The best second hand cars to buy instead of new, for every type of driver
The soaring prices of new cars and trucks have become all too evident for prospective buyers who’ve set foot in a dealership in recent years. Each month seems to break records for average transaction prices, making the purchase of a new vehicle an increasingly challenging financial proposition. However, there’s good news for those willing to explore the used car market. You can find financial relief and still get a “new-to-you” vehicle in excellent condition that promises several years of dependable service.
In this guide, we’ll break down the best used cars to buy in 2023, categorizing them by price and vehicle segment. We’ll provide a few strong recommendations for each category, along with alternatives for those looking for something unique. Keep in mind that the used vehicle market is ever-changing, and your location within the United States can impact pricing and model availability. With some time and effort, you should be able to find the ideal vehicle that suits both your family and budget.
Best Used Cars Under $10,000
Overall Pick Under $10,000: 2014-2020 Hyundai Elantra
In the under-$10,000 used car category, options may seem limited. Our top choice is the 2014-2020 Hyundai Elantra. While it’s a compact car, it offers enough space for a small family. Hyundai has a solid reputation for reliability, and the newer models come equipped with advanced safety technology. The 2014 Elantra saw several desirable updates, and a completely new model entered the U.S. market in 2017. You’ll find older models with more features or newer ones without certain high-tech options, so take your time to select the one that suits your preferences.
Best Used Car Under $10,000 for More Cargo Space: 2017-2019 Kia Soul
If you require extra cargo space, consider the 2017-2019 Kia Soul. Its distinctive design sets it apart, and though it may not match the Elantra’s efficiency, the range of available four-cylinder engines should provide good fuel economy.
Most Reliable Used Car Under $10,000: Any Toyota Camry
When in doubt, a Toyota Camry is a reliable choice. This midsize sedan has enjoyed exceptional sales over the years for a reason. It boasts unparalleled reliability, offering both four- and six-cylinder engine options, allowing buyers to customize their selection according to their needs. Additionally, the Camry provides ample interior space for families.
Best Used Electric Vehicle (EV) Under $10,000: 2011-2017 Nissan Leaf
Surprisingly, you can purchase an electric car for under $10,000. The Nissan Leaf was America’s first mass-market EV, making its debut in the 2011 model year. It sold well, ensuring that there are plenty of them available for purchase. While the early Leaf had a relatively small battery with a range of 73-84 miles, it can suit the needs of many daily commuters.
Best Used SUV Under $10,000: 2011-2020 Dodge Journey
Finding an SUV you like within this price range can be challenging. The Dodge Journey may not have been the most desirable option when it was new, and time hasn’t made it more attractive. However, it does offer three rows of seats, optional all-wheel drive, and a relatively affordable price – qualities that appeal to many buyers. We recommend broadening your search and, if possible, opting for a Journey with the more powerful Pentastar V6 engine, as the four-cylinder version can be underpowered.
Most Common Used SUV Under $10,000: 2014-2017 Nissan Rogue
The Nissan Rogue’s widespread popularity over the years means there’s a large selection of them available in the used car market. The Rogue may not command the same resale value as rivals like the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4, which makes it accessible to budget-conscious buyers. Although its continuously variable transmission isn’t very engaging, it contributes to better fuel efficiency.
Best Used Truck Under $10,000: 2005-2011 Dodge Dakota
The Dodge Dakota is a robust pickup truck, larger than competitors like the Ford Ranger and Chevy Colorado. The final generation of the Dakota was produced between 2005 and 2011, with later models being labeled as Rams. Regardless of the badge, they offer the same truck. While the standard 3.7-liter V6 may not win any drag races, it provides the capability for hauling and towing at an attractive price point.
Best Used Truck for Towing Under $10,000: 2008-2012 Nissan Titan
For those requiring more towing power, an older Nissan Titan is a solid choice. Keep in mind that any full-size pickup truck available for less than $10,000 may have higher mileage or cosmetic imperfections. However, as long as it can handle truck duties and runs well, it should serve you well.
Best used cars under $15,000
Best Used Car Under $15,000 That’s Also a Sports Car: Any Mazda Miata
It should come as no surprise to find a Mazda Miata on this list. This quintessential Japanese sports car is an excellent used option for those who don’t need more space than what’s required for themselves and a passenger. The Miata offers an enjoyable driving experience, reasonable fuel efficiency, and affordability.
Best Used Car Under $15,000 That’s Fun and Practical: 2014-2017 Mini Cooper
The Mini Cooper’s reputation for reliability issues has improved over the years, and the 2014-2017 edition is quite durable. While it may not be as fast on the track as the Miata, it offers a fun driving experience around town. Unlike the Miata, the Mini Cooper includes a (small) rear seat and a hatchback.
Best Used SUV Under $15,000: Any Mazda CX-5
The definition of an SUV has evolved from traditional body-on-frame construction to encompass a range of options, from barely lifted hatchbacks to large, badge-clad behemoths. If you’re seeking an efficient, reliable, and enjoyable-to-drive crossover, the Mazda CX-5 tops our list. The Honda CR-V is another solid option in the same price range, while the Toyota RAV4 offers reliability, though it may not be as fun to drive as the alternatives.
Best Used SUV Under $15,000 With Three Rows: 2000-2006 Chevrolet Tahoe
If you need a considerably larger utility vehicle, consider an older Chevrolet Tahoe from 2000-2006. These vehicles are equipped with robust small-block V8 engines, ensuring straightforward maintenance and access to local mechanics familiar with their repair. However, check for interior squeaks and rattles, as GM wasn’t known for top-notch interiors during this period.
Best Used Truck Under $15,000: Any Toyota Tacoma (Check for Rust)
The Toyota Tacoma is renowned for its reliability and durability. It maintains strong resale value and offers reasonable comfort. In this price range, you may come across models with higher mileage, so it’s advisable to search for a Tacoma with a well-documented maintenance history.
Best Used Full-Size Truck Under $15,000: 2013 or Newer Ram 1500
For those in need of a larger truck, the 2013 or newer Ram 1500 offers excellent starting points within the $15,000 range.
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