Top 10 Most Frugal New Cars

Forbes magazine has released a list of the top 10 least expensive cars to own. The list is interesting because it takes into account things like depreciation and maintenance costs, rather than just listing some cheap-ass cars.

We like it.

Forbes’ Frugal Cars:

10) Pontiac Vibe $16,760
Five-year cost of ownership: $35,348

9) Hyundai Accent $12,865
Five-year cost of ownership: $34,808

8) Kia Rio $13,571
Five-year cost of ownership: $34,802

7) Toyota Matrix $16,558
Five-year cost of ownership: $34,778

6) Ford Focus $15,752
Five-year cost of ownership: $34,092

5) Chevy Aveo $11,844
Five-year cost of ownership: $34,048

4) Nissan Versa $13,950
Five-year cost of ownership: $33,275

3) Toyota Corolla $15,449
Five-year cost of ownership: $33,053

2) Honda Fit $15,440
Five-year cost of ownership: $32,547

1) Toyota Yaris $12,625
Five-year cost of ownership: $31,785

Frugal Rides: Top 10 Least Expensive Vehicles to Own [Forbes]


Edit Your Comment

  1. flintstone03 says:

    I’ve been needing a new car, my broke ass windsheild, no shocks, high miles and only decent gas mileage make this a great freakin post!

  2. sleze69 says:

    It still looks like you listed cheap ass cars.

  3. thepounder says:

    I’m sure my truck would be around #1100 (or higher, but well under an H2) on the list of escalating ownership cost, if only for fuel cost alone… but I must haul stuff when I need to haul stuff. And my Ram is “Country Chic,” so it’s all good.

    I do wonder sometimes if I could ever drive any of those teeny-tiny cars; I think I’d most like a Matrix if I had to get rid of my truck. I’m just so used to being able to see over all the traffic in front of me though. To each their own though.

  4. iMike says:

    Note that even the cheapest new car costs over $6K a year. Used cars are the way to go.

  5. SybilDisobedience says:

    @thepounder: I’m not a truck person by choice – I inherited my ’98 Ranger from my mom – but I too have grown to appreciate its benefits. I’m a short, stumpy sort, so any kind of height over neighboring cars is much appreciated. I’m always terrified when I have to back my boyfriend’s Mitsubishi Mirage out of a parking space.
    What I wouldn’t give for some better gas mileage, though.

  6. swalve says:

    I wonder what would happen if they assumed that the vehicle needed to carry a family of four and their stuff.

    I’d also like to see something similar on a used car.

  7. thepounder says:

    @SybilDisobedience: I remember those tense times years ago, backing a car out of a spot where I was flanked by pickups; not fun guessing if you’re going to get t-boned in a parking lot.
    To me there’s something that’s just addictive about driving a truck. I’m used to it’s size and like that part of it a lot. But yes, a trip to the gas station is always painful. Last summer I paid as high as about $75 for a fill-up of about 25 or 26 gallons. It’s a trade-off I can live with though.
    Incidentally, I have helped probably 5 or 6 people when they were moving… another part of being a truck owner. At least I get paid in beer, so bonus.

  8. ceejeemcbeegee is not here says:

    I have a Vibe as a company car, and I haven’t changed to oil in a year and it’s still running fine.

  9. Buran says:

    @sleze69: Well, yaknow, initial cost is a factor in the cost of ownership over time. But “cheap is a lot better than it used to be. I’d go for a Fit any day if I had only $15K to spend.

  10. Buran says:

    @swalve: My car is available in a “base model” (very well equipped) that can be had for under $15K. Does a great job of hauling people and stuff and gets good mileage too.

  11. Buran says:

    @thepounder: Must be something addictive about ruining the environment, too… most people who are “addicted” to those things don’t really need them.

  12. DigitalMariner says:

    @thepounder: The Matrix (and to a degree the Vibe) is not as tenny-tiny a car as it appears. I’m about 6’1″ and fit very comfortably in there. And we’ve fit 5 (also somewhat large) adults in there for trips to out of town weddings and they fit well enough they were eager to go again a few months later. My favorite part is the gas savings (gotta make up for the wife’s SUV). This summer on a road trip, I got it up to 37.9 MPG (listed at 31 mpg highway) at the high point of the trip, and it averaged about 36 mpg.

