If you’re in the market for a used car, there’s no nice way to put it. The timing is just awful. If you can possibly put it off, you probably should — but be prepared to wait for a long time. There’s a pretty broad consensus that the used market will remain overpriced and undersupplied throughout all of 2022 and perhaps for years beyond.
Some entries on the list are worth a look simply because they’re cheap to buy even when they’re in grIf you must buy now, don’t panic — but be prepared to compromise. Those who come away with the rare deals in a market so merciless are those who are flexible with makes, models, features, trims, and colors. But believe it or not, there are still some gems hiding in the rough for buyers of every budget.
2007-2012 Honda Fit
Forbes Wheels ranked the Honda Fit as one of the best-used cars of 2021 under $5,000, and it made the Carmax list of best-used cars for 2022, as well. The Fit is well-known for being reliable, great on gas — 31 combined mpg — and inexpensive to own. That said, Forbes wants buyers to forget about finding a used car that’s fewer than eight years old for less than $5,000. That puts shoppers on shoestring budgets in the realm of older, riskier, higher-mileage cars that are out of warranty. Among them, the Fit is a fun-to-drive bargain with a tolerance for high odometers.
2002-2006 Toyota Camry
If you’re in the market for a high-mileage, low-budget car from the early 2000s, it had better be reliable — and when it comes to reliability, few names ring out louder than the Toyota Camry. Like the Fit, the Camry earned a spot on both the Forbes best under $5,000 list and the Carmax best of 2022 list. Although all Camrys are famous for being dependable, Forbes says that Gen 5 has the best reliability ratings and best customer reviews of the bunch.[
Moving into budgets up to $10,000, the Mazda 3 is cited by both Forbes Wheels and Kelley Blue Book (KBB) as among the best of the bunch. 2010 ushered in the model’s second generation, which was known for being fun to drive with sporty handling — it’s also available as a hatchback or sedan. Gen 3 started in 2014 — the model year that KBB recommends specifically for budgets that just brush up against five figures. They’ll cost more than Gen 2 models — but maybe not much more — and Forbes recommends looking into both generations.
2011 Subaru Outback
KBB also recommends the 2011 Outback for drivers on a budget of $10,000 or less. The brand’s flagship vehicle, the Outback walks the line between wagon and SUV, and since it’s a Subaru, its name is synonymous with long-term dependability — and, of course, standard all-wheel drive. Although it can serve as a roomy and reliable highway family vehicle, its ground clearance, muscle, and AWD have always allowed the Outback to double as a legit off-road warrior on the trails.
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2014-15 Kia Soul
Moving over to sedans, it’s not an accident that the Honda Accord is the bestselling car of all time in APart hatchback, part SUV, the Kia Soul is one of the rare budget-minded vehicles that is instantly recognizable — its boxy but sporty body simply can’t be mistaken for anything else. For buyers on a budget up to $10,000, Cars.com puts the 2014–15 model years at the top of the list. Fun, cute, peppy, and roomy, Souls from that era also delivered more tech than most cars in its price range.
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2011-2015 Lexus CT 200h
For $15,000, you’re in the market for the very cheapest new cars, and according to Forbes, if that’s your budget for a used vehicle, 15 grand is enough to get you behind the wheel of some good Certified Pre-Owned vehicles. It might take some searching, but the 2011-2015 Lexus CT 200h is about as well as you can hope to do in this price range, according to Forbes Wheels.
It’s a close relative of the Toyota Prius — Lexus is Toyota’s luxury brand — and the CT 200h delivers a comparable 42 mpg. Unlike a Prius and more like a Lexus, however, it has a posh and quiet interior with plenty of room a striking design.
2013 Toyota Avalon
In recommending it as one of the best used cars under $15,000, KBB hypes the 2013 Toyota Avalon as offering the best of both of its manufacturer’s worlds. Although it has the reliability and price you’d expect from a Toyota, the Avalon delivers the luxe interior and full-size ambiance that you probably associate with the Lexus nameplate. Although it’s a big V6, it handles like a midsize — and gets midsize gas mileage, too.
2016 Mini Cooper
The Kia Sedona has notched out a place for itself among minivans between the pricier Chrysler Pacifica aIf you can stretch your budget to the high $10,000s, consider the Mini Cooper, which AutoTrader ranks as one of the best used cars for people with budgets up to $20,000. It’s pricier than some of its rivals, but none among the pack could possibly be sportier, zippier, and certainly not more fun than the always-adorable Mini Cooper. Endlessly customizable, it’s the ultimate urban commuter car, and it’s available as a two-door, four-door, or convertible.
2016-17 Chevrolet Volt
The second-generation plug-in hybrid Chevy Volt arrived in 2016 and represented a huge upgrade from the original. With a battery range of 53 miles on a full charge, it’s perfectly capable as a fully electric commuter or daily-driving car. For longer excursions, the Gen 2 Volt gets 42 mpg for a combined equivalent of 106 mpg. That’s 15 extra all-electric miles over the first generation and 5 mpg more in its EPA mileage. So if you’re looking at Volts, make sure it’s a 2016 or younger — Cars.com counts it as one of the very best used cars for budgets up to $20,000.
2014 Lexus GS
TU.S. News and World Report ranks the 2014 Lexus GS as the No. 1 used midsize luxury car under $U.S. News and World Report ranks the 2014 Lexus GS as the No. 1 used midsize luxury car under $25,000 — and for good reason. Its posh interior delivers true Lexus luxe with soft leather and top-shelf tech throughout. Its standard driver-assist features are as impressive as its 306 horses, and the Lexus GS earned perfect reliability and safety scores.
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