Car buyers are pretty predictable. When gas prices plunge, we buy big SUVs and trucks. When gas gets expensive again, we buy used fuel-efficient cars.
But if you think about it, that’s pretty short-sighted behavior. Gas prices zig-zag like Charlie Brown’s shirt, but you may own your car for 10 years or more. The best way to save money in the long run is to search for cars with the best gas mileage. And the best way to save money in the short term is to look for used cars under $10,000. Here’s the best of both worlds: Compare.com has compiled a list of smart picks for fuel-effiency, including conventional, electric and hybrid vehicles.
The Best EVs and Hybrids Under $10,000
When the Toyota Prius was first sold in the United States in 2001, it cost around $20,000. The idea of a hybrid car under $10K seemed ludicrous — but now, it’s easy to find them. Here are our picks for the best used hybrids and electric vehicles under $10,000.
2011 Toyota Prius
The Prius has always been a champion of fuel efficiency. The 2011 model gets 51 mpg city/48 mpg highway. U.S. News named the 2011 model its Best Hybrid Car for the Money, and that still holds true now that you can snag one for half the original price. Be aware, however, that the battery pack may begin to fail after 80,000 miles, requiring expensive replacement or reconditioning. It’s possible to find later models of the Prius for under $10,000, but they may have more wear and tear.
2015 Nissan Leaf S
Cars don’t get much cuter — or much greener — than the Nissan Leaf. This adorable little EV gets a MPGe (equivalent) of 126 city/101 highway. The catch? Its range is just 84 miles, so it’s more of a grocery-getter than a road-tripper. The 2015 Nissan Leaf S sold for around $30,000 when new, so it’s kind of amazing you can find these electric cars for under $10,000 now. Why are they so cheap? It’s not that the Leaf is a lemon. It’s just that virtually every buyer got a hefty tax credit for buying these new, and the used Leaf supply outweighs the demand. So go pick one off the used-car tree!