Cheapest cars by class

There’s more to the cost of a car than the purchase price. We examine the 5-year overall costs of the cheapest popular car in each class to see which is the most cost-effective.*

With the huge range of passenger vehicles available today, it can be hard to find the one that’s right for you while also fitting your budget. If you're looking to use a loan to buy a new car, you should always be aware of the true cost of ownership, which goes far beyond the price you pay at the dealer. From fuel costs to maintenance, registration and insurance, there are many costs associated with owning a car beyond the initial purchase price.

In this guide, we take a look at the cheapest popular vehicle in each car class according to RACQ’s latest guide to see how each class measures up. Each vehicle is assumed to have been purchased using a car loan to cover the on-road cost of the car and loan repayments are factored into the weekly and 5-year running costs.

*All figures are taken from RACQ’s "Private vehicle expenses 2018". Costs are calculated based on privately owned vehicles in Queensland at an average distance travelled of 15,000km per year, over five years. The on-road price of each vehicle is assumed to have been financed on a secured, 5-year RACQ loan at a rate of 6.17%p.a. Total costs also include depreciation, registration, insurance, licence, RACQ membership and other related costs and will vary depending on where you are in Australia.

Car classes defined

The car classes featured in this guide follow the definitions of the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries segmentation criteria, which measures the footprint of the vehicle, defined as length x width. Sports utility vehicles (SUVs) are defined as a two- or four-door wagon with elevated ride height.

Class Size classification Types Examples
Micro <6,300mm Hatch, sedan, wagon Mitsubishi Mirage ES 1.2L, Fiat 500 Pop, Kia Picanto S 1.2L
Light 6,301-7,500mm Hatch, sedan, wagon Suzuki Swift GL 1.2L, Toyota Yaris Ascent 1.3L, Holden Barina LS 1.6L
Small 7,501-8,300mm Hatch, sedan, wagon Kia Cerrato S 2.0L, Toyota Corolla Ascent 1.8L, Mazda3 Neo Sport 2.0L
Medium 8,301-9,000mm Hatch, sedan, wagon Skoda Octavia 110 TSI Sport 1.4L, Hyundai i40 Active 1.7L, Toyota Camry Ascent Sport 2.5L
Large 9,001-9,500mm Hatch, sedan, wagon Holden Commodore RS 3.6L V6, Toyota Camry SL 3.5L V6, Kia Stinger 200S 2.0L Turbo
People mover Seats more than 5 people Wagon Honda Odyssey VTI 2.4L, Kia Carnival S 3.3L V6, Toyota Tarago GLI 2.4L
Sports car None Car, coupe, convertible, roadster Mazda MX-5 Roadster ND 1.5L, Ford Mustang Fastback GT 5.0L V8, Subaru WRX (AWD) 2.0L
Small SUV <8,100mm SUV only Suzuki Vitara RT-S 1.5L, Mazda CX-3 Maxx, Holden Trax LS 1.4L
Medium SUV 8,100-8,800mm SUV only Haval H6 Premium 2.0L, Nissan X-Trail TS Ser. 2 2.0L, Toyota RAV4 GX 2.5L
Large SUV 8,801-9,800mm SUV only Subaru Outback 2.0D 2.0L, Holden Capitva 7 LT 3.0L V6, Kia Sorrento Si 2.2L
Electric None Any Mitsubishi Outlander LS Phev (Hybrid) 2.0L, Tesla Model S 75, BMW i3 94Ah

