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A blue 2021 Volkswagen Golf is shown parked on a city street.

The Top 10 Best Budget-Friendly and Fuel-Efficient Used Cars

Lists for top cars, trucks, or SUVs that generically outline the best model you should buy can often come across as repetitive. Usually, the same models and trims on the list make the cut of “Best Of,” “Best For,” and so on. But in this case, we’re specifically looking at fuel-efficient, reliable, long-running, and affordable vehicles worth buying used for those specifically looking in the budget used cars market. So without further ado, here is the list of the Top 10 Best Budget and Fuel Efficient used cars you should check out if you’re searching for a vehicle that is easy on your wallet and reduces your trips to the pump.

#10. The 2019 Mazda3 Hatchback

It may not have the fuel economy of the Golf or Elantra, but the Mazda3 Hatchback is an excellent compact sedan that you can find for a fairly low price and will last a long time. If you’re a daily commuter who makes long trips to and from work, then the Mazda3 Hatchback makes for a great pick. With a bit of tender love and care and regular service, the Mazda3 Hatchback can make a dollar stretch a long way. The Mazda3, in particular, has even served some drivers for hundreds of thousands of miles. With an estimated fuel economy of 26 MPG in the city and up to 35 MPG on the highway, the 2019 Mazda3 Hatchback is a great all-around commuter car for budget-conscious shoppers looking for a decent daily driver.

#9. The 2021 Hyundai Kona

It may not have the fuel economy of some of its contemporaries, but what it lacks in chart-topping fuel economy, it more than makes up for it in price and longevity. If you’re looking for one of the best and most reliable used cars, you will want to check out the 2021 Hyundai Kona. As mentioned, the fuel economy is an estimated 28 MPG in the city and 32 MPG on the highway. However, with a little bit of regular maintenance and consistent fluid changes, you can get hundreds of thousands of miles out of a Kona, and it’s quite the affordable subcompact SUV, too.

A blue 2017 Subaru Crosstrek is shown from a rear angle driving on a dusty dirt road.

#8. The 2017 Subaru Crosstrek

The Subaru Crosstrek is one of those vehicles that isn’t often brought up and is rarely seen on top lists. Maybe it’s because it’s not quite the king of any particular aspect within its segment, but it doesn’t fail any particular aspect in its segment either. In some ways, its appearance makes it less memorable, but it’s anything but mediocre. It offers good fuel economy, and it’s a stylish compact SUV with great owner feedback on its durability and reliability. In fact, service costs are kept low due to the Crosstrek being a low-maintenance compact SUV, which goes a long way in making it well worth its price as a used vehicle. It’s also known for lasting an extremely long time, so while it may not have the power, performance, or fuel economy as some other vehicles on the list, it can certainly outlast even the best of them.

#7. The 2021 Honda CR-V

One of the most popular SUVs on the road today, the Honda CR-V is a go-to purchase for many people searching for a quality, long-lasting used car to get them to and from their destination. The 2021 Honda CR-V Hybrid trim may have the best fuel economy out of the CR-V line-up, but it’s not the most cost-effective for those shopping on a budget. Also, maintenance for hybrids can get a bit pricey. However, the standard 2021 model CR-V still offers exceptional fuel economy at 28 MPG in the city and 34 MPG on the highway. It’s also one of the most reliable vehicles on the road, with low maintenance costs.

#6. The 2018 Nissan Kicks

A subcompact Nissan is a good way to go for those who want a utility vehicle that is easy to maintain, great to drive, and offers great fuel economy. In fact, the 2018 Nissan Kicks is not only extremely affordable, but you also get great gas mileage. You have 31 MPG in the city and up to 36 MPG on the highway. What really makes the Kicks such a worthwhile purchase, though, is its price. It’s one of the most affordable subcompact SUVs, with used 2018 models typically priced at under 20,000. This allows you to get all the great modern tech Subaru offers, such as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, and an array of safety features like blindspot monitoring and Nissan’s Around View Monitor.

#5. The 2020 Honda Civic Hatchback

The 2020 Honda Civic Hatchback hits all the sweet points regarding functionality, service, fuel economy, and reliability. Many people love the Honda Civic Hatchback because it’s small, turbocharged, and gives you great gas mileage. You have up to 31 MPG in the city and up to 39 MPG on the highway. It’s a great little vehicle to manage your life on the go, and the maintenance overhead for the Honda Civic Hatchback is quite low. As long as you do the basics to keep it running at regular service intervals, you shouldn’t have to worry about the Civic Hatchback letting you down.

#4. The 2019 Toyota RAV4

The best-selling RAV4 usually makes every top list, and with good reason. Car shoppers looking for an all-around compact SUV that does well for themselves and their families can’t go wrong here. It’s got the towing capacity to haul a small boat, reliable enough to last countless miles on the road, safe enough for on and off-road traversal, and service-friendly enough to keep plenty of money in your wallet instead of the repair shop. The benefit of a noteworthy fuel economy that manages 28 MPG in the city and 35 MPG on the highway is another added bonus. Plus, a used RAV4 is a highly affordable purchase, with 2019 models going for under $30,000.

A red 2018 Kia Forte is shown parked at a dealer with budget used cars.

#3. The 2018 Kia Forte

While the Civic Hatchback makes for a great compact solution for those looking for a reliable traveler, if you’re doing lengthy commutes daily and have several passengers to ferry to and from a destination, the 2018 Kia Forte is probably the better option. The compact sedan offers a more spacious interior than some other vehicles on the list, with 96.2 cu.ft. of passenger volume while still maintaining a capable powertrain. It’s also another compact with spectacular fuel economy. In fact, it’s one of the best long-haulers for a compact sedan, getting 29 MPG in the city and up to 37 MPG on the highway. The 2018 Forte, in particular, is also known for being a reliable, long-running car with a more than affordable used price tag of around $15,000.

#2. The 2021 Volkswagen Golf

Lightweight, low-cost, and sporty, the 2021 Volkswagen Golf is the perfect all-around solution for those who want a used compact that’s reliable, fuel-efficient, and easy to maintain. Powered by the turbocharged 1.4-liter 4-cylinder, the 2021 Volkswagen Golf is one of the best compact sedans from the last two years. You can get it for thousands cheaper than the MSRP, with a typical pre-owned 2021 Golf going for under $25,000. With a fuel economy of 29 MPG in the city and up to 39 MPG on the highway, you definitely can’t go wrong with this signature Volkswagen model.

#1: The 2021 Hyundai Elantra

With some of the best fuel economy on the road today, low-cost maintenance, high reliability, and a spacious interior, the 2021 Hyundai Elantra is an all-in-one, do-it-all compact sedan. It’s amazing how much fuel economy Hyundai managed to squeeze out of this somewhat typical-looking sedan. It’s not known for being flashy or exceptionally sporty, but when cost, efficiency, and long travel mileage are what you need, the Elantra delivers in spades. Sporting a fuel economy of 33 MPG in the city and up to 43 MPG on the highway, the Elantra is perfect for those who are on the road for long periods of their day. It’s also one of the best budget used cars money can buy, at around $22,000 for a 2021 model. When shopping for a low-cost, fuel-efficient sedan, the 2021 Hyundai Elantra is our top pick for the ultimate fuel-efficient commuter!