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Many consumers are held back by the unattainable prices of new cars. Not only are new vehicles expensive to begin with, but markups and shortages make it even more difficult to find a ride for a reasonable cost. Though the used market may still be inflated, you can still find some excellent late-model cars to suit your needs—and for under $20,000. In fact, U.S. News recently revealed its picks for the best used cars under $20,000.

1. The 2018 Kia Soul has the most storage space in its class

The 2018 Kia Soul is the only crossover on this list and is ranked as the best used car under $20,000. Given that crossovers are the most popular segment, the Soul may be the ticket for someone looking to get into the segment for a low cost. 

U.S. News reports the average minimum price of the 2018 Soul at $16,251. For that price range, you get the most rear cargo room of any car on this list at 18.8 ft3

A perfect economical little car for someone who needs extra space to haul people or gear. The Kia isn’t all boxy cargo, though; it also has a 7-inch touchscreen with Apple Carplay and Android Auto and the option for a 201 horsepower 1.6L turbo.

2. The 2017 Honda Fit is fun, spacious, and economical 

The 2017 Honda Fit is similar in size to the Ford Fiesta, another entrant on U.S. News’ list of the best used cars under $20,000, but boasts a very comfortable and spacious interior. 

While U.S News named it the best subcompact car for the money in 2017, the Fit is quite a bit more expensive than the used Ford Fiesta and has an average purchase price of $16,265.  

For that, you get an equally enjoyable driving experience to the fun-loving Fiesta and a bit more peace of mind when it comes to your choice of automatic transmission. The Fit also is available with a superb 6-speed manual and offers incredible fuel economy at around 40 mpg on the highway. 

Though the lower trims only offer a 5-inch display, the EX-L offers a 7-inch touchscreen with the HondaLink infotainment system. Also, the EX-L offers heated leather seats and the blindspot camera system Honda calls LaneWatch (also available on the EX.)

3. The 2017 Mazda6 punches above its weight class

The Mazda6 is one of the larger cars on U.S. News’ best used cars under $20,000 list. It is an affordable used car, and its back seats may be more suitable for family duty. 

The 2017 Mazda6 has excellent features, including a 7-inch touchscreen with Mazda Connect. If you can spring for the mid-year refresh, also called the 2017.5, you get excellent safety features like blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert. 

The Mazda6 also showcases a beautiful exterior and a reliable and efficient powertrain. This does put the 2017 Mazda6’s average price a little closer to the $20,000 mark at $18,927, but given its size and excellent storage capacity, the extra cost may be worth it to the buyer needing the extra space.  

4. The 2017 Ford Fiesta is the cheapest if you want a used car with a manual transmission

The Ford Fiesta is a tiny little hatchback and sedan made by Ford for the North American market between 2011-2019. Though the average person may be looking for something a little larger, don’t discount the Fiesta in your search. 

U.S. News reports the average price paid rings in at only $11,835. Not bad for a 5-year-old vehicle! Though the base S trim may be found for cheaper, you’ll want to seek out the SE trim to unlock excellent features like SYNC 3. The inclusion of SYNC 3 means you get Apple Carplay and Android Auto. 

That said, any Ford Fiesta with the “PowerShift” DCT is a bit of a gamble. According to Car and Driver, the original class action suit covered 2012-2016 models, but the same transmission was used through the end of production in 2019. To be safe, buy one with the 5-speed manual. Not only will it be more fun, but the IB5 transmission is known to be dependable and long-lasting. 

5. The 2019 Kia Forte hasn’t lost much value

A red 2019 Kia Forte used car parked at dusk
2019 Kia Forte | Kia

The 2019 Kia Forte is the newest used car under $20,000 on this list and, as a result, can be most directly compared to its 2023 counterpart. According to U.S. News, the used Forte’s average minimum price is $18,326, which is very close to the $19,490 base price in 2023. 

That said, the 2019 model still offers a great value with respect to features. It includes automatic emergency braking, forward collision warning, lane departure warning, and lane keep assist as standard but opt for one of the upper trims, and you can get Blind Spot Collision Warning, Rear Cross-Traffic Collision Warning, and even leatherette seats. That’s not to mention the standard 8-inch touchscreen with Carplay and Android auto.  

These used cars under $20,000 offer a serious discount 

Though these cars offer a serious discount from most available new cars, $16-20,000 isn’t cheap. Despite this, these cars are new enough to offer most of the modern safety and tech features the modern consumer expects. 

If you really wanted to save money and are comfortable with a manual transmission, the Fiesta might be your best bet. Despite the issues with the automatic, a Fiesta equipped with a manual is very dependable. Not only that, but because of the reputation of the PowerShift, manual models carry a similarly cheap purchase price. That said, if a small hatchback isn’t for you, the far bigger Mazda6 and Kia Soul have you covered. 


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