Micro

Mitsubishi Mirage ES 1.2L

List price: $12,250

Estimated on road price: $15,706

Average weekly running cost: $112.14

5-year running cost: $29,157.24


Light

Suzuki Swift GL 1.2L

List price: $17,990

Estimated on road price: $17,990

Average weekly running cost: $115.30

5-year running cost: $29,977.45


Small

Kia Cerrato S 2.0L

List price: $19,990

Estimated on road price: $22,290

Average weekly running cost: $128.55

5-year running cost: $33,423.81


Medium

Skoda Octavia 110 TSI Sport 1.4L

List price: $29,990

Estimated on road price: $33,647

Average weekly running cost: $188.43

5-year running cost: $48,992.84


Large

Holden Commodore RS 2.0L

List price: $37,290

Estimated on road price: $40,286

Average weekly running cost: $223.91

5-year running cost: $58,215.99


People Mover

Honda Odyssey VTi 2.4L

List price: $37,990

Estimated on road price: $41,490

Average weekly running cost: $218.75

5-year running cost: $56,874.12


Sports Car

Mazda MX-5 Roadster ND 1.5L

List price: $33,990

Estimated on road price: $37,667

Average weekly running cost: $194.96

5-year running cost: $50,690.20


Small SUV

Suzuki Vitara RT-S 1.5L

List price: $23,990

Estimated on road price: $24,990

Average weekly running cost: $149.68

5-year running cost: $38,918.04


Medium SUV

Haval H6 Premium 2.0L

List price: $29,990

Estimated on road price: $29,990

Average weekly running cost: $190.50

5-year running cost: $49,529.57


Large SUV

Subaru Outback 2.0D 2.0L

List price: $38,740

Estimated on road price: $41,660

Average weekly running cost: $209.04

5-year running cost: $54,349.98


Electric

Mitsubishi Outlander LS PHEV (Hybrid) 2.0L

List price: $50,490

Estimated on road price: $54,589

Average weekly running cost: $259.16

5-year running cost: $67,380.68


Summary

When looking at these figures, it is important to note that the 5-year cost includes monthly repayments on a loan used to finance the initial on-road price of each car. This means the overall 5-year cost is an estimate of what you would pay if you decided to get a loan on the car and used it for the next five years.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the smaller the car, the smaller the overall running costs over the first five years.

However, while the micro-class car is clearly the cheapest in terms of purchase price and overall running costs, it has the worst cost ratio between the two. Despite a significantly lower list price, the Mirage only just comes out ahead of the Swift and Cerrato when it comes to five-year costs. Those thinking they would be making significant savings by opting for a micro-class car may find that the benefits of light- and small-class cars may be worth the slight increase in overall cost.

These figures also suggest that a lot of car-related costs come from day-to-day use and not the initial purchase price. While you may think you're leaving the dealership with a bargain, you should always keep in mind the other costs of car ownership.

It is still worth noting that the five-year costs of larger vehicles are nearly double that of the smallest classes. For those on a budget, micro- and light-class cars still represent the cheapest ownership options in simple terms.

In terms of bigger vehicles, the large SUV has the best cost ratio between list price and five-year running costs, making it arguably the most cost effective option over that time frame. While you will still be paying significantly more for the Outback than the micro-class Mirage over five years, the difference between list price and five-year costs on the Subaru Outback is $15,609.98, slightly less than that of the Mirage at $16,907.24.

This highlights that different vehicles have different overall costs and even the cheapest cars can prove expensive once the ongoing cost of ownership is factored in. Again, the initial list price only tells part of the story when it comes to the cost of buying and running a car.

Average weekly running costs by class

Points to consider

Smaller car classes have significantly lower running costs on average than the larger classes. The average cost difference between a micro-class car and a medium-class car is $81.54 per week, or $4,240.08 per year.

The average running cost of a large car dwarfs those of people movers, sports cars and even large SUVs, due mainly to increased depreciation and lower fuel efficiency.

People movers and large SUVs come out around the same average weekly running cost, although you could make a decent saving by considering a medium-class car or medium SUV. Electric cars remain considerably more expensive than any other car class.

If you're after a certain type of car, use the table below to help find the class that may best suit your needs. Regardless of the type of vehicle you're after, if you're looking at buying a new car you should always factor in all the costs of ownership before making the decision that is right for you.

I'm looking for What to consider
A family car People movers and large SUVs will set you back similar amounts over five years, but you could make a decent saving by considering a medium-class car or medium SUV.
A large car The large car class is the most expensive to run (after electric), so if you need space, you may get better value with a large SUV or people mover.
The cheapest car If you don't care about size or class, the micro- and light-class cars are clearly the cheapest options and will cost you roughly half as much as a large car or people mover over five years.
Something nice The average running cost of a sports car will set you back about the same as a people mover or large car. However, the more expensive sports cars will generally have much higher running costs, so make sure the model you want is within your budget before making a decision.
An electric car Electric cars far outpace regular car classes in overall running costs and may not represent value for money at this stage of development.

