Upgrade to Apple Watch Series 8? National Coffee Day Fitbit Sense 2 'Hocus Pocus 2' Review Kindle Scribe Amazon Halo Rise Tesla AI Day Best Vitamins for Flu Season

As car prices continue to climb, it is still possible to find makes and models cheaper than the $39,000 average new-car transaction price. The good news is that even though they are less expensive, they are no less compelling than the more expensive makes and models. 

So, we had our editors pick the best cars available today that have an MSRP under $30,000. There's something for just about everybody, including those searching for their next family sedanmidsize pickup truck, or even a sports car. There are plenty of great $30K options available.

(Note: While all of the vehicles listed here have base MSRPs around $30,000, many of them offer fully loaded trim levels that can exceed this price cap. You can also read our list of the best cars under $40,000 in 2020.)

Subaru

There are many, many great cars available in this price category, as you're about to see. For me, though, I need all-weather performance plus enough room for a couple of big dogs -- criteria that sadly rules out the now sedan-only WRX. I also need something that can tow a small trailer, carry a few kayaks on a roof rack and with enough active safety systems to make my life easier when cruising down the highway to the airport at 4 a.m. The best choice for me in this budget? It's the Subaru Forester.

It's not the sportiest car ever, but in Sport trim it at least looks the part. 182 horsepower from the 2.5-liter flat-four engine is just enough oomph to keep things interesting, while the CVT is... well, it's unobtrusive, at least. Pricing on the Forester begins at $27,070. That's very good value.

-- Tim Stevens

Read our most recent Subaru Forester review.

Andrew Krok/CNET Cars

With consumers rushing to buy everything shaped like an SUV, people seem to have forgotten about what a wonderful and competent car the Honda Accord is. That's a small crime in my book, especially as this 10th-generation model (new for 2018) is such a sweetheart. It bundles typically Honda-thoughtful design and engaging drive dynamics with a newfound dollop of refinement and quietness.

Priced from $27,615 with delivery charges, even the base LX model with the 1.5-liter turbo engine and CVT is a winner, but if you've got some more coin to spend, the $30,075 Sport 1.5L Turbo is an entertaining-yet-capacious offering. The top-flight Touring model costs $39,545 before options, but it looks and feels like something wearing an Acura badge. 

There's loads of tech available in the Accord, including a head-up display, wireless charging, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and a laundry list of advanced driver aids. There's even a pretty darn good Hybrid model. I only wish the Accord offered optional all-wheel drive, which could help woo more customers away from crossovers and into this sleek sedan.

-- Chris Paukert

Read our most recent Honda Accord review.

Ford

Ford brought back the Ranger midsize pickup for 2019, and it's one of our favorite trucks in the class. For most people, a pickup this size offers plenty of capability, and its less-imposing dimensions than something like a Ford F-150 make it easier to drive and live with on the daily.

The Ranger is powered by a 2.3-liter, turbocharged I4 engine, with a healthy 270 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque. A 10-speed automatic transmission handles shifting duties, and a choice of two- or four-wheel drive is available. When it comes time to do truck stuff, the Ranger is one of the best choices in the segment, able to tow up to 7,500 pounds, and haul 1,860 pounds of payload in its bed.

Sure, the cabin looks a little outdated, but it's a nice place in which to spend time. The seats are comfortable, the Sync 3 infotainment tech is super-easy to use and offers a rich feature set. Overall, the Ranger just feels like a right-sized truck -- and at the right time, too.

-- Steven Ewing

Read our most recent Ford Ranger review.

Mazda

It's not hard to find an affordable compact crossover for sale. It is tougher, however, to find one that feels like it could be priced $10,000 higher than it actually is. The Mazda CX-5, by dint of its styling, interior treatment and energetic driving dynamics, performs above its price tag.

The CX-5 has the ride quality and interior quietness to match up with competing crossovers. It's fuel efficient, easy to drive and plenty spacious for families and their belongings. Mazda also offers all the safety tech you could want, as well as an infotainment system capable of Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity.

Most of all, the Mazda CX-5 feels special, whether you opt for the base Sport trim level (from $27,475 with destination) to the $40,225 Signature model, which packs a gutsy turbo engine. In a class of crossovers you buy out of necessity, the CX-5 is the one entry you buy out of desire.

