3 Best Hyundai for the Money (+Most Reliable Engines)

There’s a lot of thought that goes into buying a vehicle. Apart from the price, there are some other factors like options, reliability, maintenance, and even the overall value of the vehicle.

When making a purchase, you want to make sure you’re getting the best out of your vehicle. Hyundai has great vehicles at an affordable price with a premium feel. But with so many to pick from, it can be a Herculean task.

From midsize sedans to full-size ones, cross-overs, and SUVs. You may wonder which one is best for you and which ones are most reliable. 3 vehicles are highlighted which I think offer the best in terms of price, options, and reliability. The focus is on the 2020 model years as they still have most of the latest features and the used market also offers one hell of a bargain. There’s also a bit more data to help back up this research.     

What’s the Best Hyundai for the Money?

The best Hyundai for the money is the Elantra. It offers similar features to the bigger and slightly more expensive cars in the lineup. It is also a class-leading vehicle in its segment, boasting some of the best technology and safety features at a starting price of under $20,000.   

$20,000 these days gets you the base models of most vehicles, but the Hyundai doesn’t disappoint even at this price point. It has a modern design language and the latest in industry safety and technology. 

1. Hyundai Elantra

Price: The Elantra in recent years has become one of the most popular cars in the segment. It starts at just under $18,000 for the base SE trim, with 5 trim levels above it. The sport is the top model with a starting price of $24,150. Pricing is also similar for the 2022 cars but cost about $2000 more. As for the best trim, The SEL seems to be the most valuable but this is a personal preference and this guide will help you decide. 

Best engine: The best engine in the lineup is the 2.0 liter 4-cylinder engine. It is the base engine but is the most reliable and gets the best fuel economy.

There are 3 engine options available for the Elantra. A 2.0 liter, 1.4-liter turbo, and a 1.6 liter 4-cylinder engine. The base 2.0 liter makes 147hp, the 1.4 liter turbo makes 128 hp and the 1.6 liter turbo makes 201 hp. All models are front-wheel drive and equipped with a CVT transmission.

MPG Ratings:

2.0 liter: 31 mpg city/41 mpg highway

1.4 turbo: 33 mpg city/41 mpg highway

1.6 turbo: 26 mpg city/33 mpg highway   

Features: Every safety feature like anti-lock brakes, airbags, blind spots assists, lane departure, collision avoidance, anti-theft, etc.

Comfort features include power steering, cruise control, rear view camera, dual-zone climate control, etc. Most of these features are standard and make this car worth the money.

Reliability: Reliability is also very high with this model, with most consumers giving it a 4.8/5. No matter how reliable a vehicle is though, there are bound to be issued. Luckily, most of them are related to certain model years and handles under recalls.

Known Issues for older models:

Defective airbags were an issue with models from 2006-2008. This was an error from the airbag manufacturer, which also affected other brands using the same airbags.

Stay away from the 2013 model as they were the worst model year for the Elantra. Engine failures were common with this model year, with some 2011 and 2012 models being affected.

2017 model years had some cars have power steering failure. The Electric Power Steering Connector (EPS) would come loose and cause the power steering to shut down. Brake failure was also a problem with this model year. A bad brake booster would reduce the car’s braking power, making the brakes less effective.

2011 models are prone to corrosion on the suspension if exposed to salt. Knowing these problems beforehand will help you best tackle the issue. Once sorted, these cars will give no issues as long as they’re properly maintained.

Maintenance: Annual maintenance cost of an Elantra is $452 which is very affordable as the average for compact cars in this segment is $526.

Insurance: Average insurance cost for the Elantra is about $1,648 per year. This is an industry average, and lower rates can be obtained depending on the insurer.

Depreciation: Elantras have been known to depreciate by 38% after 5 years of ownership. A $22,000 Hyundai will be worth around $11,000 after 5 years.

Ownership costs: Vehicles have running costs and the table below shows how much you’ll spend on average maintenance, repairs, and insurance after 3 and 5 years of ownership

Item3 years5 years

Also read: Mazda vs. Hyundai (Depreciation Compared!)