    If it ever gets to the point where you don’t need to “haul stuff” anymore, consider the Matrix highly recommended and not as small on the inside as it looks on the outside.

  13. jgkelley says:

    I want to note that there’s no mention of warranties in the Forbes article.
    From the perspective of someone who’s already going to buy a new car, you can really only spend $15k and up – but no matter how much higher up you go, you’re not going to get a different mode of transportation. So get the cheapest car available and the longest warranty, and your 5-year cost of ownership drops precipitously. Assuming a five-year warranty, your cost of ownership is the cost of the car plus the cost of the warranty. The lower the cost of the car, the lower the cost of the warranty, the lower the APR on a loan if you use one, and the lower your insurance.

    My wife and I just bought a Fit two days ago. While the cost of ownership is certainly higher than a used car, all used cars we were interested in were just a few thousand shy of it. With a six-year extended warranty, what exactly does our cost of ownership become? The car cost $18k with warranty. Insurance prices hardly moved. It’s more efficient mpg-wise than what we were driving. The magic seats add a ton of cargo room and it has a five-star crash safety rating (wait, thats just unrelated perks), as well as on-site assistance.

    It’s value should be at least a few thousand when we decide to sell after the warranty expires, during which time we’ll have only paid for new tires and wipers (roughly $500). This car is the new Civic, literally–it’s Honda’s replacement for what used to be their entry-level flagship. And since 1989 Civics are still driving around, still holding onto some resale value…

    Poo-poo new cars all you want (I do all the time–especially bmws and mercedes), but its hard to find a recent car thats as safe, efficient, resalable and useful as the Fit. As for the rest of the cars on the list, I’m sure some of them could say similar things, but I can only speak to the research i’ve done on this car.

    Our last car cost $3k, and we’ve put about $3k into it in 3 years–cheaper than a new car, sure, but if we had it another 3 years I’m sure we’d put at least another $3k into it. Add the fact that it will have no resale value, has a poor average mpg, a broken fan, a battery-check light that’s constantly on, will fail the new state-instituted emissions test, and occasionally refuses to start despite the recent influx of new parts and computer scans, and you have a good reason to get a new car instead of a used one.

    Find me anything below $10k that’s got a warranty, gets 30mpg, and has a five-star crash rating, and I’ll reconsider our purchase. Otherwise, if its affordable, the cheapest new car is the way to go.

  14. Biggie was right in the 90’s, but today mo’ money ≠ more problems


  15. thepounder says:

    @Buran: Sure, I’m a horrible person.

    Whatever makes you feel good…

  16. thepounder says:

    @DigitalMariner: Oh certainly the Matrix is nice-looking and gets great mileage. And 36mpg on a road trip is nothing to sneeze at either.
    All I was referring to was the physical size of the car, not it’s roominess. I definitely believe a guy of your size fits in there just comfy. A friend of mine has a smaller Mistubishi and he’s about 6’1″ or 2″ and has plenty of leg and headroom. They certainly wouldn’t sell many smaller cars if they only fit people that are 5’6″ and under.

    I’ll have to test drive a Matrix when I get back home; it’d be great to have something smaller to take to work and back.
    Thank you.

  17. GeoffCJ says:

    My wife and I also bought a Fit recently. She drives a lot for work, and for me, the piece of mind that she is driving a new, well maintained car that I know the history of, gets good crash ratings is worth a lot. I’m really impressed with the car. I’m 5’10 and BIG (think linebacker/wrestler, not fattie) and I’m perfectly comfortable driving it.

    I drive a Toyota Tacoma, 4 cylinder, manual, 2 wheel drive, and get 25-27 MPG, which is nice. And it was under 14K new.

  18. Nick says:

    The Nissan Versa is awesome!! It is definitely worth a second look. It’s one of the roomiest cars I’ve ever seen and the continuously variable transmission is addicting.

