You’ve got money to burn. Say, enough to jump over the roughly $35,000 average transaction price for a new car in America and buy a car, SUV, or truck for less than $45,000. Fortunately, the market is flush with exciting new vehicle options that fit your highly specific budget. If you’re looking to tackle off-road trails (or look like you do), take to the track (again, or look as though you will), or simply to enjoy the day-to-day commute without sacrificing driving engagement or character, then we’ve got you covered with this group of vehicles that come in at less than $45,000. Considering spending less? Then be sure to check out the cars and trucks we deem the least boring for less than $25,000.
2020 Dodge Challenger R/T | Base Price: $36,090
In theory, the Dodge Challenger is little more than a Dodge Charger coupe. In practice, though, it’s much more. Credit the two-door model’s standard six-speed manual transmission (an eight-speed automatic is a $1,595 option) that blesses the 375-hp Challenger R/T with additional driving engagement (plus an extra three horsepower compared to the automatic-transmission model). Those in search of even more power can opt for the $5,400 Scat Pack, which notably trades the trim’s standard 5.7-liter V-8 engine for a 485-hp 6.4-liter V-8.
2020 BMW 230i | Base Price: $36,295
The BMW 2-Series is arguably one of the German automaker’s last great cars. That’s not to belittle the rest of the BMW lineup, but in a world (and BMW showroom) that favors technology over driving engagement, the 2-Series is shamelessly driver-focused. Alas, six-cylinder models, such as the M240i and M2 Competition, sell for north of $45,00, but there is no shame in opting for the four-cylinder 230i. While not as powerful as its six-pot siblings, the 230i is anything but slow, and it is available with a six-speed manual transmission, which makes corralling the turbo 2.0-liter engine’s 248 horses that much more fun. The only downside? BMW forgoes the stick in the 230i Convertible and instead limits buyers of the $42,095 model to an eight-speed automatic gearbox—a no-cost option in the coupe.
2020 Genesis G70 2.0T | Base Price: $36,475
At $45,675, the 365-hp Genesis G70 3.3T just crosses the $45,000 line for this list. That’s fine, though, because the four-cylinder, $9,200 cheaper G70 2.0T is a fine machine in its own right. Sure, the 2.0T’s 252-hp turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four lacks the 3.3T twin-turbo V-6’s power and refinement, but it also offers an available six-speed manual gearbox. Opting for that feature, however, adds $3,050 to the bottom line. Credit the six-speed model’s additional kit, which includes items such as 19-inch wheels wrapped in summer tires, a limited-slip differential, heated and ventilated front seats, and more. While we respect Genesis for its commitment to the stick shift, we’d argue the transmission’s notchy engagement and additional costs make the cheaper, entry-level G70 2.0T and its eight-speed automatic transmission just as good a choice for buyers interested in this small sports sedan. Regardless, every G70 variant is impressively exciting to wheel about. After all, there’s a reason we named the entry-level Genesis model our 2019 Car of the Year.
2020 Ford Mustang GT | Base Price: $36,825
Sure, you can get a Ford Mustang for as little as $27,865, but doing so means living with the car’s standard 310-332-hp turbocharged 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine. It’s a fine-enough mill, but the boosted four-cylinder is nothing compared to the GT’s burly 460-hp 5.0-liter V-8.
2020 Toyota 4Runner | Base Price: $37,240
The old-school Toyota 4Runner is among the last of a dying breed: The traditional mid-size SUV. With its truck-like body-on-frame construction, the 4Runner is a formidable off-road companion-although you’ll need to fork over an additional $1,875 to add four-wheel drive to the entry-level SR5 trim. While the 4Runner certainly drives like the ancient SUV it is, the 2020 model adds modern touches such as a standard 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, as well as active safety features such as automatic forward emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane departure warning, automatic high-beam headlights, and adaptive cruise control.
2020 Dodge Charger R/T | Base Price: $37,890
The Dodge Charger R/T offers all the old-school charm of its eight-cylinder Chrysler 300 cousin at a $3,300 discount. Sure, it lacks the more stately looks of the 300, but the Charger R/T makes up for that deficiency by offering an extra seven horses from its 5.7-liter V-8 engine. Why settle on the Charger R/T’s 370 horses, though, when you can drop a mere $3,600 for theÂ 485-hp Scat Pack. Those extra ponies come courtesy of the model’s mighty 6.4-liter V-8 engine, which-like the 5.7-liter V-8 of the R/T-pairs exclusively with an eight-speed automatic transmission. Alas, the more menacing Wide Body package pushes the Scat Pack’s price up to $47,490. It’s narrow-body or nothing if you’re trying to keep your Charger Scat Pack’s sticker price below the $45,000 threshold.
