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A blue 2020 Honda Civic is shown from the front after the owner searched for 'Used cars Champaign IL'.

4 Fuel-Efficient Used Cars Under $20,000

The one thing they don’t tell you in Driver’s Education is how much you’re going to despise going to the gas station. Not because of filling up your tank, but because of how often you find yourself doing it. And, gas prices are never set in stone, so you never know if that vehicle you’re purchasing will end up costing you more money in five years than you may have expected. With that said, the automotive industry has given us many ways to save money, and numerous vehicles offer efficient engines or hybrid powertrains to help you stay away from the gas station. While advancements in fuel efficiency are constantly happening with new vehicles, you’d be surprised to find out how many used cars under $20,000 offer an impressive amount of fuel efficiency.

#1 – Honda Civic

Something that I enjoy about the Honda Civic is the value-to-performance ratio. Simply put, it’s not hard to find a used Civic model under $20,000, and for recent model years, you can expect a fuel-efficient base engine followed by an available turbocharged powertrain. Looking at a 2018 Civic as an example, the base engine is a 2.0L I-4 engine paired with a CVT, which allows for greater fuel efficiency. The optional engine is a slightly smaller but more powerful 1.5L turbocharged I-4. The EPA-estimated ratings for the 2018 Civic are 31 MPG city and 40 MPG highway with the base engine, but if you instead find one with the turbocharged I-4 engine, then you’ll get an impressive 32 MPG city and 42 MPG highway.

Aside from fuel efficiency, the Civic performs admirably well for its price. For example, if you find a used 2018 Civic with the turbocharged 1.5L I-4 engine, you’ll have 174 hp and 162 lb-ft of torque, which is a decent amount of performance for a commuter-focused automobile. And, if you purchase a model from 2016 or later, you can find a used Civic that features modern amenities such as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Most importantly, with the good fuel economy ratings, you won’t be stopping at the gas station nearly as much. Commuters take notice because not only is the Civic one of the best ways to save money on your trip to and from work, but Honda vehicles have a reputation for the utmost reliability, meaning many would attest that you’d be safer in a Honda than many other automobiles.

A white 2020 Toyota Prius is shown from the side while driving through a city.

#2 – Toyota Prius

The chances are that you’ve heard of the Toyota Prius in the past. The Prius is an iconic vehicle that Toyota unleashed to the market back in 2000, after a three-year test run of sorts in Japan. Why you should care about the Prius comes down to its cost and efficiency. Saving money is easier when shopping for a used Prius than a majority of its competitors, and this is because you can always expect exceptional fuel efficiency. Taking the 2015 Prius as an example, the powertrain consists of a battery, electric motors, and a 1.8L I-4 engine. Like many hybrid models, the Prius is also available as a plug-in hybrid with a larger battery.

With this in mind, the 2015 Prius, in its standard form, earns incredible EPA-estimated ratings of 50 MPG city and 46 MPG highway. Opting for the plug-in variant will get you 50 MPG combined and 95 MPGe when on battery power. As time went on, the powertrain didn’t change in size, but it certainly became more fuel-efficient. The 2018 Prius can achieve fuel economy ratings of 58 MPG city and 53 MPG highway with the Eco model. There’s no denying it; if you want a reliable and tested hybrid vehicle, then the Prius has been doing just that for decades now. There is even the larger Prius v and more compact Prius c, giving drivers additional options when shopping for a used car.

#3 – Toyota Corolla

Sometimes, drivers just want a straightforward automobile void of all of the fluff so common in others. These commuter models that you’d find for cheap on the new market are sometimes the best recommendation for drivers looking for a safe and fuel-efficient ride on a budget. This is where the Toyota Corolla steps in, and thanks to its low starting price when found new, you shouldn’t have a problem finding a decent used Corolla for under $20,000. With that said, the 2020 Corolla is where you should look because of a change in powertrains that occurred, and the 2020 Corolla is also available in a hybrid configuration.

The 2020 Corolla is available with either a 1.8 I-4 or 2.0L I-4 engine, and the hybrid model uses a 1.8L I-4 engine with electric motors and batteries. Expectedly, the hybrid variant is the most fuel-efficient of the bunch, with fuel economy ratings of 53 MPG city and 52 MPG highway, but that doesn’t stop the other two powertrains from impressing drivers. Sticking with the base engine, for example, still nets you EPA-estimated ratings of up to 30 MPG city and 38 MPG highway. Alternatively, the 2.0L I-4 engine will give you up to 32 MPG city and 31 MPG highway.

The Corolla is proof that a fuel-efficient ride that will save you an impressive amount of money over time doesn’t have to burn a hole in your wallet upfront. Even if it weren’t for the price, I’m impressed with the features found on the Corolla. Still, the low price helps make an intriguing offer complete with Apple CarPlay, an infotainment center, and the venerable Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 a guaranteed value-king.

A red 2018 Honda Accord is shown from the rear while parked in front of a garage

#4 – Honda Accord

The way I see it, the reason why you should get a Honda Accord is partly because of its fuel efficiency and partly because of everything else. The Accord is well regarded as one of the best sedans ever produced, and as someone who has sat in a fair share of Accords, I can say that they’re comfortable on the inside, perform well, and won’t burn through fuel too quickly. Later models would also be treated to a host of features, including, but not limited to, Honda Sensing and a robust infotainment center.

If you’re in the market for a used sedan under $20,000, there’s not much better you can do than the Accord. However, if purchasing an Accord is on your mind, then I recommend shopping for a 2018 model for the best value-to-performance ratio. With the 2018 Accord, you can get either the standard turbocharged 1.5L I-4 engine with a CVT or a turbocharged 2.0L I-4 engine paired with a 10-speed automatic transmission. Of course, the turbocharged 2.0L I-4 has the best performance of the bunch with its 252 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque, but it also has the worst fuel efficiency of the bunch, at 22 MPG city and 32 MPG highway. Sticking with the base engine will provide better fuel economy ratings of up to 30 MPG city and 38 MPG highway. That’s not all, though, because the Accord can also be purchased as a hybrid, with the 2018 model netting EPA-estimated ratings of 47 MPG city and highway.