Buying Guides

2024 Best Vehicles Under $40,000

Spend less and get more than you bargained for

Amos Kwon, Editor-In-Chief

The average price of a new car in 2024 is over $48,000. Yes, you read that correctly. Unsurprisingly, the average age of a vehicle on the road today is about 12 years. But you don't have to spend even remotely close to $50k if you have to replace your current vehicle. These days, you get way more for your money because the competition is stiff. A great car for less than $40,000 is a reality, and there are more than just a few excellent choices. Many of them rank high in safety, have excellent standard features, and they even have solid in-car technology and driver assist aids. Here are our selections for the best vehicles under $40,000 that you can buy right now.

2024 Mazda3 Sedan


for the driving enthusiast

  • PROS:One of the best-looking mainstream automobiles made today, fun to drive, available all-wheel drive for non-turbo models, beautiful interior.
  • CONS: Manual transmission no longer available.

It's shocking we don't see the Mazda3 sedan more often because it is, literally, one of the best cars for the money made today. Not only is it great to drive in either turbo or non-turbo formats, but the Mazda3 sedan is stunning to look at from every angle. But even more than its looks, the Mazda3 provides one of the best driving experiences at this price point, if not the best. The taut handling, thrilling steering, and the communicative chassis equate to serious fun behind the wheel.

Tech is quick and easy thanks to simple menus, easy graphics, and the infotainment knob between the seats that's even better than Audi's version. The seats and cabin materials are also some of the best in the business. The Mazda3 can be outfitted with a 191-hp 2.5-liter four-cylinder, or you can upgrade to a potent 250-hp turbocharged 2.5-liter on the higher Turbo trims. But regardless of what engine you choose, you'll be thrilled every time you get behind the wheel.

2024 Honda CR-V


for small families

  • PROS: Fresh styling makes Honda handsome again, laudable handling for a family crossover, well-executed interior, impressive CVT.
  • CONS: Base 2.5-liter engine can feel sluggish, infotainment could use more refinement.

The super-popular CR-V has been redesigned for the 2023 model year, and what a revelation it is. First of all, it's the best-looking CR-V since the original bowed in the 1990s. The crisp lines, the new grille and headlights, and the interior is one of the best in the industry with its honeycomb trim and minimalist styling. Even the cheapest model, the LX that's under $30 grand, comes with LED headlights, automatic climate control, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, and a ton of safety tech including Collision Mitigation Braking, a Multi-Angle Rearview Camera, Lane Keeping Assist, and Adaptive Cruise Control. The CR-V is also an IIHS Top Safety Pick+.

2024 Hyundai Tucson Hybrid

  • PROS: Radical and fresh exterior styling, roomy and comfortable for all occupants, solid efficiency.
  • CONS: Too much reliance on touch controls.

The Tucson is the brand's best-selling model, and for good reason. Its fresh styling has held up well, and the interior looks like it belongs in a vehicle that's more expensive than the $32,575 base MSRP for the hybrid model. This compact SUV has earned rave reviews for its smooth ride, comfortable interior, and easy technology. The Hybrid version thankfully gets a turbocharged hybrid powertrain for an impressive EPA-estimated 38 mpg in combined driving and 226 horsepower. It comes standard with all-wheel drive, Blind-Spot Collision-Avoidance Assist, Adaptive Cruise Control with Stopo & Go, and Hyundai's convenient digital key. It's also a Top Safety Pick for 2023.

2024 Subaru Crosstrek

  • PROS: New Wilderness trim is ready for more off-roading, great front seats, impressive ride quality.
  • CONS: Noticeably cheap interior bits, sluggish engines, looks overstyled in some trims, no more manual transmission.

The Crosstrek is a bargain for what you get. You also might not notice the full redesign for this year. Regardless, buyers get standard Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive, a huge infotainment screen, and excellent safety scores make for an attractive compact hatchback SUV that's ready for more action than most owners will ever throw at it. The new Wilderness trim follows in the footsteps of the Forester and Outback Wilderness editions, and they're not just aesthetic changes. The Crosstrek Wilderness version gets 9.3 inches of ground clearance (compared to the regular 8.7 inches) a front skidplate, improved approach/breakover/departure angles, and a Dual-Function X-MODE driving mode.

2023 Ford Maverick


for active endeavors

  • PROS: Excellent hybrid option, handsomely styled inside and out, good driving manners, real daily utility, responsive and easy infotainment.
  • CONS: Short 54" bed length, firm ride might not suit some, back seat tight for tall adults.

There's a lot to love about the Maverick in both gas and hybrid trims. It's one of two small pickup trucks on the market, and the Hyundai Santa Cruz has no hybrid option. The Maverick Hybrid XLT ($23,885 base MSRP) is smartly designed with practical storage spaces, a responsive infotainment system, excellent gas mileage, and good driving dynamics. When properly equipped, the Maverick pulls a substantial 4,000 pounds and can carry up to 1,500 pounds of payload in its short (and only) bed. Standard features include ambient interior lighting, power front seats, faux-leather seats, a heated steering wheel, heated seats, and dual-zone automatic climate control. It's a tremendous value and a very pleasing compact pickup truck.

What can you get for $40,000?

  • Excellent reliability depending on the brand.
  • Top safety marks depending on the brand.
  • Standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
  • Leather seats depending on trim level.