Sometimes, you just need a car to get you from point A to B. Here’s some of the best commuter cars, both new and used, on the market today.
Sometimes car shopping isn’t always about finding the most horsepower, the best entertainment system, or the highest towing capacity. Instead, there are some shoppers out there that just want an affordable commuter car that simply gets them from point A to B every day with little to no hassle. A car that can keep going well past 100,000 miles, has commendable fuel efficiency, and has enough comfort to endure the drive. Here’s some of the best options, both new and used, for your next great commuter car.
The compact front-wheel-drive Mitsubishi Mirage reappeared on the US market for 2014. Its 1.2L 3-cylinder engine isn’t much for horsepower, but the it generates a fuel economy of 36 city / 42 highway for a combined 39 mpg when paired with the CVT (continuously variable transmission). If you’re not into the whole rubber band feeling of a CVT, a five-speed manual is available and only reduces the fuel economy to a combined 36 mpg. Another note, while the engine is obviously great for fuel savings, they’ve been documented to last well past 300,000 miles with regular maintenance.
For 2012, Kia took their subcompact Rio and gave it a needed facelift. While previous iterations of the model offered a decent fuel economy, the third generation Kia Rio brought more style, better performance, and even more miles per gallon. The 2012 1.6L I4 engine makes 138hp and reaches 29 city / 37 highway for a combined 32 mpg when paired with the 6-speed manual. The interior is more refined and spacious than the previous generation, even though the use of hard plastics is still obvious. Rios have the capability to go past 200,000 miles. Under $5,000, you should be able to find some that are in the 70,000-mile range.
Nissan updated their compact Versa in 2012 with a new look and better gas mileage. While the hatchback model comes with a more powerful 1.8L I4 engine, the sedan with its 1.6L I4 engine making 109hp reaches a fuel economy of 30 city / 37 highway for a combined 33 mpg when paired with a CVT. Some of these have been known to last past 200,000 miles, but be sure to look at the car’s service and recall history when purchasing. There were known issues with CVT failures, but the replacement ones were noted to work better. Available used models should have had this issue resolved by now either a previous owner or the dealership.
In 2011, Ford brought back the Fiesta nameplate as their entrant to the subcompact market. The small car was sold as either a hatchback or sedan and featured just one engine to start out, a 1.6L I4 engine. The 1.6L I4 makes 120hp and reaches a fuel economy of 29 city / 37 highway for a combined 32 mpg when paired with an automatic transmission. If you want a little more fuel economy at the expense of power, a 1.0L I3 engine was available for 2014 that reaches a combined 35 mpg. The interior of the Fiesta is well-made with quality components, provides nice room for front occupants, has decent cargo room, and the exterior has attractive styling. Plus, you can drive the same model car found in some Gymkhana videos, which is pretty cool.
The Sonic technically came on the scene as the 2011 Aveo, but Chevrolet changed up its marketing strategy and actually improved upon the design in 2012. The Sonic is available as either a hatchback or sedan and comes standard with a 1.8L I4 engine that makes 138hp and reaches a combined 29 mpg when paired with the 5-speed manual transmission. However, Chevrolet provided an optional turbocharged 1.4L I4 that makes the same horsepower and when its paired with a 6-speed manual, it reaches a fuel economy of 28 city / 38 highway for a combined 32 mpg. The Sonic is one of the quicker accelerators of the commuter cars under $5,000, as it reaches 0-60 mph in 8.1s. The interior and exterior design aren’t too shabby either.
The fabled Honda Civic has to make an appearance on this list as they have a history of just continuing to run after hundreds of thousands of miles with little to no hassle. That doesn’t necessarily mean you should go out and make a 1992 Honda Civic your commuter car, but you should take advantage of the more recent low mileage models available. Under $10,000 you can find a nice used 9th generation Civic with a 1.8L SOHC I4 engine making 140hp and reaching a fuel economy of 28 city / 38 highway for a combined 31 mpg. The Honda Civic also provides a comfortable ride while commuting across town every day.
The Toyota Prius is the main influencer to the hybrid car trend. It has always delivered great gas mileage since it relies on both a gas and electric motor. For under $10,000 you can find a nice used Prius with low miles from the 3rd generation starting in 2010. The main engine combination you’ll find is a 1.8L I4 paired with an electric motor and a CVT. The average fuel economy of this generation is 49 city / 46 highway for a combined 48 mpg. That’s well worth the investment, but that isn’t the only Prius options to take note of. You can and should look at the plug-in hybrid versions and the newer Prius c models available for even better gas mileages.
