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6 Most Affordable Used Cars for the Average American

jetcityimage / Getty Images
jetcityimage / Getty Images

As 2023 comes to a close, it is one of the best times to buy a used car, but it can be challenging to know which cars are worth the price. GOBankingRates asked experts to weigh in on what percentage of a person’s income should be put towards a car, how much the average American can afford, and what good car options might be for interested consumers.

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Here is what experts said you should spend on a car based on your income and which used cars you should consider before the end of the year.

fotostorm / Getty Images
fotostorm / Getty Images

How Much Car Can You Afford?

Joe Giranda, the director of sales and marketing for CFR Classic — which specializes in international car shipping and relocation — explained, “Based on the median American income, I often recommend spending no more than 10%-15% of your monthly income on car expenses. This includes not just the car payment but also insurance, fuel and maintenance.”

He continued, “The median household income in the U.S. is around $74,000. Assuming a monthly income of approximately $6,166, a safe budget for all car expenses would be about $616 to $925 per month. However, the car payment itself should be a fraction of this, ideally less than 20% of your monthly [car expenses], which translates to around $120 to $185.”

“With this budget in mind,” he added, “some of the most affordable and reliable used car options include models like the Toyota Corolla, Honda Civic and Ford Focus. These cars are often praised for their durability, fuel efficiency and relatively low cost of maintenance.”

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Toyota Corolla

Giranda said, “A used Toyota Corolla or Honda Civic can typically be found for between $16,000 and $23,000, depending on the condition and mileage. These models retain their value well and are known for running smoothly well past 100,000 miles with proper maintenance.”

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shaunl /
shaunl /

Honda Civic

John Lin, owner of JB Motor Works, agreed that the Civic is a good used car option. He noted a “Honda Civic (2010-2015)… can be found for around $8,000-$10,000. They’ve got a stellar reputation for reliability and fuel efficiency, [which] makes them a top-notch choice.”

Romantiker / Wikimedia Commons
Romantiker / Wikimedia Commons

Ford Focus

Giranda also recommended the Ford Focus. He noted, “While slightly less in demand than the Toyota or Honda models, [the Focus] can often be a more affordable option, with prices ranging from $9,000 to $18,000 for recent-year models.”


Toyota Camry

Lin also suggested the Toyota Camry 2007-2011 models. He explained, “Under the hood, the engine is quite reliable and is known for longevity. A used one could cost within the boundary of $7,000-$9,000.”

Patryk Doornebos, the owner of Car Triple — an automotive blog with over 50,000 monthly readers — concurred that the “Toyota Camry… is priced between $8,000 to $12,000 [for 2012-2015 models]. The Camry is synonymous with reliability and has low maintenance costs. Its fuel efficiency is a bonus for budget-conscious buyers.”

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Hyundai Elantra

Another option Lin recommended was the 2011-2016 Hyundai Elantra. He said the Elantra is “a budget-friendly car, costing between $6,000-$8,000, with a good fuel economy and a comfortable interior.” He also concurred that car shoppers should only spend between 10%-15% of their budget on a vehicle and vehicle-related expenses.

Doornebos found the Elantra a good used car to think about, as well. He stated the 2013-2016 models range between $6,000 to $9,000. He added, “Hyundai has risen in reliability rankings over the years, and the Elantra is a testament to that. It offers good fuel efficiency and a comfortable interior and comes with a decent list of features, even in older models.”


Honda Fit

Doornebos said car shoppers should consider 2013-2016 models of the Honda Fit. He noted the compact car averages between $7,000 to $10,000 and stated, “The Fit offers a surprising amount of space and versatility for its size and excellent fuel economy and is ideal for city driving.”

Berki Alin /
Berki Alin /

Honorable Mentions

Todd Bialaszewski, founder of Sell My Car Online and certified master mechanic, said, “The market has changed, particularly since the [COVID-19 pandemic], and several models have seen slight price rises. For example, the average used price of the Toyota Highlander increased by 24.6% to $36,311!”

He continued, “Looking deeper at really cheap possibilities, especially those under $10,000, reveals some interesting options. The average price of the 2014 Dodge Avenger, which combines power and extras like automatic climate control, is approximately $9,988.

“The $7,702 2014 Chevrolet Spark distinguishes out because [of] its low ownership costs and outstanding safety ratings. The roomy 2014 Kia Forte, which costs around $8,987, [is another] noteworthy model.”

Photo Disclaimer: Please note some photos are for illustrative purposes only and might not feature exact models, base models or the cars’ specific trim levels. As a result, some of the cars in the photos might have different MSRPs than the ones listed in this article.

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This article originally appeared on 6 Most Affordable Used Cars for the Average American