The Best Cars Under $35,000
These rides should be no-brainer purchases if you’re on a budgetby Kirby Garlitos, on
For a lot of us, buying a car comes with a lot of anxiety, especially when it comes to models that are going to cost a lot of money. But there are some models in the market that provide us with what we want out of a vehicle at costs that aren’t going to burn holes in our pockets. These models can either be attractive, have posh interiors, provide ample amounts of power, or are just fun to drive. In some cases, some cars check off more than just one criteria, though all of them have one common factor among them. They all cost at or less than $35,000.
Pricing for the BMW 2 Series starts at $35,300, so it technically shouldn’t count on this list, right?
Pricing for the BMW 2 Series starts at $35,300, so it technically shouldn’t count on this list, right? We’re going to make an exception, though, because the 2 Series is that good of a car. Forget the way it looks for a second, though it can be argued that there is something inherently attractive about a no-frills Bimmer with a long nose and a short deck.
The 2 Series makes it on this list because it not only looks good, it also has one of the most dynamic driving characteristics of any car at its price point. You don’t often get a car that drives as well as the 2 Series does for the amount of money it sells for. And yet, BMW has somehow accomplished it. You’ll need to pay a little extra for the car, but chances are, you’re not going to regret doing it.
Read our full review on the BMW 2 Series
Even the most popular version of the Mustang — the Mustang GT — barely goes over $35,000 with a price point of $35,355.
There’s no shortage of legacy cars on this list, and one of the most iconic American nameplates deserve a spot on this list. The Ford Mustang is a car of its own making. There’s nothing pretentious about it. The ‘Stang is the embodiment of American muscle, and it’s a status it has had since it first broke into the scene back in the 1960s.
These days, the Ford Mustang still reveals itself as one of the most popular cars on the market. Even better, most of its trim levels are priced below $35,000. Even the most popular version of the Mustang — the Mustang GT — barely goes over $35,000 with a price point of $35,355. Imagine getting a car with a 5.0-liter V-8 engine that produces 460 horsepower and 420 pound-feet of torque for that price. There may be faster, more powerful, and overall better cars than the Mustang. But with a base price of under $26,000, you’re going to have a hard time finding a car that offers as much value as the ‘Stang does.
Read our full review on the 2018 Ford Mustang.
The best part about the CLA is that even if it does trace its roots on the more expensive CLS-Class, its base price starts at $32,975
The Mercedes CLA-Class is the kind of car you didn’t think would exist as recently as a decade ago. But with more and more companies embracing the compact segments of the industry, the CLA was born as a miniaturized version of one of Merc’s most popular models, the CLS-Class.
To be fair, the CLA isn’t the most engaging car to drive in the world. But it does benefit from having one of the most gorgeous designs of any car in its class. And the best part about the CLA is that even if it does trace its roots on the more expensive CLS-Class, its base price of $32,975 means that you won’t have to pay a fortune for the chance to own a Mercedes.
Read our full review on the 2018 Mercedes CLA-Class.
The Renegade Trailhawk starts at just over $25,000, a bargain compared to what you’ll have to pay for other SUVs with similar capabilities
The Jeep Renegade may look quirky next to some of its big brothers in the Jeep lineup, but there is nothing the subcompact SUV can’t do what other Jeep models can. If you’re looking for an SUV with excellent off-road capability at a fraction of the price, the Renegade is for you. The SUV holds its own in any surface, be it smooth pavement or rough roads.
Opt for the range-topping Trailhawk trim, and you’ll also get standard full-time four-wheel-drive to go with a taller ride height and low-range gearing. You can even get Jeep’s Selec-Terrain system, which lets you adjust the suspension characteristics of your Renegade to the terrain you’re driving on. Here’s the best part about the SUV, though. The Renegade Trailhawk starts at just over $25,000, a bargain compared to what you’ll have to pay for other SUVs with similar capabilities. If by some way you still think that’s expensive, you can opt for cheaper versions, beginning with the base Renegade Sport trim that costs just $18,445.
Read our full review on the 2018 Jeep Renegade.
With a starting price of just $30,995 for the Wrangler Sport and $34,195 for the Wrangler Sport S, you know that you’re money is going to be well-spent.
There is one SUV that happens to have better value compared to the Jeep Renegade. It also happens to be a Jeep model. The Wrangler is arguably one of the best off-road vehicles on the market today. Its off-road capabilities are second to none, and it has the benefit of having a bigger engine than the ones found on the Renegade.
That engine, a 3.6-liter V-6, produces 285 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque, enough power to help it tackle just about any road surface it’s thrown on. It may not be the best handling car in its segment, but you’re not buying the Wrangler because you think it’s going to own corners on a race track. You’re buying the Wrangler because you think it can go anywhere you want to take it. And with a starting price of just $30,995 for the Wrangler Sport and $34,195 for the Wrangler Sport S, you know that you’re money is going to be well-spent.
Read our full review on the 2018 Jeep Wrangler.
