To help overwhelmed car buyers cut through the clutter and focus on a few standout models, GOBankingRates asked three seasoned mechanics about the vehicles they would buy and why they’re willing to vouch for them. The result is an elite shortlist of eight vehicles — four new and four used — that have earned the respect of professionals who know more about cars than just about anyone.
If you’re discussing vehicles that have proven to justify their asking price, you have to include the best-selling car in America for the last 20 years.
“If you’re in the market for a new car, think Toyota Camry,” said Todd Bialaszewski, founder of Junk Car Medics, Certified Master Mechanic and ASE Master Technician. “It’s a solid bet. In my years fixing cars, I’ve seen loads of Camrys. They’re like the trusty workhorse of cars — good on gas, don’t break down much, and they don’t drop in value like a rock. Just make sure you get it serviced regularly.”
In the previously owned market, consider a beloved American model that was discontinued in 2020 before being reimagined as a lifted wagon.
“Now, if you’re eyeing a used car, I’ve got two words for you: Ford Fusion,” said Bialaszewski. “The models from around 2012 to 2014 are particularly good. They last, drive smoothly and my customers who have them seem really happy. They’re mostly in for small fixes, nothing major.”
If you’re going to spend money on a new vehicle, why not go for one that earned a rare and coveted 10 out of 10 rating from Car and Driver?
“If you need more space, check out the Honda CR-V. Great for families or if you haul a lot of stuff,” said Bialaszewski. “They’re roomy and practical — a good all-around choice.”
Bialaszewski’s final pick is an American classic that J.D. Power and RepairPal have hailed for its rock-solid reliability.
“Another good used car is the Chevrolet Malibu, especially the ones made after 2015,” he said. “These are reliable and comfy on the inside. But, here’s the thing with any car, new or used — you’ve got to look after it. At my shop, I always hammer this point home. Keep on top of your oil changes, check those brakes, and rotate your tires. Do this, and whatever car you buy should treat you well. Remember, buying a car is a big deal, and taking care of it is what makes it worth your while.”
The Ford Ranchero and Chevy El Camino won over America as the original hybrids — car in the front, pick-up truck in the back. They’ve been discontinued since the late ’70s and ’80s, respectively, but a Korean automaker has taken up the mantle by putting a truck bed on an SUV.
“For new vehicles, check out the Hyundai Santa Cruz,” said Vehicle Freak founder Robert Walden, a mechanic with more than 15 years of experience diagnosing, repairing and building automobiles. “It drives smoothly like a car but has a lockable truck bed for versatility, giving you the best of both worlds for work and play. The interior is really nice, too. The base engine’s a little slow but overall it cleverly blends pick-up practicality with SUV comfort.”
When Mazda discontinued the long-running Capella/626 in 2002, the Japanese automaker had big shoes to fill — and fill them, it did.
“If you’re looking at used cars for 2023, put the 2018-2021 Mazda6 on your list,” said Walden. “It’s a terrific midsize sedan — fun to drive, efficient, stylish, and super reliable. You’ll love being behind the wheel and it’ll treat you right for years. The Mazda6 hits that sweet spot between enjoyment and dependability.”
One offering by a Korean automaker continues to earn standout reviews in the crowded mid-size sedan category.
“The new vehicle I would recommend is the Kia Sorento,” said Andy Saari, founder of Nextedge Technician and a 30-year industry veteran who rose from automotive technician to the prestigious titles of Ford Senior Master Technician, ASE Certified Master Tech and GM Certified Technician. “Kia’s reliability has improved greatly over the last few years. It has plenty of room for a family, and you can’t go wrong with the 100,000-mile powertrain warranty.”
The entry that might be the best car money can buy isn’t a car at all — but it is, without any close second, America’s vehicle of choice.
“The used vehicle that I would recommend is the Ford F-150,” said Saari. “It didn’t become the best-selling truck for 46 years straight by accident. They have a variety of reliable powertrain options and the V-6 Ecoboost has plenty of power for towing. If you do have a problem, parts are readily available due to the sheer volume produced.”
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