Many consumers are held back by unattainable new prices cars. Not only are new vehicles expensive to start with, but markups and shortages make it even more difficult to find a ride for a reasonable price. While the second-hand market may still be too high, you can still find some excellent last-model cars to suit your needs – and for less than $20,000. US News even recently revealed its pick of 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 it ranks as the best used car less than $20,000. Given that crossovers are the most popular segment, the Soul might be the ticket for someone looking to get into the segment at a low cost.
US News reports the average reserve price of the 2018 Soul at $16,251. For that price range, you get the most rear boot space of any car on this list at 5.5m3.
A perfect economical car for someone who needs extra space to transport people or things. The Kia isn’t all a boxy truck, though; it also has a 7-inch touchscreen with Apple Carplay and Android Auto and the option for a 201bhp 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 newcomer to the US News list of the best used cars under $20,000, but features a very comfortable and roomy interior.
While American news named 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 as enjoyable a driving experience as the fun-loving Fiesta and a little more peace of mind when it comes to your choice of automatic transmission. The Fit is also available with an excellent six-speed manual transmission and offers incredible fuel economy of around 40 mpg on the highway.
While 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 blind spot camera system that Honda calls LaneWatch (also available on the EX.)
3. The 2017 Mazda6 outperforms its weight class
The Mazda6 is one of the larger cars on the market American newslist of best used cars under $20,000. It’s an affordable used car, and the back seat might be more suited to family duties.
The 2017 Mazda6 has excellent features, including a 7-inch touchscreen with Mazda Connect. If you can spring for the mid-year refresh dubbed the 2017.5, you get excellent safety features like blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert.
The Mazda6 also flaunts a nice exterior and a reliable one and efficient drivetrain. This brings the average price of the 2017 Mazda6 slightly closer to $20,000 at $18,927, but given its size and excellent storage capacity, the extra cost may be worth the extra space buyer.
4. The 2017 Ford Fiesta is the cheapest if you want a used manual transmission car
The Ford Fiesta is a tiny little hatchback and sedan made by Ford for the North American market between 2011-2019. While the average person might be looking for something bigger, don’t leave the Fiesta out of your search.
US News reports that the average price paid is just $11,835. Not bad for a 5 year old car! While the base S trim may be cheaper, you’ll want to look for the SE trim to unlock outstanding features like SYNC 3. The inclusion of SYNC 3 means you get Apple Carplay and Android Auto.
That said, every 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 until the end of production in 2019. Buy one with the 5-speed manual to be on the safe side. Not only will it be more fun, but the IB5 transmission is known for being reliable and long lasting.
5. The 2019 Kia Forte hasn’t lost much in value
The 2019 Kia Forte is the newest used car under $20,000 on this list and can therefore be most directly compared to its 2023 counterpart. According to US News, the average reserve price of the used Forte is $18,326, which is very close to the base price of $19,490 in 2023.
That said, the 2019 model still offers great value in terms of features. It includes automatic emergency braking, forward collision warning, lane departure warning and lane keeping assistance as standard, but opt for one of the top trims, and you can add Blind Spot Collision Warning, Rear Cross-Traffic Collision Warning and even get leatherette seats. Not to mention the standard 8-inch touchscreen with Carplay and Android auto.
These used cars under $20,000 offer a serious discount
While these cars offer a serious discount over most new cars available, $16-20,000 isn’t cheap. Despite this, these cars are new enough to offer most of the modern safety and technical features expected by the modern consumer.
If you really want to save money and are comfortable with a manual transmission, the Fiesta may be the best choice. Despite the problems with the automatic transmission, a Fiesta equipped with a manual transmission is very reliable. Not only that, but because of the PowerShift’s reputation, manual models have a similarly low purchase price. That said, if a small hatchback isn’t for you, the much larger Mazda6 and Kia Soul have you covered.