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8 New Safe and Affordable Vehicles

These economical cars for grownups cost less than average, perform well in crash tests

spinner image A couple looking to buy a car speaks with a salesman

Are any new cars affordable nowadays?

Yes, if you define affordable as vehicles priced below the current average selling price of about $37,000.

We searched for new models with above-average safety scores, a nice array of features and solid comfort, all for less-than-average prices.

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Our picks get the top five-star crash safety rating on most or all the crash tests from the government's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and the top “good” rating on most or all tests from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, a trade organization. Plus they score well in most categories that the widely read Consumer Reports has tested and typically earn the publication's “recommended” mark.

What's more, they're cheaper than average to insure, according to an analysis for AARP by Penny Gusner, consumer analyst at The U.S. average for our eight picks is $1,479, ranging from $1,306 to $1,685, versus the national average for all vehicles of $1,812.

Gusner cautions that individual policies vary based on the amount of coverage you select and things such as age, gender, driving record and even your credit score.

Our choices also are based on our own test drives, those of others and interviews with industry experts. We use the manufacturer's suggested retail price, commonly thought of as the sticker price and include destination charge, as our price guide.

Because discounts are common, you might be able to get a fancier version of a vehicle we recommend and keep it under the industrywide average price.

Sizes range from small to big and types from sports cars to SUVs. Hybrid versions of many models, including some of our picks, score as well as or better than models that come only in gas-electric hybrid.

We're also happy to toss in some cars you probably would overlook.

These were the newest available models in early July 2019.

spinner image 2020 Kia Soul GT-Line

Kia Soul

Kia's Soul is redesigned and slightly enlarged for the 2020 model year. A mongrel blend of sport utility vehicle without all-wheel drive, hatchback sedan and wagon, it's an occupant-friendly, city-friendly four door.

It sits high enough that it's easier to get into and out of than a regular sedan. Its electric version comes in under our price cap.

And the top-priced gasoline Soul, the GT with a turbocharged engine, runs about $28,000, definitely less than the $37,000 new-vehicle average.

Get the turbo, says Mark Takahashi, senior reviews editor at auto researcher Edmunds.

"The base engine is pretty weak sauce, noticeable even to people not that interested in performance,” he says.

"Kia Soul is a good one,” agrees Executive Editor Brian Moody of Autotrader, an industry publication and new- and used-car research site.

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Toyota Avalon

spinner image 2019 Toyota Avalon XLE

Avalon is the champ among nonluxury large cars, Consumer Reports says. The redesigned 2019 model provides a rich array of safety features, including automatic braking, in a Toyota Safety Sense suite that's standard even on the base version.

One problem not unique to Avalon: You must buy one of the higher trim levels — priced beyond our $37,000 cap — to get top-rated headlights.

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Chevrolet Impala

spinner image 2019 Chevrolet Impala LTZ

Chevrolet's Impala might not pop into your mind, but Consumer Reports considers it No. 2 to Avalon.

Kelley Blue Book applauds the big, comfortable sedan for its "good design, great comfort and trunk space that actually tops many SUVs."

But it's being discontinued in January 2020, Chevy says.

"They built a good car that nobody wanted,” Takahashi says.

If you go for it, think of it as a long-term buy. If you swap for a new model in three years, you'll probably find the Impala's value is lower than it would be if it still were in production.

Also, the Impala and Avalon both are conventional sedans, so you sit lower than in an SUV or truck. Be sure you can get in and out easily and comfortably see the road ahead and behind you.

spinner image 2020 Subaru Outback

Subaru Outback

Subaru Outback, one of few station wagons sold in the U.S., is worth a hard look. Consumer Reports recommends it, saying Outback has a “long-running reputation as a smart alternative to an SUV.” The 2020 model is a redesign that the magazine says “gains elegance in its exterior design while adding comfort and convenience features."

All-wheel-drive is standard, true for all Subarus except the BRZ sports car, as is the brand's EyeSight suite of safety features.

spinner image 2019 Volkswagen Jetta

Volkswagen Jetta

The Jetta is a pleasant surprise. The redesigned 2019 that we drove earlier this year was remarkably well equipped — if any feature was missing, we didn't notice — for about $29,000.

Classified a compact sedan, it's not a small car inside.

"It's big, seems like a (VW mid-size) Passat from a few years ago,” Edmunds’ Takahaskhi says. “The ride comfort is on par with luxury cars, there's good storage for personal effects and the premium Beats audio system is good.”

Consumer Reports praises, among other things, its fuel economy, “54 mpg on the highway in our tests — truly outstanding for a nonhybrid or nondiesel sedan of this size.” An overall mix of driving yielded 34 mpg.

We found the ride a bit choppy on some pavement and, agreeing with CR, its handling less agile than previous VWs.

spinner image 2019 Honda Accord Touring 2.0T

Honda Accord

Honda Accord “blew us away,” Takahashi says.

The redesigned mid-size four-door sedan is excellent “in comfort, styling, performance,” he says. “In its top trim (Touring), it starts knocking on the luxury group” — for about $36,000.

spinner image 2019 Mazda MX-5 Miata

Mazda MX-5 Miata

The small, two-seat roadster won't suit if you're tall or have trouble dropping way down into the seats and clambering back out.

But if you do fit, oh, boy!

"Loads of fun, a throwback to the old roadster days,” Takahashi says. “It feels really good — as close to a motorcycle on four wheels as you can get."

You can skip the folding-top roadster in favor of the hardtop version, Grand Touring. That's a nearly everything model for about $36,000.

But a caution: No crash-test ratings yet.

spinner image 2019 Honda CR-V

Honda CR-V

The 2019 CR-V, one of the five top-selling vehicles in the U.S., is alluring for those who want an SUV. The all-wheel-drive top-end Touring model is less than $36,000.

Consumer Reports notes that the CR-V is “small enough to navigate through tight parking lots, yet roomy enough inside to comfortably fit five adults."

Its drawback: You're stuck with Honda's too-tricky electronic and screen controls.

"Performing common tasks requires multiple, often distracting, steps,” the nonprofit magazine says as a complaint.

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close up of a gold car parked near the water during sunset

AARP Auto Buying Program Powered by TrueCar

Shop for a car with safety features you want. Buyers can get a free AARP Smart Driver course.

close up of a gold car parked near the water during sunset

Please Select Make

Please Enter ZIP Code

Please Select Make

Please Enter ZIP Code