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Top 25 Cars Under $25,000 for 2018

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author photo by Autotrader February 2018

We're firm believers that you don't have to spend a fortune to get a good car -- even as prices keep rising and everything seems to be getting more expensive. According to Kelley Blue Book, the average price of a new car has topped $35,000. That's a lot of money, but we're convinced you can still get a good car for under $25,000 -- and we have proof.

In this list, we've chosen our picks for the top new cars you can buy for less than $25,000. We've rounded up cars based on their equipment, safety features, driving experience, resale value and overall appeal -- and we've listed a wide array of vehicles, from practical hatchbacks and wagons to crossovers and SUVs (and even a pickup truck!), in order to ensure there's something on our list for everyone.

Buick Encore ($23,985)

Buick Encore ($23,985)

The Buick Encore was one of the first subcompact luxury crossovers, and it's still among the best deals. With a starting price of $23,985 with shipping, it just squeezes into our budget -- but you don't need a top-end model to get everything you want, as even the base-level Encore features keyless ignition, an in-car Wi-Fi hotspot and an 8-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The Encore is also good on gas, boasting combined city and highway fuel economy numbers in the upper 20-mile-per-gallon range.

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Chevrolet Colorado ($21,195)

Chevrolet Colorado ($21,195)

The Chevy Colorado is a midsize pickup that's designed for shoppers who don't quite need the brawn -- or want the bulk -- of larger full-size pickups like the Chevy Silverado. Among new pickup trucks, the Colorado (and its twin, the GMC Canyon) is especially affordable, as it starts at just $21,195 with shipping. While that figure is a base-level model with 2-wheel drive and no options -- a truck that likely won't be on a dealership lot -- it's proof you can find a new pickup without spending a fortune.

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Chevrolet Cruze ($17,850)

Chevrolet Cruze ($17,850)

The recently redesigned Chevy Cruze is an excellent compact car, with handsome styling and reasonable pricing. In fact, the Cruze starts at just $17,850 with shipping, which includes more than you might think -- like Chevy's MyLink infotainment system with a 7-in touchscreen, boasting Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Unfortunately, shoppers will have to step up to the Cruze LS ($19,400) if they want an automatic transmission -- but it's still a great deal for an excellent new compact car.

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Chevy Spark ($13,925)

Chevrolet Spark ($13,925)

The subcompact Chevy Spark starts at just $13,925, which makes it one of the least expensive new models on sale. Unlike some other subcompacts, however, the Spark offers a surprisingly good driving experience and appealing styling. While base-level Spark models don't offer much, they do come standard with Chevy's MyLink infotainment system, which boasts a 7-in touchscreen that includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Drivers looking for an automatic transmission will need to step up to the Spark LS ($15,025), but they'll be rewarded with impressive fuel economy figures that stretch as high as 30 miles per gallon in the city and 38 mpg on the highway.

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Ford Fusion ($22,995)

Ford Fusion ($22,995)

The Ford Fusion is the unusual midsize sedan that has the distinction of being both reasonably affordable and surprisingly good. Cheaper than the other midsize sedan models on this list (like the Kia Optima, Mazda6 and Toyota Camry), the Fusion boasts handsome exterior styling and a high-quality interior. Better yet, the base-level Fusion S comes standard with everything you need, touting Bluetooth connectivity, a 4.2-in center screen, automatic headlights and an automatic transmission.

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Honda Civic ($19,730)

Honda Civic ($19,730)

The Honda Civic is the best compact car on the market. Offering sedan ($19,730) and hatchback ($20,940) models, depending on your preference, the Civic touts modern styling and a large, roomy interior, along with excellent gas mileage and notorious reliability. Equipment is also generous, with the Civic touting automatic climate control and a multi-angle rear camera as standard -- though shoppers can step up to the EX model within our $25,000 price cap and get a power sunroof, a 7-in center screen and Honda's excellent LaneWatch blind spot monitoring system.

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Honda Fit ($17,080)

Honda Fit ($17,080)

The Honda Fit is small, but it's also an impressive car. Thanks to Honda's "Magic Seats," the Fit is surprisingly versatile -- and it's easy to carry a lot of stuff in its larger-than-you-think interior. The Fit also touts truly excellent fuel economy, boasting 33 miles per gallon in the city and 40 mpg on the highway, and a very reasonable price: It starts at just $17,080 with shipping, while even the top-level EX-L model (which comes with leather upholstery, heated front seats, a power sunroof and the impressive Honda Sensing package with adaptive cruise control and forward-collision braking) is just $21,410 with shipping.

