Shush the world beyond the windshield with these 13 affordable cars that are really quiet!

Shush the world beyond the windshield with these 13 affordable cars that are really quiet!

As much as we love driving in something with a good exhaust note and an engine that sounds like a pride of angry lions (any LS lovers here?), we also equally love our ears enough to give them a rest every now and then.

Well thanks to advancements in both automotive and soundproofing tech, we now have cars that are as quiet as a church mouse, are more lubed than your squeaky bedroom door, and don’t cause your tinnitus to flair up more than your nagging ex did.

But at what cost?

Not as costly as you’d think, as our list below proves that there’s a car-shaped cocoon of silence at every price range that your bank account and eardrums will be more than happy to invest in!

What affordable cars are really quiet?

Some affordable and quiet cars include the Honda CR-V, Kia Optima/K5, Hyundai Elantra, Chrysler Pacifica, Volkswagen Jetta, Honda Accord Hybrid, Toyota Camry Hybrid, Lexus LS460, Cadillac Escalade, and Audi A8.

Affordable and quiet EVs include the Tesla Model 3, Hyundai Ioniq 6, and Kia EV6.

With such a competitive market in many corners of the automotive industry, saying that you’re looking for a car that’s both affordable and quiet can barely narrow down your choices.

This is because what’s considered “affordable” and “quiet” can be pretty subjective and depend on a lot of variables. However, this doesn’t mean there aren’t already some good tried-and-tested examples worth checking out.

In our list of cars that give you the best of both worlds, we decided to generally keep it below $40,000 (new or used) while also factoring in how quiet they are based on things like NVH (Noise, Vibration, and Harshness) and decibel (dB) tests.

While there’s no stopping you from going over that price range and getting the latest dead-silent 6-figure Mercedes EV, we aimed to give a good balance of sedans, SUVs, hybrids, and EVs that won’t make your ears bleed nor hurt your wallet too badly below!

Honda CR-V

Honda CR-V
Base Engine1.5L I4 Turbo
Horsepower190 hp
Torque179 lb-ft
Fuel Economy28/34 mpg (city/highway)
Estimated Price Range$29,500 to $40,200 (2024)

The latest generation of the CR-V is often given a lot of props for its impressively quiet interior cabin, earning it the title of one of the quietest modern Hondas that you can buy today.

Since it is a Honda, you’re getting a lot of value for your money even with the most expensive 2024 model, though even earlier model years are still well-equipped with excellent sound-proofing materials at considerably lower prices.

Despite the use of hard plastic all over its interior, rattling noises are very minimal even at higher speeds. The engine, while a bit noisy when going uphill, still provides smooth and quiet performance for the most part.

The CR-V also sports an Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) feature via its audio system, noise-reducing wheel resonators, and a floating rear subframe, all of which keep its NVH (Noise, Vibration, and Harshness) one of the least noticeable in its class.

We recommend going for the gas-only variant since the CR-V’s hybrid powertrain does add a little more cabin noise, especially on inclines.

Kia Optima/K5

Kia OptimaK5
Base Engine1.6L I4 Turbo
Transmission8-Speed Automatic
Horsepower180 hp
Torque195 lb-ft
Fuel Economy27/37 mpg (city/highway)

Estimated Price Range
$13,994 to $23,990 (2020 Optima) $25,590 to $31,990 (2024 K5) 

If a quiet yet sporty-looking mid-size car that doesn’t break the bank is what you’re looking for, Kia has got you covered with the Optima (now called the “K5” from 2021 onwards).

Now, whether you’ll opt for the last-gen Optima or the newer K5 will depend on your budget and preference, as both nameplates have benefitted from Kia’s advancements in reducing interior noise as much as possible.

The use of Active Noise Control, improved engine mounts, acoustic laminated glass, and sound-deadening carpets are only some of the things that keep NVH at bay in the Optima, which naturally translates to the more updated and refined K5.

Engine noise, on the other hand, is just a bit more noticeable for the Kia even at idle or low speeds. But while it doesn’t provide luxury car-level refinement in this regard, it’s still very much an acceptable level of noise at this price range.

Hyundai Elantra

Hyundai Elantra
Base Engine2.0L I4
Horsepower147 hp
Torque132 lb-ft
Fuel Economy32/41 mpg (city/highway)
Estimated Price Range$21,625 to $28,465 (2024)

The Hyundai Elantra is another good example of a Korean-made car that proves you don’t need to spend a fortune to experience peace and quiet while driving.

While the 7th-gen shark-faced Elantra model features a more updated interior and suspension technology, we found that the 6th-gen 2019 model does a better job of nullifying road and wind noise from the interior.

In general, newer Elantras are known for their simplistic yet quiet interior cabins thanks to equipment such as foam-layered carpeting, thick front windshield glass, and insulated wheel wells to absorb tire noise and vibration.

