HomeCar ReviewsBest Cars Under $40K: Top-Tier Budget-Friendly Wheels 

Best Cars Under $40K: Top-Tier Budget-Friendly Wheels 

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Every buyer is in the market for a car with reliability, the latest tech features, and remarkable performance. You will have to part with a lot of money to get a new car in this category. We are always happy to help you get the best deals in the automobile market. For buyers with a $40k budget, we have carefully curated the best cars under $40k, ranging from sedans to crossovers.

The Best Cars Under $40,000 For Budget Buyers

If you are looking for stylish, reliable, and feature-packed vehicles for a budget-friendly sticker price, you are in the right place. In this post, we’ve carefully curated a list of the best cars under $40k for every customer segment. 

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1. Toyota Prius – XLE FWD

Toyota Prius

The latest generation of Toyota Prius maintains reputable fuel efficiency and features a more attractive build. The five-seater interior offers ample space for front-seaters. However, like most hatchbacks, it lacks a rear seat and cargo space. The 2024 model is offered in three trims. Most fans prefer the XLE FWD trims, which generate power from a hybrid powertrain. This system comprises a 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder gas engine paired with an electric motor. 

This Prius delivers with an EPA-estimated gas mileage of 52 MPG combined. The recent sleek exterior design looks more sporty, but the car has not improved in terms of engine performance. However, this newer model offers enhanced body rigidity and handling, making it more responsive. The interior is calm, and the cabin is an average tech-packed one. Also, the car boasts lots of new safety tech. 

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Finally, the automatic CVT transmission system powers the front-wheel drive system. The 2024 Toyota Prius XLE FWD is a top-class fuel-efficient crossover with a $32,490 price tag.

2. Ford Mustang – Ecoboost Premium

Ford Mustang - Ecoboost Premium

The Ford Mustang needs no introduction, as the line has delivered generations of stylish, sporty, and affordable vehicles. The 2024 model strikes a balance between performance and looks. This car offers the most engaging driving dynamics for cars with affordable price tags. 

We, too, prefer the trim with the best reviews, the EcoBoost Premium Fastback. This trim features a turbocharged 2.3-liter inline four-cylinder engine as well as the new Modular Power Cylinder (MPC). The engine produces up to 315 horsepower and 350 pound-feet of torque. The car is configured with a ten-speed automatic transmission and Rear-Wheel Drive layout. It delivers a gas mileage of 21 MPG in the city and 32 MPG on the highway (as the EPA estimates).

The new build is more muscular for better aerodynamics. Some new features, like the subtle tri-bar LED headlights and a shorter rear overhang, were introduced in the 2024 model. Moreover, the most attractive new features are the highly styled rear end and the new interpretation of the Mustang tri-bar tail lights.

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If you want more power, you can opt for the V8-powered GT models or the new 500-horsepower Dark Horse V8 variant. However, their price range may exceed your $40,000 budget. Meanwhile, the 2024 Ford Mustang Ecoboost Premium Sportback comes with a sticker price of $38,040. 

3. Honda Accord – EX

Honda Accord - EX

The 2024 Honda Accord earned its place among the best cars under $40k due to its reliability. This midsize four-door is one of the best sedan cars to buy. It offers exceptional all-round durability with a roomy interior. The car is offered in many trims, but we favor the EX trim, which runs a turbocharged 1.5-liter inline four-cylinder engine. The EX trim engine is mounted on an automatic CVT to power the FWD system. This setup has an EPA-estimated gas mileage of 29 MPG in the city and 37 MPG on the highway. 

The latest generation of Accords has enjoyed a total exterior redesign to adopt the sleek new styling. You also get to benefit from the sophisticated interior packed with the latest tech features. The large infotainment display with built-in Android Auto and phone connectivity is a great point of attraction. 

The Accord lineup is famous for offering large interior and cargo spaces, as well as competitive safety ratings. It cannot be qualified as a sports sedan but offers a sporty ride with precise and agile handling. The 2024 model Honda Accord EX ranges between $31,005 and $35,000, depending on which optional features you want. 