  19. thoughtfix says:

    LOVE my 2007 Yaris Liftback. Even fully loaded, I only financed $15k

  20. Schmee says:


    That is rather scary actually, I’ve seen what happens to cars when that happens, I’d suggest getting an oil change soon ;-). Just because it is still running doesn’t mean its not getting chewed up internally by crappy oil.

  21. nick says:

    Me too!

    I got my Yaris last June and I LOVE IT!

    Not to mention the fact that it gets 40mi/gal and only needs an oil change twice a year (every 6,000 mi). I haven’t spent more than $50/mo on gas since I bought it.

    And like you said, fully loaded for $15. How can you not love it?

  22. ryapeter says:

    I was a happy owner of Honda FIT. It was amazing car with huge cabin room and space for luggage. Few other competitors in the class such as Toyota Yaris, Suzuki Swift and X-Over doesn’t even come close.

    However entering the 2nd year I believe there are flaw in the car.
    At around every 20.000Km (I’m metric user sorry) the battery will just fail. So does the tires I’m at 60.000Km at the moment and on my 3rd sets of wheel.

    I was hoping this is just happening to me. However 3days ago I learn that some of my friends (who drive less then me and just getting their 20.000Km) also get the same problem.

  23. bmwloco says:

    They missed one. German made. Nicely equipped with CD-MP3/AC/electric windows. iPod port too.

    VW Rabbit. $15,900. 6 airbags up front, 2 more in back, lots of passive safety.

    2.5 liter 5 cylinder engine with a timing CHAIN instead of a belt.

    And best of all, it doesn’t drive like a tin box.

    When all the other crap in that list is broken, teetering, and wobbling down the road, the VW will probably still be rolling.

  24. razorbacker says:

    Buying new cars just doesn’t make sense. That whole “depreciation” thing. So, when I rolled over 300K on my Roadmaster I went looking for another land yacht.

    Found an ’05 Crown Vic, white, leather, top of the line climate control, keyless entry, 4 wheel disks, 12K miles, $12,600.

    Great car. Will run 80+ all day, gets 27mpg, and when you run up on someone’s behind they move over to the right lane real quick;)

    Course they give you the finger when they see you aren’t a cop. I can live with that.

  25. Protector says:

    These are not cars. They’re motorcycles with covers on them.

  26. EtherealStrife says:

    Go one better! The Corolla is the perfect car. The space for a family, the economy for a college student. But I’m a bit biased.

    I’ve heard decent reviews of the Daewoo er “Chevy” Aveo as a disposable commuter. It gets pretty good mileage, and a friend of mine put 50k miles on it in one year without requiring any major servicings. But if you have the extra $$ up front, the Yaris nets you a Toyota with similar performance and size. I’d bet the longterm maintenance would be much easier on the wallet with the Japanese vehicle.

  27. synergy says:

    @razorbacker: I like to smile and continue driving at the speed limit when people try to intimidate me in my Civic with their land yacht. It makes my day.

  28. LatherRinseRepeat says:

    The Pontiac Vibe is a rebadged Toyota Matrix. So it’s probably the only Pontiac that is worth buying these days. I’d say the Matrix/Vibe are the most underrated cars. Compact, but not confined on the inside. Decent gas mileage. Reliable. Plus, the hatch/wagon design offers lots of cargo room, especially with the seats folded down. Too bad Toyota discontinued the XRS model. That one had the engine from the Celica GTS, along with a 6-speed manual.

    I’m partial to Honda. So if I were to get an economy car right now, I’d get the Fit. The car looks small, but it’s roomy on the inside. Second choice would be a Civic.

  29. razorbacker says:


    In my home state, it is against the law to impede traffic in the left lane. Obeying the speed limit is no defense. You’ll get a ticket. The right side if for people driving the speed limit and below. The left side is for the rest of us.

    By the way, over 2 million miles with no accidents and only 1 ticket. And I’d likely have gotten out of that one if the trooper hadn’t happened to hear me get pulled over 60 miles down the freeway. Sometimes you eats the bear, and sometimes the bear eats.

