it driver safety features like smart cruise control, lane-keeping assist and automatic emergency braking.

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2018 Kia Forte

For just under $20,000, buyers can get a 2018 Kia Forte LX with a 6-speed automatic transmission, 4-wheel disc brakes and even the optional “LX Popular Package,” which introduces a 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability, a backup camera, drive mode select and a number of other creature comforts. All Fortes come equipped with a 147 hp 2-liter 4-cylinder engine that should return over 30 mpg in everyday driving. Additionally, Kia offers a great 5-year/60,000-mile basic and 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty, good for added peace of mind as you drive off the lot.

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2018 Honda Fit

One of the most trusted subcompact cars on the market now for a number of years, the third-generation Honda Fit has been on sale since the 2015 model year, and new 2018 models come with a starting price of $16,190. Opting for the base model still earns you a great suite of driver safety features including lane-keeping assist, adaptive cruise control and an automatic braking collision mitigation system. This low starting price leaves room for options, and buyers have their choice of up to top trim level Fit EX-L for around $20,000, which brings about heated leather seats, a sunroof and the most modern infotainment tech. The Fit is known for being fun to drive thanks to its sporty suspension, practical thanks to its hatchback design and efficient, as it achieves well over 30 mpg in combined city and highway driving from its small 1.5-liter 4-cylinder engine.

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2018 Toyota Corolla

The 2018 Toyota Corolla L starts at $18,600, while buyers can even opt for the LE or LE Eco models while keeping the price tag under $20,000. The Corolla comes with a 1.8-liter 4-cylinder engine making between 132 hp and mated to either a 6-speed manual or continuously variable automatic transmission, from which buyers should see around 32 mpg. The Eco model gains eight hp and a few additional miles per gallon thanks to the presence of fuel-saving technology. Perhaps the best thing about buying any new Corolla, though, is that all models now come standard with Toyota’s suite of driver assistance features that includes pre-collision braking, automatic high-beams, lane-keeping assist, radar cruise control and eight airbags.

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2018 Nissan Versa Note

The Nissan Versa Note is a great subcompact car available new for under $20,000, as 2018 models start at just under $16,000 before additional fees. Buyers can even opt for the sporty top trim level Versa Note SR, which comes with alloy wheels, an aggressive body kit and spoiler, Bluetooth, push-button start, fog lights and synthetic suede seats, all for under $19,000 out the door. All Versa Notes come with a 109-hp 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine, good for around 35 mpg combined.

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2018 Kia Soul

The Soul offers the efficiency of a car, the practicality of a hatchback and the upright driving position of an SUV. With a starting price of just over $16,000, there’s a lot of Soul to be had for around $20,000, with buyers able to opt for the “+” trim level while still remaining in this price range. With the base trim level, buyers get a 1.6-liter 4-cylinder making 130 hp and returning around 27 mpg in combined city and highway driving. Upgrading to the “+” trim level brings about a more potent 2-liter 4-cylinder engine putting out 161 hp while still maintaining that 27 mpg figure in combined driving. Also available on the “+” is a technology package that adds the full suite of driver safety features along with a number of other great features like heated leather seating surfaces front and back, although adding this package takes you outside of the $20,000 price range. To round it all off, the Soul “+” is available in a number of fun colors that include “Wild Orange,” a 2-tone red and white and “Alien.”

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2018 Subaru Impreza

If all-wheel traction is important to you, consider a Subaru Impreza. Both the sedan and 5-door ring in with starting prices below $19,000. For your money, you’ll get Subaru’s Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive system standard. All Imprezas come with a 2-liter 4-cylinder engine making 152 hp and 145 lb-ft of torque and mated to either a 5-speed manual or continuously variable transmission. Buyers should see real-world fuel economy in the mid- to low-30 mpg range. For just outside of the $20,000 range, buyers can step up to the “Premium” trim level in either sedan or hatchback form, which brings a moonroof and Subaru’s “EyeSight” suite of driver assistance safety features.

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2019 Volkswagen Jetta

The all-new 2019 Volkswagen Jetta starts at $18,545 and brings with it Volkswagen’s awesome 6-year/72,000-mile transferable, bumper-to-bumper limited warranty. Standard on the new Jetta are automatic LED headlights and taillights, and a 6.5-inch center touchscreen with Bluetooth support and a USB port, along with VW’s Car-Net app system. Buyers can even opt for the driver assistance package, which introduces blind spot monitoring and forward-collision warning with autonomous emergency braking, along with heated side mirrors, while still keeping costs below $20,000. All 2019 Jettas come with a 1.4-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine making 147 hp and a potent 184 lb-ft of torque.

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2018 Chevrolet Sonic

The Sonic is available in both sedan and hatchback body styles, but we strongly recommend the more practical hatchback, which comes with a starting price of $18,695. Opting for the 1.4-liter turbocharged engine gets you a little more torque over the base, naturally aspirated 1.8-liter mill, taking that figure from 123 to 148 while hp stays the same at 138. The turbo also nets slightly better fuel economy at 32 mpg in combined driving when compared to the 28 mpg combined from the base engine. The Sonic is available in a number of trim levels, most of which keep the price at or below $20,000. We recommend the LT trim level on the hatchback and the addition of the Driver Confidence package, which introduces the driver assistance features that are sure to become the norm going forward.

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Chris O'Neill
Chris O'Neill is an author specializing in competitive analysis, consumer recommendations, and adventure-driven enthusiast content. A lifelong car enthusiast, he worked in the auto industry for a bit, helping Germans design cars for Americans, and now lives in Salt Lake City, Utah. He runs an Instagram account, @MountainWestCarSpotter, which in his own words is "actually pretty good", and has a... Read More about Chris O'Neill

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