Buying a brand new car is a fun luxury for sure, but it’s one that many of us cannot afford. For those of us who cannot, we only have a couple of feasible options when it comes to automobile shopping. We know that it’s easy to save money by picking up a junker for a few hundred dollars, but it will usually look terrible. Most of the time it will almost always break down quickly, with little hope of effective, lasting repair; soon, you find yourself buying yet another cheap clunker on the spur of the moment, only to go through the same thing again. The best option is to find a quality vehicle for a few-to-several thousand dollars that is mechanically sound and looks good. That’s the kind of car that most every day people can both afford and be proud of. But which makes and models are your best options? What’s really out there for you to choose from? These questions can be tough to answer if you don’t have experience buying cars on a frequent basis, and no one can afford to make a bad mistake over and over in this area.
That’s where we come in. We thought it would be nice to throw our two-cents in and be of assistance to any of our readers who may be struggling with this very issue. What are some quality car brands that remain dependable, even when they’re used? Well, any car can be a lemon if it hasn’t had care from its prior owner, so the first thing to know is that regardless of what brand of car you are considering, you need to get it checked out by a professional mechanic to make sure it’s running right and doesn’t have any potential issues, and you need to do this BEFORE you buy it. Both dealerships and private owners alike shouldn’t have a problem allowing you to do this if everything is kosher; if they do, you probably should move on to the next car, because something is likely wrong.
Aside from that, we’ve put together a list of good, sound car makes and models that tend to be mechanically stable and dependable, and are selling for less than $10,000 in the current used car market. None of them have too much age on them, and they all look great, both inside and out, according to the research we’ve done. So, we’ve done the hard work for you and left the fun part for you and your friends or family: The shopping, test driving, and buying. From #20 to #1, the good all the way to the very best, the following is a must-read guideline for your next used car-buying venture, so take a load off and read on…
10 Awesome Used Cars for Under $10,000:
20. 2008 Toyota Tacoma
In 2008 the Tacoma came standard with a 4-cylinder engine that put out 159 hp and gave drivers 20 mpg in the city and 25 mpg on the highway; pretty darn good for such a durable pickup truck. There was also a V6 option for those who needed a little more power, and it cost more at the time, meaning it will used, as well. It also is available with a regular cab, ‘Access’, or extended, cab, and the Double, or crew cab. The average listing price for a sound 2008 Toyota Tacoma is around $9,529.
19. 2008 Toyota Highlander
All Toyota Highlanders have a V6 standard, which is the same engine used by Toyota in the Sienna, Camry, and several more of their models. The engine, coupled with a five-speed automatic transmission, provides 270 horses and gives you approximately 20 to 21 mpg/combined. You can expect to pay about $8,594 for a quality used model from this year.
18. 2010 Honda CR-V
With a 5-speed automatic tranny with overdrive, driveline Traction control, ABS, and an I4 engine that puts out 180 hp, drivers can count on getting about 21/27 mpg city/highway, respectively, from a well-maintained used unit. This smaller SUV has plenty of room and cargo space, and is great for local or over the road travel. Good 2010s are going for approximately $8,835.
17. 2010 Toyota RAV4
Available with a 4-cylinder with a four-speed automatic tranny, or with a V6 with a five-speed automatic, the RAV4 comes standard as front-wheel drive, but has a 4WD option, and you get great handling and more than sufficient power. You can also enjoy between 19 and 22 mpg in the city and 26 and 28 mpg on the highway, so that’s a major plus no matter how you look at it. The best part is the price: Used and in good condition, you are looking at paying around $9,095.
16. 2010 Audi A6
The Audi A6 achieved excellent safety scores in 2010, making it one of the most popular luxury mid-sized cars of the year. However, truth be told, some thought that the interior electronics were lacking and that the engine was a bit under powered. Otherwise, this is one of the best used buys for under $10k that you’ll find. It’s comfortable, roomy, drives nice, and looks incredible, so for the price those minor complaints may not matter to you at all. With that being said, you’re looking at spending around $8,945.
15. 2010 Lexus ES
The 2010 Lexus ES, however, gives you the power you long for in a luxury automobile. The 3.5L V6 puts out 272 horses, making for a nice, potent ride no matter where you’re going. And you can rest in the fact that you’re getting your money’s worth gas-wise also: Expect 19/27 in the city and on the highway…pretty good for a mid-sized sedan with this much room. If it’s a 2010 Lexus ES you want, you can expect to pay around $6,792…pretty darn good, in our opinion.
14. 2009 Lexus RX 350
The Lexus RX 350 is a luxury SUV that comes well-equipped in its standard version, and when fully loaded is a force to be reckoned with. The 2009 model is no exception. There is the front-wheel drive version and AWD, which gets fewer miles per gallon, but only a tad fewer; the front-wheel drive gets 18/23 city/highway, and the AWD gets 17/22. A 3.5L V6 provides 270 hp, which is more than sufficient for this comfortable family ride. This particular crossover would have cost you a pretty penny when it was new, but now the average going price for it, in dependable, well-running condition, is $9,803. That’s a bargain, if you ask us.
