Cheapest New Cars to Own 2021
When it’s time to buy a new car, many consumers base their final decision on price alone — or that and the vehicle’s color. Unfortunately this approach leaves folks vulnerable to the many costs associated with owning a car beyond the purchase price, such as depreciation, insurance, maintenance and fuel costs. These additional expenditures can vary greatly depending on the vehicle purchased. Vehicle valuation company Kelley Blue Book has done extensive analysis to determine which cars are the least expensive to own over a five-year period, considering factors such as financing, insurance, state fees, fuel costs, scheduled maintenance and repairs, and depreciation.
Toyota, Lexus Top Brands
“Choosing a car with low ownership costs can help shoppers save a significant amount of money over time — often several hundred and sometimes even thousands of dollars,” said Eric Ibara, director of residual values for Kelley Blue Book. Ibara also noted that Toyota won as the top 5-Year Cost to Own Brand for 2021. “Toyota’s high residual values were the primary contributor toward the brand’s low ownership costs,” observed Ibara. Toyota’s Lexus brand also bested all others for 2021 as the top 5-Year Cost to Own Luxury Brand, since Lexus models were big winners in some key premium categories. Here are 2021 model-year vehicles that KBB says will be least costly to own, listed by category.
Compact Car — 2021 Hyundai Elantra
5-Year Cost to Own: $30,117
Hyundai introduced an all-new Elantra for the 2021 model year featuring a longer wheelbase, a wider stance and a lower roof profile than the outgoing model. Exterior styling is now similar to the recently redesigned Hyundai Sonata. The base-level Elantra SE comes in below the $20,000 mark with a long list of standard features such as wireless Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Bluetooth connectivity, as well as advanced safety technology including forward collision avoidance with pedestrian detection and blind-spot collision avoidance. A fuel-efficient 2.0-liter engine producing 147 horsepower is EPA rated at 43 mpg on the highway.
Midsize Car — 2021 Volkswagen Passat
5-Year Cost to Own: $36,368
Volkswagen refreshed the Passat midsize sedan for the 2020 model year, giving this popular VW sedan a bolder design with upgraded convenience and driver-assist features. Passat stands out with a coupelike roofline and short decklid as well as slim LED headlights, LED taillights and available 19-inch aluminum-alloy wheels on the sporty R-Line variant. For 2021 Volkswagen simplifies the lineup to three trims: S, SE and R-Line, and makes adaptive cruise control standard across the board. All Passats are powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged engine that produces 174 horsepower and 207 lb-ft of torque, matched to a 6-speed automatic transmission with Tiptronic.
Full-Size Car — 2021 Dodge Charger
5-Year Cost to Own: $45,872
The Charger name has been in the Dodge arsenal since the 1960s, returning to the Dodge lineup in 2006 as a 4-door sedan with styling cues from the original 1960s muscle car. Today’s Charger is still a large 4-door sedan with sporty styling and a comfortable, spacious interior. Replete with plenty of high-tech features, Charger is available with an 8.4-inch touchscreen display, electric power steering, pushbutton start and a high-end audio system. And in keeping with tradition, Charger has powerful engine choices including the R/T Scat Pack with a 485-horsepower 6.4-liter HEMI V8, or the latest entry: the SRT Hellcat Redeye with a supercharged 6.2-liter HEMI V8 producing a mind-blowing 797 horsepower.
Sports Car — 2021 Mazda MX-5 Miata
5-Year Cost to Own: $42,330
Since the launch of the first Miata in 1989, more than 1 million MX-5s have been sold worldwide. The latest generation of this fun 2-seat roadster went on sale in summer 2015, and now features a revised SKYACTIV- G 2.0-liter engine producing 181 horsepower and 151 lb-ft of torque. In addition to the manual soft-top MX-5, the MX-5 RF (retractable fastback) offers a power-folding hardtop that opens or closes in 13 seconds, featuring a fastback coupe design. Last year Mazda added Polymetal Gray paint, Red Nappa leather and a Gray cloth soft-top as well as a sport-tuned suspension for the MX-5 Grand Touring.
