Used Cars with Great Gas Mileage: Top Picks for $15,000 or Less

According to data gathered by the U.S. Department of Transportation, on average, American drivers add 13,476 miles to their odometers each year. With that much driving, it’s easy for fuel costs to leave a notable dent in the pocketbook.

A vehicle’s gas mileage plays a crucial part in this equation. Mileage can vary dramatically from model to model, even among those within the same vehicle category. For this reason, Klipnik recommends taking a hard look at fuel economy if you’re considering a vehicle purchase.

With that perspective in mind, we’ve put together a list of five impressive used vehicles that offer superior fuel economy. Different buyers have varying requirements when shopping for a vehicle, so in addition to its gas mileage, we’ve included each model’s pros and cons to help you decide if it’s the best choice for your needs.

You can realize the biggest savings by purchasing an older used car, so all our picks include choices that are at least five years old. Our diverse lineup includes everything from a zippy sports car to roomy family transportation, all of them available for as little as $8000 to $11,000.

Automakers redesign their models every few years to keep them fresh, and every time this happens, the vehicle enters what’s called a new generation. To give you a range of choices, each of our recommendations includes not just a single model year, but an entire generation.

We’ve included EPA-estimated fuel economy for 2013 models. Though there may be slight variances over the years, expect fuel economy for vehicles that share a generation to be in the same general ball park.

Sports Car – 2006 to 2015 Mazda MX-5 Miata

In a Nutshell: If you view driving as a pleasure and not a chore, you’ll likely appreciate what the fun and frugal Mazda MX-5 Miata has to offer.

Gas Mileage: When equipped with a five-speed manual transmission, a 2013 MX-5 Miata achieves EPA-rated mileage of up to 22/27 mpg city/highway. With the optional six-speed automatic, mileage dips to 21/27 mpg.

Pros: The MX-5 Miata’s responsive handling and light curb weight make it a nimble and thoroughly enjoyable companion. And unlike some rival sports cars, it delivers comfortable driving dynamics during everyday commutes.

Cons: This Mazda’s small footprint is evident within its cabin, and the car’s interior may be a tight and possibly uncomfortable fit for larger drivers. Also, since it offers just 5.3 cubic feet of trunk space, the MX-5 Miata is short on utility. But hey, it’s a sports car.

Approximate Cost: $8000 – $15,000

Compact Car – 2010 to 2015 Toyota Prius

In a Nutshell: The Toyota Prius wrote the book when it comes to hybrid fuel efficiency, and it also offers comfortable handling and a roomy cabin.

Gas Mileage: According to the EPA, the standard 2013 Prius hybrid delivers mileage of 49/46 mpg city/highway.

Pros: The Prius’ handling remains agreeable even when faced with rough road surfaces. Also, its spacious cabin offers one of the roomiest rear seats in its segment, and there’s a generous amount of cargo capacity on board. With its rear seats in place, this four-door hatchback provides 21.6 cubic feet of cargo space. This expands to 39.6 cubic feet when the rear seats are lowered.

Cons: Though there’s enough power underfoot to easily handle freeway travel, the Prius is slow off the line compared to some rivals. Also, its cabin is basic both in terms of design and the materials used. Other models offer more upscale interiors.

Approximate Cost: $8000 – $15,000

Crossover SUV – 2013 to 2016 Mazda CX-5

In a Nutshell: The Mazda CX-5 offers great gas mileage, good utility and athletic performance.

Gas Mileage: With front-wheel drive and a manual transmission, the EPA rates the 2013 CX-5’s mileage at 26/34 mpg city/highway. Front-wheel-drive models with the optional six-speed automatic achieve 26/32 mpg. With all-wheel drive, mileage drips to 25/30 mpg.

Pros: The CX-5 separates itself from its rivals by offering rewarding handling, and this compact SUV has what it takes to spice up daily commutes. Mazda’s CX-5 also offers an attractive cabin and good cargo capacity. With all seats in place, there’s 34.1 cubic feet of room for your stuff. This figure swells to 65.4 cubic feet with the rear seats lowered.

Cons: Though it offers great fuel economy, the CX-5’s base engine isn’t as potent as the standard powerplants seen in some rivals.

Approximate Cost: $11,000 – $16,000

Midsize Sedan: 2013 to 2017 Ford Fusion Hybrid

In a Nutshell: Sleek and sensible, Ford’s Fusion Hybrid melds premium style with strong fuel economy.

Gas Mileage: According to the EPA, mileage for the 2013 Fusion Hybrid stands at a stellar 43/39 mpg city/highway.

Pros: The Fusion Hybrid turns heads with its striking sheet metal, and it has the upmarket look of an entry-level luxury car. It also comes with a broad range of available driver-assist features, including adaptive cruise control, a blind-spot warning system and a self-parking system.

Cons: This Ford sedan provides just 12 cubic feet of cargo space in its trunk. Other midsize sedans offer more room for your stuff.

Approximate Cost: $10,000 – $17,000

Luxury Car: 2011 to 2017 Lexus CT 200h

In a Nutshell: The Lexus CT 200h is a luxury hybrid that boasts exceptional fuel economy and stellar utility.

Gas Mileage: EPA-estimated mileage for a 2013 CT 200h stands at 43/40 mpg city/highway.

Pros: The CT 200h offers the sort of engaging handling that’s unusual for a hybrid, and this paves the way for a rewarding driving experience. Relative to other small luxury cars, this four-door hatchback offers good utility. With all seats in place, the CT 200h provides 14.3 cubic feet of cargo space.

Cons: Though there’s adequate power offered, this Lexus is one of the slower choices in its segment. Some rivals offer quicker acceleration.

Approximate Cost: $9000 – $19,000

Bottom Line

Choosing a used car with great gas mileage can save you big money in the long run — and fortunately, you don’t have to spend a fortune on a brand new car to achieve significant savings at the pump.

Nor do you have to scrimp on fun, utility, or style. Our top picks shine not only in fuel economy but in many other areas as well.

As always, if you are on the hunt for an outstanding example of one of these fuel sippers, be sure to utilize the Klipnik community to help you find the best ones out there.

Photos courtesy Ford, Lexus, Mazda, Toyota, and Wikimedia Commons

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