By on December 20, 2021

Ford Maverick

Before we get to this list of “best cheap cars”, I feel like you might be wondering about that headline. Why $22,515? I chose that number because the average price of a new car in 2021 has crept past $45,000 for the first time — $45,301, to be exact — and half of that is … well, you get the idea.

As for the list, I’ll try to answer it the same way you’d probably answer your friends if they asked you for help picking a new car: With a question of my own.

“What do you plan on using it for?”

MOVING PEOPLE AND THINGS

Look, the best answer to this “best cheap car for 2022” question is, in almost every use case, the Ford Maverick, starting at $19,995 (plus destination).

Yes, it’s “compact”, but probably not as compact as you think. It also has room for five adults, a 1500 lb. payload, and — in hybrid trim — will trade you 42 miles of city driving for every gallon of gas you pour into it.

I will admit, at this point, that I haven’t driven the Maverick, yet. That said, I don’t have to. Despite being a front-driver, I’m sure it’s capable enough, rides and handles well enough, and stops and goes well enough to get me through my day-to-day with minimal complaints.

What’s more, Ford’s littlest truck offers enough cargo space to solve for almost every use-case I can throw at it. Trip to IKEA? Check. Big plant from Home Depot? Check. Dragging a family’s worth of luggage to the airport? Check, again.

Order your base model Maverick with a Tonneau Pickup Box Cover – Soft Folding ($560), Trailer Hitch Receiver with 4-pin Connector ($100), and Floor Liners, All-Weather Tray Style ($135) for just $22,285, with destination.

If you want the best all-around “cheap car”, then you can stop reading now. If you want something a little more specialized, though, keep reading.

FRUGAL LONG HAULER

Toyota

My friend Mike used to drive from Wellington, Ohio all the way to Independence for work. That’s 45 miles each way five or sometimes six times a week. That’s about 2,000 miles of driving a month, not including grocery runs, nights out, or anything else. In rural Ohio, too. It’s worth noting that each of those drives would probably be 10 or 15 miles on their own. All told, Mike easily drove 30,000 miles a year. What someone like that needs is a Toyota Corolla or Honda Civic — and the Corolla gets the nod for 2022.

Why choose the Corolla when the Honda is all-new for 2022? This one’s a personal preference. The Civic is a great car, but — with a base price of $21,900 and $1,015 in destination fees — it’s just over the arbitrary price limit I’ve set for this article. But that’s OK, because the Toyota, like the Honda, is a sturdy, capable, and somewhat boring little A-B appliance with a long history of reliability and resale value. The Toyota has another advantage, too: The ease with which I’ve personally been able to hypermile this latest generation of Corolla.

If you’re not familiar with hypermiling, the basic idea is that you drive in a way that will give you maximum fuel economy. That may mean driving a bit slower or coasting a bit more, but I very easily averaged more than 50 mpg over a week of driving with minimal effort, and that kind of proven fuel economy is more important than ever these days.

Order yours as a hatchback, precisely the way Matthew Guy spec’ed it, and drive home for $20,815 (plus plus plus).

SECOND OR THIRD VEHICLE

It’s not a typical choice, sure — but the Arcimoto FUV will handle 90 percent of the trips Americans take by themselves. Whether it’s commuting to work by yourself or picking up a few things at the grocery store, the 3-wheeled, all-electric Arcimoto is more than up to the task with a 75-mph top speed and just over 100 miles of driving range.

In addition to being super-efficient, the Arcimoto is also pretty fun. It’s open on three sides, for starters, but it’s surprisingly free of wind noise and buffeting thanks to the F-14 style fairing/canopy deal.

Speaking of surprises, the FUV is also surprisingly inexpensive, with a starting price of $17,900 before any EV incentives are factored in. If the proposed $7,500 tax credit for electric motorcycles passes, the net price of an Arcimoto would be $10,400 — which means you could get two of the things and still be under our arbitrary price cap!

SPORTY GO-FAST

If you didn’t like the Arcimoto, you’d better stop reading now, because you’re not going to like this next one. I have faith that you’ll keep reading, though, because this isn’t “Things We Tell Ourselves About Cars Because We Like To Hear Them”, it’s The Truth About Cars — and the truth is that, for less than $22,515, nothing beats a big-bore sportbike — not in a straight line, not in top speed, nothing. Well, maybe a front-offset crash, but we’ll save that argument in case we do a “Safest Car under $22,515” follow-up.

