Buying a used car can be a great way to save money. The trick is to find a not only a good deal, but a good car—one that will be safe, reliable, and enjoyable for years. Our picks for the best used cars can help steer you in the right direction.
Consider this a quick cheat sheet, highlighting some standout models. For a deeper look at your options, tour the used-car section of ConsumerReports.org, where you'll find reliability data, road tests, pricing, and much more. That said, we've selected these models as great choices.
Each performed well in our testing when new and had above-average reliability for the model years shown, based on our Annual Auto Survey. All of the models came standard with electronic stability control (ESC), a proven lifesaver, during the years indicated.Visit our used car buying guide for quick access to the latest advice, Ratings, road tests, and videos.
Less than $10,000
Sedans: Hyundai Sonata (4cyl.) 2008 and Acura TSX 2004
The economical and efficient Sonata has a decent ride, secure handling, and a responsive four-cylinder engine that returned 23 mpg overall. The Acura TSX is a more upscale and sportier alternative. (Get detailed pricing.)
SUVs: Toyota RAV4 (4-cyl.) 2004
The RAV4 was redesigned in 2001, but it wasn't until 2004 that it got standard antilock brakes and ESC. It has nimble handling, good brakes, easy cabin access, and a particularly strong engine. Fuel economy of 21 mpg is decent for an all-wheel-drive SUV. (Get detailed pricing.)
Small cars: 2011 Honda Fit and 2011 Mazda3
The Fit is an excellent choice among hatchbacks. It has amazing space utilization; responsive, agile handling; and a super-efficient four-cylinder engine that returns 30 mpg overall with an automatic transmission. For a bit more refinement, look for a Mazda3 hatchback or sedan. (Get detailed pricing.)
Sedans: 2006-07 Honda Accord (V6) and 2005-06 Acura TL
The Accord is an excellent choice among used cars. Its smooth V6 engine is economical and strong, the ride is comfortable and compliant, and reliability is excellent. The four-cylinder version is nice but didn't get ESC until 2008. A more luxurious option is the Acura TL. (Get detailed pricing.)
Small SUVs: 2006-08 Toyota RAV4 (4-cyl.) and 2005-07 Honda CR-V
The 2006 RAV4 gained more interior room, a V6, and an optional third-row seat. The four-cylinder's nimble handling, very good 23 mpg overall, and versatile cabin propelled it to the top of our small-SUV Ratings. The CR-V is a sportier, if somewhat noisier, alternative. (Get detailed pricing.)
Learn how to get a great deal on a used car.
More from Consumer Reports:
2013 New Car Preview
Best and worst used cars
Complete Ratings for 200 cars and trucks
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Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers or sponsors on MSN. Copyright © 2007-2013 Consumers Union of U.S., Inc. No reproduction, in whole or in part, without written permission.