Best Cars Under $20,000

Best Cars Under $20,000

The Best Affordable Cars & SUVs — New & Used

Jump To: Best Cars Under $20,000 | Best SUVs Under $20,000 | Best Used Cars Under $20,000 | Best Used SUVs Under $20,000

Vehicles are getting more expensive every year, making it more and more difficult to find a well-regarded car or SUV for under $20,000. That said, there are actually quite a few budget-friendly new and lightly used vehicles out there if you know where to look.

To that end, Edmunds is here to help with a guide that highlights the best new and used cars and SUVs for under $20K, based on both our proprietary vehicle testing program and the extensive owner feedback in our consumer reviews. Especially in the COVID-19 era, which has underscored the value of affordable and reliable transportation, zeroing in on the best cars under $20,000 can help you get a great car and the peace of mind that comes with it.

Best Cars Under $20,000

While most subcompact sedans and hatchbacks start well below our budget cap, they generally aren't top performers in our vehicle testing, and their diminutive dimensions mean they aren't practical for all buyers. Accordingly, our picks for the three best cars under $20,000 belong to the roomier and more passenger-friendly compact class. Note that the starting MSRPs (manufacturer's suggested retail prices) below include destination and handling charges, and while we may recommend a trim that costs a bit more money, savvy negotiators should be able to whittle the price down to fit their budget.

2020 Kia Forte

2020 Kia Forte

2020 Kia Forte

Not only is the 2020 Kia Forte the least expensive compact sedan on the market, it's also one of the best choices in the class. The interior is nicely appointed, with well-shaped seats and materials of a higher quality than what you'll find in other small four-doors. Redesigned just last year, the Forte comes with an impressive array of standard tech features, including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, forward collision warning and lane keeping assist. And while its base powertrain won't be setting records at the local dragstrip, we found it easy to match the EPA-estimated fuel economy in the real world. If you can stretch to the $20,225 LXS trim, it's well worth the upgrade. For just a bit more coin than the base model with the CVT automatic, the LXS adds alloy wheels, upgraded interior trim and a split-folding — rather than one-piece — rear seat.

Starting MSRP: $18,855

2020 Kia Forte Review and Pricing

2020 Subaru Impreza

2020 Subaru Impreza

2020 Subaru Impreza

The 2020 Subaru Impreza gets a slight leg up simply by virtue of its standard all-wheel-drive system. Even if you don't need its all-weather abilities or the superior control in corners that AWD affords, the Impreza delights with excellent ride comfort and an easy-to-use infotainment system. On the downside, its 2.0-liter engine is both lethargic and thirstier in real-world driving than EPA estimates would have you believe. And, while manual-transmission models start below $20,000, selecting the CVT automatic will bump that price to $20,895. Happily, you get more than just the self-shifting transmission — Subaru's EyeSight suite of driving aids is also included. It consists of adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning and lane keeping assist.

Starting MSRP: $19,595

2020 Subaru Impreza Review and Pricing

2020 Volkswagen Jetta

2020 Volkswagen Jetta

2020 Volkswagen Jetta

With its standard LED headlights and dynamic styling, you might confuse the 2020 Volkswagen Jetta with one of its corporate cousins from Audi. That's not a bad thing for one of the best new cars under $20,000. Besides its upscale design cues, the Jetta is notable for its impressive ride comfort and quiet interior. On the other hand, we're not huge fans of its grabby brakes or confusing steering wheel controls. The base Jetta doesn't include the same breadth of standard safety equipment as others on this list, but you can add the Driver Assistance package — which includes forward collision warning and a blind-spot monitor — for a reasonable $450. An automatic-equipped Jetta with the Driver Assistance package will list for a hair over $21,000.

Starting MSRP: $19,815

2020 Volkswagen Jetta Review and Pricing

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Best SUVs Under $20,000

You'll have to select a subcompact SUV if you're buying new and want to keep the price under $20K, but the truth is that compact sedans and subcompact crossovers offer similar amounts of front- and rear-seat room. That said, there are only three subcompact SUVs that squeeze under our cost ceiling, and only one of them is worth recommending as the best SUV under $20K. Our other choices here cost a bit more than that — we've prioritized high ratings in our testing over the absolute lowest MSRPs — but savvy negotiation can rein in the price.