13. 2007 Infiniti FX35
You would never expect to get an Infiniti for less than $10k, even used, but the running price for the 2007 FX35 nowadays is around $6,461, believe it or not. For that bargain price you get the base model (though the AWD version will likely run you a bit more), and that comes standard with a 3.5L V6 capable of 280 hp; you can expect to get about 17 mpg in the city and 23 on the highway. It’s a five-speed automatic that handles well, and chances are that you’ll find a used model with many of the bells and whistles offered by Infiniti. After all, why would someone buy one new without them? It’s a nice car for a very nice price.
12. 2009 Saturn Outlook
It’s true that Saturn is no longer putting out new vehicles, but when they did consumers knew they were getting a quality vehicle, and sales showed it all the way up to the bitter end. The 2009 Outlook will be a great SUV for anyone who finds a good one, with plenty of standard features and enough room for a family to ride comfortably for some time to come. With a 3.5L V6 engine and 6-speed automatic tranny, drivers and passengers alike will enjoy plenty of horsepower and 2,000 lbs. of towing capacity. Saturn put out four trims on the 2009 model: the XE, XE AWD, XR, and XR AWD, each with varying gas mileage: Your Saturn should get up to 17 mpg in the city and 24 mpg on the highway. What will you pay? Well, prices may also vary, depending on the sub-model you decide to get, but expect to shell out between $5,500 and $6,000.
11. 2011 Buick LaCrosse
Over the last several years, Buick has really managed to get their sales up with overhauls on their designs and better marketing strategies, but the truth is that Buick has always been a great make, regardless of the numbers. The 2011 LaCrosse makes our list for being dependable, attractive, affordable, and economical…the whole package. Models are available with either a 4-cylinder or a V6, and are capable of getting around 19/30 mpg in the city and highway, respectively, which is a very attractive point. You can expect between 182 and 280 hp, depending on the engine size; either way, you’ll get moving plenty fast enough no matter where you’re going. For the 2011 LaCrosse you are looking at paying approximately $8,500.
10. 2010 Ford Fusion
The Fusion by Ford is known for being economical, but it also other assets, such as being available as a straight gasoline vehicle, or coming in the hybrid version, giving the consumer a choice that is fitting to them. We’ll refer to the straight gas version for our purposes here. Available in the FWD and AWD Sport models, the 2010 will provide you with approximately 263 hp and give you 18 mpg/city and 27 mpg/highway with the FWD model, and 17/24 with the AWD. It comes with the 6-speed Select Shift automatic transmission, which also comes in handy when it comes to fuel economy. One of these little babies will run you about $6,250, but you’ll likely pay a bit more for the AWD model .
9. 2009 Audi A3
This particular Audi model came in four different versions: The 2.0T Manual, 2.0T Automatic, 2.0T Automatic AWD, and the 3.2. Engine-wise you are going to get either a 2.0L 4-cylinder, or a 3.2L V6; manual or automatic transmission options were available, both in 6-speed (the engine size coincided to the model version, and also referred to the transmission). The variations in the model versions give different gas mileage ratings, ranging from 18 to 21 mpg in the city and 25 to 30 mpg on the highway, also depending on the model version. You get the same thing with performance: 200 to 250 hp range. The 2009 Audi A3 is classed as a sports sedan, and has a hatchback instead of a trunk, so for those who prefer that feature, this is for you. If it’s the Audi A3 you’re interested in, you will likely shell out about $5,500, give or take a bit for the different versions. This is a good, reliable European car that will last when cared for properly.
8. 2009 Mercedes-Benz E-Class
The 2009 Mercedes-Benz E-Class includes several different models, and for our purposes we are grouping them together. In other words, you can expect to spend approximately $7,500 for any one of them, but they do have different features. The 320 Blue TEC has a turbo-diesel V6 that puts out about 210 hp, while the 550 has a V8 that puts out around 382 hp. The E63 AMG comes with an AMG speedshift and a V8 that provides 507 hp. Then you have the fact that they came in both station wagon and sedan versions; the wagons seat seven while the sedans seat five. Lots of options, different levels of power and room, but a price tag that is fairly consistent for the entire line. Just figure out what you want and go from there, but it’s likely a good choice no matter what. It comes in at number eight on our list.
7. 2010 Toyota Sienna
Now we’re talking genuine family vehicle. The 2010 Sienna is a minivan that was a quality vehicle when it was new, and still is to this day. Expect to pay about $8,700 if this is your used car choice, which is on the higher end of our range here, but worth every penny. Not only do you get the room your family needs, but you get safety and convenience as well. While many of the features offered with the Sienna were ‘borrowed’ from other models, Toyota managed to make them all their own, and it worked. The Sienna will give you a 17/23 city/highway gas mileage and has a 20 gallon tank, so you’re good to go for awhile when full. It also has a towing capacity of 3,500 lbs., so it’s a great vacation/getaway car. It also comes in five model versions, with two of them offering a V6 engine and two offering AWD. This is one of the perfect family vehicles for the price, especially when you’re buying used.
