How to Find Great Value in a Cheap Car

June 9th, 2023 by

A blue 2020 Chevy Sonic RS is shown driving on a bridge.

More and more, we’re all on the lookout for cheap used cars in Cincinnati. New vehicles are getting increasingly expensive, though most of us are not getting salary increases to match inflation—not to mention the massive price hikes in particular industries. So, for many of us, a used car is more of a necessity than an option. But we can actually get a lot of great value from low-cost cars. More excellent options are available for less money than you expect, which should be far more appealing to a driver than a brand-new vehicle. Let’s examine some of the best ways to find value in a cheap car and an example of a great vehicle that can provide that degree of value.

Do Your Research

First and foremost, you need to understand the difference between a good used car and a bad cheap car. The best way to differentiate the two is to do your research before you zone in on one particular make or model. Compare prices, features, fuel efficiency, reliability, and maintenance costs across different models and brands. It’s imperative that you take control and perform your own research; this assertive approach enables you to discover a car that fits your individual preferences and needs.

While it’s easy to hunt for the absolute lowest price and look at nothing else, there are shady sources that will advertise low prices from riskier vendors. If a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is. There’s no need to put yourself in danger, physically or financially, just to nab a lower price tag. We advise turning to trusted sources—to local Cincinnati dealerships like us, as we will offer used vehicles with verifiable histories and transparent prices.

Similarly, a trusted dealership like ours offers a way to find used vehicles that are certain to do good for you. Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) vehicles offer excellent value with low prices yet the same kind of benefits as a new vehicle. CPO programs typically include a thorough inspection, extended warranty coverage, and additional perks. Check out a dealership or manufacturer you’re interested in, as they could have a CPO section where you can find all kinds of vehicles.

One of many popular cheap used cars in Cincinnati, a white 2020 Chevy Sonic LT, is shown parked on a road.

Find Something That Will Last

As much as you might be able to save from buying a used car, all that saving is useless if you have to find a replacement vehicle three months later. Consider spending a bit more on a more reliable option; this will actually save you money going forward. (Would you rather buy the cheapest knock-off tablet from China—one that barely works and kicks the bucket after a year—or would you rather spend 50% more on a verifiable brand for a tablet that will run smoothly for a decade?) Look beyond the initial purchase price and consider the total ownership costs over the car’s lifespan. This includes factors like insurance rates, depreciation, taxes, financing options, and maintenance expenses.

There are a few specific ways to find a vehicle that you know will end up saving you money. Look for something you can easily work on; whether you’re a veteran mechanic or a rookie, you could be putting some extra effort and cash into your next used vehicle. It might be something as simple as changing a tire, or it might save you hundreds to do your own maintenance. Because of this, you’ll be looking for something that has an affordable and easy-to-access inventory of spare parts. Even if you save an extra $100 on an obscure used car, it will end up costing you hundreds more just to find a simple replacement part. It might not come to mind immediately, but it’s essential to factor this into your budget.

A car’s fuel efficiency is one of its most important qualities, new or pre-owned. Low-cost cars that offer excellent fuel efficiency can result in long-term savings on fuel expenses. So much of your budget every month is going to be spent on gas, no matter what you drive; you should find a vehicle that will keep you away from the pump and on the road for as long as possible. Look for cars with good mileage ratings, particularly in city and highway driving conditions, or perhaps an efficient off-road vehicle if you often find yourself in rough terrain.

A blue 2020 Chevy Sonic RS is shown driving on a street.

Example: The 2020 Chevy Sonic

If you want to look at an example of a great used vehicle that can generate quite a good amount of value for you as a driver, take a look at the 2020 Chevrolet Sonic. It’s relatively easy to find a 2020 Chevy Sonic as a Certified Pre-Owned, which means you’ll be certain that the car you’re getting has been thoroughly serviced and has a history you won’t have to worry about. As a three-year-old model, you might be inclined to dismiss the 2020 Chevy Sonic, but there’s a lot to love in this little package.

While the body of the 2020 Sonic is relatively small, so is its price tag—it’s one of the more affordable options available for quality pre-owned vehicles. For under $20,000, you get a relatively recent vehicle with modern features inside and out. The Chevy Sonic boasts a sporty, sleek design with its aerodynamic shape and bold lines. As a sedan, its exterior is compact, stylish, and inviting.

The size of the 2020 Chevy Sonic makes it ideal for fitting in narrow spaces and maneuvering effortlessly around tight spaces. The Sonic’s responsive handling and smooth ride make it a competent companion both in the city and on highways. In addition to excellent responsiveness, the Sonic has sensible braking and well-tuned turning. New and experienced drivers alike will have a blast cruising the streets in the 2020 Sonic—and that breezy driving experience can last as long as you’d like, as you’ll keep the Sonic on the road with its admirable fuel efficiency.

As we pointed out earlier, efficiency is essential to any pre-owned car. The 2020 Sonic has an impressive EPA-estimated 26 MPG in the city and 34 MPG on the highway. Much of that efficiency comes from the Sonic’s trademark lightweight design but also its quiet superstar engine. This turbocharged 1.4L four-cylinder with 138 hp can provide that smooth driving experience we raved about earlier for quite some time, and you’ll feel like a pilot as you soar through the city streets.

The Chevrolet Takeaway

The 2020 Chevrolet Sonic is a perfect example of the kind of great value you can get from an affordable pre-owned car. What we love most about it is how it combines all of our favorite features from used models into one tiny package. At McCluskey Chevrolet, we’ve got the Sonic as a Certified Pre-Owned with an easy-to-view and reputable history; it’s sold by a trusted local dealership; it’s manufactured by Chevy—one of the most reliable names in the industry—which will make it easy to repair and maintain over the years; and it’s efficient, sleek, and offers a lot of style for such a low price.

While we love the Chevy Sonic, it’s not the only inexpensive model you can find that will provide you with more value than its newer counterparts. We hope that, through the analysis we’ve provided, you’re able to apply these research strategies to find a cheap car in Cincinnati that is a perfect fit for you in terms of handling, comfort, and value.