-- Jake Holmes

Read our most recent Mazda CX-5 review.

Craig Cole/CNET Cars

I'm a sucker for performance bargains and the Hyundai Veloster N is certainly one, considering its $33,595 base price gets you a punchy turbocharged engine, adaptive dampers, big brakes and rad looks.

The N's 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder brings 275 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque to the party. That bolts up to a slick-shifting six-speed manual transmission with automatic rev-matching. The variable suspension offers three settings including Normal for compliant street driving and Sport Plus when you feel like attacking corners.

-- Jon Wong

Read our most recent Hyundai Veloster N review.

Jeep

If you want to get out to the wilds of nature, nothing gets you there like a Jeep. The Wrangler was totally redesigned for 2018 and remains one of the best off-roading SUV you can buy.

Sure, in order to get a Wrangler for $30,000 some concessions to comfort must be made, but you still get the steady 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 engine good for 285 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. Also included are a two-speed transfer case and a six-speed manual transmission. Plus, you can take off the top and the doors for open-air road trips.

A base Wrangler is a great choice for those who might only occasionally need four-wheel drive. If you're looking to customize your Wrangler, the base model is a great place to start, too. Why buy a Rubicon if you're just going to load it up with aftermarket axles and differential lockers? A two-door Sport starts at $29,995, plus $1,595 destination.

-- Emme Hall

Read our most recent Jeep Wrangler review.

Andrew Krok/CNET Cars

The 2022 Mazda3 elevates the game, not just for the compact sedan/hatchback segment, but also for the industry as a whole. The front-wheel drive version is fantastic, from the way it drives, to the way it looks inside and out. The addition of all-wheel drive, however, adds some sweet icing to an already-delicious cake.

Power comes from a 2.5-liter four cylinder engine producing 186 horsepower and 186 pound-feet of torque sent through a six-speed automatic transmission and on to all four wheels. While not a performance car, that's plenty of power for playing through the twisties, while the terrific AWD reads the driver's inputs and readily apportions power across all four corners.

The little all-weather Mazda is pretty efficient, too. The sedan returns an EPA-estimated 25 mpg in the city and 33 mpg highway. The hatchback returns slightly lower figures, rated at 24/32 city/highway mpg. The all-wheel drive sedan starts at $27,515 (plus $1,015 for destination), while a loaded AWD hatch starts at $28,515. That puts the Mazda3 on the more expensive side of its competition, but with how well it punches above its weight, the extra money spent is well worth it.

-- Manuel Carrillo III

Read our most recent Mazda3 review.

Volkswagen

The Jetta is better than it's been in years thanks to a recent platform switch that gives it access to much of VW's latest and greatest tech. It's not the last word in excitement in its base trim levels but when you make the jump up to the GLI, that all changes.

The fully loaded Jetta GLI Autobahn trim offers VW's Digital Cockpit, which is a bit of tech unheard of at the $30,000 level. Digital Cockpit isn't quite as slick as the Virtual Cockpit found in Audi's cars, but it's still so much better than what everybody else has to offer at this price point. The rest of the stuff we liked about the standard Jetta still holds true for the GLI, like the premium-feeling materials and the solid build quality.

The Jetta GLI is a riot on a back road, a willing track day participant and a faithful freeway cruising companion. It's a car for any and all situations and you'd be hard-pressed to find something that offers so much for so little while asking for so few compromises.

-- Kyle Hyatt

Read our most recent Volkswagen Jetta GLI review.

Andrew Krok/CNET Cars

Many of the vehicles on this list are bastions of sensibility, but there's still a number of us who want something fun that doesn't break the bank.

With 181 horsepower and 151 pound-feet of torque on tap from its 2.0-liter I4, the 2022 MX-5 Miata is more powerful than it used to be, and that little bump makes it much more palatable for daily driving and highway overtakes.

In addition to its newfound power, it remains one of the most accessibly fun vehicles on sale today. It has the right amount of body roll, making every turn just a little more fun than it should be.

-- Andrew Krok

Read our most recent Mazda MX-5 Miata review.

First published earlier and updated periodically.

More car buying advice