By Aaron Crowe
A new car costs an average of $31,377, giving car shoppers plenty of reasons to look at cheaper used cars.
But even many used cars can be expensive, with the most sought-after late-model used cars averaging $15,793. The good news is that after the recession caused used car prices to hit record highs, prices are starting to drop.
For shoppers with up to $10,000 to spend, finding a good used car with low mileage and in good condition isn’t impossible. With assistance from Kelley Blue Book, Edmunds.com and a used car dealership, we came up with a list of the best cars to buy for $10,000 or less. Listed in no particular order with retail value, here are 10 worth a test drive, and possibly, your hard-earned money:
1. 2005 Honda Civic. Kelley Blue Book lists this car as is top used car under $8,000. It calls the Civic a prime example of a “bulletproof” used car. The 2005 sedan has a 1.7-liter 4-cylinder engine, can comfortably seat four adults, and its light curb weight helps it get 34 mph on the highway and is somewhat fun to drive. Retail cost: $7,392.
2. 2004 Honda Element. Honda stopped making the Element after the 2011 model year, which is odd because a lot of customers say they love the car. The fun looking car has a clamshell tailgate, side cargo doors, water-resistant seat fabric and an easy-clean urethane floor — all to make it ready for action. Price: $6,882.
3. 2002 BMW 3 Series. Getting a luxury car on the list isn’t a mistake. Whether it’s the 3 or 5 Series, these cars from BMW are built to last and can go 300,000 miles, says Jonathan Kazary, general manager at Kenwall Autobody, a used car dealership in Linden, N.J. Price: Around $6,000.
4. 2007 Chevrolet Equinox LS. Richard Arca, a senior analyst at Edmunds and a used car specialist, recommends this four-wheel drive SUV. It has a roomy and versatile cabin, excellent crash test scores and decent fuel mileage. According to Edmunds, the Equinox also has limited choice in drivetrains, a confusing stereo control layout, and a somewhat slow steering response. Price: $8,821.
5. 2008 Mazda A5. Edmunds also recommends this minivan, which is smaller and more “mini” than most minivans, making it a good choice for smaller families. It offers a lot of versatility, with three rows of seating and enough cargo space for a small family. Price: $9,384.
6. 2004 Toyota Camry. Kelley Blue Book says this car has clean looks, quiet operation, a smooth ride and a reputation for quality back when Toyota’s reputation was at a high point. Price: $7,321.
7. 2008-10 Kia Soul. The three model years of this car that Kenwall Autobody’s Kazary recommends are listed because they’re all good cars and more choices may make it easier to find one for $10,000. Finding an older Kia Soul at $10,000 may be difficult, but can be done, Kazary says. They sold for about $14,000 new and if they have less than 100,000 miles, the warranty is still valid. They’re not great to look at, but are known for mostly needing only routine maintenance work, he says. Price: $10,000.
“It’s still a Kia — but if you’re looking for reliability or something for five or six years, it’s a good car,” Kazary says.
8. 2007 Nissan Frontier. If you want a used truck, this is the one to get, according to Edmunds. The midsize pickup has a rugged chassis, brawny drivetrain and a long list of useful features, according to Edmunds. It has ample ground clearance to get around in the dirt, a powerful V6 engine, rides well on the highway, and has a spacious cabin and innovative bed features. Price: $9,575.
9. 2008 Ford Fusion. The four-door, midsize family sedan recommended by Edmunds is roomy and sporty with styling that stands out. It has a roomy interior, athletic handling, is a smooth ride and is available in all-wheel drive. Price: $9,836.
10. 2003 Acura TL. Kelley Blue Book says this car is well-equipped and priced lower than the competition. It’s one of the site’s favorite premium-brand bargains and has an outstanding reputation for reliability. Price: $6,768.
When buying a used car, be sure to take it on a test drive and test the steering, blind spots and how comfortable the brakes are, Kazary says. And be sure to shop around and follow our tips for how to take a test drive.