If you are just diving back into the used car market after an absence of a few years, you are probably amazed by the prices you’re confronted with. As new cars have escalated in price – and they have – used car prices have ridden the elevator upward right along with them. Finding a good, reliable used car for under $10,000 can be a struggle, but that doesn’t mean it is impossible. Our experts at Driving Today have done extensive research both hands-on and scouring secondary sources of reliability and quality information to assemble this list. Included among our experts are both a veteran certified mechanic and renowned automotive journalists with more than 30 years of experience in vehicle evaluation. Here, in descending order, are the 10 Best Used Cars under $10,000 for 2018.
2011 Toyota Camry
The 2011 Camry is one of the oldest cars on this list, but don’t let its age fool you. A properly maintained example of this midsize sedan still has significant useful life, and because of the way it is engineered and manufactured, we are confident in putting it at the top of our prestigious list. We think most buyers of $10K used cars are looking for reliability, and they are fearful of potentially big repair bills. The Camry delivers exceptional reliability, and it is among the most trouble-free vehicles on the planet. Beyond that it offers a roomy interior, comfortable ride and better-than-you-might-expect fuel economy. In addition its long list of safety equipment – including stability control, brake assist and a variety of airbags – delivers peace of mind.
2011 Honda Accord
What we just said about the Toyota Camry could be applied in almost equal measure to the 2011 Honda Accord. Yes, it’s several model-years-old and, yes, you might get newer versions of other similar sedans for about the same money. But if you seek reliability and creature comforts, the Accord midsize sedan is an excellent choice. For economy’s sake, we suggest you stick with the 4-cylinder engines, though the 271-horsepower V6 offers more fun. Creature comforts abound. Power locks and windows, cruise control and remote entry are standard equipment, and SE and EX-L versions feature heated, power-adjustable leather front seats. With reasonable maintenance, like changing the oil regularly, the Honda Accord will be your family’s faithful companion for years to come.
2013 Toyota Corolla
One of the most popular vehicles in the world for decades, the Toyota Corolla has earned its reputation by offering stellar quality, reliability and dependability. As a new car it typically carries a more expensive price than its competitors, but it makes up for that by an extremely low cost-to-own over time. A compact sedan with room for five (four comfortably), the 2013 Corolla won’t bowl you over with amenities, but it does feature air conditioning, remote keyless entry, power windows, ABS brakes, stability control and half a dozen airbags. At about 26 miles per gallon city/34 mpg highway, fuel economy is another plus. As a thrifty “commuter car” the 2011 Toyota Corolla shines.
2013 Honda Civic
Honda Civics came in a wide variety of configurations for the 2013 model year, but our recommendation is the four-door sedan with the conventional gasoline-fueled in-line 4-cylinder engine and the five-speed automatic transmission. This is a “bulletproof” combination that is largely responsible for the Civic’s reputation as a trouble-free car. Depending upon trim level, the Civic can be equipped with a wide variety of features including seven-speaker audio system, steering-wheel mounted controls and Bluetooth-enabled hands-free phone integration. The Civic covers safety with ABS brakes, electronic brake distribution, traction control, stability control and multi-stage airbags. The whipped cream on the sundae is Civic’s fun-to-drive nature that separates it from other compact sedans.
2013 Toyota Prius
The relatively low price for a gallon of gasoline has struck a blow at the used-car value of the Toyota Prius, and you can be the beneficiary. The 2013 Prius offers nearly off-the-charts fuel economy of 51 miles per gallon (mpg) city and 48 mpg highway, making it one of the most fuel-efficient vehicles you can buy at $10,000. It’s no rocketship in terms of acceleration with 98 horsepower from its gasoline engine and another 80 horsepower from its electric motor, but it is perfectly capable of accelerating onto an expressway or zipping away from a stoplight. Stability control, traction control, ABS brakes, electronic brake-force distribution, brake assist, lane keeping and hill-start assist highlight the long list of safety features. And unlike earlier Priuses that almost required you to wear a hair-shirt, the 2013 is well equipped with convenience features too.
2013 Honda Fit
You might look at the 2013 Honda Fit as cross between a hatchback and a small SUV. Its high-profile exterior and exceptionally versatile interior make the case for small SUV, while the driving performance and fuel economy speak to its hatchback side. Interestingly, its 1.5-liter 4-cylinder engine doesn’t deliver better fuel economy that is markedly better than the Honda Civic (27 mpg city/33 mpg highway), but the Fit’s interior is remarkably accommodating for both people and their stuff. Features include paddle-shifters, CD/MP3 audio player and voice-recognition-enabled navigation. On the safety front, ABS brakes, stability control and electronic brake distribution lead the list. Largely trouble-free if you change its oil regularly, the Fit can turn your workaday commute into a funfest.
2013 Buick Verano
Up to now our list has been populated with Toyotas and Hondas, but here is a domestically produced compact sedan, the Buick Verano. Can the venerable GM brand compete with Honda and Toyota on the reliability scale? We say yes, and this compact sedan is proof. And beyond that this small car delivers exceptional comfort and quiet. For simplicity’s sake you’ll want to choose the 2.4-liter 180-horsepower 4-cylinder engine versus the 2.0-liter turbo, and even then fuel economy isn’t eye-popping (21 mpg city/32 mpg highway), but the Verano’s level of equipment set it apart from most compact sedans in this price range. Luxury amenities include power sunroof, remote vehicle start, hands-free phone, premium sound system, leather seats and a useful rear-vision camera system. On the safety front the headline is 10 airbags, and the Verano also features blind-spot warning and parking assist.
2013 Chevrolet Impala
Some families need a large car, and therefore we named the 2013 Chevrolet Impala to the list. The 2013 version of the venerable “big Chevy” is powered by a 3.6-liter V6 engine that delivers 300 horsepower, yet it gets 30 miles per gallon in highway driving according to EPA. Further, the powertrain that includes a six-speed automatic transmission is both robust and easy to service. From a comfort standpoint, the Impala offers excellent value as it includes sunroof, Bose premium sound, leather seats, Bluetooth hands-free phone, navigation system and dual-zone climate control. On the safety front, the Impala features stability control, traction control and ABS braking, so, while unremarkable, the Impala is a safe, comfortable choice.
2011 Buick LaCrosse
The 2011 Buick LaCrosse was part of the brand’s most recent big push to establish a presence in the heart of Buick territory – large sedans. Happily, in this generation of the LaCrosse, Buick was successful, and the model established itself as an alternative to much pricier import sedans. Though some 2011 LaCrosse models were fitted with 4-cylinder engines, we think you’ll be more satisfied with the 3.6-liter V6, since the car is a bit hefty due to its expanse of luxury equipment. Power, heated outside mirrors, dual-zone climate control and remote starter are all standard features on the LaCrosse, and a “luxury package” delivers 11-speaker Harmon Kardon sound system and leather seats. Both quiet and sophisticated, a well-cared-for LaCrosse should deliver thousands of reliable miles.
2013 Kia Optima
The 2013 Kia Optima doesn’t feature radical styling or a ton of “new tech,” but it is just the type of solid, unassuming vehicle that makes a great used car. Two powertrains are available in the 2013 Optima, and for economy’s sake our recommendation would be the standard 200-horsepower 2.4-liter 4-cylinder. This midsize sedan has abundant room for five passengers, and it is equipped with one of the easiest-to-understand infotainment systems on the market. In the Kia tradition it is also stuffed with equipment, things like alloy wheels, HID headlights, rear camera display, navigation system and heated-and-cooled seats. The suspension is tuned for comfort, but the Optima still offers a vaguely European feel, especially versus domestic competitors.
by the Editors of Driving Today