With fuel costs rising, car buyers are placing a renewed emphasis on fuel savings and higher efficiencies.
That means a bigger market for the subcompacts that offer the best mileage and lowest ownership costs, created by low initial cost of purchase as well as lower fuel use.
Needless to say, these cars are not for everybody. The Kelley Blue Book 2012 list of the top 10 vehicles with the lowest cost of ownership includes just one compact, the Hyundai Elantra: the nine others are subcompacts.
The cars are marketed largely for young people and, with most of them, "for anyone with pets or kids, it's tough to cram in," KBB analyst Alec Gutierrez says. They are generally intended "for a young adult or any adult who is not looking for sporty or roomy."
The offset is that the cars cost little to buy, operate and maintain. "With fuel prices as big a concern as they are today, and with so much talk about fuel efficient vehicles, we wanted to make sure we captured everything that goes into owning a car for five years," Gutierrez says. "For commuters, these are all fantastic options."
KBB surveyed the five-year total cost of ownership. It considered fair purchase price, relying on recent actual transactions from around the country, and then factored in fuel and other cost components. For maintenance, it used assumptions based on the cost of recommended scheduled maintenance. For repairs, it assumed the cost of a third-party extended warranty commencing when the original factory warranty ends.
In computing the price, KBB included the value of incentives, either rebates or financing, when applicable, although these are subject to change.
Here are the top 10:
10) Scion xD
Scion xD is the 10th-lowest-cost car to operate, according to KBB, with a total ownership cost of $29,913 over five years.
The Toyota product "is similar to most Scion vehicles," Gutierrez says. "It's youth-oriented, it's fun to drive and it has excellent fuel economy."
The four-door hatchback has a manufacturer's suggested retail price of $16,075 and a fair purchase price of $15,689. It gets 27 miles per gallon in the city, 29 mpg combined and 33 mpg on the highway.