  30. Kloud says:

    @Buran: Must be something addictive about flaming someone out of nowhere on the Consumerist… most people who say those things don’t really need to speak them.

  31. thepounder says:

    @razorbacker: That law’s the same in TX as well. If you’re “impeding the flow of traffic” in the left lane you’re breaking the law (as long as it’s posted). There’s signs that’ll say “left lane for passing only” and I see them on pretty much any two-lane highway I’ve been on, so it seems statewide… found a TXDOT linky for it — TXDOT High Driving Tips
    Anyway, it’s just safer and you’re less likely to be part of some random road rage incident if you let people pass and don’t attempt to police the roads yourself… if someone’s doing something wildly illegal then by all means call the Highway Patrol or whatever, but please don’t get involved.

  32. thepounder says:

    @Kloud: I even made a self-deprecating joke about my truck being around #1100 on the Frugal list… sheesh :) … I openly admit my truck loves sucking fuel, but I do need it for it’s lugging capacity more often than not. I build a lot of stuff and frequent building supply stores when I’m home, so it saves on the diesel fuel the delivery truck would use getting out to my house.
    That’s my only defense, except that I loves my Dodge Ram.

  33. moorie679 says:

    I am getting really sick of Buran’s self righteous comments………. every single article has a post by you harassing other posters……..get off your high horse and join the crowd……. I don’t think you are out there 10 hours a day planting trees. Everyone makes their own choice, if they want to drive a truck then they will drive a truck….if you want to save the environment so bad why don’t you hold a rally in front of the white house as well as the Chinese embassy.

    I would love to see what kinds of skeletons you got in your closet pal.

  34. thepounder says:

    Back to the Frugal vehicles — I drove a Hyundai Elantra long ago (owned two of them actually) and I hear it’s and even better bargain nowadays; mine were from 1993 & 1996 and the only issues were the transmissions in both, but I was ready to trade them in by that point anyhow.
    Along that line I’ve heard the new Accent is really nice inside and sips fuel, so that’s cool, and the price is nice too.
    I drove a few rental Ford Focuses and I liked them pretty well also. Nicely appointed inside without having too many bells & whistles.
    The Mazda 3 is a bit pricier but not so bad… and good on gas as well, but if I had to get a Mazda it’d be the Mazda 6 — but that’s way off this list, pricewise.

  35. spinachdip says:

    @bmwloco: Yeah, but this is about cost of ownership, and VW maintenance isn’t cheap.

  36. scootinger says:

    I have a Vibe and it’s a great car! Feels pretty roomy for its size, gets great gas mileage (33-34 mpg highway on automatic tranny), and very reliable.

    Also it feels a bit higher off the ground than many compact cars (ie Civic or Mazda3), but not as high as a minivan or truck/SUV. I like it but I guess it might just be one of those things I’m used to.

  37. Trai_Dep says:

    As one that, when waaaay too drunk on early weekend mornings, pointedly aim my vomit at parked Hummers (whoops!), I don’t have problems with people that need the carrying capacity of trucks often having them. They’re fine. It’s the losers driving them as fashion accessories/dick compensators that make me direct my hot, vodka-laden bile on them. :D

  38. Scazza says:

    I bought a Honda Fit not two months ago and the thing is bloody fantastic. In terms of extras, the damn thing comes filled with standard everything. A very good sound system to boot. But gas milage is the real charm. In terms of CANADIAN currency and measurements, it is 40L tank (i think), and usually I put in 35L to fill at around 37 bucks (premium), and it lasts for a good 600km or more.

    Plus the thing has a ton of room, with these crazy folding seats that fold into the floor, or you can make a bed with the front+back seats combined.

    Only downside is the car lacks power. It feels good and quick with one person in it, but as soon as you add any weight the car feels less powerful. Plus going up hills slows it up something fierce…

    But still, for the price, its a fantastic little car thats a blast to drive…

  39. alpacalypse says:

    What about diesel engines?

