The Best Used Cars for Every Budget

driver
Photo by AXL / Shutterstock.com

Whether you need to find a car for less than $10,000 or you have as much as $30,000 to spend, buying used is generally the best way to save money.

Finding a reliable vehicle can be more challenging when shopping for used cars, but a little research can help. Start with ratings and reviews from expert sources such as the nonprofit Consumer Reports and the automotive research company Edmunds.com.

For example, take Consumer Reports’ latest guide to the best used cars by price. The vehicles in this guide all:

  • Performed well in CR’s road tests when they were new
  • Had above-average reliability for multiple years
  • Offered electronic stability control as a standard or optional feature

CR’s guide organizes top-rated used vehicles by price, ranging from cars that cost less than $10,000 to cars that cost $25,000 to $30,000. The publication also classifies cars by type, such as sedan or SUV, which are indicated in parentheses below:

The best used vehicles for less than $10,000:

  • Honda Fit 2007-2011 (subcompact)
  • Pontiac Vibe 2007-2010 (compact)
  • Toyota Matrix 2007-2008, 2010 (compact)

$10,000 to $15,000:

  • Honda Fit 2012-2013 (subcompact)
  • Toyota Corolla 2012-2014 (compact)
  • Acura TSX 2007-2010 (sedan)
  • Buick Verano 2012-2013 (sedan)
  • Honda CR-V 2007-2010 (SUV)

$15,000 to $20,000:

  • Honda Fit 2016 (subcompact)
  • Toyota Prius 2013-2015 (compact)
  • Honda Accord 2013-2014 (sedan)
  • Lexus ES 2010-2011 (sedan)
  • Mazda MX-5 Miata 2012-2013 (sporty)
  • Toyota Venza 2009-2011 (wagon)
  • Toyota RAV4 2010-2012 (SUV)
  • Toyota 4Runner 2007-2008 (SUV)

$20,000 to $25,000:

  • Toyota Avalon 2013-2014 (sedan)
  • Lexus CT 200h 2013, 2015 (sedan)
  • Lexus IS 2011-2012 (sedan)
  • Toyota Prius V 2014-2016 (wagon)
  • Subaru XV/Crosstrek 2014-2016 (SUV)
  • Toyota Highlander 2011-2012 (SUV)
  • Honda Ridgeline 2010-2012 (pickup)

$25,000 to $30,000:

  • Acura TL 2014 (sedan)
  • Infiniti M 2013 (sedan)
  • Lexus GS 2013 (sedan)
  • Lexus RX 2012-2013 (SUV)
  • Toyota Tundra 2012 (pickup)

Why financially savvy shoppers prefer pre-owned cars

As we say in “11 Essential Tips for Buying the Right Car at the Right Price“:

“While everyone loves that new car smell, used cars are generally going to be more economical. Cars suffer the most depreciation in the first few years — including a big drop the moment the vehicle drives off the lot … Let someone else will take that big initial loss.”

Three-year-old vehicles offer the best return on investment, according to Consumer Reports. They are new enough to have the latest safety and comfort features, but they have depreciated by almost 50 percent on average since they day they left the dealer’s lot.

What to look for in a used car

The downside of buying used is that even among the models featured in Consumer Reports’ guide, “there can be stinkers — because of a bad day at the factory or a neglectful owner who didn’t care much for car maintenance,” the publication explains.

But following a few key tips can help you save money while avoiding duds when shopping pre-owned vehicles:

  • Look for electronic stability control (ESC): This feature, which CR says can save lives, has been required on all new cars since model year 2012. So if you buy an older vehicle, confirm it has ESC.
  • Research recalls: Used-car sellers are not required to fix outstanding recalls, CR reports. So check for recalls on a vehicle before you buy, such as via the U.S. Department of Transportation’s safercar.gov website.
  • Get an inspection: Have a vehicle inspected by a qualified auto mechanic before you buy.

For more shopping tips, check out “It’s a Great Time to Buy a Used Car — Just Take These 5 Steps First.”

Would you recommend any of the vehicles you’ve driven as used cars? Let us know below or on Facebook.

How to find cheaper car insurance in minutes

Getting a better deal on car insurance doesn't have to be hard. You can have The Zebra, an insurance comparison site compare quotes in just a few minutes and find you the best rates. Consumers save an average of $368 per year, according to the site, so if you're ready to secure your new rate, get started now.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Read Next
13 Smart Tricks to Organize Every Room of Your Home
13 Smart Tricks to Organize Every Room of Your Home

Get your household organized with these brilliant and inexpensive tricks.

