Most people think you get what you pay for. Whereas a $100,000 car is luxurious and prestigious, a $15,000 car must be a heaping pile of poo, right? Not necessarily. 

Believe it or not, these days you can actually buy a great car for less than $15,000. Sure, it won't be as sweet as a high-priced exotic, but few can afford one of those anyway. If you're in the market for an everyday car that's easy on gas and practical, you've got a lot of choices. And, thanks to a competitive market, many are affordable too.

To help you narrow the search, we here's a look at five of the best cars available under $15,000 and how they stack up to competitors.

Nissan Versa

Starting MSRP: $9,990
MPG: 26 City / 31 Hwy

The Nissan Versa may be dirt cheap, but it's not grimy.  In fact, it's got plenty going for it -- including a comfortable five-passenger cabin, six standard air bags (rare in this class) and loads of cargo room. Its performance abilities aren't up to par with class competitors and its list of convenience features is short, but for a vehicle that starts under $10K, it's hard to complain.

Smart Fortwo

Starting MSRP: $11,990
MPG: 33 City / 41 Hwy

Perfect for crowded cities with narrow streets, the Smart Fortwo is petite, fuel-efficient and even turns heads. Surprisingly, it provides spacious seating for two and a fair amount of cargo room. Still, it has little established safety or reliability history and only comes with a two-year/24,000-mile warranty. Plus, reviewers find that its highway performance leaves something to be desired. But for urban life, it's hard to beat the convenience that the Fortwo provides.

Kia Soul

Starting MSRP: $13,300
MPG: 26 City / 31 Hwy

To call the Kia Soul fun would be an understatement. Engineered to appeal to the young and young-at-heart, this hatchback offers everything from a funky exterior design to glow-in-the-dark upholstery and even lights that pulse to the beat of your music. Cool? Certainly. But gimmicks aside, the Soul is actually sensible. In addition to an impressive list of standard safety equipment, it also features comfortable seating for five. Its primary drawback, however, is a small cargo area.

Hyundai Elantra

Starting MSRP: $14,120
MPG: 24 City / 33 Hwy

A winner of the U.S. News Best Car for the Money award, the Hyundai Elantra is a value shopper's dream. It's good on gas, boasts an exceptionally comfortable cabin, features useful cargo space, and comes packed with lots of convenience gizmos. It might not stand out in the crowd or have dynamic performance abilities, but it is very reliable. In fact, it comes with an impressive five-year/60,000-mile limited warranty and 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty.

Honda Fit

Starting MSRP: $14,750
MPG: 27 City / 33 Hwy

Redesigned for 2009, the Honda Fit is an industry darling, garnering praise for its fun-to-drive performance dynamics, great fuel economy and versatile interior. For these reasons and more, the Fit has earned distinctions from a range of auto reviewers -- including the U.S. News Best Car for the Money award in the subcompact class. Keep in mind that every car has its faults, with the Fit's being its lack of stability control on the base trim. However, most critics assert that it's one of the best subcompacts on the market.