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Searching for a Car Under $20,000? You Have Just One Option

Just five years ago, there were multiple options for price-conscious auto shoppers in the United States looking for a new small car under $20,000. However, times have changed and the market has shifted towards SUVs and trucks. Now, there is only one option left: the Mitsubishi Mirage. But even the Mirage may soon be discontinued.

The Mirage, which has been available in the US for a decade, has remained the only new vehicle with an average sale price under $20,000. The average cost of a new vehicle in the US has increased significantly, now exceeding $48,000. With the pandemic causing prices to soar, $20,000 is no longer considered an affordable starting point for a new car.

Last month, the Mirage sold for an average of $19,205. While there are a few models with starting prices under $20,000, their final purchase prices with options and shipping often exceed that figure.

For price-conscious consumers like Karen Schaeppi from suburban Minneapolis, the Mirage was the perfect choice. She recently purchased a red Mirage sedan for around $19,000. Schaeppi, who is 78 years old, could have afforded a more expensive vehicle but wanted a small car that she could easily see over the hood of. However, she was surprised to find that there were no other small cars available at the dealerships she visited.

The scarcity of small cars on the market can be attributed to the decision made by Detroit’s Big Three automakers, as well as Toyota and Honda, to shift away from the compact and subcompact car business. Low profit margins and the increasing demand for SUVs and trucks led to this strategic move. Additionally, the pandemic-related computer-chip shortage resulted in a decrease in global auto production, leading to higher prices due to the limited supply.

As a result of these factors, the Mirage remains the last honest affordable car in America. Despite its low price, sales of the Mirage have been sluggish. Mitsubishi sold only 5,316 Mirages in the first half of this year, a 44% decline compared to the same period last year.

Mitsubishi is rumored to be discontinuing the Mirage by mid-decade, as production of the model is ending in Thailand where it is built. This would leave the Outlander Sport small SUV as Mitsubishi’s least expensive vehicle, starting around $24,600 inclusive of shipping.

While the Mirage may be disappearing from the market, there are other options for buyers looking for affordable transportation, such as certified pre-owned small cars. However, the days of a brand-new car under $20,000 seem to be numbered, with prices expected to drop slightly as production ramps up but not to the same level of affordability.

Despite the decline in small car sales, some experts believe there is still a market for them. Interest in small cars may increase with rising gas prices, and fleet sales to rental car companies also contribute to small car purchases. However, it remains to be seen if the market for small cars will ever return to its former strength.

In conclusion, the Mitsubishi Mirage is currently the only new vehicle available in the US with an average sale price under $20,000. The market has shifted towards SUVs and trucks, resulting in the discontinuation of small car models by major automakers. While the Mirage may soon be discontinued as well, there are still options for affordable transportation, though the days of a brand-new car under $20,000 may be numbered.

Unique Perspective: The shift in the auto market towards larger vehicles reflects the changing preferences and needs of consumers. SUVs and trucks offer more space, versatility, and perceived safety compared to small cars. However, it is important to consider the environmental impact of this trend, as larger vehicles tend to have higher fuel consumption and emissions. As the demand for smaller, affordable cars declines, manufacturers should focus on developing more fuel-efficient and environmentally friendly options in the SUV and truck segments to strike a balance between consumer preferences and sustainability.

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