For many people, the purchase of a fuel efficient car is usually made to save money on driving, as the cost of being a car owner rises further and further.
That being the case, why buy an expensive car in the first place, potentially taking years longer to pay off the fuel savings? The good news is that there are plenty of cars available for less than $20,000 that will still get you 40 MPG on the highway.
2012 Honda Civic HF - 41 MPG - $19,455
Honda's Civic has always been known for its fuel efficiency and the 2012 model is no different. 40mpg on the highway has been achieved through fuel saving features such as aerodynamic body moldings and streamlined wheel trims. It's cheaper than the Civic Hybrid, too.
2011 Chevrolet Cruze Eco - 42 MPG - $19,175
We're well aware of the Cruze Eco's credentials since Australian couple the Taylors managed to get 64 mpg driving through 48 U.S. States. Regular drivers should still see 42mpg on the highway.
2012 Ford Focus SFE - 40 MPG - $18,860
It's a pity that Ford charges $495 extra for its SFE package on the Focus (on SE trim only), helping it hit 40mpg from the standard car's 38mpg highway. We'd like to see the fuel saving bits and pieces as standard.
2011 Honda Insight - 43 MPG - $18,200
Another Honda, and the only hybrid in our ten cheapest 40mpg cars, for which Honda must be commended. 43mpg on the highway is the best here too. If you can't stretch the extra few thousand towards a Prius, then the Insight is probably your best option.
2012 Hyundai Veloster - 40 MPG - $17,300
Getting great gas milage needn't only be the preserve of compact family cars - the Veloster has a hint of coupe style to go with the efficiency.
2012 Hyundai Elantra 1.8 - 40 MPG - $16,445
The Veloster may top this list on style but the Elantra 1.8 is cheaper to buy and offers more space, perfect for families wanting to save some money. Let's face it - it's still a looker too.
2012 Ford Fiesta SFE 1.6 - 40 MPG - $14,995
Like the Focus, the Fiesta SFE package costs an extra $495 and is only available on SE trim and above. If it was available on the base trim level, it'd be an even cheaper way to reach 40mpg highway.
2012 Hyundai Accent 1.6 - 40 MPG - $14,195
It's an achievement to have two 40mpg cars in the top ten - to get three on the list is very impressive. The Accent 1.6 is the cheapest way to get your hands on a fuel-efficient Hyundai.
2012 Kia Rio 1.6 - 40 MPG - $13,000 (estimate)
The new 2012 Kia Rio isn't just one of America's cheapest cars - it's also a true 40mpg contender with the new 138 horsepower 1.6. It even looks great, which couldn't be said about the cheaper, less efficient old model. Price is rumored to be around $13k, but it's more likely to match the 2012 Hyundai Accent on price.
2011 Smart Fortwo Coupe - 41 MPG - $12,490
If you want to stand out for as little money as possible, even the Veloster can't top the tiny Smart Fortwo Coupe. It may not be as efficient as you'd expect (and nowhere near the European diesel version), but for this price you can't sniff at 41 mpg on the highway. With the Rio going upmarket for 2012, the Smart will be the cheapest 40mpg car on sale.