We search out the best used cars under $10,000 in every segment. Dependability, depreciation, utility, and driving experience have all been accounted for.
Buying a used car is hard, and not just because their average price has ballooned by 75% over the last decade. There’s a lot more to consider.
First, just as with buying a new car, there’s the question of what you’re looking for, something fun, reliable, able to haul, or family friendly. Does an SUV provide what you need or is it too much car? Would a Miata suffice for weekend jaunts to the lake cabin? Or do you need a daily driver for your slog of a commute? The good news is, with many more used vehicles than new, there’s a ton of options to choose from.
What’s my budget? is a logical next question. We set this bar a little higher than average for a used car (from $8,657 to $10,000) just to cover those of you who are leaning toward larger vehicles like trucks and SUVs.
Then there’s the general state of the vehicle, its mileage, level of upkeep, and service record. Getting a prospective purchase independently inspected is a good idea, as is thorough test driving.
Combining the above, that is, purpose, value (including desirability and depreciation), and reliability, we narrowed down to what we feel are the best deals to be had in used vehicles.
Below is our list of the top 10 used cars across segments as well excellent alternatives.
Ford F-150 (2008-09)
The F-150 is America’s favorite vehicle for a reason. It’s big, burly, it tows and hauls with the best of them, and the overall quality has remained high for decades. That’s why a ten-year old F-150 is a solid choice for a used truck. Not only is it tough as nails (or perhaps “Ford Tough” if you prefer), there are plenty of examples skirting under the 100,000-mile mark. Durable, lightly used, and still under $10,000? This is the truck that helped shift the segment from the merely work-ready practical pick-up to the smooth-riding, ultra-quiet, near-luxury level vehicles they are today.
Kia Soul (2013)
Not all subcompacts succeed at their intended purpose, supplanting the sedan. But the Kia Soul may have you forgetting sedans completely. It’s got get tech, great driving dynamics, and a whole heap of style to boot. We love the boxy design as both practical, by maximizing interior space, and playful.
Toyota RAV4 (2008-11)
A mainstay of the American road, the Toyota RAV4 is America’s most popular SUV and one of the best choices for a used vehicle. Toyota’s reliability goes a long way toward setting the RAV4 apart. That and the comfortable ride…and the ample space for passengers and cargo…and the fuel efficiency…and the modern amenities. At bottom, there are few more well-rounded vehicles out there.
Toyota Highlander (2008)
The Toyota Highlander is not the biggest option for a 3rd-row SUV, nor is it the sportiest, nor the strongest (its only got a 2000lbs. standard towing capacity, though a proper two package can up this number to 5000lbs.). What then makes the Highlander a preferred choice in such a competitive segment? Reliability, high quality inside and out, plus stellar safety scores, and long-term durability. And its that last one that makes it a favorite within the overlanding community. Whether you’re looking for a family vehicle to get you to the mall or a rugged 4×4 to take you far off the beaten path, the Highlander is a great choice. Be on the lookout for the following year’s hybrid version that gets 27 city / 25 hwy mpg.
Honda Fit (2011-12)
Perhaps you’re picking up on a theme here, the Honda Fit is another Swiss Army style vehicle that does many, many things as well or better than the competition. Fun drive and maneuverability? Check. What about cargo space? 16.6 cu. ft. and 52.7 cu. ft. with the seats down. Safety? NHTSA five-star rating. The Fit is a pretty great car, and we haven’t even covered the slick design or the outstanding mpg (28 city/ 35 hwy.). Oh, and there’s a manual available, too. Aside from its small stature there’s not a lot of negative you can say about the Fit. IF you’re in the market for a compact car/hatchback, you can’t go wrong with the Fit.
Toyota Camry (2011)
Car reviewers toss around words like cossetted, cozy, refined, but the Toyota Camry, while not a luxury car by any stretch, delivers comfort as few cars can at this price point. The ride is smooth and quiet. Sure, there are sportier rivals, but they can’t match the Camry’s reliability or roomy interior. This is one sedan we hope persists in the age of the SUV. Seriously, have you checked out this year’s V6? It’s pretty awesome, too.
Ford Fusion Hybrid (2010)
Andrew Luck, Rocky Marciano, Bobby Orr, Ford Motor Company; all bowed out at the top of their game. As for the former three, they’d already achieved greatness. But just when Ford seemed to have mastered the sedan game, as evidenced by the Fusion Hybrid, US consumers stopped buying. Too bad for new car buyers. The good news is there are still plenty of Fusions out there on the used market. Super quiet, comfortable, rock solid reliability, these are what great used cars are made of.
Honda Odyssey (2009-10)
Once the talk of the automotive town in the 1980s, the minivan has been thoroughly eclipsed by modern SUVs. But once you take a look at the cargo numbers on these things it begs the question, why the switch? Maybe the 38 cu.ft. and jumping to a whopping 147 cu.ft. with the seats out?! For comparison, modern SUVs max out at 80 cu. ft. with the seats down. In addition to all that space, the Odyssey has surprisingly well-balanced ride and handling, top safety ratings from IIHS, and good reliability.
Subaru Outback (2010-11)
Once the family hauler of choice, the station wagon was first replaced by the minivan, which in turn was swallowed by the SUV. But an abiding love for station wagons isn’t just for car reviewers and Europeans. Americans seem to like certain wagons just fine. Case in point, the Subaru Outback. Good fuel economy, cargo space galore, car-like handling while still sporting 8.7 inches of ground clearance, there is indeed a lot to love about the Outback. It’s as close as you can come to a perfect medium between a sedan and SUV. Hey, maybe the day of the station wagon has come around once more.
Ford Mustang (2010)
The above are all likely to end up as daily drivers, whereas the idea with this is simply capping your spending on a leisure vehicle. The Mustang drop-top packs a metric ton of fun (1000kgs or 2,200lbs) into its total weight of 3,400lbs. That means the Mustang is 2/3rds fun, and only 1/3 metal. Plus, you can find even the GT trimmed 4.6L V8 for well under $10,000.
Know of any other great deals for under $10,000? Let us know your recommendations in the comments.