Car loans comparison

Rates last updated April 24th, 2019
$
Name Product Interest Rate (p.a.) Comparison Rate (p.a.) Min Loan Amount Loan Term Application Fee Monthly Service Fee Product Description Monthly Repayment
Latitude New and Used Car Loan
From 6.99% (fixed)
8.1%
$5,000
1 to 7 years
$295
$10
You'll receive a fixed rate between 6.99% p.a. and 14.99% p.a. based on your risk profile
Apply for a loan from $5,000 to finance a new or used car. Flexible repayments and options to finance a classic car.
IMB New Car Loan
5.89% (fixed)
6.24%
$2,000
1 to 7 years
$250
$0
You'll receive a fixed rate of 5.89% p.a.
A low minimum borrowing amount of $2,000 that you can use to purchase a new car or one up to two years old.
Beyond Bank Low Rate Car Loan
From 5.69% (fixed)
5.97%
$25,000
1 to 7 years
$175
$0
You'll receive a fixed rate of 5.69% p.a.
Take advantage of a competitive rate, pre-approval and no early repayment fees when you finance a car under two years old.
Loans.com.au - New Car Loan
5.44% (fixed)
5.99%
$5,000
3 to 5 years
$400
$0
You'll receive a fixed rate of 5.44% p.a.
Finance a new car and benefit from features such as fast approval, no ongoing fees and an optional balloon payment.
Stratton Finance New Car Loan
From 5.34% (fixed)
6.6%
$7,500
1 to 7 years
$459.20 (for private seller vehicles this fee is $608)
$8.90
You'll receive a fixed or variable rate depending on the lender you are approved with
Apply for up to $150,000 and use cash or trade in a vehicle to use as a deposit. Optional balloon payment available.
RACV New Car Loans
From 5.99% (fixed)
6.55%
$15,000
1 to 7 years
$399
$0
You'll receive a fixed rate of 5.99% p.a.
A larger loan of $15,000 or more to help you buy a new or used car. 5-hour pre approval available and no ongoing fees. Note: Product only available to residents of Victoria.
Credit Concierge Car Loan
From 4.99% (fixed)
6.23%
$10,000
1 to 7 years
$350
$5
You'll receive a interest rate from 4.99% p.a. with a comparison rate from 6.23% p.a.
Get access to over 20 providers to fund a new or used car.
Westpac Car Loan
From 8.49% (fixed)
9.67%
$10,000
1 to 7 years
$250
$12
You'll receive a fixed rate of 8.49% p.a.
Finance a new or used car and benefit from convenient features for car buyers including a car search tool and the option to borrow extra for on-road costs.
St.George Secured Personal Loan - Fixed Rate
From 8.49% (fixed)
9.6%
$3,000
1 to 5 years
$195
$12
You'll receive a fixed rate from 8.49% p.a. based on the value of your car
Get a competitive rate and apply for a larger loan up to $80,000 when you attach a new or used car as security to the loan.
IMB Secured Personal Loan
6.89% (fixed)
7.24%
$2,000
1 to 5 years
$250
$0
You'll receive a fixed rate of 6.89% p.a.
Benefit from this competitive rate by securing the loan with a vehicle up to 6 years old. Use this flexible loan for any purpose.

Compare up to 4 providers

Pictures: WhichCar

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Car Loan Offers

Important Information*
IMB New Car Loan

You'll receive a fixed rate of 5.89% p.a.
A low minimum borrowing amount of $2,000 that you can use to purchase a new car or one up to two years old.

Latitude New and Used Car Loan

You'll receive a fixed rate between 6.99% p.a. and 14.99% p.a. based on your risk profile
Apply for a loan from $5,000 to finance a new or used car. Flexible repayments and options to finance a classic car.

Beyond Bank Low Rate Car Loan "Special Offer"

You'll receive a fixed rate of 5.69% p.a.
Take advantage of a competitive rate, pre-approval and no early repayment fees when you finance a car under two years old.

Loans.com.au - New Car Loan

You'll receive a fixed rate of 5.44% p.a.
Finance a new car and benefit from features such as fast approval, no ongoing fees and an optional balloon payment.

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