Entry-Level Luxury Car — 2021 Acura ILX
5-Year Cost to Own: $39,069
The lowest priced model offered by Acura, the ILX received a major redesign for the 2019 model year. Sporting the Acura signature Diamond Pentagon grille with 7-element jewel-eye LED headlights, the ILX looks more upscale to align with the rest of the Acura lineup. The luxury treatment continues inside, where the ILX also features a dual-screen interface as well as integration of Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. All versions of the ILX are powered by a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine teamed with an 8-speed dual-clutch gearbox.
Luxury Car — 2021 Volvo S90
5-Year Cost to Own: $67,050
The flagship sedan of the Volvo lineup, the S90 receives fresh styling for the 2021 model year with a new front fascia and updated grille, as well as new taillights and rear fascia. Inside, the S90 features surfaces covered with soft leather and natural open-pore walnut trim, in addition to the brand’s Sensus infotainment system that uses a large vertical high-definition display screen. The S90 now comes with all-wheel drive as standard equipment, and it can be equipped with a T8 Twin Engine Plug-in Hybrid powertrain that delivers great efficiency as well as 400 horsepower.
Hybrid — 2021 Toyota Corolla Hybrid
5-Year Cost to Own: $30,028
The Corolla was all new for the 2020 model year, and as part of that redesign Toyota introduced its first hybrid version of this popular small car. Powered by a 1.8-liter engine teamed with an electric motor, the Corolla Hybrid is rated at an impressive 53 mpg city / 52 mpg hwy / 52 mpg combined. With a low starting price around $23,000, the Corolla Hybrid comes well equipped with Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 which includes a pre-collision system that detects pedestrians and bicyclists, as well as automatic emergency braking, lane departure alert with steering assist and full-speed range dynamic radar cruise control.
Electric Vehicle — 2021 Nissan LEAF
5-Year Cost to Own: $37,680
The LEAF was one of the first mainstream electric vehicles sold in America when introduced in 2011, and it tops the EV KBB category for the fourth year in a row. The Nissan LEAF is now available with two different powertrains: the standard setup features a 40 kWh battery with 147 horsepower and a 149 mile range, while the LEAF Plus bumps up to a 62 kWh battery enabling 214 horsepower and a range of 226 miles. Nissan now equips all LEAFs with Safety Shield 360 — a suite of high-tech safety features including automatic emergency braking, rear cross-traffic alert and rear automatic braking.
Subcompact SUV — 2021 Hyundai Venue
5-Year Cost to Own: $29,145
Last Hyundai added another new player to its SUV lineup — the all-new Venue. Now Hyundai’s smallest crossover, the Venue is available exclusively with front-wheel-drive, motivated by a 1.6-liter engine producing 121 horsepower that gets teamed with a 6-speed manual transmission. The base-level Venue SE has a low staring price of $18,750 yet it features air-conditioning, an 8-inch touchscreen display, an AM / FM / HD audio system, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay and Bluetooth connectivity. All Venues come with Hyundai SmartSense as a standard feature, which includes forward collision avoidance with pedestrian detection, lane-keeping assist and driver attention warning.
Compact SUV — 2021 Subaru Forester
5-Year Cost to Own: $36,446
Forester not only boasts the lowest ownership costs, KBB also calls it out for having the best resale value in its class. An all-new Forester premiered in 2019 with a 1.2-inch-longer wheelbase, more rear-seat legroom and more cargo capacity, as well as improvements in crash protection, comfort, quietness and driving dynamics. EyeSight driver-assist technology is standard, and Forester Touring features DriverFocus safety technology that can alert the driver about fatigue or distraction. Forester is powered by a direct-injection 2.5-liter Boxer engine that produces 182 horsepower and 176 lb-ft of torque. Steering-responsive LED headlights and high-beam headlight assist are standard equipment for the 2021 model year.
