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Top Cars To Buy Used

When it comes to getting the most bang for your buck, a recent iSeeCars study analyzed more than 2 million cars to see which used models are priced the lowest and offer the longest remaining lifespan.

top cars to buy used

"Don't be afraid of the 100,000-mileage marker on your odometer," Drury said. "100,000 is not the mileage threshold it used to be," he added. "Vehicle durability has improved dramatically over the last decade."

Prices for late-model used cars have recently jumped in part because of a dearth of new cars on dealer lots in the wake of the inventory shortage, but safe, reliable used cars still exist at a reasonable price. has assembled a healthy list of choices available for a budget of about $20,000; tap the links below to see our picks in other price tiers.

The Civic line got a dramatic redesign for 2016 and gained a hatchback version for 2017. The revamped Civic gained some personality and a more refined feel. It was notably fun to drive, if a little bouncy on ride quality, and received expanded safety and driver-assistance features. Plus, it gained enough space to warrant comparisons against certain larger mid-size cars. It also got two new engines, with a responsive and efficient turbocharged 1.5-liter four-cylinder powering most trim levels. The new generation moved the Civic a step ahead of compact rivals of the times; even in its waning years, it beat out fresher redesigns in a comparison test.

Aside from the base variant, all trims have a 7-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability; automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control and other tech features were readily available as options. Si and Type R performance versions were available for 2017, though used versions of either one will likely run steeper than $20,000.

The Prius got a full redesign for 2016, and while the hybrid retained its unique look, it got upgraded dashboard electronics; an improved, roomy interior; and more cargo space. Powertrain upgrades doubled down on its signature virtue with a bump in its EPA mileage ratings. Automatic emergency braking was optional for 2016 and standard in 2017, but Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability remained absent. Depending on mileage and location, many used examples should have some battery warranty remaining: The original warranty was good for eight years/100,000 miles or 10 years/150,000 miles for states that have adopted California emissions standards. Toyota dropped a PHEV version of the Prius for 2016, then returned it as a separate vehicle named Prius Prime for 2017 with more range and differentiated styling.

Happily, the skyward rush of used car prices spurred by the pandemic has finally started to ease. In November, ADESA auctions chief economist Tom Kontos noted that used-vehicle wholesale prices had fallen by 17.5% from their seasonal peak in May and that they had fallen year-over-year for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic. This month, used-vehicle retailer CoPilot noted that retail prices of 4- to 7-year old cars are down 13% from January 2022, and cars 8 to 13 years old are down a similar amount from April.

To meet our criteria, cars had to be newer than the 2008 model year and commonly available nationwide for under $15,000. We prioritized newer cars, reliability scores, low costs of ownership and the likelihood of being able to find a vehicle with a meaningful warranty. We also balanced these priorities against available safety and convenience features, style and performance.

Why we picked it: For $15,000 you can find even better deals on the 2011 to 2015 ninth-generation Civic, featured on our $10,000 used car list, but you can also buy clean examples of the much-improved tenth-generation model, introduced in 2016. A return to form for the Civic, the tenth-gen is peppy, fun to drive and reliable as ever, but not offered as a Hybrid.

Though 2018 and newer models, and Type R and Si models, will cost more than $15,000 in good condition, the earlier Civic sedan, hatch and coupe from this generation are excellent used car buys. Some models can also be found with 7-inch infotainment screens and safety systems like adaptive cruise control, lane departure warnings and forward automatic emergency braking. Most of these affordable Civics are powered by a 158-horsepower 1.5-liter engine mated to a continuously variable automatic transmission, but a few have manuals.

The iA/Yaris is powered by a 106-horsepower 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine and comes in automatic or manual-transmission form. A 7-inch infotainment screen and low-speed automatic emergency braking come standard. Many clean examples, including CPO cars, can be found for $15,000.

Most versions came with a 1.8-liter, 170-horsepower four-cylinder engine, mated to either a manual or automatic transmission, though the higher-performance GTI is out of this price range. The e-Golf came only as a five-door hatch, but offers both good reliability and performance if you can live within its 83-mile range. A variety of active safety features were optional, though they may raise the price of used units.

