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There are cheap cars, then there are cheap cars. For this article we will stick to cheap cars that are good on gas, have a solid safety rating, and have a high reliability rating. In order to build the list, we used J.D. Power and Associates ratings, information from Consumer Reports, and the average price you can expect to pay at a dealership according to Kelley Blue Book. Additionally, all of the vehicles on the list are used models, in the 2010-2012 model range, to minimize the depreciation hit to you. Now that all of that is said, on to the list.

Toyota Prius

The Prius is the grandfather of hybrid technology and probably the most well known nameplate in the category. It is also the most expensive car on this list. A 2011 Toyota Prius with 40K miles is usually priced in the $19,000 range. Given the very real potential of getting 50 mpg from this car, you should be able to find a way to justify the higher sticker price.


The Mazda2 offers a comfortable ride and fuel economy that reaches 35 mpg on the highway when equipped with the standard 5-speed manual transmission. A typical 2011 Mazda2 Sport hatchback will set you back less than $11,000. If you want a little more elbow room, the Mazda3 offers a bigger, more responsive engine and said elbow room. It comes at a cost though. Fuel economy drops to 29 mpg on the highway and the price tag jumps to $13,500 for a 2011 Mazda3 s Sport.

Nissan Versa

The Nissan Versa is available as a sedan or hatchback, but we chosen to recommend the sedan. Additionally, we opted for the SL trim package because if offers a more responsive 1.8L engine compared to the somewhat over-tasked, underpowered 1.6L in the lower trim levels. The SL features a 4-speed automatic transmission as well. So equipped, the Nissan Versa offers 32 mpg on the highway with a sticker price right at $13,000.

Chevrolet Cruze

Chevy CruzeIn 2011, Chevrolet offered the Aveo and the Cruze to customers who were looking for solid fuel economy numbers. The Cruze is the superior car in every important aspect. The Cruze offers a roomy interior as well as solid mpg. You can expect to see 36 mpg on the highway from a base model Cruze LS when equipped with the 6-speed manual. When equipped with an automatic transmission, you ca still expect 34 mpg on the highway. Whichever transmission a 2011 Cruze LS sedan has, the sticker price should stay under $13,500.

Honda Civic

Honda CivicHonda imbues quality and the Civic may well be the most well known Honda model. Some reviewers have said that the interior styling is a bit outdated. We would have to give you that, but, if fuel economy and price are your main interests, who really cares if the interior looks dated. A 2011 Honda Civic DX sedan offers 36 mpg on the highway. We are recommending the Civic over the Honda Fit because it features a more powerful 1.8L VTEC that is well known for exceeding 200,000 miles when properly maintained.

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