13 Brilliant Bulk-Buy Items on Amazon
13 Brilliant Bulk-Buy Items on Amazon

Every household should have these products on hand. Buying them in bulk on Amazon saves you cash.

America’s Most Reliable Appliance Brand Is a Surprise
America’s Most Reliable Appliance Brand Is a Surprise

Have you heard of this appliance manufacturer?

7 Hobbies That Help You Live Longer
7 Hobbies That Help You Live Longer

Research shows some hobbies can add years — or even decades — to your life.

5 Ways Anyone Can Save on Out-of-Pocket Health Care Costs
5 Ways Anyone Can Save on Out-of-Pocket Health Care Costs

Here’s how to lower your health care costs without skimping on care.

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Most Popular
This Gas Station Scam Is Victimizing More Drivers
This Gas Station Scam Is Victimizing More Drivers

For the second straight year, a growing number of Americans believe they’ve fallen prey to this scam.

7 Unusual Ways to Declutter Your Home
7 Unusual Ways to Declutter Your Home

Tired of possessions weighing you down? Here are seven ways to declutter painlessly and effectively.

7 Ways to Boost Your Credit Score Fast
7 Ways to Boost Your Credit Score Fast

Your financial security might soon depend upon the strength of your credit score.

This Is the Most Popular Age for Claiming Social Security
This Is the Most Popular Age for Claiming Social Security

Both men and women are most likely to start receiving Social Security benefits at this age.

21 Things You Should Always Buy at a Dollar Store
21 Things You Should Always Buy at a Dollar Store

Dollar stores have great bargains on both everyday and occasional purchases.

6 Things You Should Never Buy at Trader Joe’s
6 Things You Should Never Buy at Trader Joe’s

We love Trader Joe’s for plenty of reasons. But think twice about this handful of products.

Could You Give Up These 7 Expenses to Save Thousands of Dollars a Year?
Could You Give Up These 7 Expenses to Save Thousands of Dollars a Year?

You could save more than $30,000 by setting aside these costly expenses for just one year.

Don’t Toss These 7 Household Items — Sell Them
Don’t Toss These 7 Household Items — Sell Them

Here’s how to earn cash as you give new life to these unwanted items.

6 Legal Documents Retirees Need — but Don’t Have
6 Legal Documents Retirees Need — but Don’t Have

Few retirees have these documents that are crucial to their golden years — especially during a pandemic.

19 High-Paying Jobs You Can Get With a 2-Year Degree
19 High-Paying Jobs You Can Get With a 2-Year Degree

These jobs pay more than the typical job in the U.S. — and no bachelor’s degree is required.

Eat This Food If You Want to Avoid Alzheimer’s Disease
Eat This Food If You Want to Avoid Alzheimer’s Disease

One type of food associated with the Mediterranean diet offers especially large benefits.

11 Expenses That Quietly Drain Your Wallet
11 Expenses That Quietly Drain Your Wallet

It’s scandalously easy to overspend in these areas of your life.

9 Dumb Ways You Are Ruining Your Home Value
9 Dumb Ways You Are Ruining Your Home Value

Homeowners, beware these mistakes that can drive away potential buyers.

18 Amazon Purchases That We Are Loving Right Now
18 Amazon Purchases That We Are Loving Right Now

These practical products make everyday life a little easier.

5 Awesome Places You Can Retire Overseas on $2,000 a Month or Less
5 Awesome Places You Can Retire Overseas on $2,000 a Month or Less

In this week’s podcast: tips on retiring overseas — from someone who’s been helping American expats for decades.

7 Tips for Building an Emergency Stockpile
7 Tips for Building an Emergency Stockpile

A pandemic or natural disaster could leave you reliant on your existing food supply. Is your pantry prepared?

3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free
3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free

With a little ingenuity, you can cut Office costs to zero.

15 Outrageously Overpriced Products — and How to Save on Them
15 Outrageously Overpriced Products — and How to Save on Them

Retailers mark up products by hundreds of times their cost — but you don’t have to pay the premium.

Why Half of Retirees Now Owe Taxes on Social Security
Why Half of Retirees Now Owe Taxes on Social Security

Growing numbers of seniors are paying taxes on their Social Security benefits, but you might be able to avoid this fate.

View More Articles

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Add a Comment

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.