Clark Howard: Don’t dismiss ‘value’ vehicles

Consumer expert Clark Howard’s column appears here each Thursday in conjunction with Deal Spotter, a weekly print section in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

ClarkHowardRemember the Yugo? This much-maligned vehicle made in former Yugoslavia had a base price of $3,990 in 1985 and was just about the worst car ever in the history of the automotive industry. Consumer Reports once famously said a consumer would be “better off buying a good used car than a new Yugo.”

Still, the quest for a good cheap automobile goes on. USA Today reports a new era of value vehicles will be coming to the United States with prices starting at just north of $10,000. I’m talking $10,000 for a fully equipped vehicle that’s actually fun to drive.

The 2012 Nissan Versa will be $10,990 plus destination charges. Power steering, electronic stability control, electronic power steering and radio all come standard. (Air conditioning is still optional.) Combined city/highway mileage is expected to be somewhere between 30 and 33 miles per gallon.

This is not the Versa you may be familiar with now. It’s a redesigned version that replaces the lowest-price Versa we now have. The new Versa will be built on a platform common to several models to cut costs. By doing that, Nissan was able to reduce the number of parts by 20 percent, which translates to savings for them and you.

Other automakers don’t want to cede market share to Nissan, so they’re getting on the ball with their own value vehicles. Hyundai is planning a fully equipped value vehicle — the 2012 Hyundai Accent — for around $13,000. And Chevy has its 2012 Sonic, which is not yet priced but may undercut competitor Ford’s Fiesta at $14,000.

Consider this: The cost of the average new vehicle is $26,000 or $27,000 in the United States, depending on which number you believe. You could buy two fully equipped value vehicles for that price.

-by Clark Howard, Save More, Spend Less, Avoid Rip-offs

Find more answers to your consumer questions at You can also listen to his radio show live Monday through Friday 1-4 p.m. on AM 750 and NOW 95.5 FM News/Talk WSB.

12 comments Add your comment


May 26th, 2011
7:43 am

Yeah, Right. I’m sure your Yugo (oops! Versa) looks great parked in front of your multi-milliion dollar Buckhead mansion.

Clarkie Howard

May 26th, 2011
7:50 am

Jess. I park in my garage. Does you trailer have a garage?


May 26th, 2011
7:54 am

I saw Clark on his scooter recently. That’s right, the man rides a scooter. He looked like a ___ riding it too. Claaaark on his “value vehicle”…geez!

Clarkie Howard

May 26th, 2011
7:55 am

Enter your comments here


May 26th, 2011
8:17 am

I drive a 2010 (New at the time) Nissan Versa, and what a wonderful car! That is all.


May 26th, 2011
8:22 am

Agree with jess….you are a hyprocrite on this one….and what kind of car do you drive Clark ?


May 26th, 2011
8:23 am

Hey clark, You the man! I’m so happy your finally hinting to new car purchase. I would never buy a value vehicle use, as I believe these cars are typically driven by young drivers, and ragged out. When buying a new car, I believe there is a value on knowing where every mile of that car has been driven! I keep up with all my oil changes, maintenance, etc. I purchased a 2001 nissan maxima new, and it now has 2000000 miles. I believe it can drive another 100000!


May 26th, 2011
8:24 am

Hey Clark! How can I get my girl friends hybrid to get 99 miles per gallon!


May 26th, 2011
8:30 am

Get off of Clark. He is just trying to get people to at least look at these cars instead of getting people in financial ruin. A lot of people go to these dealerships and walk out with a car that they will be paying off for 7 or 8 years. If this column is not for you be gone!


May 26th, 2011
8:46 am

What Mr C said. Leave Clark alone! He’s doing his job.


May 26th, 2011
11:16 am

I’m all for saving money. However, the cars discussed in this column are models that I’ll never buy for myself. These cars scream mother, grandmother, young child or wife. I wouldn’t be caught dead in them. I would rather save money buying a good, used dependable car than a new value car. New design means nothing to me. I purchased a 1995 Nissan Maxima SE three years ago for $2,000 from a co-worker. The A/C is still cold, the heater still hot, defrosters work, etc. It had 150,000 miles on it when I bought it. It now has 183,900 miles. It’s a sporty, clean and attractive car that looks just as good next to a 2011 model. So far, I’ve spent $500 on expected maintenance.


May 26th, 2011
9:49 pm

This article by Clark is titled and is directed at those who want a decent car they can afford. So if you aren’t interested in what he has to say – the advice is not for you. So like others said – ‘be gone’, don’t take the time to read it, much less take the time to be so critical. Some folks just like to make a fuss over nothing. Chill…and get a life.