Buying a used car can be an exercise fraught with peril. After all, in most cases, what you bought is what you got. Few sellers offer warranties, so it’s up to you to do your due diligence to ensure your dollars are well spent.
Fortunately, there are solid entities out there specializing in providing useful information in this regard. Consumer Reports names the best vehicles to buy used each year as a guide to help shoppers find reliable transportation at budget prices.
Let’s take a look at some of their current top picks in price categories ranging from $10,000 to $30,000.
$10,000 – $15,000
Honda Fit: Renowned for its incredible spaciousness despite its small size, the Honda Fit—like every car on this list—also has an outstanding reputation for reliability. The Honda is also inexpensive to maintain, and you should never dismiss its cute factor.
Toyota Corolla: There are several reasons the Toyota Corolla is perennially one of the best-selling cars in the world. In addition to offering an outstanding value for the money, the Corolla is safe, practical, comfortable, fuel-efficient and spacious.
Honda CR-V: This compact SUV drives just like a car, which means it’s easy to handle and park. If you’re into outdoor-oriented activities, the CR-V will get you into most places and bring you home again, even while serving brilliantly as everyday transportation for urban dwellers.
Toyota RAV4: Worthy of the same praise we just heaped upon the Honda, Toyota’s RAV4 is something of a benchmark in this class. You’ll find a lot of good safety features, a generous array of standard equipment and outstanding longevity—with proper maintenance.
$15,000 – $20,000
Mazda3: If you enjoy the feel of an agile car with solid road manners, you’ll really appreciate driving a Mazda3. Hailing from a company priding itself on building fun to drive cars, there’s a little bit of the spirit of the Miata in every Mazda.
Kia Soul: Don’t let the quirky styling fool you, The Kia Soul’s interior is a lot more spacious than the exterior dimensions of the car would lead you to believe. While the Soul is basically a 21st century station wagon, you can keep that under your hat and let everybody focus on how cool the handsome little Kia is.
Toyota Venza: Don’t feel bad if this is the first time you’ve ever heard of this car. Introduced during the financial recession of the early 2000s, this Toyota never really got a chance to earn the acclaim it deserves. Quiet and spacious, Venza combines the best attributes of an SUV with a family car and a station wagon.
Acura RDX: The “small” Acura crossover has an outstanding array of luxury features, excellent handling and a powerful engine that’s also easy on gas. Plus, the styling of the vehicle didn’t change much over the years, so you can get a used one and still have a relatively contemporary look.
By the way, all of the vehicles on this list are also recommended because of their good resale value. This is key, because good used car loans, like those offered by companies like RoadLoans, are easier to get on such models. While each is also noted for reliability, it’s important to both test drive any used car and have it inspected by a trusted mechanic before you buy it.
$20,000 – $25,000
Infiniti M: If you want something that drives like a BMW, without spending BMW money, the rear-drive Infiniti M fills the bill nicely. Power, smoothness, outstanding handling and a luxurious interior makes Infiniti’s midsize sedan a terrific pick.
Mercedes-Benz E-Class: When it comes to prestige a Benz delivers big time. The E-Class has also proven to be one of the most reliable models MBZ offers. However, keep in mind, you will pay Mercedes money to fix it if something breaks.
Lexus RX: Long the best-selling model in the Lexus lineup, the RX is handsome, beautifully appointed, comfortable and commodious. There’s no denying its cachet either. This is why you see them all over the place in tony suburbs and better urban neighborhoods.
Toyota Highlander: This spacious three-row offering will handle anything a modern family can throw at it. You can also get it with a hybrid powertrain in this price range; delivering both outstanding utility and commendable fuel economy.
$25,000 – $30,000
Honda Accord: It’s really hard to go wrong with Honda’s flagship. This is why it is always neck and neck with Toyota’s Camry —also a good pick by the way — for best-selling car in America. Even better, you can get a recent model in this price range, giving you all of the latest comfort and safety features.
BMW 2 Series: Lots of fun to drive, with a classy look and a nice interior treatment, you’ll fall in love with the littlest BMW coupe. The spiritual successor to the company’s famed 2002—the car credited with putting BMW on the map in the U.S.—the 2 Series also has a nice story behind it. Again though, while reliability is strong, repairs can be on the pricey side.
Toyota Prius V: The station wagon of the Prius fraternity adds utility to everything you’ll love about one of the OG hybrids. Reliability, fuel efficiency, a generous roster of standard features and spaciousness make Prius V a solid pick for families.
Toyota Sequoia: If you need the capabilities of a full-size SUV and you’re watching your budget, the Toyota Sequoia is the one to get. It boasts commodiousness bordering on infinite—making it ideal for larger families—while delivering reasonable fuel economy and good looks. With seating for eight and a powerful V8 engine, the Sequoia is the one to get if towing also figures into your life.
Hopefully the above rundown provides you some valuable information about choosing a car in your price range.