2. Hyundai Sonata

Price: The Sonata is the bigger brother to the Elantra with a starting price of $23,600. But this full-size sedan packs specs features that allow it to compete easily with more expensive cars above its class. The top trim limited 1.6T starts at $33,600, however the most popular is the SEL trim starting at $25,700.     

Best engine: The best engine choice here may be the hybrid engine, it offers the best fuel economy of almost any car in its class. It also commends the luxury-like feeling of the Sonata with low down torque. 3 engine options are also available with this model. A 2.5 liter 4 cylinder making 191hp, 1.6-liter turbo 4 making 180hp, and a hybrid with the 2.0 liter 4 cylinder making 192 horsepower.

Also read: Are Hyundai Good Cars? All You Need to Know


2.5 liter: 28 mpg city/38 mpg highway

1.6 liter: 27 mpg city/36 mpg highway

Hybrid: 45 mpg city/51 mpg highway

Features: Most features on the Elantra are standard here, but here are some cool ones:

  • Phone as key
  • Illuminated chrome trim
  • Remote controlled parking
  • Radar sensors, Cameras, Ultrasonic sensors.  
  • Wireless charging
  • Digital gauge cluster, large center screen and heads up display.
  • Leather seats

Even with the top-spec price, it offers more than most of its rivals.  

Reliability: Reliability is also high for this model, even though it’s positioned as a midsize luxury vehicle. Despite a 4.8/5 rating, you do need to avoid the 2011 models. The main issue was with the engine, which could just shut off or seize.

Trending Video: How to Easily Bring Back to Life any Old Car Battery and Save Tons of Money (click to watch)

Known issues for older models:

  • Defective seatbelt linkage
  • Seizing engine 2011, 2012, and 2013
  • Shifting due to a faulty speed sensor ($30-$50)
  • Defective lights ($50-$150)
  • Steering issues 2011
  • Accelerator pedal position sensor ($100-$200)

These problems affect only certain model years but overall the Sonata is a reliable vehicle.

Maintenance: Annual maintenance on a Sonata is $458.

Insurance: The average cost to insure a Hyundai Sonata is $1,724 per year.

Depreciation: The depreciation is a little bit harder than the Elantra with a 47% drop in price after 5 years. A $28,000 sonata will be worth $12,500 bringing it very close in price to the Elantra which is a tempting deal.

Ownership costs: Maintaining this car is slightly higher than the Elantra but that is to be expected. It still beats out most cars in its category

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3. Hyundai Santa Fe

Price: This is among the best family SUVs in its class in price, usability, and technology. Prices start at $26,000 for the base trim and costs just under $40,000 for the top trim with all-wheel drive. The Santa Fe has the most options to choose from with 2 engine choices paired with either front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. But the most popular is the SEL with the 2.4 cylinder engine with front-wheel drive.

Best engine: The best engine is the 2.0-liter turbo 4 engine which makes 235hp. A base 2.4 liter 4 cylinder is standard with 185 horsepower. The transmission is an 8 speed automatic. 


2.4 liter: 22 mpg city/29 mpg highway

2.0 turbo 4: 20 mpg city/27 mpg highway

Note: this does drop slightly by 1 mpg with all-wheel-drive models.

Reliability: Once again a very reliable vehicle according to JD power with a reliability score of 4.5/5. Older models from 2016 do have a few issues.

Also read: What’s a High Mileage for a Hyundai? (The Facts)

Known issues for older models:

  • Failing crankshaft position sensor.
  • Automatic transmission stutter.
  • Faulty airbags.

Overall not many issues plague this car. 

Maintenance: Annual maintenance on the Santa Fe is $515. The industry average for this segment is $573.

Insurance: Average annual insurance for this vehicle is $1,623.

Depreciation: 45% is how much Santa Fe is expected to depreciate after 5 years. Meaning a $35,000 vehicle could be worth around $18,000

Ownership costs:

Item3 years5 years


New vehicles offer great value for money with class-leading technology and features. The prices are great as new cars but older cars preferably in the past 5 years are a great buy at almost half the price with more than 60% of life left.