4. Hyundai Ioniq 6 – SE Long Range

2024 Hyundai Ioniq 6 - SE Long Range

The 2024 Hyundai Ioniq 6 is a five-seater electric sedan. Its striking look, decent power, and remarkable range solidify its place among the best cars under $40K. The SUV costs far less than others in its segment and is offered in four trim levels. For this post, we are focused on the SE Long Range. This car is among the top-performing EVs, with an EPA-estimated driving range of 361 miles.

Our preferred trim sports an RWD layout that receives power from the Long Range battery pack, producing up to 225 horsepower. This trim is also energy efficient with an EPA-estimated combined rating of 140 MPGe. The interior sports a quietened cabin offering tangible leg- and head-room for its five occupants. 

Drivers who enjoy a more sporty ride will prefer the AWD trim. However, this trim delivers 91 miles less driving range. The pricing for a new 2024 Ioniq 6 ranges between $38,650 and $51,300. You can get both RWD SE trims for less than $40,000 if you are willing to forego some optional features. Moreover, key safety features like emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane departure warning, and more are standard in all trims. 

5. Toyota GR Corolla – Core

Toyota GR Corolla - Core

The Toyota GR Corolla is a new compact crossover based on the Corolla. It is agile, and quick, delivering a sporty performance that will satisfy hard-core driving enthusiasts. The 2024 models are offered in three trims, and we favor the Core above others. This trim runs on a turbocharged 1.6-liter three-cylinder engine. The engine delivers an impressive 300 horsepower to the all-wheel drive system via a six-speed manual transmission. 

Like the parent Corolla lineup, this vehicle is reputed for delivering with an excellent fuel economy. It is estimated by the EPA to deliver a gas mileage of 21 MPG in the city and 28 MPG on the highway. 

For the interior, you get a five-seater cabin packed with cool features that exceed expectations for a car within this price range. You can enjoy many exciting tech features, such as wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. GR stands for Gazoo Racing, Toyota’s in-house race team. A racetrack-tuned suspension, upgraded brakes, and sticky performance tires facilitate the sporty performance. Also, if you are a fan of cars that rev, this one is for you.

The 2024 GR Corolla ranges between $37,595 and $46,235. Moreover, the Core trim costs about $37,595, and its performance still ranks as one of the highest in its segment. 

6. Hyundai Elantra – Hybrid Limited DCT

Hyundai Elantra - Hybrid Limited DCT

The 2024 Elantra is the second car from the Korean automaker to feature in this list. It is a compact sedan that offers a comfortable and roomy interior. In addition to its mundane price tag, buyers also benefit from many safety features and an attractive warranty package. Among its many killer-performance trims, the Hybrid Limited DCT is our preferred choice for this list. 

The car runs on a hybrid powertrain comprising a 1.6-liter inline four-cylinder gasoline engine and an electric motor. This setup produces up to 139 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque. It sends power via the Dual-Clutch Transmission to the FWD system. As estimated by the EPA, this powerful hybrid system delivers a gas mileage of 53 MPG in the city and 56 MPG on the highway.

The 2024 models feature a more muscular exterior and sleek interior. Some upgraded features include the infotainment system, adaptive cruise control, and more. You can get a new Hybrid Limited trim for about $30,500, which makes it one of the best cars under $40k.  

7. Audi A3 – Premium 

Audi A3 - Premium 

The Audi A3 is a compact sedan that delivers a sporty driving experience. For the interior, you get to enjoy high-end materials in a roomy cabin. However, the A3 offers little cargo space. The 2024 Audi A3 Premium features a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder engine. This engine is paired with a 48-volt hybrid system and a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. 

You get to choose between an FWD layout and the Quattro AWD, which is more expensive. For fuel efficiency, EPA estimates that the car will deliver a gas mileage of 29 MPG in the city and 38 MPG on the highway. For the Premium trim, you will enjoy impressive features, including adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist, memory seat and mirror settings for the driver, a wireless smartphone charging pad, and passive keyless entry. 

The latest styling revision of the A3 imparts a sportier and contemporary feel to the car, while still staying true to Audi’s established design philosophy. The interior of the A3 boasts a large digital instrument cluster and infotainment system that maintains its status as a luxury car. The front seats offer ample support and comfort, with moderate bolstering to ensure a pleasant experience even on winding roads.

