Car Buyer Labs

Car Buying Advice, Tips, and Reviews

A white 2016 Chevy Malibu is shown from the front driving through a city.

We Hunted for the Most Affordable Chevy, and Here’s What We Found

Even if you scour the lots of all the used Chevrolet dealers, you may not uncover the most affordable Chevy. Making that determination means considering not just the price tag but factors like age, mileage, and trim level. The Chevy model lineup is massive, which is no surprise since the automaker is among the largest on the planet.

If no other considerations are at play except price, finding the cheapest model gets a lot easier because you’re not narrowing your search to an SUV or a pickup. A quick check of new models reveals that Chevy’s tiny Spark hatchback is officially the cheapest new car you can buy. Its shockingly low starting price of just over $13,000 is unmatched by any other carmaker.

The used car market is a little bit murkier, though, because scary words like depreciation kick in, rendering even more expensive models a lot less valuable over time. Also, the pool of available vehicles includes models that have since been discontinued, like the tiny Chevy Sonic, aced out to make room for the Bolt EV. With all the variables, which vehicle (or vehicles) is cheapest? Here are our picks.

Any Used Chevy Car

The passenger car market continues to evaporate, thanks to the explosion in popularity of family-friendly crossovers and SUVs. In fact, sedans, coupes, and hatchbacks have been circling the drain for years. The only exception seems to be specialty performance vehicles like the Camaro and the Corvette. What does this mean for used buyers? Deals aplenty.

For the most part, you can take your pick of Chevy cars, whether it’s a Malibu, the aforementioned Spark, or older models like the Cavalier, the Caprice, and the Lumina. Even the Impala, once a hugely popular performance sedan, ended up on the discontinued list. There’s nothing wrong with these cars except that they’ve gone out of style. You can still find plenty of quality used Chevy cars in the marketplace, though, and many are priced to sell.

Speaking of specialty cars, don’t discount the possibility of finding a cheap used Camaro. Chevy equipped the base model with a commuter-friendly V6, so even though it’s considered a performance sports coupe, some trims simply aren’t built for speed. On the used car market, these less desirable configurations can be had for less money, especially because the Camaro is a two-door car.

Perhaps the most affordable Chevy car of all is the discontinued Volt plug-in hybrid. Why? Chevy has since introduced the Bolt EV and is releasing a companion SUV, the Bolt EUV. As customers take delivery of the newer models, the existing inventory of used Volts will continue to depreciate. EV technology is improving at a blistering rate, so the guts of a Volt will seem positively archaic. Still, if you want an alternative fuel vehicle on the cheap, it’s a great option.

Bottom line: the used sedan, coupe, and hatchback market is an ideal hunting ground for bargain shoppers. Don’t discount a less popular body style.

An orange 2015 Chevy Trax is shown from the side driving on an open road after leaving a used Chevrolet dealer.

Certain SUVs and Crossovers

By far the most affordable SUV in the Chevy lineup – new or used – is the tiny Trax. This starter crossover is wildly popular among first-time buyers, college students, and commuters. These buyers prefer its raised seating position and SUV body style over a slightly cheaper sedan or hatchback. The Trax has only been around since 2015, so even the used units are still pretty new.

Chevy builds a lot of Equinox crossovers, both for consumers and in volume for fleet buyers, like rental car companies. The used car market is absolutely flooded with pre-owned Equinoxes, which means you can cherry-pick the one you want down to color, trim, and mileage. Not only that, but newer models may even have some carryover powertrain warranty, a nice bonus.

The Equinox is also extremely roomy, especially because it’s a compact SUV. Throughout its lifecycle, the popular model has received high scores for reliability and safety, too. When you’re evaluating which vehicle is the most affordable, don’t forget that cost of ownership plays a big role, so reliability is key, as is fuel economy. From a practicality standpoint, the Equinox gets a big used SUV thumbs up.

If you have your sights set on a big SUV, you might get lucky and find an older Chevy Tahoe or Suburban. High mileage models regularly hit the market and typically come from soccer moms or even rideshare companies, which means they were probably well maintained. Between the Tahoe and the Suburban, Chevy sells about 100,000 units every year. One caveat: these are among the most coveted used vehicles of all, so availability is scarce.

Bottom line: You may have less luck in the crossover/SUV category. Americans are ravenous for this body style, new or used, so great deals will be harder to find.

How to Avoid Buying a Lemon

Before pulling the trigger on a cheap high mileage vehicle, be sure to check its pedigree. Is it mechanically sound? Is the odometer accurate? The easiest way is to pull a CARFAX vehicle history report. The report lists the number of previous owners and the car’s accident history, and you’ll also find out if the car has a salvage title, which is the unfortunate fate of any vehicle that sustains serious damage (e.g., flooding, hail damage).

Dipping your toe in the ultra-cheap car market is less stress-inducing when you understand more about the specific model you’re considering buying. How long was it manufactured? Were there recalls? How are reliability ratings? Just because the car is bargain-priced doesn’t mean you shouldn’t conduct research. Stay away from cars with bad reliability ratings or frequent recalls.

One nearly surefire way to avoid getting stuck with a dud is to buy from an authorized dealer. Contrary to popular belief, local dealers regularly stock vehicles in the under $10,000 range and offer in-house financing to boot. Gone are the days of swindling salesmen – today’s automotive retailers genuinely care about their customers and work hard to ensure they’re happy.

Bottom line: Where you shop and buy is as important as the car you decide on. Tread carefully with private sellers and questionable corner buy here, pay here retailers.

A black 2012 Chevy Impala is shown from the front driving over a bridge.

Shop Happy for Under $10k

Buying a used car is no longer a gamble, thanks to the shopping tools available to buyers today. Sites like Kelley Blue Book help you understand the vehicle’s value, and CARFAX is a used buyer’s lifeline because you won’t inadvertently take home a salvage title vehicle (unless you want to, which is a topic for a different time).

You can let go of any preconceived notions about nefarious dealers looking to fleece budget buyers because that stereotype is long dead – shady dealers don’t last long in the era of online reviews. We’d wager that the best spot to shop for and buy a sub-$10,000 car is an authorized dealer. Their on-site financing is easy and convenient, especially if you are saddled with a low credit score.

Authorized dealers also have entire service departments at their disposal. It’s highly likely that any car on their lot has had a thorough going over. They also have the staff to help you find a car if the one you want isn’t available. It takes a lot of time to shop for a reliable used car; maybe handing that off to someone who does it for a living isn’t such a bad idea.