All the vehicles on our list are small -- either compacts or subcompacts -- because they tend to have the lowest market price, the best fuel economy and reasonable insurance rates (premiums tend to rise with horsepower).
With lower-price cars, you may have to pay extra for an automatic transmission (all of the vehicles listed here have manual transmissions, unless otherwise noted), air conditioning and sometimes even a radio. But thanks to federal mandates that went into effect for the 2012 model year, stability control is now standard for all vehicles. All of these cars have at least six airbags, anti-lock brakes and traction control.
The market price is the average transaction cost and reflects rebates. Fuel costs are based on $3.36 a gallon for regular gasoline and 15,000 miles a year of mixed city and highway driving. The ownership cost assumes you are paying 4.04% interest on a five-year loan but that you can recoup the cost of the car, minus depreciation, when you sell the vehicle after five years.
(Data provided by Vincentric)
10. Honda Fit (4dr hatch)
5-Year fuel cost: $9,361
5-Year insurance cost: $4,997
Total 5-Year ownership cost: $30,411
Named Kiplinger’s Best New Car when it was redesigned for 2009, the Fit remains a stellar value. It has 21 cubic feet of cargo space behind the second row, ten cup holders and standard cruise control. A Maintenance Minder system reminds you when to change your oil and perform other scheduled service. The Fit gets 27 miles per gallon in the city and 33 on the highway. Plus, IIHS named it a Top Safety Pick. An automatic transmission costs $800.
Other costs: Financing 5-year loan at 4.04%, based on a market price of $15,859 and a 15% down payment: $1,360; Depreciation: $9,719; Fees & taxes: $1,223; Opportunity cost of down payment and other out-of-pocket costs: $365; Maintenance: $1,978; Repairs: $1,406