Midsize SUV (2-row) — 2021 Subaru Outback
5-Year Cost to Own: $40,614
One of the vehicles that helped define the crossover segment, the Outback was all new for the 2020 model year. Constructed on Subaru’s new global platform, Outback features updated exterior styling, a vastly improved interior, updated powertrains and the latest version of EyeSight — Subaru’s suite of advanced safety technologies. All Outbacks have Subaru’s Symmetrical all-wheel drive with active torque vectoring, vehicle dynamics control, X-Mode with hill descent control and a generous 8.7-inches of ground clearance. Subaru recently announced the addition of the Outback Wilderness — the most rugged, capable Outback the company has ever built.
Midsize SUV (3-row) — 2021 Subaru Ascent
5-Year Cost to Own: $45,935
A few years ago, Subaru introduced the all-new Ascent — the largest vehicle in Subaru history with three rows and seating for up to eight occupants. Sending power to the brand’s legendary all-wheel-drive system is a 2.4-liter twin-scroll turbocharged 4-cylinder Boxer engine producing 260 horsepower and 277 lb-ft of torque — enough power to give the Ascent 5,000 pounds of towing capacity. All Subaru Ascents come with the brand’s innovative suite of advanced driver-assist features called EyeSight. This camera-based system includes automatic pre-collision braking, adaptive cruise control, lane departure and sway warning, as well as pre-collision throttle management.
Off-Road SUV – 2021 Jeep Wrangler
5-Year Cost to Own: $41,187
If any vehicle deserves an “iconic” label, it’s the Jeep Wrangler — the modern descendant of the original U.S. military vehicle that spawned the Jeep name and began a legacy of extreme off-road capability. Jeep introduced the current-generation Wrangler a few years ago, offering a comfortable ride on pavement while boasting impressive off-road prowess. Available in a range of trim levels, the Wrangler features two hardtops, a Sunrider soft-top and a Sky One-Touch power top. For even more open-air driving, the doors are removable and the windshield can be folded down. For 2021 Jeep adds the V8-powered Rubicon 392 as well as the 4xe plug-in hybrid.
Full-Size SUV— 2021 Nissan Armada
5-Year Cost to Own: $63,224
The largest SUV in the Nissan lineup, the Armada gets refreshed for the 2021 model year with a new front-end design as well as updated taillights and rear bumper. Armada is also the first model to wear the new Nissan logo. Inside, the full-size SUV features a redesigned center stack with a standard tablet-style 12.3-inch color display at the top. Technology includes standard Wi-Fi, wireless Apple CarPlay, wired Android Auto and available wireless smartphone charging. With a 400-horsepower 5.6-liter V8 under the hood, Armada can tow up to 8,500 pounds.
Luxury Subcompact SUV — 2021 Lexus UX
5-Year Cost to Own: $44,621
Lexus introduced the entry-level UX for the 2019 model year as the first Lexus vehicle to use the brand’s new Global Architecture — Compact platform. The exterior design is similar to the larger NX and RX models but more aggressive, with a large spindle grille and flared fenders that dominate the front view. The UX is offered in two versions: UX 200 and UX 250h — the latter using a new fourth-generation hybrid drive system with a total system output of 181 horsepower. E-Four All-Wheel Drive adds an additional electric motor at the rear axle to give the 250h AWD capability.
Luxury Compact SUV — 2021 Lexus NX
5-Year Cost to Own: $48,906
Lexus joined the burgeoning compact luxury SUV segment when it introduced the NX for the 2015 model year. The NX received updates a few years ago including fresh styling with a revised grille, larger fog light openings and additional chrome accents. Toyota’s longtime luxury brand offers two powertrains for the NX: a turbocharged inline four with 235 horsepower motivates the NX300; or, for a more efficient option, the NX300h hybrid delivers 195 horsepower as well as an EPA rating of 31 mpg combined. Last year Toyota’s luxury brand added Android Auto to the Lexus multimedia system as well as upgraded safety features.
