If you base your car buying decisions on what you pay at the dealer, you're in for a shock.

Cars cost a lot more than just the sticker price. Factor in taxes, financing charges, maintenance costs, insurance, fuel and depreciation and you can easily inflate the cost of your "affordable" small car to nearly double its sticker price in just five years.

Fortunately, industry analysts provide a host of ownership cost calculators that factor these expenses into a single estimate of what you'll spend in the first five years of ownership. However, it's an extremely time-consuming process to research, organize, and compare figures for every small car on the market -- especially since no two cost calculators provide exactly the same results. That's precisely why we've done the math for you.

We scoured three of the auto industry's leading sources of cost-to-own (CTO) estimates -- Edmunds, IntelliChoice and Vincentric,-- and averaged the results to find a consensus about the most and least affordable "economy cars."

Get the biggest bang for your buck with these affordable rides...

Toyota Yaris

Toyota Yaris

Average Five-Year CTO: $27,626
MSRP: $12,205 - $15,880
EPA Fuel Economy: 29/36 mpg city/highway (base trim)

Backed by Toyota's solid reputation for building reliable vehicles, the Yaris nets the lowest average five-year cost to own. Its outstanding fuel economy contributes to its affordability. What's more, its sleek exterior and roomy cabin enhance its appeal. However, its sluggish performance is a turnoff, and drivers concerned about safety should spring for optional side curtain airbags and an anti-lock braking system -- which will surely inflate the Yaris' price.

Honda Fit

Average Five-Year CTO: $28,473
MSRP: $14,550 - $18,760
EPA Fuel Economy: 27/33 mpg

Like the Yaris, the Fit is backed by its automaker's outstanding reputation for build quality. Add to that its peppy performance, long list of cabin features, and versatile seating and cargo options, and it's easy to understand why the Fit is a reviewer favorite. The Fit's value is further enhanced by its great fuel economy. And although reviewers complain that the base trim doesn't come equipped with stability control, most agree that it's still a great buy.

Hyundai Accent

Hyundai Accent

Average Five-Year CTO: $28,749
MSRP: $11,070 - $15,870
EPA Fuel Economy: 27/33 mpg

If you value predictability over excitement, consider the Hyundai Accent. In addition to leading its class in standard safety equipment, it features an assuring five-year/60,000-mile new vehicle limited warranty and ten-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty. And the fact that it's great on gas doesn't hurt either. Critics, however, complain that its engine is underpowered and its exterior looks bland. Also, its back seat is cramped. Still, at this price-point, you get a lot for the money. To keep it under $10K, consider the Nissan Versa.

Nissan Versa

Average Five-Year CTO: $28,890
MSRP: $9,990 - $15,990
EPA Fuel Economy: 26/31 mpg

In terms of practicality, the Nisan Versa is a real winner. Not only does it seat five adults in relative comfort, but it also has enough cargo room to haul their luggage. Six standard airbags add even more value to the mix. Still, test drivers note that it's a less-than-stellar performer. Also, the Versa doesn't feature standard anti-lock brakes or many standard interior convenience features that competitors offer -- and upgrading will cost you more. But, for around $10K, it's hard to find another new car that compares.

Scion xD

Scion xD

Average Five-Year CTO: $29,653
MSRP: $14,650 - $15,450
EPA Fuel Economy: 27/33 mpg

The Scion xD boasts a slick, head-turning exterior design and a 128-horsepower four-cylinder engine that gives it plenty of hustle. Plus, reviewers are impressed with its impressive array of interior features -- including an optional navigation system. However, critics warn that the xD looks more cargo-friendly than it really is and that optional features can quickly inflate its price. Still, it might just be worth it. Because Scion is a brand of Toyota, it carries equally good weight in the reliability category.

Affordable cars that just might be too rich for your blood...

Mazda MAZDA3

Average Five-Year CTO: $34,839
MSRP: $14,690 - $21,845
EPA Fuel Economy: 24/32 mpg

Seeing as the MAZDA3 is so common, some might find it strange that it has a high CTO. But this small sedan is favored for its eye-catching exterior design and peppy "zoom zoom" -- not for its all-around value. Buyers should be aware that it's not the most practical car on the road. Reviewers complain that its dashboard is marred by complicated controls, the interior lacks adequate rear-seat leg room, and the car doesn't perform so hot in insurance industry crash tests. If, however, you're dead-set on buying a MAZDA3, consider waiting until 2010 -- when it's scheduled for a redesign.

Suzuki Reno

Average Five-Year CTO: $35,380
MSRP: $13,839 - $15,439
EPA Fuel Economy: 20/28 mpg

While the Reno makes a sufficient bare-essentials car, it certainly shouldn't be on your top ten list -- especially when vehicles like the Fit and Yaris are similarly priced. The Reno is sluggish, rides harshly, and doesn't come equipped with many safety features. Plus, it can't match competitors in terms of fuel economy. And though it's a good looking car with plenty of space and comfort inside, its high CTO makes it hard to swallow. However, if that's fine by you, now's a great time to buy one cheap -- as the Reno is set to be discontinued after the 2008 model year.

Scion tC

Average Five-Year CTO: $35,430
MSRP: $17,000 - $17,800
EPA Fuel Economy: 20/27 mpg

Like the MAZDA3, the tC is favored by those looking for a vehicle that doesn't sacrifice edge for economics. Unfortunately, its high CTO and subpar fuel economy don't make economic sense. Plus, its performance isn't as edgy as its sporty exterior suggests. It is, however, highly customizable -- which seems to resonate with young drivers. And, because Scion is a brand of Toyota, it's expected be just as reliable.

Subaru Impreza

Average Five-Year CTO: $36,259
MSRP: $17,495 - $26,995
EPA Fuel Economy: 20/27 mpg

While the Impreza is one of the more expensive vehicles in the class of affordable small cars, it's also a responsible buy. Thanks to its standard all-wheel-drive system, it handles exceptionally well and is even an IIHS "Top Safety Pick" for its performance in front, side, and rear impact crash tests. Even so, its bland, lost-in-the-crowd exterior design and subpar fuel economy do little to attract buyers. It is, however, an impressive car for this class -- so long as you can afford its high CTO.

Suzuki Forenza

Average Five-Year CTO: $36,344
MSRP: $14,489 - $16,089
EPA Fuel Economy: 20/28 mpg

Like its sibling, the Reno, it's difficult to recommend the Suzuki Forenza to anyone other than your greatest enemies. Sure, it looks good, features plenty of interior space, and even comes with a seven-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty. But, it's also painfully underpowered and the federal government has classified its rear seat as a "safety concern" for its poor performance in side crash tests. Combined with subpar fuel economy, it's not surprising that Suzuki plans on cancelling the Forenza after 2008.