  40. EvilSquirrel says:

    Looks like my econobox Focus made the list. I can’t believe they stopped making the hatchback and wagon models considering the increasing market for cheap economy cars. Now if only it had the cool HUD that my old Grand Prix had.

    Oh and the idiots trying to run me off the road are not cool.

  41. reverbandwhiskey says:

    If you’re really interested in saving money, try bike commuting. I’ve been bike commuting for the last year now and have loved it. I have lost 20 pounds, am in incredible shape, and have saved several thousand dollars. My car has seen only 400 miles of driving in the last 13 months!

    Here is a great guide to getting started in case you are interested.


  42. STrRedWolf says:

    If you get the Hundai Accident… er… Accent, make sure you *DO NOT* get the 3 cylinder diesel engine. It takes forever to get to 50 mph, and if you’re driving at a corner, you’ll say “Oh, I’m comming up to a corner, better slow down… OH NO I SLOWED DOWN!!!!”

    Don’t just buy the cars because they’re cheap in the long run. Definitely test-drive them.

  43. mikesfree says:

    Didn’t the Yaris just get some of the worst rear crash ratings?

    Maybe its best to take the bus and buy a good used car.

  44. Starfury says:

    Who wants a frugal car? I want a Bugatti Veyron.

    Or a Ferrari F430, it’s a bit cheaper.

  45. Anitra says:

    I’m glad to see the Focus made the list. I bought mine used (2 years old, from a dealer so I got a warranty), and it’s been serving me well with minimal maintenance. It fits four adults pretty comfortably, too.

    Obviously, for most econoboxes, you’ll get an even better deal if you buy lightly used instead of new.

    Oh and BMWLOCO: VWs are reliable, but when things DO break (and they will, eventually), the parts are crazy expensive. That’s probably why it didn’t make the list.

  46. swalve says:

    @bmwloco: Presumably, they didn’t “forget” about VW. VW has a terrible record for maintenance costs. This list was the top ten cars with the lowest 5 year costs, not cheap cars that hipsters think are cool.

  47. OKH says:

    It’s got a cop motor: a 440 cubic inch plant. It’s got cop tires, cop suspensions, cop shocks. It’s a model made before catalytic converters so it’ll run good on regular gas. What do you say, is this the new Bluesmobile, or what?

  48. beyond says:

    I like the Yaris and am glad to see it make the list. When I my car eventually dies (though I want to keep it until 200k miles at minimum) I am planning on buying one, since the later-model Yaris’ (thus more refined) will be about 3-4 years old by then.

    My biggest concern is towing. Want to get a foldable trailer to haul boards/junk from the hardware store, but the Yaris does not rate for towing (though it says 550lbs for a non-braked trailer in other countries). I’m sure there will be plenty of towing stories by the time I’m ready to buy :)

  49. acambras says:


    Last time I rented a car, they gave me a Vibe. I remember thinking, “Exactly what is this? Is it a car? Is it a van? Is it a small SUV?” Good vehicle, though — I even got it for an economy/compact rate. I’d definitely rent one again.

  50. spinachdip says:

    @EtherealStrife: Actually, the Daewoo is a rebadged Chevy, not the other way around.

    I know, that surprises me too. I figured it was an Opel/Vauxhall with a Chevy logo, but it appears I’d,underestimated Detroit’s ability to make half decent compact cars. Ford Focus was also developed side-by-side with Ford USA and global, I understand. Conspicuously missing, of course, is a Chrysler compact (do they still make Neon?).

  51. forever_knight says:

    @iMike: even used cars cost thousands a year in insurance, gas, maintenance, warranties, etc. no car is the way to go.

  52. @OKH: 440 is weak. Need more motor.

  53. texasannie says:

    Heh. We own an Aveo and a paid-off Corolla. Great gas mileage, next to nothing in maintenance costs, and they both fit nicely inside our garage.

  54. Rusted says:

    @forever_knight: It was nice in Germany but not here. Not much in the way of mass transit. Also still cheaper for going a few hundred miles on the East Coast then train, the dog, or air.