2020 Kia Soul

2020 Kia Soul

2020 Kia Soul

The 2020 Kia Soul stretches the definition of SUV to its limits — ground clearance is similar to that of a car, and all-wheel drive is not offered. However, the Soul has more storage space than a typical hatchback, and its boxy profile affords generous headroom akin to what you'd find in an SUV. Indeed, the Soul packs a lot of functionality into its diminutive footprint — there's a surprising amount of rear headroom and legroom, and the interior is intuitively laid out. Though swapping the standard six-speed manual transmission for the CVT automatic on the base LX model will put you right around the $20,000 mark, we think it's worth paying just a little bit more for either the S or GT-Line trim. Both cost the same ($21,410), with the S including safety enhancements and the GT-Line carrying more stylish bodywork.

Starting MSRP: $18,610

2020 Kia Soul Review and Pricing

2020 Hyundai Kona

2020 Hyundai Kona

2020 Hyundai Kona

Not many SUVs are under our $20,000 price target, and the 2020 Hyundai Kona exceeds it slightly. You could go cheaper with the new Hyundai Venue, which is priced similarly to the Kia Soul, but frankly it's not as good. If your budget is a little flexible, the 2020 Hyundai Kona is a great choice. Unlike the Venue or Soul, it comes standard with an automatic transmission and offers optional all-wheel drive. The Kona is notable for its excellent infotainment system, relatively roomy passenger space and generous warranty. It also has a healthy list of standard features, so you can stick with the base trim and still get a well-equipped SUV.

Starting MSRP: $21,440

2020 Hyundai Kona Review and Pricing

2020 Honda HR-V

2020 Honda HR-V

2020 Honda HR-V

Like the Kona, the 2020 Honda HR-V is going to surpass a strict $20,000 budget. If you absolutely need a less expensive vehicle, you can also consider the Nissan Kicks, which retails for $20,165. But the HR-V is so much better that we think paying extra is a no-brainer. That's because the HR-V makes the most of its pint-size footprint. On paper, there's more head- and legroom in both rows than most competitors offer, and the cargo area is similarly spacious. But the execution is just as important as the numbers. The HR-V offers multiple cargo configurations, so you can lift up the rear seat bottoms to load tall items, or fold the rear seats and recline the passenger seat to store longer objects. Unfortunately, the base HR-V LX is short on features compared to rivals at the same price. But if versatility and resale value are high on your list, the HR-V will be hard to resist.

Starting MSRP: $22,040

2020 Honda HR-V Review and Pricing

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Best Used Cars Under $20,000

If you don't mind starting with a few miles on the odometer, there's an entire world of lightly used cars that will fit a $20,000 budget. In our search for the three best used cars under $20,000, we whittled down our choices to an all-around excellent family cruiser, a thrilling sports car and even a luxury sedan. All three are widely available with relatively low mileage for under $20K. Additionally, all three have earned high marks in our consumer reviews from owners who drive them every day.

2018 Honda Accord

2018 Honda Accord

2018 Honda Accord

The Honda Accord has been a solid choice for decades, and the newest model (2018+) carries on that tradition. From a usability standpoint, the Accord is tough to top thanks to its cavernous back seat and massive trunk. We're also impressed with the Accord's interior design, which is clean, sophisticated and surprisingly upscale, even in lower trims. The standard turbocharged 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine is peppy and smooth, and the Accord's infotainment system is one of the best around. Since this generation is still fairly new — the Accord was last redesigned in 2018 — you won't find many fully loaded models under $20K. Much of the inventory under our $20,000 cap comes in base LX trim, which still includes features such as LED headlights, dual-zone climate control, and a host of advanced driving aids. Sport models are also fairly common, and we recommend this trim for its upgraded audio system, larger touchscreen and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto compatibility.

2018 Honda Accord Review and Pricing

2016 Ford Mustang

2016 Ford Mustang

2016 Ford Mustang

There are many fun used vehicles in this price range, but the current Ford Mustang (2015+) takes the cake as arguably the best sports car under $20K. It's easily one of the coolest cars under $20K too. The Mustang morphed from muscle car to sports car when it switched from a live rear axle to an independent suspension in 2015. Not content with merely upgrading the 'Stang's ride comfort and handling prowess, Ford also graced the redesigned Mustang with an interior that, while still heavy on plastics, delivers a more premium feel than previous Mustangs. You'll be hard-pressed to find a V8-powered GT with low miles under $20,000, but the Mustang is still one of the best fast cars under $20K with the V6 engine or the turbocharged four-cylinder. If you're looking for a model with a touchscreen, we recommend starting at the 2016 model year, when the terrible MyFord Touch infotainment system was replaced by the far superior Sync 3 system. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity was added to all Sync 3-equipped Mustangs in 2017, but owners of 2016 models can get that compatibility with a Sync 3 system update.

