Hooniverse Asks: What's the most car for under $30k?

I’ve just spent a week with a very simple yet solid means of transportation; the 2018 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport. This was the base model packing a non-turbocharged 2.4-liter inline four-cylinder engine that cranks out 185 horsepower. That’s a healthy drop compared to the more potent 2.0T also available, which makes 240 horsepower. This front-drive model starts at $24,950 and the as-tested price is $26,310. For that you have a crossover with fine styling, a sharp interior, and plenty of space in the rear. It’s a lot of vehicle for well under $30,000.Does it drive as nice as my Mazda CX-5? No, the steering isn’t as sharp. But Hyundai has greatly improved its steering over the years, and the Santa Fe Sport is nice off center with some mild rubber-banding on it. The interior looks nicer and more interesting though, compared to the Mazda and it feels like there’s a lot more space inside.
Once you swap to the 2.0T though, you cross above the $30k mark. I want to focus on the good on the better side of $30k. What else out there gives you the most vehicle for your dollar?
The Volkswagen Golf SportWagen and Alltrack are excellent answers, surely. A Ford Transit Connect Wagon starts right around $26,000 and is plenty of Euro-style van for most. Even the 2018 F-150 starts below $30k. Subaru has a few models that might also qualify depending on what “most vehicle” means to you.
The Hyundai Santa Fe Sport is a nice break between a slew of more super and expensive (and less useful) vehicles. That fact that it’s $10k below the average new car transaction price is also refreshing, as I believe that pretty much everything I drive lately is overpriced (relatively speaking).
So what new vehicle seems to offer the most, well, vehicle for below $30k?


  1. I assume we’re talking new vehicles here, right? You can get a new base Honda Ridgeline for $29,990. Just don’t expect any options.

  2. Ecoboost performance pack Mustang (with manual transmission) – $29,150 before any incentives

    1. I’d buy a used V8 before ever considering a new four-cylinder Mustang. The Ecoboost sounds like a rental car.

  3. New 2017 Cadillac ATS currently has a $8,000 rebate. Saw one for $30,435. Should be able to get them down another $500 easy.
    2018 V-6 Camaro with the 1LE Track package. Easily advertised under $30k.
    Most overall vehicle is probably a full size truck. Here is a Silverado with a 355HP 5.3L V-8, decent options, and 4 doors for under $30k.

  4. My local CDJR dealer has a JK Wrangler Unlimited Sport listed at $30,366 and a few 2018 Ram 1500 4×4 Quad Cabs for not much more. (Partially a consequence of it being this particular time in those products’ lifecycles, but it happens for everything at some point.)

    1. If someone can’t endure HoW aNtiQuE the Caravan is, I’ve already seen lower trim levels of its successor the Chrysler Pacifica offered at under $30k.

      1. For sure – I just figured $30k of Caravan would be better equipped than $30k of Pacifica.

        1. I still think the Caravan (antique or not) looks better than the Pacifica, but mechanically the newer van is obviously more advanced. I despise the non-hybrid Pacifica’s transmission, though. And the standard touchscreen ergonomics. Give me DIALS and BUTTONS, dammit!

      1. We’re lucky in Canada, that they make an extreme cheapskate model of the Caravan (big difference is middle bench instead of the stow n go seats) that sometimes sells for the same price as a base Journey (it’s currently $400 more, but that’s still $400 well spent).

  5. $29,500 gets you a Mazda6 with turbo, lane-keep assist, and radar cruise control, and looks like a million bucks.
    Wrong answer: Miata. Yes, mine was $30k+, and yes it is the way to get the least car for your money. But it’s unbelievably high-end once you start taking things apart, built like a car twice as expensive. I have no clue how they make money.

  6. If you mean objectively “most” as in cargo space, seats, and engine output, it’s hard to argue for anything but a minivan. I think money is most wasted on convertibles, and somewhat less so on pickups (at least they have utility). If you mean $30k worth of value, that’s a different (and much more subjective) issue.
    My subjective preferences are as follows:
    motorcycle < convertible < coupe < 3-door hatch < pickup < sedan < station wagon
    Wagons rule. Period. They handle and ride like sedans, but with a much better use of footprint. I don't value crossovers at all, because they're basically just compromised station wagons. More weight, higher COG, less space. Stupid.

  7. $30k US is currently £22600. That just squeaks you into a Skoda Superb Hatch (effectively a saloon, the estate starts at £23440). The only engine you can get for that money is the 120hp 1.6 diesel with a 6-speed manual, and you can’t afford metallic paint.
    So while it’s incredibly basic, it is a lot of car.

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