  55. Joe_Bloe says:

    An argument for used cars:

    I’d be interested to see exactly what went into those numbers. I had a Lincoln V8 for my daily 30-mile round-trip commute in the DC metro area. Each way takes about 40 minutes, so you can imagine that’s mostly stop-and-go. I was averaging about 17 mpg with the Lincoln.

    When gas prices started to head for low-earth-orbit, I decided I needed something that gets better mileage, with good space inside (room for two car-seats + stroller + week’s worth of groceries), stick shift, sunroof. I was looking at the Vibe/Matrix, or Mazda 3 kammback. I could find any of those cars, three years old, <30K miles, ~30mpg highway, for about $13-15K. Then I found an ’03 PT cruiser, like new, stick, sunroof, 30K miles, for $7,800 up in Lancaster, PA. Slightly worse gas mileage (although I’m averaging 27 mpg on my crappy commute). So, my unscientific calculation for 5-year costs is:
    $7,800 (acquisition)
    $2,200 (cost of funds over 5 years compared to ING CD)$
    6,000 (fuel)
    $2,500 ($500/yr maintenance, probably conservative)

    $18,500 Total

    Having $12,000 + that I didn’t spend on a new car: priceless.

  56. rmz says:

    @forever_knight: Up for biking 40 miles round-trip in 110-degree heat? I didn’t think so.

  57. Denada says:

    Woohoo! Number 1 on the list. The Yaris is a nice little car. The sedan (which I have) has a lot more room than you might think. It gets more road noise on the highway than a more expensive car, but that’s really my only complaint. Now I think I’ll wrap this up before I start sounding like a corporate shill.

  58. anatak says:

    The Vibe/Matrix can haul a lot. I’ve always been amazed at what can fit in there, especially with the seats folded down.

    I understand the initial price may be different on the two, but I don’t understand why they are so far apart in the rankings? Its the same car. There were some ratings that came out a year or so ago by Edmunds or JD Power or someone that had the Vibe and Matrix listed first and third respectively. Once again, its the same car. Did no one tell them?

  59. yakuzamon says:

    i have a ’07 ford focus hatchback, base model. i bought it back in december, new from the dealership, for $10.5k out the door. it would have been 10k out the door, except that lojack was installed by default on all vehicles at the dealer. initially, i was looking at a yaris, but the sale price on the focus definitely helped change my mind.

    i’ve never had any troubles so far with my focus, and it gives me about 27-32mpg constantly (this is decent to good mileage for my driving style, as i drive a bit on the faster side).

    the only issue i’ve heard about focuses is that some people have had troubles with the starter. i’m personally planning to sell this car in about a year and three months (used zx3s with 2years / 25k miles on them seem to go for ~$10k), so this hopefully shouldn’t be an issue for me.

  60. Woo! My next car is at #2!

  61. INTPLibrarian says:

    I’m a big fan of my new Honda Fit. I’m amazed at the mileage it gets and how much stuff can fit inside it.

    Plus, as a not-big-fan-of super huge minivans and SUVs that take over more than one parking space (note: I only hate the big cars that have owner who don’t know how to park, not ALL big cars.)… I do get some silly satisfaction from seeing cars pause and pass by a teeny parking spot in the Chicago neighborhoods where parking is hard to find. Then I drive up in my Fit and squeeze in. Yay.

  62. RBecho says:

    I am a happy owner of a Matrix, and I totally recommend it. It will see 5 adults comfortably (even my 6′ 6″ stepfather fits in the backseat or front seat). Not to mention you can easily haul 2 by 4’s that are 8 feet long in it. For the price I would say get it.

    Also I read a consumer reports a year or so ago that stated while the Vibe and Matrix are pretty much the same car, they did state that the Vibe has a different and slightly less reliable engine / drive train, so they recommended the Matrix.

  63. razorbacker says:


    “it’s dark, we’re both wearing sunglasses. Hit it.”

    ‘At’s a funny movie raht thar. An I don’t care who you are.

  64. swalve says:

    I always liked the styling of the Vibe, I just wish there was a V6 option. It’s like the Matrix’s cooler, younger brother.