To determine our list of the best vehicles under $15,000, we cross-referenced a broad range of reliability and quality scores, evaluations by vehicle testers, thousands of long-term reports and reviews from owners and factored in our own long-term experiences with these vehicles as new and used cars. In addition to these criteria, the vehicle had to have average transaction prices under or near $15,000, be manufactured after 2008, and be easy for shoppers to find irrespective of their region or city.

Many of the models featured in our list of the best $10,000 used cars are available in even better condition for $15,000, and the Honda Fit, Toyota Avalon, and 2010 to 2014 Honda Insight nearly reappeared on this list. We recommend looking at those entries for shoppers on a budget.

We focused specifically on providing maximum value and reliability for the price, prioritizing models which are known for durability and low cost of operation, but also tried hard to provide a variety of models to suit different tastes.

New cars do come with comprehensive warranties, but they lose 10% of their value in the first month of ownership, and up to 60% of their purchase price within five years of ownership, Covid-19-distorted used car values notwithstanding. By opting to buy used you trade the security of a warranty for more car and skip the worst parts of that depreciation cycle. The effects of Covid-19 have put used car values out of whack, but for cars more than three or four years old, depreciation is still a major factor.

The good news is that cars are more reliable than ever, and have warranties longer than ever, so even some four or five-year-old vehicles may still have some factory warranty left or qualify for extensions.

Both matter, but how a vehicle has been maintained matters more. For cars only three to five years old, mileage is more of a factor, but we recommend avoiding cars with unnaturally high mileages, such as a 150,000-mile 2019 model.

Here are our safe and reliable used-car choices for around $15,000, listed by type. Of note, our listed EPA mileage comes after revisions the agency issued in early 2016 that may affect stated mileage as far back as 2011. As such, figures on certain older cars below may not align with the original window-sticker mileage.

The S60 is on the small side for a mid-size sedan, but it has a stylish premium look and upscale interior. The 2013-15 model year offered a buffet of choices in trim levels and options, as well as four-, five- or six-cylinder engines and a choice of front- or AWD; the link below will show you the powertrains options and feature availability by model year. These cars are also among the first to have standard low-speed automatic emergency braking, and 2013-2015 models earned the IIHS Top Safety Pick+ designation.

Due to the nature of the vehicles they sell, car sites that sell classic cars or cars from certain eras charge more, typically around $89 and higher. Auction sites will also take a commission fee which can start at 4.5% of the sales price.

Many financial experts will tell you that buying an inexpensive used car and keeping it for years is one of the savviest things you can do to minimize the cost of car ownership. But if you pick the wrong vehicle or place to buy, that "cheap" car could cost you thousands in repairs or finance costs.

In 2022, however, there may not be many "cheap" cars to speak of. As of this writing, we're facing a shortage of used cars, which has caused their market value to spike to record highs. This makes choosing the right used-car retailer even more critical, as a mistake has never been costlier. You may also need to expand your search further to find a car online or at a brick-and-mortar car dealer.

Remember that you may find used cars for sale that are under recall and not yet repaired: It's not illegal for sellers to offer such cars. Check the vehicle identification number (VIN) at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's recall site so you'll know whether you're about to buy a car that you'll then need to take in for the free recall repair.

Use this list as a quick reference guide to point you toward the best place to buy a used car. Each used-car retailer has advantages and disadvantages, so depending on your priority (price? selection? warranty?), several outlets may fit your needs.

Buying a certified pre-owned (CPO) car is a convenient way to find a used car, SUV or truck in excellent condition. CPO vehicles, which are sold from dealerships of the same brand, go through extensive inspections and are reconditioned with factory parts. They also come with the best warranties. General Motors, for example, offers a one-year/12,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty and a five-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty on all of its CPO cars. Our certified program comparison tool can help you see the differences in coverage. But just because they come with warranties doesn't mean they are exactly like new cars. Read "Certified Pre-Owned Cars: A Reality Check" to see what expectations you should have for a CPO car. 041b061a72


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