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Slide Show | February 2013

10 Cheapest Cars to Own, 2013

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The price you negotiate for a car and the interest on your car loan are only part of the cost of owning a new vehicle. Depreciation, taxes and fees, and what you pay over the years for insurance, fuel, maintenance and repairs are all important ingredients in the long-term cost of ownership.

Even the opportunity cost of out-of-pocket expenses (what you'd make by investing the money elsewhere) is part of the overall tally.

To find the cheapest cars to own and operate, we asked Vincentric, an automotive data firm, for a list of 2013 vehicles with the lowest five-year ownership costs. Because small cars tend to have the lowest market price, the best fuel economy and reasonable insurance rates, all the vehicles on our list are either compacts or subcompacts.

All of the vehicles listed here also have manual transmissions, unless otherwise noted (they tend to be more fuel-efficient than automatic). But most of our picks include a CD player and auxiliary inputs for music as standard features. Also, thanks to federal mandates that went into effect for the 2012 model year, stability control is now standard for all vehicles. Other safety features have also gotten better: 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 consumer rebates. Fuel costs are based on $3.23 a gallon for regular gasoline and 15,000 miles a year of mixed city and highway driving. The ownership cost assumes you are paying 2.76% 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.


10 Cheapest Cars to Own, 2013

10. Toyota Corolla L 4dr

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Toyota

5-year fuel cost: $9,219

MPG: City: 27; Hwy: 34

Maintenance and repairs: $3,902

Cheapest Cars to OwnTotal 5-year ownership cost: $30,435

As one of the nation's top sellers, the Corolla has a loyal fan base. Low ownership costs, decent power and fuel economy, and safety (the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) rates it a Top Safety Pick) add to the allure. LE and S models get a touchscreen audio system with Bluetooth and a USB port, but you'll pay $280 for Bluetooth and a USB port on the base trim level.

Other costs: insurance over five years, $5,466; financing 5-year loan at 2.76%, based on a market price of $15,768 and a 15% down payment, $913; depreciation, $9,327; fees & taxes, $1,225; opportunity cost of down payment and other out-of-pocket costs, $383; maintenance, $1,552; repairs, $2,350

10. Toyota Corolla L 4dr

9. Kia Forte LX 4dr

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Kia

5-year fuel cost: $9,665

MPG: City: 25; Hwy: 34

Maintenance and repairs: $3,326

Cheapest Cars to OwnTotal 5-year ownership cost: $29,769

Competing with a compact stalwart like the Toyota Corolla isn't easy, but the Kia Forte is proving it's a player in its own right. Lower out-of-pocket costs are a key ingredient, but it also bests Corolla on power (156 horsepower, versus 132 hp for the Corolla) while offering similar fuel economy. Plus, USB and Bluetooth are standard, and it's an IIHS Top Safety Pick.

Other costs: insurance over five years, $4,643; financing 5-year loan at 2.76%, based on a market price of $15,166 and a 15% down payment, $877; depreciation, $9,704; fees & taxes, $1,187; opportunity cost of down payment and other out-of-pocket costs, $367; maintenance, $2,133; repairs, $1,193

9. Kia Forte LX 4dr

8. Ford Fiesta S 4dr

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Ford

5-year fuel cost: $8,369

MPG: City: 29; Hwy: 39

Maintenance and repairs: $4,469

Cheapest Cars to OwnTotal 5-Year ownership cost: $29,727

Ford's subcompact sedan is a well-rounded entry, from its sporty styling inside and out to its peppy 1.6-liter engine. The Fiesta is also an IIHS Top Safety Pick. A knee airbag for the driver comes standard, but you'll pay $495 for a CD player and keyless entry on the base model.

Other costs: insurance over five years, $5,624; financing 5-year loan at 2.76%, based on a market price of $13,615 and a 15% down payment, $782; depreciation, $9,043; fees & taxes, $1,080; opportunity cost of down payment and other out-of-pocket costs, $360; maintenance, $1,349; repairs, $3,120

8. Ford Fiesta S 4dr

7. Scion iQ 2dr hatch

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Scion

5-year fuel cost: $7,528

MPG: City: 36; Hwy: 37

Maintenance and repairs: $4,131

Cheapest Cars to OwnTotal 5-year ownership cost: $29,490

The world's smallest four-seater, the Scion iQ packs value into a tiny package that measures just 10 feet from bumper to bumper (the Mini Cooper Hardtop is 12 feet). The 1.3-liter engine delivers 37 mpg in combined city and highway driving -- a number most vehicles in this list can only claim on the highway. An automatic transmission, keyless entry, steering wheel audio controls and 11 airbags are standard.

Other costs: insurance over five years, $5,461; financing 5-year loan at 2.76%, based on a market price of $16,250 and a 15% down payment, $945; depreciation, $9,814; fees & taxes, $1,249; opportunity cost of down payment and other out-of-pocket costs, $362; maintenance, $1,598; repairs, $2,533

7. Scion iQ 2dr hatch

6. Hyundai Accent GLS 4dr

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Hyundai

5-year fuel cost: $8,725

MPG: City: 28; Hwy: 37

Maintenance and repairs: $3,044

Cheapest Cars to OwnTotal 5-year ownership cost: $29,474

Hyundai's Accent recently came under fire for being one of the company's vehicles with inflated fuel-economy ratings, but the subcompact's revised mpg numbers are still top-tier. Keyless entry with remote trunk release and a USB port come standard.