Coming with an updated exterior styling, the 2024 Audi A3 Premium starts at about $36,895. The price can go higher depending on the optional features you opt for.

8. BMW 2-Series Gran Coupe – 228i

BMW 2-Series Gran Coupe - 228i

The 2024 2 Series is among the best cars under $40k due to its top-class performance. This four-door is as sporty as other BMW sedans. It offers the same comfortable four-seater interior across four trims. We’re more interested in the 230i Coupe for this article. The 228i runs on a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder engine. This engine produces up to 228 horsepower to charge the eight-speed automatic transmission. 

You get to enjoy BMW’s top-class driving dynamics via the RWD layout. There is also a more practical AWD option. The EPA estimated that this setup delivers 23 MPG in the city and 33 on the highway. Recent generations of the 2-Series look bigger than their predecessors. The interior has become more spacious in recent models. 

For the interior, you get a refined cabin comparable to more expensive BMW models. The dashboards sport an intuitive infotainment screen with an easy-to-use interface. Lastly, this car has lots of safety tech to benefit from. With a budget of $39,795, you can get a new 2024 BMW 2-Series 228i.

9. Subaru WRX

Subaru WRX

The WRX is for you if you’re a driver seeking a budget-friendly, practical ride. This car perfectly balances practicality and comfort. The 2024 models offer a five-seater interior across five trims. Our favored trim, the Premium Manual, runs on a turbocharged 2.4-liter flat four-cylinder engine that produces up to 271 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. 

The AWD layout comes standard. Moreover, you get to choose between a six-speed manual and a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). Regarding gas mileage, EPA estimated the WRX to deliver at 19 MPG in the city and 26 MPG on the highway.

The responsive sport-tuned suspension also enhances the driving experience. This car may not be as powerful on paper, but it accelerates from zero to 60 mph in about 5.1 seconds. Furthermore, the car is not a rated off-roader, but you can take advantage of its quick steering, strong brakes, and impressive road holding to hustle past difficult routes. Its well-finished cabin, spacious rear seats, and cargo space qualify it as a good road trip vehicle. 

For long drives, you can opt for the Recaro sport front seats shaped for comfort. You also get to enjoy the practical 11.6-inch infotainment display, among other cool features. The 2024 Subaru WRX Premium starts at about $35,755. This price tag qualifies it among the best cars under $40K.

10. Acura Integra

Acura Integra - Most common sedans

The Acura Integra is a new lineup that has rocked the auto market with its exciting performance, and handsome build, with a versatile liftback body style. This car shares lots of mechanical properties with the Honda Civic Si. The 2024 model is a four-door offering a roomy five-seater interior across four trims. The most value-for-money package is the A-Spec Technology trim. 

The engine is a turbocharged 1.5-liter inline four-cylinder that produces up to 200 horsepower. It is mounted on an automatic CVT to power the front-wheel drive system. This drivetrain setup is efficient as it delivers a gas mileage of 29 MPG in the city and 36 MPG on the highway, as estimated by the EPA. You can also opt for a six-speed manual transmission for more control. 

Many drivers favor this trim for its enjoyable driving experience and top-level driver-assistant features. However, if you want more thrill, you can opt for the more powerful Acura Integra Type S. This aggressive trim runs on a bigger engine that produces up to 320 horsepower, and the suspension is tuned for performance. However, its sticker price is above our budget of under $40,000. 

For the A-Spec Technology, the cabin is super comfortable and offers a plethora of top-tier tech features. You also get a well-tuned suspension that facilitates the Sport Mode. The car has adaptive dampers that let drivers choose between Sport, Normal, and Comfort Mode. Additionally, all key safety features come as standard. Lastly, the 2024 Acura Integra starts at $37,695. It may cost more depending on the optional features you want. 

Let’s Wrap It Up…

$40,000 may seem like a lot of money, but today’s auto market has very few new models within that price range. So, we researched new top-tier models for which you don’t have to break the bank despite the inflation. Our top picks of best cars under $40K are top performers in various categories. Despite bearing affordable price tags, they are durable, fuel-efficient, and deliver excellent performance, among other top features. Our picks range from luxury cars to eco-friendly hybrids. We also included family SUVs and compact crossovers to ensure we satisfy all segments of demands and preferences.

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