10 Cheapest Cars to Own, 2013

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.

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 (opens in new tab), 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.

Jessica L. Anderson
Associate Editor, Kiplinger's Personal Finance
Anderson has been with Kiplinger since January 2004, when she joined the staff as a reporter. Since then, she's covered the gamut of personal finance issues—from mortgages and credit to spending wisely—and she heads up Kiplinger's annual automotive rankings. She holds a BA in journalism and mass communication from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She was the 2012 president of the Washington Automotive Press Association and serves on its board of directors. In 2014, she was selected for the North American Car and Truck Of the Year jury. The awards, presented at the Detroit Auto Show, have come to be regarded as the most prestigious of their kind in the U.S. because they involve no commercial tie-ins. The jury is composed of nationally recognized journalists from across the U.S. and Canada, who are selected on the basis of audience reach, experience, expertise, product knowledge, and reputation in the automotive community.