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Great Cars for About $200 a Month

Trying to fit a new car payment into your budget can be tough. But, unless you're paying cash for your new car -- which is unlikely since estimates show only around 11 percent of consumers buy a new car without financing -- it's something you need to do.

However, you don't have to be a financial contortionist to get yourself into a new car. And, you don't have to settle for a cheap, unappealing ride. Car makers are offering lots of incentives that can translate into a low monthly payment for you.

How low? How does around $200 a month sound?

If that sounds like too much, think about this: If you spend five dollars for your daily Starbucks run every working day of the month, you've already blown about $110. Spend another five dollars on lunch at work every day, and there's another $110. Start brown bagging and making coffee at home (or drinking the stuff brewed at your office) and that $200 car payment becomes affordable.

We found these great cars and great deals by checking out current manufacturer incentives that are available in most of the country. Most are leases simply because you can usually lease a car for a lower monthly payment than buying one. However, leasing means that you'll have a monthly payment for longer, since you won't own the car at the end of the lease and will have to lease or buy another one. The deals are current as of July 2010, but deals and prices can change by month and location. Still, once you know that a $200 monthly car payment is possible, check with dealers in your area to see what deals you can get.

2011 Hyundai Sonata

MSRP: $19,195

Payment: $199 per month

It isn't even 2011 yet and already you can get a 2011 Hyundai Sonata for less than a teenager's cell phone bill. The 2011 Sonata has wowed automotive critics with its long list of standard features, eye-catching looks, fuel-efficient powertrain and impressive warranty coverage. Most car reviewers think the Sonata is a steal at full price, but through August 2, you can lease one for $199 a month for 36 months.

2010 Nissan Versa

MSRP: $9,990

Payment: $250 per month

The Nissan Versa not only makes waves for being one of the most affordable cars on the market, it also gets noticed for its surprisingly comfortable interior and loads of cargo space. The Versa wins points for being agile and even a little bit fun to drive, so long as you don't flog it. Right now, Nissan is offering the Versa with zero-percent financing for up to 36 months. Take advantage of that deal, put 10 percent down and you'll drive off in your new Versa for just $250 a month, as long as you act by August 2, when the zero-percent financing offer ends.

2010 Toyota RAV4

MSRP: $21,675

Payment: $169 to $249 per month

Sure, Toyota has had problems lately, and yes, the RAV4 was part of the high-profile accelerator pedal recall. That doesn't change the fact that the RAV4 has long been a leader of the compact SUV class, offering good performance and fuel economy in a roomy interior. Now, Toyota's troubles can be your gain. Depending on what part of the country you live in, a lease on the RAV4 is available for anywhere from $189 to $209 per month for 36 months. The cash due at signing varies by region and ranges anywhere from $1,995 to $2,664, so contact your local Toyota dealer to see what deals are available for you.  This deal ends August 2, so you may want to act fast.

2010 Chevrolet Malibu

MSRP: $21,922

Payment: $199 per month

While the automotive industry was in turmoil and politicians screamed about bailouts, Chevy quietly went about building better cars. With the Chevrolet Malibu, which was voted North American Car of the Year in 2008, Chevy continues that trend. Reviewers like the Malibu's quiet, comfortable ride and good fuel economy. Car buyers will like that the Malibu LS is currently available for lease for $199 per month for 27 months with $2,674 due at signing.  The deal ends September 7, 2010.

2010 Mazda3

MSRP: $15,295

Payment: $247 per month

The 2010 Mazda3 is a well-loved affordable small car for its sporty performance, so you'll have more to smile about than just the leftover money in your checking account each month. Through August 2, Mazda is offering the 3 with zero-percent financing for up to 60 months, plus $500 cash back. If you put down 10 percent, add in the $500 from Mazda and finance the rest, you can take home a 2010 Mazda3 for about $247 per month. Sure, you may have to give up a few lattes here and there, but commuting in the fun-to-drive 3 should be more than enough to wake you up.