Other costs: insurance over five years, $5,157; financing 5-year loan at 2.76%, based on a market price of $15,192 and a 15% down payment, $878; depreciation, $10,139; fees & taxes, $1,175; opportunity cost of down payment and other out-of-pocket costs, $356; maintenance, $1,851; repairs, $1,193

6. Hyundai Accent GLS 4dr

5. Kia Soul Base 4dr hatch

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Kia

5-year fuel cost: $10,151

MPG: City: 25; Hwy: 30

Maintenance and repairs: $3,484

Cheapest Cars to OwnTotal 5-year ownership cost: $29,338

A perennial Kiplinger favorite, the Kia Soul boasts serious space and comfort inside and a funky look outside. Bluetooth and a USB port keep you connected, and steering wheel controls help keep your eyes on the road. The Soul wins a Worth a Look award in our 2013 rankings and rates a Top Safety Pick from IIHS.

Other costs: insurance over five years, $4,403; financing 5-year loan at 2.76%, based on a market price of $15,115 and a 15% down payment, $875; depreciation, $8,875; fees & taxes, $1,177; opportunity cost of down payment and other out-of-pocket costs, $373; maintenance, $2,291; repairs, $1,193

5. Kia Soul Base 4dr hatch

4. Toyota Yaris 2dr hatch

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Toyota

5-year fuel cost: $8,278

MPG: City: 30; Hwy: 37

Maintenance and repairs: $3,777

Cheapest Cars to OwnTotal 5-year ownership cost: $28,685

Toyota's Yaris was also redone in 2012, and for 2013 it has more standard equipment. All trim levels get the Tech Audio package, which includes an AM/FM/CD head unit, six speakers, a USB port with iPod connectivity, and Bluetooth with hands-free calling and music streaming. The four-door model is an IIHS Top Safety Pick, and every model comes with nine airbags, including driver's knee and front seat cushion airbags.

Other costs: insurance over five years, $5,451; financing 5-year loan at 2.76%, based on a market price of $15,006 and a 15% down payment, $867; depreciation, $8,788; fees & taxes, $1,164; opportunity cost of down payment and other out-of-pocket costs, $360; maintenance, $1,427; repairs, $2,350

4. Toyota Yaris 2dr hatch

3. Kia Rio 4dr hatch

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Kia

5-year fuel cost: $8,115

MPG: City: 29; Hwy: 37

Maintenance and repairs: $3,276

Cheapest Cars to OwnTotal 5-year ownership cost: $28,516

Redesigned for 2012, the Rio has sporty styling and plenty of power. Although it comes with a stereo and CD player with USB and auxiliary inputs, the locks and windows are manual (you have to step up to the $1,100 more expensive automatic-transmission model to be able to buy the $1,000 power package option).

Other costs: insurance over five years, $5,446; financing 5-year loan at 2.76%, based on a market price of $14,528 and a 15% down payment, $839; depreciation, $9,355; fees & taxes, $1,134; opportunity cost of down payment and other out-of-pocket costs, $351; maintenance, $2,083; repairs, $1,193

3. Kia Rio 4dr hatch

2. Chevrolet Spark LS 4dr hatch

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Chevrolet

5-year fuel cost: $7,963

MPG: City: 32; Hwy: 38

Maintenance and repairs: $4,202

Cheapest Cars to OwnTotal 5-year ownership cost: $27,871

Brand new for the 2013 model year, the Spark slots into Chevy's small car lineup below the Sonic, creating a new entry price point for the brand. In addition to standard convenience and safety features, the Spark boasts ten airbags. Chevy MyLink (the brand's answer to Ford's SYNC hands-free infotainment technology) comes standard on LT trims.

Other costs: insurance over five years, $4,979; financing 5-year loan at 2.76%, based on a market price of $12,924 and a 15% down payment, $742; depreciation, $8,614; fees & taxes, $1,029; opportunity cost of down payment and other out-of-pocket costs, $342; maintenance, $1,852; repairs, $2,350

2. Chevrolet Spark LS 4dr hatch

1. Nissan Versa S 4dr

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Nissan

5-year fuel cost: $9,017

MPG: City: 27; Hwy: 36

Maintenance and repairs: $3,971

Cheapest Cars to OwnTotal 5-year ownership cost: $27,405

Nissan's Versa makes a compelling case for value, starting with its transaction price of $12,615 -- the lowest on the U.S. market. It has more rear legroom than some midsize sedans and the IIHS rates it a Top Safety Pick, too.

Other costs: insurance over five years, $5,134; financing 5-year loan at 2.76%, based on a market price of $12,615 and a 15% down payment, $721; depreciation, $7,199; fees & taxes, $1,007; opportunity cost of down payment and other out-of-pocket costs, $356; maintenance, $1,621; repairs, $2,350

1. Nissan Versa S 4dr

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