6. 2009 Pontiac G8
If you like a sedan that rides nice, handles well, seats five, and looks very, very cool, the 2009 G8 is likely a perfect choice for you. With sub-models designated as the base model, which is standard, the GT, the GXP Automatic, and the GXP manual, you are looking at various choices which make differences in performance and transmission operations. Both GPX models get 13 mpg in the city and 20 mpg on the highway, while the GT gets 15/24, and the base model gives you 17/25. The manual tranny comes in 5-speed only, but the automatics come in both five- and six-speed versions. Sporty and easy to handle, the G8 may not be the most economical gasoline-wise. You’re going to spend around $9,100 for any of the versions of this model.
5. 2008 Acura RL
$7,550 is approximately what you’ll need to pick up a 2008 Acura RL. For that price you can drive off in a dependable and attractive mid-sized sedan with a 3.5L V6, 5-speed automatic that gives you 290 hp…ample power for your day to day driving needs. As for fuel economy, you’re looking at approximately 16 city miles and 24 on the highway; you may be saying it could be better, but for the power you’re getting, well, you have to be willing to take the knocks somewhere. That particular year Acura put out three versions: the 3.5, 3.5 Technology Package, and the 3.5 Collision Mitigation Brake System Package. Chances are you won’t be able to tell one from the other by sight, but you might know by the price, which will likely run a bit higher for the latter two versions.
4. 2009 Hyundai Genesis
This full-sized Hyundai is a five passenger vehicle that is referred to as an ‘executive’ sedan. 2009 was the second year of production on this car, and while it is full-sized, it was also considered a sport model, which is what it was marketed as. If the Genesis is what you’re in the market for, you can expect to run into a couple of versions: the 3.8L and the 4.6L, which will get you gas mileage in the city and on the highway of about 18/27 and 17/25; the horsepower range of the two is between 290 and 375. While made by Hyundai, the Genesis was marketed as its own make, and was a part of the company’s luxury division; it is now separate and operates as Genesis Motor Company, so if you get this model year, you’ll technically have a car that is no longer made. It’s a nice vehicle, for sure, and highly dependable and attractive, but you can expect to pay a surprisingly low price of around $5,950…a heck of a good deal if it’s in good condition.
3. 2010 Toyota Avalon
For many years now Toyota has enjoyed the thrill of being one of the most consistent high sellers as far as the automobile market is concerned, and the same is true when it comes to their used vehicles as well. The Avalon, while not the most popular of their models, is certainly as high quality a car as any of them. It features a 6-speed automatic tranny with overdrive and a 3.5L V6 engine that puts out 268 horses. As far as gas mileage goes, you will likely get around 19 mpg in the city and 28 mpg on the highway out of this mid-sized five-seater. The used price isn’t bad either, at just over $8,000 average for this particular model.
2. 2012 Honda Fit
This is one of the newest used cars on our list, and one of the smallest. The Honda Fit that was manufactured in 2012 has only a 10.6 gallon fuel capacity and will score you a whopping 28 mpg in the city and 35 mpg on the highway…numbers that are hard to beat. While it seats up to five people, four are likely to be more comfortable. It was made in four different model configurations: Base Manual, Base Automatic, Sport Manual, and Sport Automatic, so those will be the choices you may come across; both come with the regular 4-cylinder engine. You can probably pick up one of these economical little beasts for around $7,900, depending on the configuration you choose.
1. 2012 Honda Civic
And the number one most awesome used car for under $10k is…the 2012 Honda Civic. The Civic has been around forever, it seems, and it still sells like hotcakes. And for good reason. It’s attractive, durable, dependable, and affordable…everything one could want in a car. We believe the 2012 model was the perfect year to choose for the number one spot for too many reasons to mention, but will give you some of its specs, which should speak for themselves. Available with either a 1.8L or 2.4L 4-cylinder engine, owners will enjoy getting an amazing 29 mpg and 41 mpg in the city and highway, respectively. It was manufactured in both the coupe and sedan version, so regardless of your personal taste, you’ll be able to get one that is pleasing to you aesthetically. Best of all, this dependable car is just as affordable used as it was brand new; on the average it will run you just over $9,000…definitely a car that can fit into most any budget. Thus, the 2012 Honda Civic comes in proudly at number one.
So, now you have the information you need. Print it off and tuck a copy under your arm when you go car shopping. We’re hoping you already have the make and model you desire planted firmly in your mind, and that the above list help you make your choice. Just don’t forget to have whatever vehicle you decide on looked over thoroughly before finalizing your purchase. The most important thing is that you and your passengers are safe, and you want to be sure you get your money’s worth, of course. For now, take care on the road, and happy driving.
Written by Benjamin Smith
Read more posts by Benjamin Smith