Four of the Best Cars Under $10,000 For Your Commute

May 09, 2014

The average American spends 25.4 minutes commuting to work each day, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Weather, traffic and bad drivers can all conspire to make that commute longer, but there’s one sure way to make it seem shorter: driving a car you love. Here’s a look at some of the best cars under $10,000 for your daily commute. 

Characteristics of the Best Commuter Cars

The best commuter cars:

  • Get great gas mileage: Paying to travel to work each day already stings (and daily commuting expenses are not tax-deductible, according to the IRS.) Driving a fuel-efficient vehicle will save you money — and in some states, hybrid or electric vehicles can use the HOV express lanes.
  • Have comfortable interiors: You don’t want to arrive at work feeling stiff and achy from your drive. Look for a cushy interior with enough leg- and headroom.
  • Connect with your phone: If you’re someone who likes to get a jump-start on the day’s work, Bluetooth integration with your phone can help you safely make calls while you’re driving.
  • Are reliable: What’s worse than commuting during rush hour? Getting stuck on the side of the road during rush hour.
  • Are fun to drive: The best cars under $10,000 for commuting can be sporty, too. Here are just a few ideas:

2005-2006 Volkswagen Jetta TDI

VW JettaFor these two years, the Jetta TDI was manufactured with a fast and efficient 1.9-liter diesel engine — and then VW stopped making the diesel Jetta until 2009. The reported gas mileage for the ’05 TDI is 28 city/39 highway, but according to AutoTrader’s review, longtime Jetta TDI owners report achieving even higher numbers, up to 50 mpg. Because the Jetta TDI is one of the best cars under $10,000 for fuel efficiency and driving fun, these model years can be hard to find.

2006-2009 Honda Civic

Honda CivicIt won’t turn heads, but the Civic is still a good-looking sedan with legendary reliability. It gets great gas mileage, too: 25 city/36 highway for the automatic 2008 model. The Si model delivers the best handling, with “nimble handling and a delightfully fizzy engine,” according to Edmunds.

2005-2008 Toyota Prius

Toyota PriusWith gas mileage that approaches 50 mpg, the Prius is hands-down one of the best commuter cars. While a new Prius starts around $25,000, you can find a used model for under $10,000 if you look at model years 2005-08. You may even be able to find one with still-impressive tech options, such as voice-activated climate control or a rear-view camera. There are special considerations for buying a used Prius, however: While the brakes typically last longer than in conventional cars, you may need to replace the battery if the car is more than 5 years old or has more than 100,000 miles.

2008-2010 Hyundai Elantra

2012 Hyundai ElantraThe Elantra was named U.S. News’ 2010 Best Compact Car for the Money, and today it’s one of the best cars under $10,000. While it doesn’t have a lot of fancy features, the Elantra covers all the bases for a solid commuter car: good gas mileage (26 city/34 highway), abundant interior space, and high safety scores.

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