They may have stick shifts and no moon roof, but these cars get the job done without breaking the budget.
NEW YORK (MainStreet) -- Yes, you can still buy a new car for less than $15,000. No, it's not the size of your coffee table or a pockmarked misfit in your local dealer's "hail sale" section.
According to auto pricing site TrueCar, the average amount paid for a car in August was $30,274. That's 0.3% lower than what buyers paid in july, but 1.4% higher than what they were parting with a year ago. Meanwhile, average incentives dropped from $2,614 (or 8.8% of the total price of a car) to $2,457 (8.1%).
That's wonderful for the auto industry, but not so much for the poor souls shopping in a recovering market.
Despite this, there are still some deals to be found. TrueCar's Brandi Schaffels crunched the numbers and came up with five cars that can be had for less than half the national average without checking out buying used or holding a paddle at a police auction:
2012 Suzuki SX4
Average sale price: $13,156
The SX4 is one of the most affordable all-wheel drive vehicles on the market, but this isn't that SX4. No, this is a front-wheel drive with 150 horsepower, a six-speed manual transmission and extremely basic features including power windows and locks. The absolute base model doesn't even include a radio and has combined mileage of 25 mpg, the lowest on this list. The price is about as small as you'll find for even a small sedan, but considering how stripped down the rest of the vehicle is, we're surprised Suzuki even bothered to name it SX4 when "Car" would have done just fine.
2012 Ford Fiesta Sedan
Average sale price: $13,442
Don't call it an econobox. The Fiesta sedan may not be as sexy as the hatchback version, but it still has Bluetooth and digital media player compatibility through Microsoft's(:MSFT) SYNC system, tons of available apps and its 29 miles per gallon city in the city and 38 on the highway. Granted, you have to make do with a manual transmission and without available playthings such as a power moonroof, heated leather-trimmed seats and capless fuel intake, but there's a price to be paid for frugality.
2012 Chevrolet Sonic Sedan
Average sale price: $13,999
General Motors(:GM) isn't too big for a small sedan. The relatively new Sonic's comfortable ride, smooth steering and combined mileage of nearly 30 miles per gallon (including 35 on the highway) make up for the manual transmission, but drivers get a lot of toys for the money. The base LS model includes a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a 60/40-split rear seat, a trip computer, OnStar emergency system and a four-speaker AM/FM stereo with an auxiliary audio jack.
2012 Kia Forte
Average sale price: $14,442
Kia and Hyundai just don't do deals. Their cars are selling for 6% more than they were at this time last year. Their average incentives dropped 17% over that span to just about $1,100 per car, the least generous in the industry. When those companies offer a vehicle such as the Forte with standard MP3 and Sirius-XM (:SIRI) in the audio system, audio control and Bluetooth wireless in the steering wheel, a fuel-efficiency monitor, combined 29 mpg fuel efficiency and nearly 15 cubic feet of cargo room and a 10 year, 100,000-mile warranty at this price, you give it some serious thought.
2012 Nissan Sentra Sedan
Average sale price: $14,830
Among vehicles in the price range, the Sentra's practically a luxury car. Its combined 27 miles per gallon lags behind pricier Sentras' 30 mpg efficiency, but its audio system has a jack for mobile devices, its interior is packed with power everything and its safety features are among the best in its class. It also helps that it's being offered by Nissan, which gave away an average of nearly $3,000 in incentives per vehicle last month.
-- Written by Jason Notte in Boston.
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