The QX30 also excels in fuel efficiency, has a tight suspension setup, and, best of all, starts at just $29,950
Truth be told, there are a lot of compact SUVs these days that deserve to make it on this list. I just hold a particular fondness for the Infiniti QX30 because it offers one of the best make up of stylish looks, a luxury interior, and all-around presence of any compact SUV on the market today.
There’s something about the QX30’s aggressive styling that makes it stand out. A big part of it involves the dynamic body lines, but the front section’s design is attractive, as well. It doesn’t sit too high off the ground so some might confuse it for a high-riding hatch, but the QX30 still looks an SUV that you’d want to be seen in. Then there’s the ride. There’s one engine across the range — a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that produces 208 horsepower — but that one engine is punchy enough that it makes you feel like there’s more power there than advertised. The QX30 also excels in fuel efficiency, has a tight suspension setup, and, best of all, starts at just $29,950. Some versions exceed the $35,000 threshold, but even then, the range-topping QX30 Sport costs just $38,500.
Read our full review on the 2018 Infiniti QX30
The Audi Q3 starts at $32,900, too.
This isn’t a pro SUV list by choice. This is a pro SUV list by current trends. Crossovers and SUVs are outselling sedans and hatchbacks by hilarious margins, so it’s only fair that a lot of vehicles on this list are of the crossover and SUV persuasions.
The Audi Q3 is Audi’s smallest and most affordable SUV, and it also happens to be one of the best ones in its segment. The exterior design is typical of what you’d expect from Audi, but the Q3’s calling card is its interior. The luxurious look of the Q3’s cabin is a testament to Audi designers who have shown unique abilities to craft cabins that come with exceptional fit and finish, rich materials, and eye-pleasing shapes. Even at its price point, there’s very little about the Q3’s cabin that feels cheap. It’s fresh, upscale, and teeming with technology. The Audi Q3 starts at $32,900, too. Imagine having the opportunity to own an SUV that doesn’t look and feel the part of a vehicle that costs under $35,000.
Read our full review on the 2019 Audi Q3
The SUV’s base price barely clips $35,000 — $34,385, to be exact — but if you really want to enjoy the GLA-Class for all of its worth, the costs could balloon north of $35,000 easily.
It’s only fitting that the Mercedes CLA-Class’ SUV counterpart, the GLA-Class, also makes it on this list. The GLA, by all accounts, is the kind of entry-level SUV that most people would want as a first car. Sure, the prestige of the model being a Mercedes is a big reason why it’s so appealing, but there’s more to the GLA-Class than just a high-riding version of the CLA.
The GLA actually looks more like a stylish, taller hatchback than a traditional SUV, but don’t let its profile fool you. This baby Mercedes has the agility and versatility that few models in its segment can compete with. It also has all-wheel drive capability and an off-road package for venturing off-pavement. The GLA also offers the best of what Mercedes offers in terms of prestige, style, and tech and safety features. It may not drip in luxury like upper-tier Merc models, but it is, in every sense of the word, a true Mercedes-Benz. The SUV’s base price barely clips $35,000 — $34,385, to be exact — but if you really want to enjoy the GLA-Class for all of its worth, the costs could balloon north of $35,000 easily.
Read our full review on the 2018 Mercedes GLA-Class.
The Cadillac ATS is another model that cheats our list a little bit because it starts at $35,495.
The Cadillac ATS is another model that cheats our list a little bit because it starts at $35,495. But I’d be remiss if I didn’t include the ATS on this list because the model represents a return to form for a brand that has languished in the face of competition from its German rivals.
The ATS changes that narrative, in large part because of the kind of offerings it has. It has an attractive design that embraces the quintessential Cadillac design language. It also has a rich and premium interior that’s defined, in part, by the prevalence of high-quality materials that Cadillac gave the sedan. The ATS isn’t shortchanged in power, either. It comes with a 2.0-liter turbo-four that produces 272 horsepower, an impressive number for a car that costs just $35,495. Combine all of that with a car regarded for having one of the best driving dynamics of any car in its segment, and you have a model that’s justifiably becoming the apple in a lot of people’s eyes.
Read our full review on the 2018 Cadillac ATS.
For all of that, the MX-5 Miata starts at just $25,295 for the base Sport trim, $29,155 for the Club trim, and $30,195 for the range-topping Grand Touring trim.
The last car on this list also happens to be one of my favorites. For almost 30 years, the Mazda MX-5 Miata has been a crowd favorite in the industry, and that sentiment hasn’t changed almost three decades later. The MX-5 is one of the most beloved roadsters in the business, and that still holds true when it comes to the latest model.
Mazda has done a great job evolving the MX-5’s looks, keeping it as fresh and as modern as it can be. It also packs a good amount of power, thanks in large part to a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 182 horsepower and 151 pound-feet of torque, improvements of 27 horsepower and three pound-feet of torque over the incumbent model. With that much power on tap, the driving dynamics of the MX-5 should also improve, a luxury for a car that already is one of the most fun cars to drive in the business. For all of that, the MX-5 Miata starts at just $25,295 for the base Sport trim, $29,155 for the Club trim, and $30,195 for the range-topping Grand Touring trim.
Read our full review on the 2018 Mazda MX-5 Miata.