2020 Subaru WRX STI | Base Price: $37,895
If the Mini Clubman John Cooper Works isn’t your style and the Honda Civic Type R’s lack of all-wheel-drive nixes it from your shopping list, then the Subaru WRX STI might just be the hot compact car for you. With 310 horsepower from its turbocharged 2.5-liter flat-four engine and a six-speed manual transmission, the WRX STI is the closest thing to a road-legal rally car you can buy.Â
2020 Honda Civic Type R | Base Price: $37,950
The Honda Civic Type R gets better for 2020 thanks to some suspension improvements, upgraded brakes, and additional active safety technology. The core of Honda’s hot hatch remains the same, though, and power still comes courtesy of a 306-hp turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four that mates to a six-speed manual gearbox, the combination of which took the Type R to 60 mph in 5.0 seconds in our testing. Yet, the whole of the Civic Type R is greater than the sum of its parts, which explains why it took top-spot in a four-way comparison test in 2018 between the now-defunct Ford Focus RS, Volkswagen Golf R, and Subaru WRX STI Type RA.
2020 Chevrolet Camaro SS | Base Price: $37,995
Yes, the Chevrolet Camaro suffers from large blind spots and an ergonomically questionable cabin, plus it looks almost exactly like the previous-generation model. But look past those flaws and you’ll find the bow-tie brand’s sports car is an absolute gem of a driving machine. Credit the Camaro’s communicative Alpha architecture (shared with Cadillac), which blesses it with docile dynamics. The Camaro SS (as well as the sub-$35,000 LT1) features a powerful 455-hp 6.2-liter V-8 and either a six-speed manual gearbox or a 10-speed automatic (a $1,595 option). For a lot more money ($43,995), Chevy offers the Camaro SS in convertible form. If it were our money on the line, then we’d say stick with the base Camaro SS coupe and add the 1LE performance package; a $7,000 option that brings the total price up to $44,995 and includes a set of sticky Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercar 3 rubber, adaptive dampers, and Recaro seats.
2020 Tesla Model 3 | Base Price: $39,990
The Tesla Model 3 is not the most fun-to-drive car out there, but it is arguably one of the most exciting vehicles available for less than $45,000 today. After all, this is a bonafide long-range electric car that’s capable of traveling 250 miles on a full charge in Standard Range Plus form. If you have more than $45,000 to spend, then you can nab a Model 3 Long Range or Performance, both of which offer a driving range of up to 322 miles, per EPA estimates. In fact, an all-wheel-drive Model 3 Long Range model managed to take the top spot in a recent three-way comparison against traditional entry-level sports sedans, the Genesis G70 2.0T and BMW 330i.
2020 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon | Base Price: $40,120
Jeeps are made to go off-road, and there’s no better option for hitting the rough stuff than the Wrangler Rubicon. Compared to lesser variants of our 2019 SUV of the Year winner, the Wrangler Rubicon sports heavy-duty Dana 44 axles, a shorter final-drive ratio, electronic front and rear diffs, a set of knobby BFGoodrich all-terrain tires, and more. While the Rubicon comes standard with two doors, the four-door Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon is available for $3,500 more. No matter the door count, the Rubicon features a 285-hp 3.6-liter V-6 engine that mates to a six-speed manual transmission or, for $2,750, an eight-speed automatic. A smooth and punchy 270-hp turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four with electric assistance and an eight-speed automatic gearbox is a $1,500 extra. It’s also the only powertrain choice available on the special $44,875 Rubicon Recon edition.
2020 Mini Clubman John Cooper Works | Base Price: $40,250
At $40,250, the Mini Clubman John Cooper Works is arguably a smidge overpriced. Nonetheless, this Mini is not boring and it is available for less than $45,000. After all, how many other wagons are available at this price point with the sort of performance capabilities of the most powerful Clubman model? Credit the car’s improved powertrain for the 2020 model year, which offers an additional 73 horsepower from its turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine relative to the prior year’s Clubman John Cooper Works. With 301 horses in its stable and a standard all-wheel-drive system, the Clubman John Cooper Works is capable of rocketing to 62 mph in 4.9 seconds, per Mini. It looks adorable doing so, too.
2020 Kia Stinger GT | Base Price: $40,535
With its rear-drive chassis, hatchback body, and 365-hp twin-turbocharged 3.3-liter V-6 engine, the Kia Stinger GT offers the right ingredients for a spicy recipe. This svelte-looking Kia is impressively quick, too, with our long-term vehicle making its way to 60 mph in an impressive 4.7 seconds. While the Stinger GT has performance and style down pat, it falls somewhat short on the technology front. That’s not to say you can’t get a six-cylinder Stinger with features such as adaptive cruise control, automatic high-beam headlights, automatic emergency front braking, lane-keep assist, or a lane-departure warning system; it just means you’ll need to drop north of $45,000 on a higher-spec trim.