Even NVH from the engine is also quite minimal, though this is assuming you’re not doing any hard accelerations in it, which might sometimes be the case as a result of its languid 2-liter base engine.

Chrysler Pacifica

Chrysler Pacifica
Base Engine3.6L V6
Transmission9-Speed Automatic
Horsepower287 hp
Torque262 lb-ft
Fuel Economy19/28 mpg (city/highway)
Estimated Price Range$18,911 to $36,878 (2020) $39,400 to 59,495 (2024)

A minivan would be a great place to start if you’re in search of a quiet and safe space on wheels, and the Chrysler Pacifica (6 best worst chrysler pacifica years) definitely fits the 40k bill we set (assuming you don’t go for the latest model year).

The 2024 model would’ve been nice to recommend because of all its updated luxurious bits that also aid in keeping the noise down, but we’ve found that the 2020 Pacifica gives the best balance of sound-proofing features, affordability, and reliability.

The Pacifica and Pacifica Hybrid models have both been providing top-notch NVH reduction for the interior since their debut for the 2017 model year, resulting in very low levels of road noise and wind noise compared to competitors.

Most of the more noticeable noises from this minivan can come from some minor creaking in the interior itself, which can be attributed to its tighter third-row seats.

Furthermore, occasional clunky shifts from its auto transmission are to be expected, which may make an audible noise. 

For the most part, however, the rigidity and great build quality of its body and chassis lead to an overall silent driving experience in the Pacifica. 

Volkswagen Jetta

Volkswagen Jetta
Base Engine1.5L I4 Turbo
Transmission6-Speed Manual / 8-Speed Automatic
Horsepower158 hp
Torque184 lb-ft
Fuel Economy29/42 mpg
Estimated Price Range$21,435 to $28,825 (2024)

European brands, especially German ones, are well-known for delivering very quiet and luxurious interiors, and the great thing about models like the Volkswagen Jetta is that you can get exactly that at an “entry-level” price tag.

VW Jettas have one of the quietest interiors for a modern compact car, a category that’s not exactly known for having such interiors. In fact, even Car Confections ranked the Jetta as the quietest out of 15 compact cars in their sound level reading test at 53.6 dB.

While there can be many variables still at play for it to rank first in one test, the lack of NVH for something its size and cost is largely due to not just the typical sound-proofing expected of European interiors, but also the heavy refinement in its chassis.

In the Jetta’s case, the newer the model, the better it’ll be in muffling road and wind noise. However, it’ll be when you’re passing over trashier roads that the Jetta starts to somewhat sound like the average compact car again.

Honda Accord Hybrid

Honda Accord Hybrid
Base Engine2.0L I4 Hybrid
TransmissionEVT (Electrical Variable Transmission)
Horsepower204 hp
Torque247 lb-ft
Fuel Economy51/44 mpg (city/highway)
Estimated Price Range$33,990 to $39,985 (2024)

Despite Hondas not having the reputation for being the quietest modes of transportation on the planet, modern ones have significantly improved their NVH levels, and the Accord Hybrid attests to this.

It’s no luxury Mercedes, but the Accord Hybrid gives sound deadening that’s similar to luxury vehicles twice its price, though the amount of road noise that you get in this car can also depend on the wheel-and-tire combo that you have.

Opting for the factory 19-inch wheels on the Accord will naturally amplify the road noise more, which is why it’s recommended to go for smaller ones. 

Regardless, the newer 11th-gen model is better equipped to handle road noise with any wheel size it can come with.

The current Accord Hybrid also comes with Active Sound Control (ASC) that plays generated engine noise in “Sport Mode”. As counterintuitive as it sounds, it does a nice job of drowning out any extra noise from the cabin itself while adding the “cool” factor.

Even with the ASC off, engine noise is almost non-existent for normal daily driving, which is another big reason to go for the hybrid rather than the non-hybrid model.

Toyota Camry Hybrid

Toyota Camry Hybrid
Base Engine2.5L I4 Hybrid
Horsepower208 hp
Torque163 lb-ft
Fuel Economy51/53 mpg (city/highway)
Estimated Price Range$28,855 to $34,295 (2024)

On the list of affordable but quiet vehicles with a hybrid powertrain, the Toyota Camry Hybrid reigns as one of the stealthiest midsize sedans you can enjoy.

Being a modern Toyota, the Camry Hybrid has very good noise isolation owing to its thick window glass, fine-tuned ride quality, and well-built interior cabin.

Further driving its NVH levels down is a buttery smooth 2.5-liter 4-cylinder hybrid engine that you can barely notice is turned on. Even overtaking with this motor can be deemed swift and silent.

Whether you’re cruising through town or going at highway speeds, the Camry Hybrid absorbs and softens every bump from the tires to the cabin with ease, which is a big help in reducing any sort of clunking or thud that you can hear.

