What Are the Best Used Cars to Buy?

Sami Haj-Assaad
by Sami Haj-Assaad

There’s no getting around the fact that new cars depreciate very quickly. Fortunately, you can still get a great used car that’s reliable, practical and safe.

The folks at Consumer Reports have a handy list that gets updated each year with the best deals in used cars. Their list provides the best bets in each class and price structure, so let’s break it down with some additional analysis from TrueDelta.com, which uses real owner reports of reliability, repairs and costs.

Under $10,000: Small Cars

Mazda3 (2008)

Pontiac Vibe (05-08)

VW Rabbit (2007-2009)

The Mazda3 is recommended for its fuel consumption and well-built interior, while the Vibe has a notably stellar reliability history (thanks to it being essentially a Toyota Matrix). The Rabbit is known for its European handling characteristics and practical design. Cross referencing the data with TrueDelta, and it seems like Vibe owners report fewer repairs and are generally impressed with the reliability of the vehicle.

Under $10,000: Sedans

Acura TL (2005)

Acura TSX (2005)

Toyota Avalon (2005)

Hyundai Sonata 4-cyl. (2006-08)

Kia Optima 4-cyl. (2007-08)

There’s a good bit of variety in Consumer Reports list of used sedans under $10,000. The Avalon is a big, reliable car with plenty of space, although it isn’t much to look at. The Korean midsizers are fuel efficient and reliable, while the Acura sedans are great choices if you want something a bit more premium in a sedan. The Acuras also have the best reliability history, according to TrueDelta.

Under $10,000: SUVs

Honda CR-V (2005)

Mitsubishi Outlander (2007)

Honda Pilot (2005)

There’s quite a bit of range with these affordable SUVs, with the safe, spacious and reliable CR-V being a “can’t miss” by Consumer Reports. If you need more seating, the Outlander is a solid prospect, while the Pilot offers more power. According to the submissions at TrueDelta, you can’t go wrong with either Honda.

$10,000 to $15,000: Small Cars

Subaru Impreza (2010)

Kia Soul (2010-12)

The Impreza is a favorite at CR for its standard all-wheel drive and two practical body styles, while the Soul is the stylish and practical option. According to TrueDelta, both cars are equally reliable with under 36 repair trips per 100 vehicles.

$10,000 to $15,000: Sedans

Infiniti G35 (2006-07)

Acura RL (2005-06)

These two premium Japanese automakers are the recommended used cars to buy between $10,000 and $15,000. The Infiniti is the sportier of the two vehicles and features a slick interior, while the RL is the softer, more luxurious choice and can be found with Acura’s Super Handling All Wheel Drive. The Infiniti of this vintages are remarkably reliable, despite how sporty they are, but keep an eye open for abuse from former owners.

$10,000 to $15,000: SUVs

Acura MDX (2005-06)

Toyota Highlander V6 (2005-07)

When it comes to mid-range used SUVs, the MDX and Highlander both feature three rows of seating and reliable V6 engines. The MDX is the more premium vehicle, but is much bigger, while the Highlander is rock solid in terms of reliability.

$15,000-$20,000: Small Cars

Toyota Prius (2010-13)

Hyundai Elantra (2013-14)

Honda Civic (2013-14)

The ‘13/14 generation of Civic is a favorite in terms of reliability, although it is kind of bland. Fortunately, the Elantra has proven itself in terms of durability and is quite the looker. For those looking for high fuel economy in their used compact, the hybrid powered Prius is a perfect choice.

$15,000-$20,000: Sedans

Honda Accord (2008-12)

Toyota Camry (2010-12)

Lexus ES (2007-08)

When it comes to mid range sedans, the Camry and Accord just can’t be beat. The Accord is spacious and fuel efficient, while the Camry is as reliable as the sun rising in the west. For more luxury and a quieter ride, the Lexus ES is also a good bet, although at this price point it will likely be a bit older.

$15,000-$20,000: SUVs

Lexus RX (2006-08)

Toyota RAV4 (2009-11)

Two more reliable SUVs from Toyota make the list, this time the Lexus RX and Toyota RAV4. A best seller in its class for many years, the RX has a bulletproof reliability history and is even offered with a hybrid powertrain. The RAV4 is equally popular and reliable, with plenty of space and can be had with a six-cylinder.

$20,000-$25,000: Sedans

Toyota Camry Hybrid (2012-13)

Infiniti M (2009)

The Camry Hybrid is a solid bet for its reliable and responsive hybrid powertrain, but can be a bit of a bore to drive. If that’s not your style, Consumer Reports recommends the Infiniti M, which can be had with a V6 or V8, but its real charm is with its interior, which is far more luxurious than a $25,000 sedan should be allowed to be.

$15,000-$20,000: SUVs

Lexus GX (2006-07)

Nissan Murano (2011-12)

Toyota Highlander Hybrid (2009)

Two more Toyotas make the list, this time the old GX, which is essentially a 4Runner in fancy attire. Compared to the other two cars at this price point, the GX is an off-roader, while the Highlander Hybrid is a fuel-conscious three-row crossover that’s perfect for families. Splitting the difference is the Murano, which features a strong V6 engine and well appointed interior.

Sami Haj-Assaad
Sami Haj-Assaad

Sami has an unquenchable thirst for car knowledge and has been at AutoGuide for the past six years. He has a degree in journalism and media studies from the University of Guelph-Humber in Toronto and has won multiple journalism awards from the Automotive Journalist Association of Canada. Sami is also on the jury for the World Car Awards.

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2 of 3 comments
  • Mike Mike on Feb 07, 2016

    Guess what? Toyota steals the show yet again.

  • SSturbo SSturbo on Feb 09, 2016

    Regarding Camry reliability, it was stated, "the Camry is as reliable as the sun rising in the west." The writer and editor of this article are either sarcastic or directionless. Last I checked, the sun does not rise in the west (on Earth)... but I'm no meteorologist, so what do I know? :)