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Honda HR-V ($20,645)

Honda HR-V ($20,645)

Although it's now impossible to find a CR-V with a sticker price below $25,000, Honda has something for shoppers who want a crossover on a tighter budget than the CR-V allows. It's called the Honda HR-V -- and while it's smaller than the CR-V, it offers the same traditional Honda benefits, like strong reliability and excellent fuel economy. While the base-level HR-V offers a 6-speed manual transmission, drivers can upgrade to an automatic for just $800 -- and all-wheel drive (coupled with the automatic) for $2,100. That places the base-level HR-V LX well within our budget -- and it's a great choice for budget-minded shoppers who want a crossover.

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Hyundai Elantra ($17,835)

Hyundai Elantra ($17,835)

The recently redesigned Hyundai Elantra is an excellent compact car. Not only does it offer a very reasonable starting price of just $17,835 with shipping (albeit with a manual transmission), but it touts nice styling, a high-quality interior, and Hyundai's excellent warranty coverage -- 5 years or 60,000 miles of bumper-to-bumper protection, and 10 years or 100,000 miles of powertrain coverage. Our budget could even get you an Elantra Limited, which features leather upholstery, a power driver's seat, alloy wheels, Apple CarPlay and Audroid Auto, a 7-in touchscreen and Bluetooth audio.

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Hyundai Ioniq ($23,085)

Hyundai Ioniq ($23,085)

Think of the Hyundai Ioniq as Hyundai's answer to the Toyota Prius -- though it's more affordable than the famed hybrid-powered Toyota. Featuring similar styling to the Prius and impressive fuel economy (even the base-level Ioniq offers 55 miles per gallon in combined city and highway driving), the Ioniq is an easy pick for shoppers looking to cut down on their fuel bills. Like other Hyundai models, the Ioniq also offers an impressive warranty, featuring bumper-to-bumper coverage for 5 years or 60,000 miles and powertrain coverage for 10 years or 100,000 miles.

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Hyundai Tucson ($23,500)

Hyundai Tucson ($23,500)

The Hyundai Tucson is a popular compact crossover that has a lot to offer -- including the peace of mind that comes with Hyundai's long warranty, which offers bumper-to-bumper coverage for 5 years or 60,000 miles, and powertrain protection for 10 years or 100,000 miles. And while you'll have to get a base-level Tucson to stay within our price range, even an entry-level Tucson SE comes with a USB port for music, alloy wheels, automatic headlights, Bluetooth and a 5-in center touchscreen.

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Jeep Compass ($22,090)

Jeep Compass ($22,090)

Although the earlier version of the Jeep Compass offered a below-average driving and ownership experience, the recently redesigned Compass is dramatically improved. Starting at $22,090 with shipping (with an automatic transmission available as a $1,500 option), the Compass boasts standard air conditioning, a 5-in center display, Bluetooth, a USB port for music and a 6-speaker sound system. The Compass also uses a reasonably potent 180-horsepower 4-cylinder engine that delivers roughly 25 mpg in combined city and highway driving.

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Jeep Renegade ($19,540)

Jeep Renegade ($19,540)

Although some Jeep purists decry the brand for using the storied "Renegade" name on a subcompact crossover, there's no doubt the Renegade is an affordable, fun vehicle with charming, standout styling. The base-level Renegade starts at just $19,540, making it one of the cheapest crossovers on the market -- but we wouldn't recommend this model, as it includes a manual transmission and no air conditioning. Instead, spend a little money on upgrades and you can still fit well within our $25,000 price cap while simultaneously boasting a distinctive crossover with a roomy interior.

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Kia Optima ($23,495)

Kia Optima ($23,495)

The Kia Optima is an excellent midsize sedan that offers impressive interior room and handsome, sporty styling. It also touts a desirable warranty: The Optima, like all Kia models, comes with 5 years or 60,000 miles of bumper-to-bumper coverage, along with 10 years or 100,000 miles of powertrain protection. Although the base-level Optima LX nears our $25,000 price cap, it's loaded with equipment, touting a 7-in center touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, blind spot monitoring and a rear cross-traffic alert function, in addition to many other desirable items.

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Kia Soul ($17,095)

Kia Soul ($17,095)

The Kia Soul is one of our favorite small cars. One big reason is the price: It starts at just $17,095, making it one of the most affordable stylish vehicles on the road. And then there's the style: The Soul isn't just another bland compact sedan or hatchback, but rather a distinctive, tall-roofed car you wouldn't really confuse with anything else. If you have a $25,000 budget, you can buy just about any Soul you want -- and you can get a lot of impressive features you'd normally expect to find in a car that's far more expensive.

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Mazda3 ($20,035)

Mazda3 ($20,035)

The Mazda3 is highly affordable, with base-level sedan models starting around $20,000 with shipping, and practical hatchback models starting at $21,285. We recommend either version, and we're happy that both models provide the opportunity to get a few options while still remaining within our $25,000 budget. No matter how you equip your Mazda3, you'll surely appreciate its handsome styling, its sporty demeanor and its excellent interior. And then there's fuel economy: The Mazda3 can reach as high as 30 miles per gallon in the city, with highway figures approaching 40 mpg.