Car Confections also ranks the 2023 Toyota Camry Hybrid as first in its sound level readings list for midsize cars with a maximum recorded reading of 53.9 dB, giving a glimpse of just how quiet it can get in real-world driving situations.

Lexus LS 460 (2007 to 2017)

Lexus LS 460 (2007 to 2017)
Base Engine4.6L V8
Transmission8-Speed Automatic
Horsepower386 hp
Torque367 lb-ft
Fuel Economy16/24 mpg (city/highway)
Estimated Price Range$24,959 to $30,011 (2017)

While Lexus is known for making very quiet cars, you might not have expected them to be “affordable”. Well, this is where the Lexus LS 460 comes in.

The Lexus LS platform has always been revered for its quiet driving experience mixed with lots of luxury amenities, and the previous-gen LS 460 model allows you to get both of these things at bargain prices.

It’s even more impressive that the LS 460 manages to stay relatively quiet with minimal vibrations even with a V8 under the hood, which demonstrates how well its interior sound-proofing materials and chassis have been built.

Without a doubt, the virtual absence of road and wind noise in this Lexus speaks of its true luxury status, making it a well-rounded choice if you’re in the market for something that loathes NVH with a passion.

Cadillac Escalade

Cadillac Escalade
Base Engine6.2L V8 Flex-Fuel (FFV)
Transmission8-Speed Automatic
Horsepower420 hp
Torque460 lb-ft
Fuel Economy15/22 mpg (city/highway)
Estimated Price Range$29,998 to $35,891 (2015)

Another V8-powered luxury vehicle that’s as surprisingly quiet as it is affordable is a used Cadillac Escalade, with a fairly recent 2015 model fetching around 30 to 35k in the secondhand market, according to Edmunds’ estimates.

This is the perfect silent cruiser for those who need something that the entire family can enjoy while having more extra space for cargo, which is probably the only thing that’s going to rattle inside on long trips.

This big premium full-size SUV features equally premium interior materials, glass panels, and plush upholstery, which all help keep its NVH levels one of the lowest in its class even with its V8 engine thundering away.

Road and wind noise levels are comparable to that of a new luxury sedan when cruising about, though given its size and boxy shape, highway speeds can still yield a considerable amount of both, especially when equipped with the optional 22-inch wheels.

Audi A8

Audi A8
Base Engine3.0L V6 Mild Hybrid (MHEV)
Transmission8-Speed Automatic
Horsepower335 hp
Torque369 lb-ft
Fuel Economy19/27 mpg (city/highway)
Estimated Price Range$28,188 to $30,888 (2019)

There’s a good reason why the Audi A8 is always on every list of “quiet vehicles” you can buy, and that’s because it has consistently been a strong competitor for luxury cars with the lowest NVH throughout its production run.

Now, this isn’t to say you should shell out nearly a hundred grand for the latest model year, but you can look for a previous-gen or early 4th-gen model for a fraction of the cost and still get an excellent noise-proof interior that Audi is known for.

While already quiet in its single-pane base form, the full-size German luxury sedan also has optional dual-pane acoustic glass for the side windows, which significantly reduces wind noise at higher speeds.

All in all, interior cabin refinement for the A8 has been one of the best in the business for a while, with even the earlier years of the 3rd-gen model getting treated with noise-canceling tech akin to being in a recording studio.

Tesla Model 3

Tesla Model 3
Base EngineInterior Permanent Magnet Synchronous Motor
Transmission1-Speed Direct Drive
Horsepower257 hp
Torque266 lb-ft
Fuel Economy113 to 141 MPGe (EPA)
Estimated Price Range$38,990 to $45,990 (2024)

Getting an electric vehicle (EV) can be a good idea (or even the default idea) when we’re talking about quiet cars, though their sticker prices tend to be higher than their gas-powered counterparts. However, this isn’t much of an issue with the Tesla Model 3.

As the entry-level Tesla, the Model 3 is the cheaper alternative to the Model S. While both models obviously have zero “engine” noise at a stop or on light throttle, the Model 3 presents just the right balance of quietness without sacrificing affordability.

Now, the caveat is that you may need to stretch out your budget just a bit to get the latest model, which has the best sound-proofing tech that beats even earlier Model S years.  

It’s also not as “ludicrously” quiet as you’d expect when going at higher speeds, where the lack of a thumping combustion engine makes the wind and road noise just a bit more obvious.

Nonetheless, the amount of interior comfort and advanced tech that you get at this price point makes it a calming experience to drive on shorter trips, that is, when you don’t need to race anyone on the highway to notice that the noise is there.