In the meantime, it really doesn’t matter if your tastes lean towards the state-of-the-art BMW S 1000 RR, the achingly beautiful new 2022 Triumph Speed Triple 1200 RR, or even the so-good-at-everything-it’s-almost-boring perfection of the Honda CBR1000RR ABS — if you want to even get close on four wheels you’ll have to be ready to spend big money. Hell, even a land yacht like the $18,999 Harley-Davidson Electra Glide Standard (my personal pick under $20K, if anyone’s curious) will out-accelerate, out-corner, and flat out out-run any new car in its price range and still get more than 30 mpg.

Alas, these aren’t cars — and maybe the Arcimoto isn’t, either (despite the love that three-wheelers have been getting these days), but they’re my picks for bargain-basement transportation.

What are yours? Come on, B&B — surely you’ve got a novel take on what the best new ride for the money might be, so scroll on down to the comments and let us have it!

[Images: Ford, Toyota, Arcimoto, Triumph]

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44 Comments on “These Are The Best New Cars for Under $22,515...”


  • avatar
    jack4x

    “The Arcimoto FUV will handle 90 percent of the trips Americans take by themselves.”

    Maybe if you live in Phoenix or LA. Those of us who live in places that experience radical concepts like “precipitation” or “temperatures under 60 degrees” prefer a bit more enclosure from our vehicles.

  • avatar
    ajla

    I got a chance to crawl around one and the Maverick is a superlative vehicle. I’d consider it the “‘car’ of the year” at anything under 6-figures. Assuming its reliability scores are average or better it’s my new normie recommendation.

    • 0 avatar
      MrIcky

      I’ll wonder what’s wrong with America if the Maverick isn’t a hit. That vehicle seems to really nail it and I could see it being the start of a new wave of ‘ford families’.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      Of course this is Ford so there could always be a screwup or five, but at least both powertrains have good to excellent records in other applications. I agree—I think it’s a massive winner and could redefine the cheap car in much of America.

  • avatar
    geee

    Basic math skills. 45,301/2 = 22,650.5, not 22,515

    That said, the 22, 515 is correct. What is not correct is the 45,301, which does not match the 45,031 in the linked article.

  • avatar
    65corvair

    There are no cars for that price or less in the real world, or least where I live. Local Mopar/Ford dealer has 3 under $50,000 and not by much. A Jeep for $88,000. Only 14 new cars/trucks/SUV’s in stock.

    • 0 avatar

      Just did a 30 mile search near my house, Got 20 cars, new under 22k in stock (searching new no price filter got over a 1000). I do live in a built up area so probably pulling more then 100 dealers in that 30 miles, I know many dealers are whiped out but some (Nissan for instance) seem to have pretty full inventory. Speaking of Nissan of those 20 more then half are Nissan’s. The rest is Kia’s a few Imprezzas, one mirage and one jetta.

    • 0 avatar
      MrIcky

      I just pulled up Ford Maverick near me- got several listings in the 22k to 24k range. Some were still traveling, but some were in stock with buy now pricing so doesn’t seem like an issue.

  • avatar

    Given used car prices, I have looked at the new market more lately. If I had to replace my car today, top choices for the under 25k mark would be the Maverick (seriously I kind of hate Ford but this thing is damn impressive), or the Kia Forte GT. Honestly H and K seem to own the under 30 k market at the moment, the only other thing to consider are the Corolla and Civic, I havent driven the newest gen corolla but I hated all the previous ones so maybe civic but I would want the hatch. If I was just going cheap to run maybe a mirage.

  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    This is a good writeup (except where it veers off into two-wheeled vehicles, which will inevitably result in needless death and destruction).

    I only have $22,514 – well, less after I pay my car insurance which is due now.

    (Crazy that the average has gone as high as it has.)

  • avatar
    Lou_BC

    If one is looking at versatility then one needs to look at dual sport bikes or adventure bikes. Sport bikes appeal to a limited audience and have a rather limited use. Unless you get into the high end adventure bikes, the price of admission is reasonable.

    I do agree that the Maverick provides great bang for your buck.

