Paying too much at the pump? We have a few best-mpg cars for you. For reference, an average car on American roads gets around 20 miles per gallon, which is approximately $2,800 per year in fuel costs. In this list, we only considered autos priced from $7,500 to $10,000 that you actually can find for sale in US.
2000-2010 Honda Insight
The iconic first-generation Honda Insight is rare, but it’s unfair not to include it. The Insight tops all other hybrids in terms of fuel economy and yes, you still can find a few of them in the US for under $10,000. The 2001 Insight with a 5-speed manual transmission is rated at 48/60 MPG, this is the best MPG you can get for this price. An estimated annual fuel cost: $1,000. Honda Insight is a two-seater hybrid with a 3-cylinder engine paired with an electric motor; it’s available with a manual or continuously variable transmission.
2003-2008 Honda Civic Hybrid
Honda Civic hybrid is pretty much like a regular Civic only with a different powertrain and a hybrid battery pack in the back. The Civic hybrid shuts the engine off as you stop and turns it on almost seamlessly as you start driving. The Civic hybrid handles well and is pretty quick. For under $10,000, you can find either first- or second-generation Civic hybrid. The 2007 Civic hybrid with a 1.3-liter 4-cylinder engine and a continuously variable transmission is rated at 40/45 MPG. The cost of fuel is estimated at $1,250 per year.
2001-2008 Toyota Prius
The Prius is not only the best-selling hybrid, it’s also the most technologically advanced one. It is widely available for under 10K. The Prius is extremely reliable and costs very little to maintain. The 2004+ second-generation Prius is very roomy and offers plenty of cargo space. The 2005 Toyota Prius is rated at 48/45 MPG city highway. Many owners report that it’s fairly easy to get up to 52 MPG even out of a 10-year old Prius. With 15,000 miles driven per year, an annual fuel cost is estimated at $1,150.
2001-2006 Volkswagen Jetta TDI Diesel
As a typical German sedan, the Jetta offers a classy interior and excellent handling. The 1.9L turbo-diesel packs plenty of torque and pulls away lively from a stop. Although rated not better than average for reliability, the Jetta TDI is known to last very long with proper maintenance. You may have to drive out of state to get one of those. The Golf TDI is the same car in a hatchback body. The 2004 Jetta TDI with a manual transmission is rated at 32/42 MPG. Estimated annual fuel cost: $1,600.
2001-2005 Honda Civic
The 6-th generation Honda Civic is widely available on the used car market for this price. A 5-speed model gets better gas mileage and is more reliable. The Civic is dependable and won’t cost you much to maintain. It offers sporty handling and a fairly roomy, comfortable cabin. The 2002 Honda Civic with a 1.7L engine and a manual transmission is rated at 28/36 MPG city/highway, with an estimated annual fuel cost: $1,700.
2000-2006 Volkswagen Beetle TDI
The Beetle, styled after the famous VW Bug of the 60′s, is a sure eye catcher. Under the Beetle’s hood you will find the same torquey 1.9-liter turbo diesel as in the Jetta. Although it’s not rated very well for reliability, the Beetle handles beautifully and is fun to drive. The 2005 5-speed Beetle TDI diesel is rated at 32/41 MPG city/highway. With 15,000 miles driven per year, an annual fuel cost is estimated at $1,650.
2007-2012 Toyota Yaris
Small from the outside, the Yaris is actually roomy and practical on the inside. It’s very reliable and costs little to maintain. If you can live with its small size and budget-styled cabin, it’s a nice comfortable car to drive. The 2012+ Yaris has a much nicer interior. You won’t have any troubles finding Toyota Yaris priced within $10,000 in the US. The 2007 Yaris with a manual transmission is rated at 29/36 MPG city/highway. An annual fuel cost is estimated at: $1,650. The automatic model is not too far behind at 29/35 MPG.
2007-2010 Honda Fit
Similar to Toyota Yaris, Honda Fit is a very practical subcompact. The Fit is also very roomy inside; the rear seat cushions flip up giving Honda Fit enough space to fit a 46-inch TV (hence the name). Honda Fit has a sporty firm ride and responsive handling. The Fit is reliable and easy to maintain. The EPA estimated fuel economy for the 2009 Honda Fit automatic is 28/35 MPG city/highway. With 15,000 miles driven per year, your annual fuel cost should be around: $1,700.
2002-2010 Toyota Corolla
Known for its reliability, the Corolla offers a comfortable cabin and very smooth and quiet ride. The 1.8-liter four-banger is not a rocket, but it can last very long with regular maintenance. Ownership costs are minimal. You won’t have much troubles finding a used Toyota Corolla for under $10,000 in the US. The 2008 Corolla with a 5-speed manual transmission is rated at 28/37 MPG. The 2009 Corolla automatic gets 27/35 MPG with an estimated annual fuel cost: $1,750.
2011+ Ford Fiesta – a nice fuel-efficient subcompact from Ford. The 2011 Fiesta automatic is rated at 29/38 MPG. Should it be on this list? Vote!
2011+ Chevrolet Cruze Eco – a very few of these are available for this price for now, but more will come soon as people will trade them in. The 2011 Cruze Eco manual gets 28/42 MPG. Cast your vote!
2000-2004 Toyota Echo – they are cheap, reliable and fuel efficient. The 2001 Toyota Echo manual gets 29/37 MPG
2011+ Mazda 2 – it’s a nice quick little subcompact from Mazda. There are not that many choices for under 10K, but more will come soon. The 2011 Mazda 2 manual gets 29/35 MPG
2008+ smart fortwo – it’s a very tiny two-seater, you can get it easily for under 10K, even as a cabriolet. The smart fortwo offers the best MPG for a gasoline-powered car: the 2008 smart fortwo convertible is rated at 33/41 MPG on premium gasoline. Is it too small? Vote!
2004-2006 Scion xA – Scion xA is a funky practical compact from Toyota with the same fuel-efficient engine as in the Yaris. This answers the question why Scion xA is also rated high for reliability. You won’t find that many of them, as starting from 2008 model, it has been replaced by Scion xD.