To keep those auto loans as affordable as possible we take an list of the ten least expensive cars to own and fine tune it for car buyers with problem credit

What we know

For car buyers with questionable credit who have qualified for a new car loan it's especially important to play it smart if given a choice of vehicles.

At Auto Credit Express we know the importance of this decision because for the past two decades we've been helping consumers with poor credit looking for online auto loans find those dealers that can give them their best opportunities for an approval.

Cost is not price

We also know that more has to be looked at than just the selling price of a new car. That’s because over a lifetime of ownership a number of expenses to be taken into consideration: fuel efficiency, reliability, maintenance costs and, in particular, a vehicle's depreciation. All these add up to the vehicle’s cost.

Last year used their True Cost to Own calculator to come up with a list of the ten cheapest cars to own as of July 2012 by factoring in all ownership costs including depreciation, financing interest charges, auto insurance premiums, fuel cost and typical maintenance and repair projections.

Edmunds based their calculations on national cost averages which means that depending on where you live, the costs could be greater or less than what you might pay. It was also assumed that the cars listed would be driven 15,000 miles per year for five years.

We fine tune it

Although the list of cars came up with certainly looked accurate, in order to make the list more relevant to credit-challenged car buyers we had to do some fine tuning.

To begin with, most people with low credit scores can only afford a single car payment and, therefore, usually have just one vehicle. This meant that number one and number two cars on the list, the Scion iQ and the Smart ForTwo, being too small for most families, had had to go.

Next, we had to drop the number five car, the Mitsubishi i-MiEV ES because, at $29,125, it is too expensive to be financed with a high-risk car loan and besides, having an electric car as a primary vehicle just doesn’t make sense for most people.

Finally, we eliminated both the Prius c and the Honda Insight because they both crossed our self-imposed $17,000 retail price threshold.

The winners

It’s no surprise to us that the remaining vehicles fall into the two most affordable new car categories (an important factor for people with blemished credit) - subcompact and compact cars. So here they are along with comments about them from

Five best new cars to own for people with less than perfect credit

5. Kia Rio LX five-door
Price: $13,660
Gas mileage: 30 mpg city/40 mpg highway
Five-year cost to maintain: $31,714
Cost per mile: 42 cents

The LX features a 138-horsepower, 1.6-liter, four-cylinder engine. As priced here, it uses a six-speed manual transmission to get power to the front wheels. It comes with air conditioning, trip computer, 60/40 split-folding back seat and a four-speaker audio system with satellite radio capability, CD player and iPod interface.

4. Honda Civic DX Coupe
Price: $16,555
Gas mileage: 28 mpg city/39 mpg highway
Five-year cost to maintain: $31,013
Cost per mile: 41 cents

The Civic’s 140-horsepower, 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine turns the front wheels through a five-speed automatic transmission as it is priced here. It comes with power windows and a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel.

3. Ford Fiesta S Sedan
Price: $13,200
Gas mileage: 29 mpg city/38 mpg highway
Five-year cost to maintain: $30,994
Cost per mile: 41 cents

The base Fiesta comes with a five-speed manual transmission and a 120-horsepower, 1.6-liter, four-cylinder engine driving front wheels. It also features air conditioning, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, power outboard mirrors, and a four-speaker audio system with iPod interface.

2. Mazda2 Sport
Price: $14,530
Gas mileage: 29 mpg city/35 mpg highway
Five-year cost to maintain: $31,714
Cost per mile: 40 cents

The Mazda2 comes with a 100-horsepower, 1.5-liter, four-cylinder engine. The price also includes a standard five-speed manual transmission. The Sport model comes with full power accessories (windows, locks, mirrors) as well as, air conditioning, and a four-speaker audio system with CD player and auxiliary input jack.

1. Nissan Versa 1.6 S Sedan
Price: $10,990
Gas mileage: 27 mpg city/36 mpg highway
Five-year cost to maintain: $29,735
Cost per mile: 40 cents

The Nissan Versa sedan comes with a 109-horsepower 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine that sends its output to the front wheels through a five-speed manual transmission. Standard amenities include air conditioning, a trip computer and a two-speaker audio system with CD player and auxiliary input jack.

As we see it

Car buyers, especially those with bad credit, should never confuse price with cost. The price is what you pay the dealer, while the cost is what you'll end up paying over the lifetime of ownership.

One more thing: if you've experienced car credit problems we want you to know that at Auto Credit Express we match applicants with franchised new car dealers that can give them their best chances for auto loan approvals.

So if you're ready to reestablish your auto credit, you can begin now by filling out our online application.