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10 Best Cars for Budget Travelers

By Daniel Bortz
November 15, 2017
Empty Road Sunset Monument Valley
Gary Gray/Dreamstime
Mileage, cool tech features, and a sweet price point make these your go-to rides for road trips, one-tank escapes, and more.

Love a good road trip? So do we! But we also love to trim our travel costs, which is why we’ve worked with Autotrader.com to find the best cars for Budget Travelers. These 10 vehicles not only earned top marks for fuel efficiency but also boast cool tech features that will enhance your driving experience. Also, each car costs less than $25,000, so you won’t have to break the bank on your new set of wheels. 

2017 Ford Fiesta Titanium

At just under $20,000, the Fiesta’s Titanium model features keyless entry/start, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, rearview camera with rear parking sensors, leather upholstery, Sony 8-speaker audio system with HD radio,and specially designed 16-inch alloy wheels. Also, Ford’s Sync 3 smart entertainment system, which includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, is standard on the Titanium Fiesta. “As subcompact cars go, the Fiesta is a good one,”says Brian Moody, executive editor at Autotrader. “It’s fun to drive, has a reasonably nice interior, and sips fuel.”

2017 Honda HR-V EX

The base LX model ($20,000) of this new subcompact SUV from Honda features a rearview camera, tilt-telescopic steering wheel, cruise control, Bluetooth, steering-wheel audio controls, 160-watt 4-speaker stereo system with USB input, auto-off headlights, and front and rear 12-volt power outlets. The EX bumps the price up to $23,000 but includes a 7-inch touchscreen audio display, Honda’s LaneWatch technology, 180-watt 6-speaker stereo, Pandora radio compatibility, heated front seats, power moonroof, Smart Entry with push-button start, auto on/off headlights, rearview camera, second USB jack, SMS text messaging, and automatic climate control. Plus, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are available on every Honda model.

2018 Chevrolet Cruze LS

At only $17,850, the base-level, stick-shift-only Cruze L has a backup camera, 15-inch steel wheels with hubcaps, Bluetooth, power accessories, Teen Driver technology, 4-speaker stereo with Bluetooth, OnStar with a Wi-Fi hotspot, and 7-inch center touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The Cruze LS ($19,400), however, allows drivers to order automatic transmission for $1,000 extra. “Add it all up and the result is a car that’s roughly $21,000 and features desirable tech,” Moody says.

2017 Jeep Compass Sport

The Sport ($21,000) is the Compass’ base model but it has some compelling features, Moody says. Push-button start, cruise control, USB port, auxiliary audio input, 6-speaker audio system, 5-inch touchscreen, hill-start assist, rearview camera and trailer sway control are all part of the package. “We also like the Compass because it looks like a junior version of the larger, pricier Grand Cherokee,” says Moody. Moreover, the car’s Uconnect system integrates a 5-inch touchscreen display, hands-free calling, voice text reply, voice commands for radio functions, and Bluetooth audio streaming.

2017 VW Jetta SE

“The Jetta is a great-looking car with a sporty attitude,”Moody says. It’s also a techie’s dream: in addition to Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, the Jetta SE ($22,000) has blind-spot monitoring, push-button start, satellite radio, Bluetooth, USB port, LED daytime running lights, and 6.3-inch touch screen.

2018 Hyundai Elantra GT

Standard goodies on >span class="s5"> Elantra GT ($22,000) include Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, full power accessories, tilt-telescopic steering wheel with redundant audio controls, Bluetooth connectivity, rearview camera, and remote keyless entry. For an extra $1,000, you can upgrade to theGT Sport, which has lane keep assistance, LED headlights and taillights, and heated leather front seats.

2018 Kia Niro FE

You’ll have to stick with the FE base model of Kia’s newest crossover, car-based SUV to keep the price of the Niro under $25,000, Moody says, but this hybrid boasts a whopping 50 miles per gallon on average—making it one of the most fuel-efficient vehicles on the road. And, if you’re willing to shell out an extra few hundred dollars, you can add Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, satellite radio, and 7-inch touchscreen. 

2017 Nissan Altima S

The spacious Altima S model ($24,000) is loaded with cool tech features, including forward collision warning with emergency braking, Bluetooth, Siri eyes free, push-button start, and Nissan’s easy-fill tire system, which honks the horn when the car reaches the right level for tire pressure. 

2017 Subaru Impreza Sport

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard on the Impreza Sport ($23,000), which has an 8-inch touch screen that includes app integration for services like iHeartRadio and Pandora. The entertainment system is also more user-friendly than many other in-car interface systems, Moody says. However, “the real reason to pick this car is that, for the price, it’s one of the most fun-to-drive small sedans around,” Moody says. 

2018 Toyota Camry L

While the all-new Camry doesn’t have Apple CarPlay, you still get a lot for your money with the base L trim model, Moody says. Indeed, the car's tech features include automatic LED headlights, highway-speed adaptive cruise control, forward-collision warning and automatic braking, lane-departure warning, Bluetooth, one USB port, 7-inch touchscreen interface, Scout GPS navigation smartphone app, and 6-speaker sound system with a media player interface. “That's a lot of stuff for a car that comes in at just under $25,000,” Moody says. “We also like the Camry’s new look and driving dynamics, which are far better than any Camry before it.”

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