What's the cheapest all around car? Price/fuel/repairs etc

I’m looking to buy something cheap, small, economical, easy to repair, and not aircooled. This will be an economy car to supplement my F350. In your opinion, what’s the cheapest all around car out there? I don’t mind older cars and if I can diagnose the problem I can generally fix it.

I’m basically looking for something that gets 40 MPG, has dirt cheap parts and is simple enough that a monkey with a pair of Channel Locks can fix it.

There’s not much out there that gets that kind of gas mileage. Maybe a late '80s or early '90s Civic hatchback or CRX with a five speed, if you can find one that’s not rusted apart? Those are probably the most reliable old car that gets that sort of gas mileage, but you will have to occasionally replace the timing belt and associated components to prevent a catastrophic failure. Other cars with that sort of gas mileage will be a lot newer and more complex, like the Toyota Prius, Chevy Cruze, and the newest Hyundai Sonata and Elantra. All those get excellent gas mileage, but reliability for some are still unknown, being new models.

My father has a '90 Chevy Cavalier four cylinder five speed that will get 37 mpg on the highway if you abide by the speed limit. That’s pretty close to your 40 mpg goal. That car will be going to the junkyard soon, though, due to excessive rust. It has been extremely reliable for him, and went through myself and my younger siblings learning to drive stick in it when we were teens. He has rolled 150k miles onto that car since buying it ten years ago, and outside of brakes, tires, corroded fluid lines, and normal maintenance items, the only major work done to the car was to replace the head gasket nine years and 120k miles ago. Not even the clutch has been replaced. One of those may be a good bet.

My 2002 chevy prism was 7500 dollars in 2004, used. It was a 5 sp manual with a tune up interval of 100k. My only gripe was lack iof a cruise control. Sold it after 3 years of averaging x35 mpg for what I paid for it only because it wasn’t 4wd. I regret getting rid of it still but WF was the deciding factor. I would recommend this type car, Corolla, to anyone, anywhere,anytime. Spray motor oil in the body seams and rust will be a thing of the past. A cheap effective rust prevention that has never failed me.

5 - 7 year old Hyundai Sonata. Fuel cost is just one component to overall life time per-mile expense.

I was thinking of maybe a Geo Metro, a Toyota Tercel or a Nissan Sentra. Those should be pretty close to the 40 MPG, (highway mileage anyway).

I’m kind of hoping to hear from mechanics or just general car fanatics that maybe there’s something out there that a fool can fix with basic tools and that has plenty of cheap available parts.

I hear you about the fuel cost issue. I kind of like some of the European diesels, (Mercedes, VW), but I don’t want to deal with parts costs on those, so I figure it has to be American/Japanese/Korean.

The other thing I don’t want to end up with is a beater that is always breaking down, is too complicated to figure out on my own, or that has the drivetrain stuffed into such a compact space that you need to have six inch long crooked fingers to work on it.

I’ll look into the Cavalier too.

I’d forgotten about the rebranded Chevy/Toyotas. That’s a good one, since if I recall right they go for less than their Toyota twins.

There are a lot of buyers out there who used “your criteria” as the main reason to buy a car, only to regret it later because they found the car too difficult to live with. Regardless of the lower costs of cavaliers and Escorts, other more expensive brands Have proven easier to live with and were kept longer resulting in greater savings over time. That’s why my vote for the corolla like Prism is there and would recommend models with higher satisfaction ratings first, with economy of operation as a secondary consideration. We only live once. Why be PO’d at your car that gets 40 mpg.

No such animal as a modern car that anyone can fix with simple tools. For cost to own the Honda Civic has always been the lowest, due to fewest expensive repairs and less depreciation. The Civic also approaches 40 mpg. My personal experience owning an '03 Civic is true to the hype. Tires last forever (except for the junkie ones on the car from the factory), brakes last forever, clutch last, etc.

The Civic might not be the cheapest to buy, but once you own it then it is the cheapest to own and drive.

My only issue with the Prism/Corolla from ten years ago is their tendency to burn huge amounts of oil. That is a rather serious mechanical problem, in my opinion. I suppose it can be lived with if you don’t mind the potential for having to add a quart of oil at every fill-up.

When you find it let me know–I want to buy 2 of them.

Funny, I’ve owned 3 of them since it was called the Nova and since turning them over to our kids who ran one for close to 300K rust free and oil burning free miles. We sold another with higher miles as the Prism and I HAVE NEVER had a Toyota oil burner in this model.
May be you had the European diesel model. :=)
The other cheapest cars to own were the three family Accords we had. Highway mileage was not as good as smaller models, but over all cost for repairs was practically non existent for the over 200K each accumulated. The good side, when you sold/trade them (rust free), we still got a good price.