The Ford Focus takes similar design queues from the Fiesta, but in a slightly larger form. Now, you can find a Focus for under $5,000, but it’s better to go newer with way less miles and much more technology for under $10,000. The most common engine you’ll find on the used market is a 160hp 2.0L I4 engine that gets a combined 31 mpg when paired with the automatic transmission. For a little more fuel economy, there’s a 1.0L I3 engine getting a combined 34 mpg when paired with a 6-speed manual. Or you could just go gasless with their Focus Electric. It has just enough range to get you to and from work with a few errands in between before needing another charge.
For under $10,000, a used 9th generation Chevrolet Malibu comes in as a great commuter car. It has a spacious interior, plenty of available technology options, and a handful of engine options to match your driving style. The most common engine available in this price range is the turbocharged 1.5L I4 engine making 160hp and reaching a combined 30 mpg. If you’re able to find a hybrid optioned Malibu, they get a combined 46 mpg making them well worth the money.
Hyundai fully redesigned the Accent for the 2018 model year, and it turned out to be a jam-packed, well designed sedan that comes at a great price. Each of the Accent’s trim levels comes with a lot of standard features. The base SE model comes with a 5-inch infotainment screen, rearview cameras, and keyless entry right out the gate. The only available engine is a 1.6L I4 engine making 130hp and it gets a combined 32 mpg. It still has a pretty plasticky interior, but at its price, with how few of miles, and how much comes standard, you can’t really go wrong with the Accent as a commuter car.
We’ve already given praise to the 2021 Honda Accord as being one of the best sedans of today, so it’s no surprise it should show up here. It has one of the best designs in the midsize segment, both inside and out, and it has a comfortable ride that will make the daily commute a lot more bearable. There are three I4 engine options available, but if you’re going for fuel efficiency, the hybrid option reaches a combined 48 mpg. The 2021 Honda Accord starts at a MSRP of $24,770 with the hybrid starting at a MSRP of $26,370.
The Toyota Camry has been one of the best-selling cars for years now. It has a history of being reliable, comfortable, and using quality materials both in design and performance. Toyota continues to build on these aspects for the new 2021 Toyota Camry. It has been updated with a larger infotainment system, improved safety features, further tuned performance, and still comes with a hybrid option. If you’re looking for the best gas mileage from the Camry, stick with the base Camry LE Hybrid, as it runs lithium-ion batteries allowing it to get a combined 52 mpg. The 2021 Toyota Camry starts at a MSRP of $24,970 with the hybrid starting at a MSRP of $27,270.
Chevrolet has been continuously improving upon their Bolt EV to be one of the most affordable new EVs on the market. The 2021 Chevrolet Bolt EV has the ability to travel 259 miles on its fully charged lithium-ion battery. The electric engine makes 200hp, reaches 0-60 mph in 6.5 seconds, and has DC Fast Charging as an available option. Its small hatchback body doesn’t carry as much cargo or passenger space as other EVs like the Tesla Model Y, but it comes in at a price point that undercuts the Model Y by almost $10,000. A 2021 Chevrolet Bolt EV has a starting MSRP of $37,495 with the DC Fast Charging being an extra $750.
The Ioniq has been Hyundai’s specialized foray into the world of hybrids and EVs. It has always carried an electric motor since debuting in 2016 and has a body style akin to the Prius. Being a Hyundai, the Ioniq carries a ton of great features right out the gate and has a relatively comfortable interior. The lone gas engine is a 1.6L I4 that makes 139hp with the base hybrid getting a combined 58 mpg and the plug-in hybrid getting 119 mpge when fully charged. The Ioniq Electric is available with an estimated range of 170 miles, which is a little lack luster in comparison to the competition. However, keep an eye out on the upcoming Ioniq 5, 6, and 7 that are slowly making their presence known. These new iterations of the model could become a major contender in the EV marketplace.
Tesla has been all the rage as of late, so getting one as a commuter car makes sense. The entry level Model 3 is a great option if you want to join Tesla’s EV takeover as it starts at a commendable $33,690. Now, you won’t get all the bells and whistles at that price, but it does give you an EV with a 253-mile range, a 0-60 mph time of 5.3s, that giant Tesla infotainment system, and Autopilot included. That’s quite the bargain and helps paint a nice picture of why Tesla has been dominating the EV marketplace. For $42,690, you can get the Long Range trim increasing the range to 353 miles, knocking a second off of the 0-60 time, and end up with their premium interior.