Hyundai Ioniq 6

Hyundai Ioniq 6
Base EnginePermanent Magnet Synchronous Motor
Transmission1-Speed Direct Drive
Horsepower149 hp
Torque258 lb-ft
Fuel Economy151/120 MPGe (city/highway)
Estimated Price Range$37,500 to $53,650 (2024)

The Hyundai Ioniq 6 is another notably quiet EV that also doubles as a Porsche lookalike but is nowhere near the 100k Taycan EV premium price tag.

Now, you can call it the “Porsche Taycan at home” if you want, but it’s more so the earlier Ioniq 5 SUV, which is known to have a very quiet interior too, reshaped into a fastback form with even more touches of luxury integrated into its “minimalist” cabin.

Its more aerodynamic and streamlined shape allows for lesser generated wind noise at higher speeds than the Ioniq 5. Even with that considered, the interior is inherently well-isolated from most noises thanks to Hyundai not skimping out on materials.

The Ioniq 6’s refined suspension also further contributes to minimizing road noise through its emphasis on comfort and smoothening out bumps, leading to low NVH and dB readings that give even more expensive luxury cars a run for their money.

Kia EV6

Kia EV6
Base EnginePermanent Magnet Synchronous Motor
Transmission1-Speed Direct Drive
Horsepower149 hp
Torque258 lb-ft
Fuel Economy151/120 MPGe (city/highway)
Estimated Price Range$27,990 to $33,590 (2022)

Built on the same platform as the Hyundai Ioniq 5 and 6, the Kia EV6 makes for another solid option for a quiet yet sporty electric ride at reasonable prices.

This looker of a crossover SUV retails over the supposed 40k budget brand-new, but a used 2022 model can be had for under 35 grand and will have the same great interior soundproofing and Active Sound Design feature.

Despite its aggressive demeanor, the EV6 actually excels in the comfort department whether it involves its cushioned ride quality or its cozy cabin, which barely makes any rattles even at high speeds.

Speaking of high speeds, the level of wind noise is surprisingly a bit more muted than you’d expect down the highway, and the electric motor itself doesn’t hum or whine as much as a Tesla would when pushing the “gas” pedal deeper.

What is NVH in cars?

NVH stands for Noise, Vibration, and Harshness, which is a way of measuring and reducing all the possible sources of sound and vibrations as perceived inside a vehicle’s interior cabin.

NVH can involve road and wind noise, cabin creaks and rattles, and even vibrations felt through the steering wheel.

The overall quietness and comfort of a driving experience are commonly associated with the vehicle’s NVH (Noise, Vibration, and Harshness), which in itself, is used in the design process to mitigate it as much as possible.

Depending on the manufacturer, NVH can be measured via either subjective evaluation by feedback or through various objective means such as microphone recordings, accelerometer tests, vibration shakers, sensors, and more.

There can be many sources of NVH that come about mostly while a vehicle is on the move, such as wind hitting the windows, tire noise, the squeaking or rattling of interior panels, and even the hum of the engine itself as it goes through the revs.

Hence, this is where automakers take steps to silence such sources by using things like sound-deadening panels, thick acoustic window glass, noise-canceling mats, good suspension design, high-quality comfort tires, and a smooth-running engine.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Why are some cars so quiet?

A lot of factors can make one car quieter than another, such as the amount of interior sound-proofing material used and the way its mechanical components are designed to reduce noise.

For instance, car designers may choose to use thicker dual-pane acoustic glass for their vehicles’ windows, which is more effective in isolating the cabin from outside noise compared to single-pane glass.

Even an engine design that prioritizes reducing vibrations, suspension tuned for comfort, and an exhaust system fitted with mufflers and resonators all contribute to the overall quietness of a vehicle.

Are SUVs noisy?

SUVs can get noisier inside the cabin compared to smaller vehicles, though this also depends on their size and shape, how fast you’re going, and the presence (or lack) of sound-proofing materials.

A full-size SUV with a boxier and less aerodynamic design, for example, may create more wind noise when going at higher speeds, but may otherwise still be considered quiet at low speeds if the cabin is well-isolated.

Why is my car cabin so noisy?

If your car cabin generates too much noise, then there may not be enough sound-deadening material to block out external noise. It’s also worth checking parts of your interior that may be producing any squeaking or clunking.

Excessive cabin noise may also be caused by any external component such as rattling suspension parts, worn-out tires, engine vibrations from bad motor mounts, or exhaust problems.

Are Smart cars quiet?

Smart cars are known to be quieter than your average vehicle, but it can also depend on the exact model that you get.

Fully electric Smart car models will obviously produce less (if any) engine noise than earlier gas-powered versions, but since most models are small and lower to the ground, road and tire noise is generally more pronounced.

Larger and newer models like the Smart #1 Brabus, on the other hand, have higher ground clearance and are equipped with more noise isolation, mitigating road and tire noise better during low-speed drives through town.