Americans spend a startling amount on new cars. The average sticker price for a new vehicle has been hovering a hair above $40,000 in recent years, around the cost of an entry-level Mercedes-Benz or BMW. Those pickup trucks and SUVs we love? Yeah, they can get pricey.
We can leave the debate about whether those are smart outlays of capital to economists, but we will note that you don't need to spend nearly that much to buy a great, fun-to-drive car. Many of our favorite sports cars, purpose-built off-roaders and other entertaining rides can be hard for much less than $40,000.
Here are eight fun cars that cost less than the average new car.
The Mazda MX-5 Miata comes standard with RWD, a 6-speed-manual, a lightweight body and impeccable chassis tuning. It may be the best affordable sports car you can buy. We would keep it basic, but you could tack on the RF retractable roof and the BBS Brembo Recaro package to the sporty Club trim and still slide in under $40,000.
Starting Price: $26,830
The Jeep Wrangler may be the best off-roader out there (we still haven't driven the Bronco yet). A $40,000 ceiling won't get you into the excellent hybrid 4xe or the audacious Wrangler 392, but you can still get a four-door, decently appointed Willys Sport trim — and have enough left over to throw in a removable hardtop.
Starting Price: $28,900
Kelley Blue Book has revealed the best cars to buy awards for 2021. The results may surprise you.
Other trucks are superior in many ways, but it's hard to find anything as fun as a Taco when you leave the pavement. The starting price is misleading, as a sensible person would go for the double cab and 4x4. But you can still completely level up a 2021 Trail edition for less than $40,000.
Starting Price: $26,400
The Veloster N has a quirky three-door body, and it doesn't offer the smoothest ride. But with nearly 300 hp and two great transmission options, it is an absolute riot to drive. Hyundai made buying a Veloster N easy: choose one of four colors; decide manual or automatic; and boom, you're out of there for less than $35,000.
Starting Price: $32,250
We haven't driven it yet, but we have ridden in the 2021 Bronco and, thus, can confirm it is fun. Getting it under $40,000 is harder than you would think — if you add a hardtop and four doors to the base trim you're already above $36,000 — but it is doable. Be prepared to wait patiently.
Starting Price: $28,500
Got a crossover parked in your driveway? Then yeah, you're the problem.