2016 Ford Mustang Review and Pricing

2017 BMW 3 Series

2017 BMW 3 Series

2017 BMW 3 Series

You don't have to venture into the distant past to get one of the luxury market's coolest cars under $20K. The BMW 3 Series has been a perennial favorite of ours, and most of our editors actually prefer the previous-generation 3 Series (2012-2018) to the newest model. This 3 Series was well regarded for its exceptional ride quality, sharp driving dynamics and user-friendly infotainment system. Buyers looking for an inexpensive entry into luxury-sedan ownership would have a hard time doing better than this excellent all-'rounder. Any year of this generation is worth a look, though 2017 models introduced a new version of the iDrive system and added Apple CarPlay as a stand-alone option. The midtier (and most popular) turbocharged four-cylinder engine also got a slight power bump for 2017 that led to a name change from 328i to 330i. Though you can find some examples of the hybrid, diesel and six-cylinder powertrains in the under $20,000 range — the six-cylinder 335i is unquestionably one of the best fast cars under $20K — the four-cylinder, gas-powered 320i and 328i/330i models will be the most common. We recommend upgrading to the 328i/330i since the 320i offers middling performance by luxury standards and comes with fewer features.

2017 BMW 3 Series Review and Pricing

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Best Used SUVs Under $20,000

If you're willing to go with a lightly used SUV, you'll find your dollar goes a lot further than if you limit your selection to new crossovers. Included in our selection of the best used SUVs under $20K is a sporty compact, a roomy midsize SUV and even a well-rounded luxury crossover. The models listed below are widely available with relatively low mileage for under $20K, and we've vetted them against our consumer reviews to make sure there's not a lemon in the bunch.

2018 Mazda CX-5

2018 Mazda CX-5

2018 Mazda CX-5

As crossovers have become the de facto choice for car shoppers, standing out from the crowd has become increasingly difficult. That's no problem for the current-generation Mazda CX-5 (2018+), whose distinctive, shark-like sheetmetal immediately sets it apart from other compact SUVs. But as much as we like its expressive design, the CX-5's interior is truly where it shines. The cabin is decked out in high-quality imitation leather and soft-touch plastic, giving it an air of sophistication from the moment you step inside. We also love its superlative handling and steering, making the CX-5 the driver's choice in the segment. Most models under $20,000 will be the base Sport model, though midtrim Touring examples shouldn't be too hard to find. The Touring model includes the i-Activsense suite of advanced driving aids that is optional for the Sport, plus many other goodies. While tech lovers will note that Apple CarPlay and Android Auto weren't included until the 2019 model year, you can add both to 2018 models via a dealer-installed upgrade.

2018 Mazda CX-5 Review and Pricing

2016 Ford Edge

2016 Ford Edge

2016 Ford Edge

It might not be the avant-garde vehicle that its name suggests, but the current-generation Ford Edge (2015+) is undoubtedly one of the best used SUVs under $20,000. This hulking midsizer offers far more room than the CX-5 listed above, even if it's not as lithe or stylish. There's ample room in both rows, and the cargo area is impressively large. Comfortable seats are another highlight of this eminently practical crossover. Though the second-generation Edge was introduced in 2015, we suggest starting with the 2016 model year Edge. That's when the Sync 3 infotainment system was introduced, and, as with the Mustang, it's much snappier and more attractive than the previous MyFord Touch interface. It was included in the 201A package for the midlevel Edge SEL — a trim that is in abundant supply on the used market.

2016 Ford Edge Review and Pricing

2016 BMW X3

2016 BMW X3

2016 BMW X3

Can you really get a luxury SUV for under $20,000? Yes, and a recent one with low miles at that. The BMW X3 was last redesigned in 2018, which isn't that long ago, but the previous generation (2011-2017) is now quite affordable while still relevant thanks to cutting-edge tech for its time. The X3's inclusion shouldn't come as a shock since it shares a common platform with the 3 Series already named here as the best luxury car under $20,000. While not quite as sporty as its sedan sibling, the X3 offers far more passenger and cargo room, making it a practical choice for a small family. From a technology perspective, advanced driving aids were available throughout the previous X3's lifespan, with more features added in later years. In typical luxury-brand fashion, these aids were included in packages, so it might be difficult to tell at a glance whether a specific piece of inventory has the safety features you want. Note too that Apple CarPlay was only available during the 2017 model year, and it was an optional extra.

2016 BMW X3 Review and Pricing

Compare Best Used SUVs Under $20,000

Edmunds Says

While a vehicle budget of $20,000 doesn't go as far as it used to, there are still lots of choices if you're looking for a new or used vehicle that won't cost an arm and a leg. From a mint small sedan to a lightly used luxury SUV, you can easily find one of the best cars under $20,000 right here on Edmunds.

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