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Best Used Cars by Price

Consumer Reports logo Consumer Reports 4/3/2018 Jon Linkov
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Do you need new wheels but have a specific budget? Buying a used car can be a way to get the biggest bang for your buck. It’s simple: After one year, a new car on average depreciates 27 percent from its sticker price; after three years, it’s worth about half.

Picking out a good used car from a sea of bad ones has never been easy. You want a vehicle that’s reliable, affordable, and equipped with modern safety features. And you want to avoid one that's been damaged in an accident. The whole process can sometimes feel overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to.

We’ve created this guide to help you find the small cars, sedans, and SUVs that are most likely to fulfill your needs, without breaking down and soaking you with ­repair bills.

The group of cars below performed well in CR road tests when they were new and each had consistent above-average reliability for multiple years. In addition, these models offered electronic stability control—which monitors the car's traction and adjusts how power is distributed to the wheels to maintain control and prevent skidding—as a standard or optional feature.

At CR, we know that ESC can save lives. It's so important that it has been required on all new cars since the 2012 model year. If you're looking for a car, pickup, or SUV older than that, look for models that have the feature.

Even among the used cars we recommend, there can be stinkers—because of a bad day at the factory or a neglectful owner who didn’t keep up with the required maintenance. Make sure to have the car you're considering thoroughly inspected by a certified mechanic before you sign on the dotted line.

Click through the model names below for road test, reliability, owner satisfaction, pricing, and more.

Once you're ready to shop, go to our Used Car Marketplace to browse local vehicle listings, and see how their reliability and owner satisfaction scores stack up.

Under $10,000

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Compact Cars

Pontiac Vibe 2008-2010

Toyota Matrix 2008-2010

The Pontiac Vibe and its corporate twin, the Toyota Matrix, are reliable and spacious compact hatchbacks. Both have fairly nimble handling, with rides that are borderline jittery. AWD was available as an option, and ESC was standard starting in the 2010 model year.

Other good choices: Kia Soul 2010-2012

Mazda3 2009-2012

Scion xB 2008-2012

Toyota Corolla 2008-2011

Toyota Prius 2008-2009

Sedans

Mazda6 2009-2011

Mazda’s midsized sedan is a sporty four-door, with nimble handling, good steering feel, and a supple ride. Reliability is excellent, and the four-cylinder engine is fuel-efficient. ESC was standard starting in 2009.

Other good choices: Honda Accord 2008-2009

Toyota Camry 2008-2009

$10,000-$15,000

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Subcompact Cars

Honda Fit 2013

Although it can be a bit noisy, the Honda Fit is a standout for reliable, fuel-efficient transportation. Its flexible interior makes it a practical choice among subcompact cars.

Compact Cars

Toyota Corolla 2012-2015

The Corolla offers dependable, fuel-efficient transportation. There isn’t anything flashy, but the interior is comfortable and roomy. ESC and curtain airbags were standard after 2010.

Other good choices: Kia Soul 2013-2015

Mazda3 2013-2014

Toyota Prius 2010-2013

Sedans

Acura TSX 2008-2011

Toyota Camry 2010-2013

You can stick to your budget and still get a reliable premium car if you choose the slick-handling TSX, which is a sporty car based on the European Honda Accord. The Camry is a solid choice because of its outstanding reliability, strong value, and fuel-efficient powertrains.

Other good choices:

Acura TL

2008-2010

Acura TSX 2008-2011

Honda Accord

2010-2012

Infiniti G 2008-2010

Infiniti M 2008

Lexus CT 200h 2011

Lexus ES 2008-2010

Lexus GS 2008

Mazda6 2012-2013

Toyota Avalon 2008-2011

Small SUVs

Honda CR-V 2008-2011

This SUV is one of the most popular, thanks to its strong resale value, agile handling, excellent reliability, and fuel-efficient powertrains. Curtain airbags and ESC are standard.

Other good choices: 

Toyota RAV4

 2008-2010

Midsized SUVs

Acura RDX 2009-2010

The RDX has a host of standard safety features, including ESC, and side and head-protection air bags. The SUV is agile but has a stiff ride. Reliability is very good.

Other good choices:

Lexus RX

2008

$15,000-$20,000

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Compact Cars

Toyota Prius 2014-2015

The Prius has always proved that you don’t have to give up space or ride comfort to get stellar gas mileage—its 44 mpg is better than that of any vehicle that doesn’t plug in.

Other good choices:

Kia Soul 2016

Mazda3 2015-2017

Scion xB 2015

Toyota Corolla 2016-2017

Sedans

Honda Accord 2013-2015

Lexus ES 2011-2012

With its cavernous backseat, Honda’s typically responsive suspension, and impressive fuel efficiency, the Accord is a dependable choice among used sedans. If you want a bit more luxury for your money, the ES takes the platform of the reliable Toyota Camry and adds luxury appointments, road-trip-worthy front seats, and a quiet cabin.

Other good choices:

Acura TL 2013

Acura TSX 2012-2014

Infiniti G 2011, 2013

Infiniti M 2011

Lexus CT 200h 2012-2013

Lexus GS 2010-2011

Lexus LS 2008

Mazda6 2014-2015

Mercedes-Benz E-Class 2010-2011

Toyota Avalon 2012-2013

Toyota Camry 2014-2015

Sporty

Scion FR-S 2014-2015

Subaru BRZ 2014

These rear-wheel-drive sports cars are fun-to-drive coupes with impressive agility and super-responsive handling. The cabins are relatively plain, and the ride can get stiff and tiring.