2020 Alfa Romeo Giulia | Base Price: $40,640
Our 2018 Car of the Year, the Alfa Romeo Giulia, is better than ever thanks to a slew of updates for the 2020 model year. Notable updates include a standard 8.8-inch touchscreen infotainment system, a 7.0-inch gauge-cluster display, a new steering wheel, and a revised center console with a new gear shift, control knobs, larger cup holders, and additional storage capacity. A 280-hp turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine remains the only engine choice in this price range. That means no 505-hp Giulia Quadrofoglio for you. No worries, though, as the standard Giulia is an absolute joy to drive.
2020 Jaguar XE | Base Price: $40,895
The Jaguar XE is a jack of all trades and a master of none among small sport sedans. Its chassis is competent, its turbocharged four-cylinder engine is peppy enough, and its refreshed-for-2020 interior is now segment-competitive, if still not class-leading. Most importantly, the smallest Jag sedan looks far more expensive than its $40,895 price suggests.
2020 Chrysler 300 V-8 | Base Price: $41,190
The Chrysler 300’s age is both its best and worst quality. Although its last significant update dates back to the beginning of the previous decade, the chunky, weighty-feeling 300’s old-school charm remains a decidedly endearing quality when paired with its available 363-hp 5.7-liter V-8 engine. A $3,000 extra in the sportier $38,190 300S trim and standard in the more luxury-oriented 300C, the big bent-eight gives this rear-drive sedan a distinct character found in few modern cars sold today.
2020 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 | Base Price: $42,495
If the $55,150 Ford F-150 Raptor is either too pricey or too large for your off-road pickup truck needs, the Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 might just fit your bill. Compared to the run-of-the-mill Colorado, the ZR2 boasts an additional 2.0 inches of ground clearance, 3.5-inch wider front and rear tracks, knobby Goodyear Wrangler Duratrac off-road tires, front and rear electronic locking differentials, trick Multimatic spool-valve dampers, and more. A 308-hp 3.6-liter V-6 engine comes standard, although a torque-rich, 181-hp turbo-diesel 2.8-liter inline-four is a $3,500 extra.
2020 Alfa Romeo Stelvio | Base Price: $42,640
Think of the Alfa Romeo Stelvio as a Giulia in station wagon form as opposed to a regular compact crossover SUV. Like its sedan sibling, the athletic 2020 Stelvio benefits from a number of interior improvements, which includes a new 8.8-inch touchscreen infotainment system, a 7.0-inch cluster display, a new steering wheel, and a revised center console with a new gear shift, control knobs, and additional storage capacity. That’s all nice and certainly makes the Stelvio easier to live with, but the real joy comes from pushing this rear- or all-wheel-drive crossover through corners and enjoying its light, accurate steering. Power comes courtesy of a 280-hp turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. Unfortunately, the 505-hp Stelvio Quadrifoglio’s $82,040 price tag puts it way over budget. Nevertheless, if you can live without the Quadrofoglio’s extra horsepower, you’ll find a lot to like about the run-of-the-mill Stelvio.
2020 Audi S3 | Base Price: $43,995
Think of the Audi S3 as a Subaru WRX with a Juris Doctorate degree. Beneath its handsome bodywork, the S3 hides a 2.0-liter inline-four that channels 288 horsepower to all four wheels by way of Audi’s Quattro all-wheel-drive system and a quick-shifting seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, the combination of which rockets the sports sedan to 60 mph in less than five seconds. Factor in its high-quality interior and the S3 makes for a surprisingly sophisticated small sports sedan.
The Least Boring Cars, Trucks, and SUVs For Less Than $45,000
- 2020 Dodge Challenger R/T – $36,090
- 2020 BMW 230i – $36,295
- 2020 Genesis G70 2.0T – $36,475
- 2020 Ford Mustang GT – $36,825
- 2020 Toyota 4Runner – $37,240
- 2020 Dodge Charger R/T – $37,890
- 2020 Subaru WRX STI – $37,895
- 2020 Honda Civic Type R – $37,950
- 2020 Chevrolet Camaro SS – $37,995
- 2020 Tesla Model 3 – $39,990
- 2020 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon – $40,120
- 2020 Mini Clubman John Cooper Works – $40,250
- 2020 Kia Stinger GT – $40,535
- 2020 Alfa Romeo Giulia – $40,640
- 2020 Jaguar XE – $40,895
- 2020 Chrysler 300 V-8 – $41,190
- 2020 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 – $42,495
- 2020 Alfa Romeo Stelvio – $42,640
- 2020 Audi S3 – $43,995
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