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At this point, it’s no secret that cars are getting more expensive. At the same time, most cars are safer than they’ve ever been. Even affordable cars now come with advanced safety tech, and that’s something we can all appreciate. Here are the three safest cars you can buy for under $25,000 in 2023.

1. The Subaru Legacy is the safest new car under $25,000

2023 Subaru Legacy | Subaru

Topping the list of safest cars for under $25,000 is the Subaru Legacy. Subaru’s reputation for safety is legendary, so this should come as no surprise. The Legacy is Subaru’s four-door sedan, and it can be had for just a shade under $25,000.

A starting price of $24,395 makes the Legacy the priciest car on this list. However, for your money you also get the safest car available under $25,000. The Legacy earned top marks in all IIHS testing categories, across the board. It is the only sub-$25,000 car to earn such high marks, and for that reason it is our number one.

2. The Mazda 3 is a close second

Mazda3 from rear
A new Mazda3 sedan in grey

Perhaps a surprising choice, the 2023 Mazda 3 is number two on our list of safest cars under $25,000 in 2023. Its starting price of $22,500 almost put it at number one, but one factor kept it from the top spot.

The base headlights in the compact Mazda rated as Acceptable, which is just the second-highest rating offered by the IIHS. While the all Subaru Legacy trims offer premium headlights, only upper Mazda 3 models come with such an option. If not for this single detail, the lower price of the Mazda would make it an easy number one choice.

To get a new Mazda 3 that earns top marks across the board, it’ll cost at least $29,400. However, this premium trim also adds all-wheel drive and leather upholstery, so it may be worth the spend.

3. The Hyundai Elantra is the most affordable option

This red car showing off its side profile and sedan styling is a 2023 Hyundai Elantra Blue Hybrid.
Hyundai Elantra Hybrid Blue | Hyundai

At a starting price of $20,650, the 2023 Hyundai Elantra is the cheapest car on our list. Even better, it earned almost identical ratings to the Mazda 3. However, the base headlights in the Elantra are ranked as Marginal by the IIHS. This is just one designation lower than the Mazda’s Acceptable rating, but it is enough to bump the Korean compact to third.

However, it is hard to ignore the otherwise stellar safety ratings for the price. At under $21,000, the Elantra earns top marks in every other safety category. While it may be the third safest car under $25,000, it is arguably the best overall value.

Even better, the Elantra does offer a premium headlight option that matches the safety ratings of both the Subaru and Mazda above. The Elantra Limited comes at a cost of $26,500, but it adds more features than just headlights.

This trim comes with Bose premium audio, front and rear parking assistance, adaptive cruise, and leather. It is important to note, though, that the Legacy comes with adaptive cruise as standard – and for a lower price than the Elantra Limited.

All of the Safest Cars Under $25,000 Feature Driver Assistance Features

Each of these three vehicles come with advanced driver assistance technology as part of their standard equipment. The Subaru, Mazda, and Hyundai all come with their own versions of forward collision warning, pedestrian detection, and automatic emergency braking. All come with lane keep assist, and all feature a driver attention feature as well.

When choosing any of the safest cars under $25,000 in 2023, technology is equal across the board. From there, crash testing and standard equipment is how we separate these models to find the best.

Honorable Mention: Two Cars that Almost Made the List of Safest Cars Under $25,000

It may be surprising to some that neither the Honda Civic nor Toyota Corolla ranked on this list of safest cars under $25,000. While both of these models earn high marks, they lose out in the updated IIHS side impact testing. That said, both are still great values and come with a wealth of driver assistance technology.

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