New cars are expensive these days. With an average price in the range of $32K, the average shiny new vehicle is out of reach for the typical middle earner, who would pay upwards of 16% of their monthly income to cover the average new car’s payment alone.
Plus, they would also have to add in the other costs of car ownership — upkeep, insurance, and gasoline — which can range between $1,942 and $2,705 per year depending on location, according to Bankrate’s car-ownership cost study. When all is said and done, a $32,000 vehicle may end up absorbing over 20% of a middle earner’s monthly income, which is more than double the recommended 10%.
Now, this doesn’t mean that new cars are completely out of reach for every middle-income earner. However, it does mean that a family earning a middle class income (of a little over $50,000) will have to sift and search through new vehicle makes and models to find a quality option that’s still within their price range.
We’ve created a list of 2015 model vehicles that are affordable for a household earning the median income. All of the vehicles, listed from most expensive to least expensive starting price, are highly rated by both consumers and experts alike. Plus, many of them offer cool new tech and safety features at an affordable price. If you’re thinking about buying a car for the upcoming year, one of these new cars may fit the bill.
5. 2015 Hyundai Sonata
Staring price: $21,150
Earning an impressive 9.4 out of 10 from consumers, this vehicle has come a long way from its predecessor models from years past. It comes standard with your typical bells and whistles, like power windows (it even has pinch protection), a blind spot mirror, and Bluetooth and USB ports. But some of the car’s coolest features are the optional ones, like a 10-speaker Infinity sound system, an 8-inch touch screen, and chrome-tipped exhaust pipes.
According to Kelley Blue Book (KBB), you’ll really like this vehicle if you want some value and refinement without going broke. “The 2015 Hyundai Sonata SE undercuts segment heavyweight sedans from Honda and Toyota by $825 and $1,275, respectively.” On the other hand, KBB also reminds us that Toyota and Honda are the best sellers for a reason. If you’re looking for that “legendary reliability at a reasonable price,” you may want to go with an Accord or a Camry (that is, if you can swing it).
4. 2015 Honda Civic
Starting price: $18,290
The 2015 Honda Civic won the Kelly Blue Book’s best buy award in the small cars category. With the basic automatic engine receiving 30 mpg in the city and 39 mpg on the open road, KBB gave the Civic a rating of one out of three for fuel economy. Consumers also rated this vehicle well, giving it an 8.7 out of 10.
The Civic comes standard with Bluetooth, Pandora, a USB connection, and a color display and rear-view camera. If reliability, comfort, safety, and resale value are important to you, you’ll like the Honda Civic. But, if you’re “looking for high-end options like turbocharged power, a premium audio system, or things like dynamic cruise control or a head-up display,” another model, like a Mazda M3, may serve you better, according to KBB.
3. 2015 Volkswagen Golf
Starting price: $17,995
The Golf received excellent consumer ratings — a 9.2 out of 10 overall. Another finalist for KBB’s best buy awards, the Golf comes standard with cool technology features like a touchscreen infotainment system, Bluetooth connectivity, and XM satellite radio. The interior on this vehicle is nothing to scoff at either — its soft-touch surfaces and quality materials make for an overall classy design.
According to KBB, you’ll like this car you’re looking for “tremendous utility and good fuel economy, a fun-to-drive spirit, and one of the best interiors in its class.” But, if traditional styling and a separate trunk are more your style, you may not want to go with the Golf.
2. 2015 Volkswagen Jetta
Starting price: $16,000-$17,000
The factory 2.0 base model of the Jetta is priced at around $17,000, according to KBB. If you’re looking for a vehicle that’s a step up from the Jetta, the 2.0 S has a sticker price that’s a little higher, but you may still be able to find one for under $20,000.
The Jetta receives an expert rating of 7.0, and a consumer rating of 8.5. The most basic model comes standard with features like keyless entry, 15-inch steel wheels, and Bluetooth. Spend a few more bucks, and you can get added features like leather interior, heated seats, push-button start, and a sound system.
All in all, you’ll like the Jetta “if you’re looking for an attractive and economical sedan that excels in the areas of performance, handling and attention to detail,” reports KBB. However, “if you’re looking to get the most from your dollar, the base Jetta doesn’t offer the features and modern engines of its pricier siblings. For $18,000 you’ll get a lot more car in a Hyundai Elantra, Kia Forte or Mazda3,” the bluebook adds.
1. 2015 Honda Fit
Starting price: $15,650
With a consumer rating of 8.7 out of 10, the Honda fit is a great new car for those on a budget. It was a finalist for the KBB’s best buy award for small cars. The standard model comes with (among other things) a 6-speed manual transmission, automatic headlights, a rearview camera, keyless entry, power windows and doors, steering wheel mounted controls, and a 5-inch audio display screen.
According to KBB, you’ll like this car if you’re looking for an affordable, easy to drive vehicle that can haul as much as an SUV. You may not like this car if you’re looking for something without a CVT.