There's a lot to take into account when buying a new vehicle. How it feels and looks is important, but how much it costs -- including fuel consumption, potential resale value, and monthly auto insurance premium -- is usually the deal breaker. To help buyers determine which cars are truly the cheapest, Cheapism.com turned to a recent comparison of insurance rates for more than 1,500 vehicles by Insure.com. This list of the 15 cheapest cars to insure reflects the annual cost of full coverage by six major insurers for a 40-year-old male driver with good credit, a clean record, and a 12-mile commute in 10 ZIP codes in each state. Unsurprisingly, family vehicles that are typically driven by cautious parents are cheaper to insure than flashy sports cars, but other affordable models may not be what you expect.
The 15 Cheapest Cars to Insure in 2015
The least expensive standard model Wrangler on the market, this two-door, 4x4 SUV is notable for its 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 engine and iconic looks. This model also recently ranked first in terms of resale value for compact SUVs. (It retains 57.4 percent of its original list price of $23,500 after five years.)
JEEP PATRIOT SPORT (2WD): $1,136 A YEAR Cheaper (starting at $16,895) and roomier than a Wrangler, the two-wheel-drive Jeep Patriot is better suited for family driving than off-roading. Cruise control and 16-inch wheels are standard, but the Sport package lacks power accessories and air conditioning. Car site Edmunds.com asserts there are better options for consumers than the Patriot, citing drawbacks such as insufficient storage space, disappointing ride quality, and lackluster basic options.
The LX is the simplest of the available trim packages but still comes with a rearview camera and hands-free text messaging. All CR-V models are powered by a 2.4-liter, four-cylinder engine, although the all-wheel drive included in this model is an upgrade. The CR-V ranked best in a U.S. News and World Report list of affordable compact SUVs and starts at $24,695. The review highlights a spacious interior, responsive steering, and good fuel economy.
The top-ranking minivan on the list, the Dodge Grand Caravan carries a mixed reputation but offers some features consumers may like. The second and third rows of seats can be laid flush with the floor, creating plenty of cargo space, and the rear seats can be flipped to face the back for tailgating. The SE Plus starts at $25,245; the cheapest trim package, the AVP, starts at $21,795. This is the last year the Caravan will be available; Dodge is dropping it from the lineup.
The Honda Odyssey minivan is a favorite among car critics, although at $28,975, it's more expensive than others on this list. Still, it's noteworthy for its smooth handling, quiet and comfortable ride, safety rating, and fuel efficiency (for its class). The LX is the base model but still includes a rearview camera, Bluetooth, Pandora compatibility, and power-adjustable front seats.
This third Jeep model on the list, like the Patriot Sport, is less expensive than a Wrangler, at $18,995. It's also less Jeep-like, in that off-roading may just be off-limits for this front-wheel-drive model. That doesn't mean it's not a good compact SUV, though; it gets decent reviews from experts at Edmunds and The Car Connection, a review and research site.
The 2015 Outback has been redesigned and offers a roomy interior, sleek body, and precise steering. All Outbacks come standard with all-wheel drive, making this a suitable vehicle for outdoor adventures. Motor Trend concludes that the 2015 Outback is bigger and handles better than the competition. The 2.5i is the base model and starts at $24,895.
A mid-size crossover that seats five, the Ford Edge SE is comparable to the Honda CR-V LX, according to The Car Connection, (although this model has front-wheel drive). Other reviewers appreciate the high-quality look and feel, EcoBoost engine, and quiet ride. This base model has a MSRP of $28,100.
The Smart Fortwo is a two-seater car about half the size of a sedan, which makes finding a parking space amazingly easy. But the same $13,270 and up that you'll spend for this model can buy a more comfortable ride that isn't scary to drive on a freeway. The Pure package is bare-bones, although there are options for power windows and mirrors ($80), radio ($350), and power steering ($550). Air conditioning comes standard.
One of the best-selling crossovers on the market, the Escape stands out with its styling and acute handling. Reviewers say it's fun to drive on winding roads, although it can feel a bit firm at times. Even the basic S trim level (starting at $22,960) comes with full power accessories, six-speaker sound system, air conditioning, rearview camera, and Ford's Sync voice command system.
Based on a shared Frontier pickup platform, the Nissan Xterra (starting at $23,660) boasts the same easy-to-clean interior. The Car Connection notes that owners give up some comforts (those easy-to-clean surfaces are hard plastic) but get a vehicle that's versatile, spacious, and ready for off-roading.
The American Value Package, the base model, starts at $20,295 and is a good budget option for consumers seeking a midsize crossover. The Journey AVP seats five, but an optional third row adds an additional two seats. The four-cylinder engine can feel strained, but it's the only option available at this trim level.
The Buick Encore, a subcompact crossover, is slightly larger than a standard hatchback and feels more luxurious than the competing Honda HR-V, Mazda CX-3, and Jeep Renegade, but there's no need to pay for a luxury marque. The Encore is available for $24,065 and up. There are five seats, but in reality it fits only four adults comfortably. Reviewers also say the 1.4-liter engine doesn't have enough oomph, or the fuel efficiency one might expect from a small-engine subcompact; they like just about everything else.
The Chevy Spark is a four-door hatchback that works well for city drivers and is kind to the pocketbook: This model's MSRP is just $12,270. Despite being small and light, the Spark feels and drives like a “real car,” Edmunds says. This practical car seats four and gets up to 40 mpg. The basic LS trim comes with air conditioning, power windows, and a four-speaker sound system.
The only pickup on this list is a leader in the compact/midsize class. The Tacoma is not as powerful nor as comfortable as a full-size but is known for durability and does well when stacked against the competition. The basic, two-door Access Cab version comes with a 2.7-liter, four-cylinder engine, air conditioning, manual transmission, and two rear seats that are best suited for children. It's an easy pickup to drive, but with a starting price of $20,965, it's more expensive than comparable models.