Luxury Midsize SUV (2-row) — 2021 Lexus RX
5-Year Cost to Own: $60,931
One of the first luxury crossovers when it debuted as a 1998 model, the RX combines the utility of an SUV with the ride and comfort of a luxury sedan. A few years ago, Lexus upped the utility quotient of the RX by introducing the RX L, which is slightly larger and offers seating for up to seven via a new third row. Both the original and L versions are available as the RX 350 or the RX 450h, the latter featuring a powerful and fuel-efficient hybrid powertrain. The RX was also the first Lexus to offer Android Auto connectivity in addition to existing Apple CarPlay and Amazon Alexa integration.
Luxury Midsize SUV (3-row) — 2021 Volvo XC90
5-Year Cost to Own: $59,509
As the Swedish brand’s flagship SUV, the 7-seat XC90 SUV was the first Volvo built on the automaker’s Scalable Product Architecture platform — now used for all 90- and 60-series Volvos. Like the S90 and V90, the XC90 carries classic design cues including T-shaped “Thor’s Hammer” LED headlights, a grille with the large Volvo Iron Mark, and large VOLVO lettering across the liftgate. Last year the XC90 received a light exterior refresh including a new concave front grille. Front and rear bumpers have also been restyled. The XC90 is also available in a 6-occupant configuration by replacing the second-row bench with individual bucket seats.
Luxury Full-Size SUV— 2021 Infiniti QX80
5-Year Cost to Own: $90,014
Flagship SUV of the Infiniti line, the QX80 combines a luxurious interior with impressive capability and versatility. With a 400-horsepower 5.6-liter V8 engine under the hood, the QX80 can haul as much as 8,500 pounds and offers seating for up to seven occupants. The interior sports leather seat trim, a high-end Bose audio system and tri-zone climate control. Last year the big Infiniti received a revised center console that features a dual-screen InTouch infotainment system and a 7-inch color monitor in the instrument cluster. The QX80 is also available with forward emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane departure warning, lane departure prevention and blind-spot intervention.
Minivan — 2021 Chrysler Voyager
5-Year Cost to Own: $41,954
Chrysler brought back the Voyager name — previously used on the Plymouth version of the company’s minivan — as a less expensive version of Pacifica, the vehicle that replaces the outgoing Dodge Grand Caravan. Voyager offers all the space and versatility of the Pacifica but at a starting price around $27,500. Powered by the same 287-horsepower V6 engine as Pacifica, the Voyager has seating for seven and in-floor storage bins, as well as high-tech features including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as standard equipment. Voyager also has an audio system with six speakers and active noise cancellation.
Midsize Pickup Truck — 2021 Ford Ranger
5-Year Cost to Own $40,532
After an eight-year absence from the U.S. market, Ranger returned to the Ford lineup for 2019 to compete against the Toyota Tacoma and Chevrolet Colorado pickups. Based on Ford’s midsize pickup sold in more than 100 countries around the world, the Ranger was retooled and updated specifically for the U.S. market. The truck is powered by a 2.3-liter EcoBoost engine rated at 270 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque, teamed with an electronically controlled 10-speed SelectShift automatic transmission. For 2021 Ford adds the Tremor Off-Road package to the Ranger, featuring a lifted suspension with FOX 2.0 monotube dampers, tuned springs and 32-inch Continental General Grabber all-terrain tires.
Full-Size Pickup Truck — 2021 Ford F-150
5-Year Cost to Own: $48,456
Ford introduced an all-new F-150 for the 2021 model year — a big deal for a vehicle that has claimed the sales crown in America for almost 40 consecutive years. Featuring bolder, more rugged styling with an updated LED headlight design and new signature LED running lights, the new F-150 is built on a fully boxed high-strength steel frame with a high-strength aluminum alloy body. Inside, the 2021 F-150 gets new functionality as well as updated infotainment and storage options. A noteworthy addition to the lineup is the PowerBoost Hybrid, which not only boasts a 12,700-pound towing capacity, it also features an onboard generator for power at a jobsite, campground or anywhere else this truck can go.