The Cheapest 2021 Cars With Low Cost of Ownership
If you are looking to buy a new vehicle, you may have already considered what your price range will be. You may have even calculated the amount you should budget for fuel, based on your driving habits and the gas mileage of the vehicle you're considering.
But have you considered what it will cost you to maintain the vehicle? The cheapest cars aren't always the ones that are least expensive to maintain. When considering the true cost of ownership, you must account for maintenance costs as well.
The Biggest Factors in Vehicle Cost of Ownership
Whether you hope to resell your new vehicle in a few years or run it into the ground, keeping maintenance costs low can go along way toward helping you stay on track for your financial goals. You should account for not only basic upkeep, such as tire rotations and oil changes, but also potential repair and replacement costs.
Average maintenance costs run about $792 per year, or $66 a month, depending on the make, model, and type of vehicle. Skipping basic maintenance won't save you money, either—it'll just cost you more in the long run as your car needs more serious repairs due to lack of maintenance.
Fuel is another major factor in car ownership: expect a large portion of your overall out-of-pocket costs to go to gasoline fuel-ups. The major exception: electric vehicles. You'll pay a fraction of the fuel costs of gas-powered cars, although up-front costs (such as the purchase price of the vehicle) will likely be more.
Best Overall: 2021 Hyundai Accent
Vehicle Cost: $16,390
Total Five-Year Costs: $25,793
Fuel Economy: 29 mpg city / 39 mpg highway
The Hyundai Accent is one of the cheapest cars on the road, with a low starting price of just over $16,000 and good fuel economy.
This five-seater features 120 hp and a four-cylinder engine, with manual six-speed or continuously variable transmission (CVT). Power windows and driver's seat are standard, or you can upgrade for the infotainment system and push-button start.
Kelley Blue Book estimates your out-of-pocket expenses on this sedan to run close to $16,000—that includes fuel, insurance, financing costs, fees, and maintenance costs over a five-year-span, for a total ownership cost of just $25,793.
Best Electric Car: 2021 Nissan LEAF
Vehicle Cost: $32,620
Total Five-Year Costs: $31,108
Fuel Economy: 123 mpg city / 99 mpg highway
Though the 2021 Nissan LEAF has a higher list price than some other four-door sedans on our list, you'll save thousands of dollars on fuel, thanks to its EV status. You can get up to 149 miles of range on its charged-up battery, and driver-assistance technology helps you stay in your lane. Upgrade to the Plus and get even longer range between charges.
Of course, the LEAF really shines when it comes to fuel economy, with 99 MPGe (miles per gallon equivalent) on the highway and 123 MPGe for city driving.
Since it's an electric car, the LEAF's fuel economy is measured in "miles per gallon equivalent." This figure is a conversion of the kilowatt hours of electricity required to travel 100 miles as estimated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). It's useful for comparing the efficiency of gas-powered and electric cars.
And you'll likely save money on fees, too, with electric vehicle incentives from your state. So while the LEAF isn't the cheapest car out there, you could see a good return on that investment.
Best Hybrid Car: 2021 Toyota Prius
Vehicle Cost: $25,480
Total Five-Year Costs: $32,351
Fuel Economy: 58 mpg city / 53 mpg highway
Everyone knows that the Prius line gets great gas mileage. But did you know that it also is very easy to maintain? It handles well and maintains a lot of its value over time. Kelley Blue Book estimates you'll spend $3,691 on fuel over five years and $3,543 on repairs as well.
The Prius also has great safety features, like a collision-warning system that can help you avoid an accident—or survive one with less damage to your vehicle. It is not super-roomy, but it can fit a few friends just fine.
Best Compact Car: 2021 Hyundai Elantra
Vehicle Cost: $21,630
Total Five-Year Costs: $29,566
Fuel Economy: 33 mpg city / 43 mpg highway
The Elantra is another affordable offering from Hyundai with great fuel economy, notching 43 mpg on the highway. This compact sedan offers a improved shoulder room with the 2021 model, in addition to improved front headroom and rear legroom.
Edmunds estimates your true cost to own the Elantra at $29,566, which includes $5,310 in fuel over five years, plus $11,666 in depreciation and nearly $3,000 in maintenance and repairs. That makes it one of the cheapest cars to own.
Best Crossover/SUV: 2021 Hyundai Kona
Vehicle Cost: $21,540
Total Five-Year Costs: $30,242
Fuel Economy: 27 mpg city / 33 mpg highway
The Hyundai Kona is a subcompact SUV/crossover with a lot to offer, at a low price point. You'll get room for five, good gas mileage, and average maintenance and repair costs if you don't mind a slightly smaller footprint. Plus, Kelley Blue Book rated it among the best in its class for cost of ownership: just 40 cents per mile, for an average cost of $30,242 over five years.
With high consumer ratings and a five-star crash test rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Kona is a popular choice for safety-minded consumers. Hyundai includes lane-assist and blind spot monitoring standard, and the five-year warranty is an extra boost of confidence.
Best Minivan: 2021 Chrysler Voyager
Vehicle Cost: $28,730
Total Five-Year Costs: $40,660
Fuel Economy: 19 mpg city / 28 mpg highway
The Chrysler Voyager might be best known for its flexible and adaptive seating that allows you to store kids, cargo, and pretty much anything else you’d like with ease.
It also offers an array of optional safety packages and features, including forward collision alerts, blind spot monitoring and parking assistance. You'll get better fuel economy with other vehicles on this list, but for the spaciousness you'll get with a minivan, you may find the tradeoff worth it. Kelley Blue Book estimates your total out-of-pocket expenses to run $21,410, with $9,249 of that going to fuel.