Wagons

Toyota Venza 2010-2012

Part wagon, part SUV, the Venza has a quiet interior, a roomy rear seat, and a generous cargo area. Its handling is secure, but it's not sporty. Its reliability is rock-solid, making this a wise choice.

Other good choices:

Toyota Prius V 2013-2014

SUVs

Toyota RAV4 2011-2013

Toyota 4Runner 2008-2009

These models are two different takes on SUVs. The RAV4 is available with four- and six-cylinder engines, both of which are very fuel-efficient. It is great for urban and suburban families, and its nimble, secure handling is a plus. On the other hand, the 4Runner is a serious off-roader with a well-finished and quiet interior, a smooth V6 or V8 engine, and an available third-row seat.

Other good choices:

Acura RDX 2012

Honda CR-V 2012-2014

Mazda CX-5 2013-2015

Lexus RX 2009-2010

Toyota 4Runner 2008-2009

Toyota Highlander 2008-2010

Toyota Sequoia 2008

Pickups

Honda Ridgeline 2008-2010

It isn’t macho, but the Ridgeline is an excellent alternative to a full-sized pickup truck. It has a carlike ride, an innovative composite cargo bed, and a powerful V6. If you don’t need to tow more than 5,000 pounds, consider buying the Ridgeline.

Other good choices:

Toyota Tundra 2008

$20,000-$25,000

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Sedans

Toyota Avalon 2014-2015

Infiniti M 2013

Lexus LS 2011-2012

For less than the price of a new sedan, you can buy one of these slightly older models. The Avalon features a generously sized cabin, luxury features, and an available hybrid powertrain for a non-luxury price. Infiniti’s midsized M is plush, quiet, quick, and fun to drive. Fuel economy is decent, and a hybrid version is available. The LS is the flagship of the Lexus line, a competent cruiser that floats over bumps and ruts. It’s supremely comfortable, emphasizing quietness and luxury over sportiness.

Other good choices:

Honda Accord 2016-2017

Infiniti M 2011-2012

Lexus CT 200h 2014-2015

Lexus ES 2013-2014

Lexus LS 2009-2011

Mercedes-Benz E-Class 2012-2013

Mazda6

 2016-2017

Toyota Avalon 2014-2015

Toyota Camry 2016-2017

Toyota Prius 2016

Sporty

Scion FR-S 2016

Subaru BRZ 2015-2016

Wagons

Toyota Prius V 2015-2016

Longer than a standard Prius, the V still returns excellent fuel economy despite its extra weight and larger size. It takes the attributes of the Prius and adds a roomier rear seat and expanded cargo capability.

Other good choices:

Toyota Venza 2013-2014

SUVs

Mazda CX-5 2016

Toyota Highlander 2011-2012

Mazda’s small SUV is one of the sportier offerings, with taut, agile handling and well-weighted steering. The ride is choppy, and the cabin gets loud. Reliability is very good. The Highlander is a roomy three-row SUV available with four- and six-cylinder gas engines as well as V6-powered hybrid version. It has a quiet interior, room for seven, straightforward controls, and top-notch reliability.

Other good choices:

Acura RDX 2013

Honda CR-V 2015-2016

Lexus RX 2011-2012

Toyota 4Runner 2010-2011

Toyota RAV4 2014-2016

Toyota Sequoia 2010

Pickups

Toyota Tundra 2010-2011

Among full-sized pickups, the Tundra is a reliable option. There’s plenty of power from the V8 engine, off-road prowess and towing capability are impressive, and fuel economy is competitive. The damped tailgate is a nice convenience feature.

Other good choices:

Honda Ridgeline 2011-2012

$25,000-$30,000

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Sedans

Lexus CT 200h 2016

Lexus GS 2013-2014

The Lexus CT is based on the Prius, but with a nicer interior and more responsive handling. Reliability is excellent, but the car is smaller than the Prius, particularly the rear seat and cargo area. The GS was transformed with its 2013 redesign: It became a true sports sedan yet had a supple ride. Its roomy, comfortable, and luxurious cabin is an excellent place to spend time as the miles tick by.

Other good choices:

Lexus ES 2015

Lexus LS 2015

Toyota Avalon 2016-2017

Toyota Prius 2017

Sporty

BMW 2 Series 2015-2016

Wagons

Toyota Prius V 2017

Toyota Venza 2015

SUVs

Lexus RX 2013-2014

Toyota Sequoia 2011

The RX offers a cabin that is quiet, comfortable, and luxurious; fuel-efficient gas and hybrid powertrains; and a plush ride. Its reliability has been stellar. The big Sequoia SUV has seating for up to eight passengers and a refined V8 powertrain. And its fuel economy is respectable for such a large SUV.

Other good choices:

Acura RDX 2014-2015

Honda CR-V 2017

Toyota 4Runner 2012-2013

Toyota Highlander 2010

Toyota RAV4 2017

Pickups

Honda Ridgeline 2013-2014

Toyota Tundra 2012-2013

Consumer Reports is an independent, nonprofit organization that works side by side with consumers to create a fairer, safer, and healthier world. CR does not endorse products or services, and does not accept advertising. Copyright © 2018, Consumer Reports, Inc.

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