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Top 8 Used Compact Cars Under $15,000 for 2019

With new cars becoming more and more expensive with every passing model year, buyers on a budget of $15,000 are more often than not forced to look to the used market. While this may be disappointing to some, it can also be seen as a positive, as there’s a lot of great value to be found with a used vehicle. Here we’ll take a look at eight used compact cars that make a great option for anyone looking to spend $15,000 on a vehicle.

2015-2018 Volkswagen Golf

2015-2018 Volkswagen Golf

While Volkswagen has earned itself a bad reputation in recent years thanks to a highly publicized diesel emissions cheating scandal, the company still builds good vehicles, and the Golf is perhaps its most well-rounded offering. Fully-redesigned for 2015, the conservatively styled Golf comes fitted with a 1.8-liter turbocharged engine putting out 170 horsepower and paired with either a 5-speed manual or a 6-speed automatic transmission. Many examples will come equipped with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay capability, along with a few active safety features like lane-keeping assist and adaptive cruise control. While a 2-door version was offered for 2015 and 2016, most modern Golfs you’ll encounter will offer four doors. Overall, buyers will like the Golf for its slightly upscale interior and good driving dynamics, not to mention its immense hatchback practicality. Right now on Autotrader, there are over 500 2015-2018 Volkswagen Golfs listed for $15,000 or less. Find a Volkswagen Golf for sale

2011-2016 Subaru Impreza

2011-2016 Subaru Impreza

One thing in particular stands out about the Impreza: standard all-wheel drive. This isn’t its only strong point though, as the Impreza offers good safety features, including some active safety features in later years, along with an available hatchback body style that adds to its overall practicality. There are currently close to 1,000 2011-2016 Imprezas listed on Autotrader for $15,000 or less, around half of which are the practical hatchback bodystyle. Buyers hoping for a burlier aesthetic can look to the Impreza’s ruggedized twin, the Crosstrek, which offers increased ride height and plastic body cladding. There are currently 350 2011-2016 Crosstreks listed that would fit the bill.

One more note — an all-new Impreza came out for the 2017 model year, and there are a handful of higher mileage examples on Autotrader that would work for someone with a budget of $15k. Needless to say, buyers looking for a $15,000 used Impreza have plenty of options. Find a Subaru Impreza for sale

2017-2018 Toyota Corolla

2017-2018 Toyota Corolla

The Toyota Corolla has been around for decades and offers good reliability and a safe overall package, and that safety proposition was turned up a notch with the addition of standard active safety features for the Corolla’s 2017 model year. This means that every single 2017-and-newer Corolla you find will come with lane-departure warning with lane-keeping assist, automatic high beams, automatic emergency braking and radar cruise control. The fact that many of these 2017 and 2018 Corollas have now depreciated down to the $15,000 mark means that a used Corolla is one of the most inexpensive vehicles you can buy today that offers all of the modern active safety features buyers want. Additionally, the Corolla is surprisingly spacious inside, with interior and cargo dimensions that aren’t far off from those of the Camry, which competes in the larger midsize segment. Currently on Autotrader, there are over 1,000 2017 or 2018 Toyota Corollas listed for $15,000 or less — all of which will come equipped with Toyota Safety Sense, making for an excellent value as far as used compact cars go. Find a Toyota Corolla for sale

2016-2018 Honda Civic

2016-2018 Honda Civic

The Honda Civic is another auto industry staple, offering handsome styling, great reliability and an available turbocharged engine. Additionally, upper trim levels can be had with a good array of tech, including active safety features like forward-collision warning and automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning and lane-keeping assist, and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay capability. Other features available on the Civic include heated side mirrors, remote start and a blind spot camera system that Honda refers to as LaneWatch. There are over 1,000 2016-and-newer Honda Civics currently listed on Autotrader for around $15,000 or less. Over 200 of these are upper trim levels that should offer many, if not all, of the available features mentioned above. Additionally, the Civic is offered in coupe and hatchback body styles as well, and among the used Civics listed on Autotrader for under $15k are around 100 coupes, but just a few hatchbacks. Find a Honda Civic for sale

2014-2018 Ford Focus

2014-2018 Ford Focus

The modern, current-generation Ford Focus has been on sale since 2011 and received an update for the 2014 model year. Right now, the vast majority of these 2014-or-newer Focus models sell for under $15,000, and buyers currently have tons to choose from on Autotrader, including both sedan and hatchback body styles. The Focus from these years also comes as a performance-oriented "hot hatchback" known as the Focus ST, offering 252 hp, a sport-tuned suspension, a 6-speed manual and sporty styling cues, and there are even a few of these high-powered Focuses listed on Autotrader for under $15,000. Find a Ford Focus for sale

2017-2018 Hyundai Elantra

2017-2018 Hyundai Elantra

You may be surprised to see how many vehicles on this list are from the 2017 model year or newer. Given the rising popularity of SUVs, many compact cars are experiencing fast depreciation, meaning that buyers can find great deals on models like the sixth-generation Hyundai Elantra, which was all-new for 2017. The Elantra offers stately, mature styling inside and out, along with a variety of available 4-cylinder engines ranging in output from 128 to 201 hp. Starting with the SEL trim, the Elantra comes standard with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, while Limited models add driver-assistance features like automatic emergency braking and adaptive cruise control. There are currently well over 1,000 2017 and 2018 Hyundai Elantras listed on Autotrader that would work for someone with a budget of $15,000. Find a Hyundai Elantra for sale

2017-2018 Mazda3

The third-generation Mazda3, which came out for the 2014 model year, is often regarded by reviewers as the most upscale, best-driving mainstream compact car on the market. Buyers can now pick up an updated 2017-or-newer Mazda3 for around $15,000 with relative ease, and there are currently over 400 options to choose from on Autotrader that would fit the bill. Mazda has carved out a niche for itself in recent years by offering luxury car design and interior appointments at an economy car price, meaning that the company offers some of the best value in the industry. Rest assured that if you opt to purchase a used Mazda3, you’ll find the vehicle to offer a slightly premium experience in most regards, making it an awesome value at any price, and especially at the sub-$15,000 mark. Note that both sedan and practical hatchback body styles are available, but expect to pay a slight premium for the hatchback. Find a Mazda3 for sale

2016-2018 Chevrolet Cruze

The Cruze is Chevrolet’s compact car and, like many other vehicles on this list, it’s available in both sedan and hatchback body styles. Unlike other vehicles on this list, the Cruze offers a diesel variant, which is unique in the compact sedan segment. While diesel has earned a bad reputation in recent years thanks to some highly-publicized emissions cheating scandals, diesel-powered cars typically offer better fuel economy and a unique driving experience when compared to their gas-powered counterparts. That said, the diesel models haven’t quite depreciated down to the $15,000 mark, limiting buyers interested in a Cruze at this price point to primarily gas-powered models. Regardless, the 2017 and 2018 Cruze was offered with a great infotainment system with available Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, a turbocharged engine, and good available driver-assistance features. On Autotrader currently, there are well over 1,000 Chevrolet Cruzes listed for $15,000 or less, many of which are the practical hatchback variant. Find a Chevrolet Cruze for sale

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

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