Top 10 cars with best MPG for under $10,000

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 the US.

Honda Insight 2009-2013

Honda Insight2012 Honda Insight.
The second-generation Honda Insight is rare, but we found more than a couple hundred of them for sale for under 10K. The 2010+ Insight is a 5-passenger 5-door compact hybrid car. It has an electric motor/generator sandwiched between the 1.3L engine and a CVT transmission. Consumer Reports rates the 2010 Insight above average for reliability. The 2010 Insight EPA ratings are 40 MPG city and 43 MPG highway, although several owners reported much better numbers.

Nissan Leaf 2011-plus

Nissan Leaf 2012 Nissan Leaf.
The Leaf is a fully electric car. Forget about oil changes and gas station visits. The realistic range of a used Nissan Leaf is around 25-30 miles in cold weather and 50-80 miles in normal conditions, which means you will need a second car to go far. Charging times vary between 12-15 hours from a Level 1 charger (regular 110V outlet) and 6-8 hours from a Level 2 charger (220V). The reliability is above average. The EPA rates Nissan Leaf at 99 MPG combined. The annual fuel (electricity) cost is estimated at $650 with 15,000 miles driven per year.

Toyota Prius 2004-2013

Toyota Prius 2012 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.

Toyota Yaris 2007-2016

Toyota Yaris 2015 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 and comfortable car to drive. The 2012+ Yaris has a much nicer interior. You won't have any troubles finding a Toyota Yaris priced within $10,000 in the US. The 2012 Yaris automatic is rated at 30/35 MPG. The annual fuel cost is estimated at: $1,150.

Honda Fit 2007-2015

Honda Fit 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.

Toyota Prius c 2012-plus

Toyota Prius c 2014 Toyota Prius c.
Save on gas, spend money on something else. The Prius c (c stands for "city") is the 5-door subcompact hybrid. It's rated at 53 (!) MPG city and 46 MPG highway, which equals to around $700 a year for gas with 15,000 miles driven annually. It was introduced for 2012, so not too many are available yet, but they are coming. The Prius c is very reliable and can last long with good care.

Honda Civic hybrid 2003-2013

Honda Civic Hybrid 2007 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.

Ford Fusion hybrid 2010-2014

Ford Fusion hybrid 2014 Ford Fusion hybrid.
Ford Fusion is a mid-size front-wheel drive sedan riding on the excellent platform developed when Ford was working together with Mazda. You get great handling, smooth ride and excellent fuel economy in one package. The interior is roomy and offers plenty of high-end technology. The 2014 Fusion hybrid is rated at 43/39 MPG city/highway. The reliability is better than average. This car is rare, but worth to check out if you find it nearby. Lincoln MKZ hybrid and Mercury Milan hybrid are the same cars.

Ford C-Max 2013-plus

Ford C-Max 2013 Ford C-Max.
The European-looking C-Max is the hybrid-only Ford model based on the Focus platform. It's classified as a compact multi-purpose vehicle (MPV). The C-Max is also rare, but it offers a unique combination of a roomy interior and low gas mileage. The rear seats fold flat, so you can fit larger items. It is maneuverable and handles nicely around the city. The EPA rates the 2013 C-Max at 42 MPG city, 37 MPG highway. The reliability is not bad, but won't compete with the Prius.

Reader's choice: Chevrolet Cruze Eco

Chevrolet Cruze Eco 2012 Chevrolet Cruze.
The Cruze is a compact sedan with a nicely-finished interior and sporty handling. The Cruze Eco offers a 1.4L turbocharged engine and a manual or automatic transmission. The 2014 Cruze Eco manual gets 40 MPG highway. The city fuel economy is rated at 28 MPG. The 2014 Cruze Eco automatic gets 36/37 MPG. There is a diesel version rated at 44 MPG on the highway, but it's rare to find. The reliability is average.

Worth Mentioning:

Toyota Corolla 2005-plus 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. The 2009 Corolla automatic gets 27/35 MPG with an estimated annual fuel cost: $1,750.
Volkswagen Jetta TDI 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. The 2004 Jetta TDI with a manual transmission is rated at 32/42 MPG. Estimated annual fuel cost: $1,600.
2011-plus Ford Fiesta – a nice fuel-efficient subcompact from Ford. The 2011 Fiesta automatic is rated at 29/38 MPG.
2011-plus Mazda 2 – it's a nice quick little subcompact from Mazda. The 2011 Mazda 2 manual gets 29/35 MPG.
2008-plus 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.
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.