  • avatar
    kcflyer

    I didn’t notice any real BEV’s on that list. Could someone please point out a new BEV with the range and capability of new corolla for under 23 grand without taxpayer subsidies? It should have the same 400 plus mile range and like the Corolla be able to be “recharged” to full range in under 5 minutes at as many locations as the corolla. Surly our political masters don’t want only wealthy people to have new cars? :)

    • 0 avatar
      stuki

      The Arcimoto is a real BEV. As real as BEVs come. I suppose they could do an enclosed version, but even as is, that one is about as big/long-range as BEVs can be made, before ICEs start making obviously more sense. Hence, it’s the most real of then all (aside from even smaller ones which make even more relative sense vs similar ICEs, like kick scooters.)

      If our masters cared one iota about people having cars, and about people driving electric cars (as well as people having roofs over their heads), they’d very simply and unproblematically get rid of idiocies like zonig and land use laws, and other bans aimed solely at keeping the indentured homeless. Such that people would cut their rent by 80+%, and have a place with enough garage space to have one of these BEVs, in addition to their ICE longer rage car (+ a few others). Then most miles, especially in denser areas where BEVs make the most sense, would be traveled by BEV. Entirely without government robbing and bullying. It’s not as if people don’t realize many trips are better made with a BEV. It’s just that everyone make at least SOME trips requiring more range and capacity. And forced, by child-brained laws and restrictions (sorry about the redundancy….), to only have one, they have no realistic choice but to go for the ICE.

      Of course, in reality, what “our masters want” is that those not paying lobbyists to dine them and provide them with hookers and blow, pay every dime their two jobs earn, to the lobbyist class, for the “privilege” of living in a 30 square foot shack under a freeway 400 miles from their job picking cotton. Then travel at the back of the bus to get there while cheering Dear Leader for letting them do so. That way, they leave the roads less cluttered for the lobbying class, who can then travel by tax payer funded battery toy in lanes marked For Party Members Only. Hey, what’s the problem? Everyone gets to travel, after all. Separate but Equal, they call it.

  • avatar
    kcflyer

    I didn’t notice any real BEV’s on that list. Could someone please point out a new BEV with the range and capability of new corolla for under 23 grand without taxpayer subsidies? It should have the same 400 plus mile range and like the Corolla be able to be “recharged” to full range in under 5 minutes at as many locations as the corolla. Surly our political masters don’t want only wealthy people to have new cars? :)

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Somewhere, an independent thought alarm is going off.

    • 0 avatar

      Gone now but last year the Hyundai dealers near me were leasing Ioniq electrics (the old 125 mile range one) for $99 down $99 a month. I was tempted. As I recall the buyout at the end of the lease was very low as well.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      You’ve added requirements that weren’t on the list.

      Heck, apparently the vehicle doesn’t even need doors to qualify.

      My base 19 Ioniq EV was $22500 *after* the Federal subsidy deducted by the dealer. I just bought out the lease since it has been good for me, and it costs less to operate than a Corolla.

  • avatar
    redapple

    If a corolla gets 50 mpg, the need for coal powered (61% of electricity in the USA is generated by coal or gas) BEV is quite asinine. (or use the windmill electricity at a true cost of $0.47/kWh)

    The need for a 9125 POUND Hummer is evil.

    • 0 avatar
      JD-Shifty

      “If a corolla gets 50 mpg, the need for coal powered (61% of electricity in the USA is generated by coal or gas) BEV is quite asinine. (or use the windmill electricity at a true cost of $0.47/kWh)”

      we could have that if people would settle for 80-100 hp.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      The funny part is that, if you assume it is powered by coal, that 9125-pound Hummer is almost exactly as efficient as the Corolla.

      Improve the energy mix and drive something not quite so… compensatory… and the EV advantage becomes clearer. I’m lucky to live where energy is 97% non-carbon and the lifetime carbon emissions of my EV (including embodied carbon) will be around the same as one year’s worth from my hybrid CUV. (Although if you want to take that further, the lifetime carbon emissions of my electric bicycle wouldn’t even be a rounding error compared to either of the cars.)

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Getting pretty loose with the definition of “car” on the last two (I don’t think the Archimoto would qualify for on road use in this state, I could see them only wanting to title it as an ATV).

    I say again Ford did a really nice job on their gigantic “compact”, unless it starts having major issues Dearborn may have finally succeeded in the “pickup but not a truck” space where things like the Subbie Baja have previously failed.

    On the Corolla, I agree with the recommendation of the Auris, err “Corolla Hatchback” with my only complaints being DI/DI fuel system and glued-Ipad-dash disorder. Kinda makes me want to hypermile my E180 Auris (but then again that takes too long so nah).

