The Toyota Corolla Is Cheaper and Better Today Than It Was 20 Years Ago

Everybody likes to get a great deal. If you’re shopping for a car deal, then the Toyota Corolla is one to consider. The Corolla is a great deal and is even better than it was 20 years ago. Its price has stayed pretty similar, adjusted for inflation, but buyers get even more for their money.

Inflation and the Toyota Corolla

A worker parks a silver Toyota Motor Corp. Corolla vehicle at a Toyota Logistics Services Inc. automotive processing terminal at the Port of Los Angeles
The Toyota Corolla | Bing Guan/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Consumer Reports recently reported that people are spending more to buy new cars, but not all new car prices are rising. The average transaction price of a new car in 2020 was almost $40,000, which was up about 6 percent when compared to sales in 2019, according to the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA). However, that included high-end sales and disruptions to car sales throughout the ongoing pandemic. J.D. Power found that car sales increased for vehicles over $70,000 and decreased for vehicles less than $40,000.

Looking at only the less expensive side of the market, many mainstream vehicle prices have been decreasing over time once inflation is factored in. “‘Once you adjust for inflation, many popular cars like the Toyota Corolla and Subaru Forester are actually cheaper today than they were 20 years ago. And that’s despite the fact that today’s models are better in just about every way,’ says Jake Fisher, senior director of Consumer Reports’ auto test program. ‘Even though the new models are larger, safer, faster, cleaner, more fuel-efficient, and packed with features, they are actually more affordable, too.'”

The 2001 model’s MSRP range compared to the 2021 prices

The 2021 Toyota Corolla has a starting price of around $20,000, or half the average new-car price. From its lowest to its highest trims, the Corolla’s starting prices range from $20,025 to $28,310. When it was new, the 2001 Corolla had starting prices between $12,568 and $14,198, according to Autotrader. Adjusting for inflation, the 2001 Corolla would cost between $18,675.48 and $21,097.59, according to the U.S. Inflation Calculator.

The 2001 Corolla had just three trims, which came with either a manual or an automatic transmission. The 2021 Corolla offers a choice of five trim levels (as well as a hybrid and a hatchback). While the 2021 Corolla doesn’t seem to be literally less expensive than the adjusted 2001 model, the prices are pretty close, and buyers get a lot more features in a new Corolla today.

What the 2021 Toyota Corolla has to offer

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Consumer Reports includes the 2021 Toyota Corolla as one of its 2021 Top Picks since it’s practical, has a high Overall Score, and offers performance, reliability, owner satisfaction, and safety.

The 2021 Corolla has two gas-powered engine options. Standard in the sedan is a 1.8-liter engine, which produces 139 hp and 126 lb-ft of torque. Higher trims and the hatchback have a 2.0-liter engine, which generates 169 hp (or 168 hp in the hatchback) and 151 lb-ft of torque. The 1.8-liter engine comes with a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT), and the 2.0-liter engine has either a CVT or a six-speed manual transmission, says U.S. News.

The 2001 Corolla sedan came with a four-cylinder engine, producing 125 hp. It was matched with a five-speed manual, a three-speed automatic, or a four-speed automatic transmission with overdrive.

The Corolla also has good fuel efficiency. The 2021 Corolla gets 28 MPG to 53 MPG in the city and 36 MPG to 52 MPG on the highway, according to Autotrader. While the improvement is mainly due to the hybrid powertrain, it’s still better than the 2001 Corolla, which gets 28 MPG to 31 MPG in the city and 32 MPG to 38 MPG on the highway.

The Corolla now has a lot more features. The 2021 Corolla provides adaptive cruise control, a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, lane-departure alert with steering assist, lane-tracing assist, road-sign assist, and automatic high beams. It has available blind-spot monitoring with a rear cross-traffic alert. The 2001 model didn’t have safety features more advanced than daytime running lights and airbags. Today’s Corolla even includes more airbags than before.

Today’s Corolla also includes tech features that weren’t available 20 years ago. The 2021 Corolla comes standard with a 7-inch touchscreen that is compatible with both Apple CarPlay, Android Auto (new for 2021), and Amazon Alexa. It also has two USB ports, a Wi-Fi hotspot, Bluetooth, satellite radio, and a six-speaker audio system.

Available upgrades include an 8-inch touchscreen, a 7-inch digital driver display, navigation, wireless device charging, an extra USB port, HD Radio, and a nine-speaker audio system. Available convenience features include proximity keyless entry, automatic climate control, and a moonroof.

Despite the rising cost of the average new car, the Toyota Corolla’s prices have stayed just as affordable. And, as a bonus, buyers get a better car with more features than they did 20 years ago.