Best used cars under $10,000 and $15,000

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Can you really buy a reliable car for under $15,000? How about for under $10,000? Consumer Reports says you can.

All the cars the magazine came up with performed well in their initial road tests and have had above-average reliability for the model years shown. But Consumer Reports takes it one step further: They also were looking for cars that have electronic stability control (ESC) as a standard or optional feature.

Today’s cars are better at limiting injury or fatality when in an accident. That’s due in large part to ESC. When Clark visited the Consumer Reports test track some years ago, they told him do not buy a car for a kid if it does not have ESC on it. Remember this one rule and you’ll keep your kids safe as they learn to drive!

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Best used cars under $10,000

Small cars (with available ESC)

  •     Ford Focus (2009-10)
  •     Pontiac Vibe (2006-09)
  •     Scion xB (2008-09)


  •     Acura TL (2006)
  •     Acura TSX (2006)
  •     Hyundai Sonata (2007-09)
  •     Mazda6 (2009)

SUVs and minivans

  •     Honda CR-V (2006)
  •     Honda Pilot (2006)
  •     Toyota Sienna (2006)

Best used cars under $15,000

Small cars

  •     Honda Fit (2011-13)
  •     Kia Soul (2011-13)
  •     Mazda3 (2011-12)


  •     Infiniti G (2006-08)
  •     Lincoln MKZ (2009-10)


  •     Acura MDX (2006)
  •     Toyota Highlander (2006-07)

Do these things first before buying a used car

Now that you have some ideas about reliable rides that are easy on your wallet, you’re ready to get out there and start shopping. But before you do, heed this advice…

Arrange your used auto financing first. Look at credit unions, online banks or even traditional banks. Only take dealer financing if it beats any other offer you have. Of course, the best idea of all is to pay for an affordable used car completely in cash!

Make sure the used vehicle is worth what you’re paying. Check, or for the true market value so you come up with a feel for the price. You can also use, which lets you put in your zip code and the make/model of the vehicle you’re interested in at their website. They’ll comb through millions of listings available on published databases and rate the vehicles available for sale with notations of ‘great price,’ ‘good price’ ‘fair price’ and on down.

Check the vehicle number. Run the VIN through to find out if it’s a flood vehicle or if it’s been in a horrible accident.

Have the used vehicle inspected by an independent mechanic. One of the key things to know about buying a used car is that you buy ‘as is.’ CarFax alone is not enough of a check; you need to take this additional step. Never rely on any representations that the salesperson makes about the car, be it a commissioned employee at a dealership or an independent seller in your neighborhood.

Check out your no-haggle buying options. It can be tough to find a diamond in the rough and weed out the lousy deals. Try, which gives you seven days to return the car, no questions asked. It’s kind of like the Carmax of the online used car buying world.


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