The Car Starting at $12,445—Available Only for $14K+

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Spencer Platt / Getty Images

Hyundai's 2012 Accent is viewed on the floor of the New York International Auto Show April 20 in New York City.

The low base price of the Hyundai Accent helped the car get named to lists such as U.S. News’ top 10 Most Affordable Cars. But while the car’s MSRP starts at $12,445, buyers will find it all but impossible to locate an Accent within $1,500 of that a sticker price. What gives?

USA Today reports that car buyers are simply out of luck if they’re hoping to buy a Hyundai Accent or Elantra at the base price. The automobiles start with MSRPs of $12,445 and $15,195, respectively. In reality, the cheapest vehicles available to consumers shopping at both the Hyundai website and physical dealerships cost $14,195 and $16,445 (plus shipping), respectively.

Is this a bait-and-switch situation? Hyundai says no. A spokesperson says that because the “take rate was low” for base models, with the majority of buyers choosing vehicles with an upgraded “Comfort Equipment Package,” Hyundai essentially made the bare-bones, least expensive cars unavailable.

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I’d be curious as to the exact chronology of events here. If very few of the base models were available to begin with, then of course the take rate would be low. It’d be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Consumers would have little choice but to go with the pricier models.

The difference between the rock bottom base price and the price actually paid by buyers brings to mind the Volkswagen Jetta, which has gained popularity even as it’s been rated poorly by car reviewers. Sales of both the Jetta and the Passat are booming largely because Volkswagen dropped their base prices substantially this year.

But while the base price is cheaper, the typical customer is actually paying more. Jetta’s base starts below $16K, but the average Jetta purchased—with plenty of options and upgrades included—goes for around $26K. That’s about $1,000 more than the average Jetta purchased the year prior.

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Part of the difference between the base price and the actual price usually paid must be due to the fact that car buyers want many of the extras and niceties in the upgraded models. There’s a difference, however, in buyers voluntarily electing to skip the cheaper bare-bones vehicles, and shoppers simply not being given the option to buy the base model at all.

Brad Tuttle is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @bradrtuttle. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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