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    My new Ford Maverick XLT hybrid is being built the week of Feb 14. For the price nothing comes close for what you get.

  • avatar
    eggsalad

    Too bad the order books are closed on the ’22 Maverick Hybrid, so you can’t buy one even if you wanted to. And it’s clear you didn’t include rebates, but Hyundai appears to be offering $1500 off the 2022 Ioniq Blue Hybrid, bringing the price down to $21,900 + freight – within a hair’s breadth of the Maverick.

    And unlike the Maverick, you can haul 8′ sticks of lumber. And 59 combined MPG is nothing to sneeze at.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      I could haul lumber in my hatchback too but if I was doing it often enough to be a consideration I think I’d prefer the Ford’s set up. YMMV.

      tfltruck.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/2022-ford-
      maverick-xl-plywood-hauler.jpeg

    • 0 avatar

      I checked with a few dealers last night as I saw a few actually listed as inventory. Of the 5 dealers listed 2 were still on the truck and were expected to be sold when the arrived, the other three were a Hybrid XLT and two FWD non Hybrid XLT’s. The dealer with the Hybrid said it was a canceled order and wanted $2500 markup over sticker. The other two are odd balls because no AWD, dealer said there were stock and were available at MSRP, but they already had an offer on one.

  • avatar
    ninjacommuter

    I recently scored the Honda Trail 125. Hauls all kinds of stuff, but not plywood. Gets around 120 mpg. Cost around $4200 drive out. It’s been great for the first 4600 miles. Like everything, it checks some of the boxes, but not all. I like the article’s motorcycle inclusion since they can be very positive for the fleet mix.

    • 0 avatar

      Honda is getting really aggressive on the small motorcycle game. I see Groms etc all over the place lately. If companies like Harley really want younger riders they should come up with a bike in the 5-8k range, that has something cool about it. Honda has nailed the new ore returning riders with the Trail, Monkey, Grom and Navi.

  • avatar
    ttacgreg

    If you do that good hyper miling a standard Corolla, I would love to see what kind of numbers you could generate hyper miling in the hybrid version.

  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    I always figured we would turn into Cuba, automotively speaking. Perhaps I was wrong and we will become India.

    TTAC 2024: Best Small Motorcycles for Carrying Five Family Members

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    As posted previously I truly lust after a Maverick. And a ‘lower end’ model. Meaning FWD and the hybrid engine/power train. The only options required (per my ‘boss’) are heated seats and blind spot monitor. As we know Ford has stopped taking orders for the hybrid. And if I could order one, to get one with those options with delivery and tax, works out to a few dollars short of $40k CDN.

    So not exactly in your designated price range.

    Being Costanza level frugal, that leaves me looking at the Corolla Cross. Which as a CVT with some reported issues.

    Otherwise my options fall into the Soul, Seltos, Kona, HRV market. Yes, higher road clearance and ease of exit/entry are other requirements so no sedans/coupes.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      Are power windows and cruise control optional on the lowest trim Mavericks in Canada? I was shocked to learn that the base US Maverick doesn’t have those things.

      I guess that’s how you cut costs.

      • 0 avatar
        Lou_BC

        @SCE to AUX – a look at Ford Canada’s website shows that power door locks and power windows are standard across all trims. Cruise control is not available in the XL.

  • avatar
    SoCalMikester

    doin just fine with my scion xA, zuma125 and TMax500. gas could be $5/gal or more and it wouldnt faze me. thats 27mpg, 90ish mpg, and 45ish. the last 2? insured for $100/yr

  • avatar
    deanst

    He odds of the ford being cheap to own are slim to none. When was the last time we had a ford not having issues in its first year?

    • 0 avatar
      ToolGuy

      First year would be covered under warranty? (Unless you drive 3,001 miles per month)

      https://www.ford.com/support/how-tos/warranty/warranties-and-coverage/what-is-the-ford-new-vehicle-limited-warranty/

      [“Hybrid/Electric Unique Components” coverage runs even longer than diesel engine coverage. Hmmmm.]

  • avatar
    BeauCharles

    Any current base model compact sedan fits the bill as “best”. They are all vastly better that similar vehicles from 10+ years ago. SUVs, CUVs and trucks are expensive, wasteful and for the majority of situations, unnecessary. Americans seemed to have been brainwashed they need to “sit up high” though. I’ll take a 40 MPG on the highway $21,000 Jetta, thanks.

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