Americans spend a lot of money on new cars. The average sticker price for a new vehicle in 2019 was $37,183 — about the price of an entry-level BMW or Mercedes-Benz. Those pickup trucks and SUVs we love so much can get pricey.
We can leave debates about whether those are smart outlays of capital to economists. What we can discuss, though, is that you don’t need to spend nearly that much to buy a great, enjoyable car — even before you factor in the incentives manufacturers have begun offering and likely will continue to for the next few months.
Indeed, many of our favorite sports cars, purpose-built off-roaders and other entertaining rides can be had for less than the average new vehicle price. Below, we present 12 of them worth your hard-earned money.
2020 Volkswagen Golf GTI
The current (although outgoing) GTI is a legend — it’s one of the best-handling cars on the road, period. You can upgrade to the mid-grade SE trim, score LED headlights, a panoramic sunroof and leather seats, and still come in comfortably under our price ceiling.
2020 Mazda MX-5 Miata
Mazda’s best car just keeps getting sportier, and the performance-minded Club trim starts at just $30,920.
2020 Honda Civic Si
The souped-up Civic sedan is as much fun to drive as any car on the road — and it’s an absolute steal at a well-equipped price of just over $25,000.
2020 Jeep Wrangler
Jeep Wranglers can get pricey, but you can still buy a two-door model for under $30,000 before incentives. That means you can still have some cash left over for luxury options…like that sweet three-piece removable hardtop.
2020 Toyota 86
The poor man’s Supra is one of the best pure driver’s cars on the market — at a far cheaper price point.
2020 Ford Mustang 2.3L EcoBoost HPP
Granted, the 2.3-liter EcoBoost does not have quite as nice of an engine note as the 5.0-liter V8. But this car is still quite the performance bargain, with legit sports car speed and handling for thousands less than the average new car price.
2020 Toyota Tacoma
Being a bro can be fun. You can get your pick of lower-trim Tacos for less than the average American vehicle price, or even juuuuust squeeze into a TRD Off-Road with a six-speed manual for less than the average new car price. (Who needs floor mats?)
2020 Hyundai Veloster N
The should-be-standard Performance Package boosts the Veloster N up to 275 horsepower and adds other fun-to-drive goodies, and still lets the MSRP come in below $30,000.
2020 Subaru WRX
The Subaru WRX is the preferred choice for driving connoisseurs who enjoy running afoul of traffic cops. You can build out a WRX Limited for less than the average vehicle price, but you’ll have to go without the added power of the WRX STI; jumping up to that 310-hp version will push you over.
2020 Toyota Camry TRD
You don’t often see “fun” and “Toyota Camry” in the same sentence. But the iconic midsize sedan’s new TRD trim is a lot sportier than your dad’s Camry — and the cheapest way to get a V6-powered version of the car.
2020 Fiat 124 Spider Abarth
2020 model Fiat 124 Spiders do still exist, and the starting MSRP for the Abarth trim is less than $30,000. Of course, that’s before a Fiat dealer rejoices at having a customer and offers you five figures in incentives and discounts to relieve them of their poor-selling roadster.
2020 Mini Cooper S JCW
The Mini John Cooper Works no longer has a manual, and you need to upgrade to the Clubman JCW for the 300 -p hot hatch engine. But you can build a hardtop Mini JCW for less than $35,000.