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Mazda6 ($23,885)

Mazda6 ($23,885)

The Mazda6 starts at $23,885 with shipping, meaning it just squeezes under our budget. If you want something a little more affordable (with many of the same benefits), check out the Mazda3 listed above. But if you need midsize sedan interior space, the Mazda6 provides it -- along with some other benefits, like handsome styling and a well-crafted interior. The Mazda6 also offers a reasonably potent 184-hp 4-cylinder engine, which returns fuel economy ratings approaching 30 miles per gallon in combined city and highway driving.

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Mini Cooper ($22,950)

Mini Cooper ($22,950)

Yes, you can still get a Mini Cooper for under $25,000. In fact, you can get one for considerably less than $25,000, as the base-level, 3-door Cooper Hardtop starts at $22,950 with shipping, while the 5-door version is $1,000 more. Sure, you'll have to skip out on many of the Mini's cool personalization features to stay below $25,000, but you'll get the same go-kart handling and fun, exciting styling as every other Mini model.

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Nissan Rogue Sport ($22,615)

Nissan Rogue Sport ($22,615)

Although the "regular-size" Nissan Rogue is now priced beyond our budget, a smaller version -- dubbed the "Rogue Sport" -- recently went on sale for budget-minded shoppers interested in a crossover. The 2018 Rogue Sport starts at $22,615 with shipping, and it comes standard with an automatic transmission, along with Bluetooth, a 5-in center screen and a reasonably roomy interior and cargo area.

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Subaru Crosstrek ($22,710)

Subaru Crosstrek ($22,710)

The Subaru Crosstrek is a great value, as the base-level model starts at $22,710 with shipping (or $23,710 if you opt for an automatic transmission). Like the Forester listed below, the Crosstrek comes standard with all-wheel drive -- and it also offers a carlike driving experience, as it's based on the small Subaru Impreza compact hatchback. While we think the Crosstrek is a little underpowered, we're impressed with its EPA fuel economy rating of 27 mpg city and 33 mpg highway (if you opt for the automatic), which is impressive for a vehicle with standard all-wheel drive.

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Subaru Forester ($23,710)

Subaru Forester ($23,710)

The Subaru Forester is one of few compact crossover models to fit within our price range, though you'll have to go for a manual transmission to get it for $23,710. But even if you opt for an automatic, you'll still stay (just) south of $25,000, and you'll get all the Forester's great benefits -- including a spacious interior, standard all-wheel drive and notorious durability.

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Toyota C-HR ($23,495)

Toyota C-HR ($23,495)

The Toyota C-HR is a small, boldly styled car that straddles the border between a crossover and a hatchback. We say that because it looks like a crossover at first glance -- but the C-HR doesn't offer all-wheel drive like many crossover models. Whatever you want to call it, it's cool -- and the base-level models offer a lot of stuff for the standard price of $23,495, including a 7-in touchscreen, Bluetooth and Toyota's amazing level of standard safety equipment, which includes adaptive cruise control and forward-collision warning with automatic braking.

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Toyota Camry ($24,390)

Toyota Camry ($24,390)

The latest Toyota Camry barely squeezes under our price cap, with a base-level Camry L model starting at $24,390 with shipping. While you may have trouble finding a Camry L with no options to get for $25,000, it's a surprisingly rewarding car: Not only was the Camry fully redesigned for 2018 with a totally new interior and exterior, but even base-level models come standard with a wide array of features -- like adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning and automatic high beams. There's aso a 7-in touchscreen and a USB port for music, meaning you really don't need any options to appreciate the latest Camry.

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Toyota Corolla iM ($19,745)

Toyota Corolla iM ($19,745)

The little-known Toyota Corolla iM, formerly called the Scion iM, is effectively a hatchback version of the Toyota Corolla -- except with a little more pizzazz, a little extra style and additional practicality thanks to a larger cargo area. While the Corolla iM could use a little more power, it boasts a wide array of standard safety features -- including items like adaptive cruise control and forward-collision warning with automatic braking, which you'd expect to find on a far more expensive vehicle. Fuel economy is also strong, as the Corolla iM is rated at 28 miles per gallon in the city and 36 mpg on the highway.

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Volkswagen Golf ($20,715)

Volkswagen Golf ($20,715)

A base-level Volkswagen Golf starts at $20,715, giving you plenty of room to add options and equipment in order to fit under our $25,000 price cap. The Golf is also an impressive car: Not only does it tout fuel economy numbers of around 30 miles per gallon, but it offers excellent build quality, a surprisingly upscale driving experience and a high-quality interior.

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Editor’s Note: Some photographs show vehicles that are equipped with options that put it outside of the stated price range. However, each vehicle named can be had with a reasonable number of expected convenience features for less than our self-imposed price cap.

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Top 25 Cars Under $25,000 for 2018 - Autotrader