For under $20,000, which of these sedans is the right choice used? A used Ford Fusion or a used Toyota Camry?
Never before have new and even used cars been as expensive as they are right now, but incredible deals can still be had on a second-hand sedan. As one of the perennial all-stars, the Toyota Camry has always been attractive, but something changed in 2021. Ford lopped off almost every bit of its car division in favor of trucks and SUVs. That means that the Ford Fusion, one of the Camrys greatest challengers, is no longer in the game.
Turn the clock back just a single year though and the 2020 Ford Fusion can now be had for under $20,000 in used condition. In fact, the 2020 Toyota Camry is also available at that same price used. So, we want to know if the time and depreciation have made this battle even closer than it was before.
On paper, these two four-door cars couldn’t be much more different. To begin with, the used Ford Fusion is available with three different four-cylinder engines. It’s not the most intuitive lineup either. The base engine is a 2.5-liter I4 that makes 175 horsepower and 175 lb-ft of torque. The mid-level trims, both SE and SEL, use a 1.5-liter turbocharged I4 engine that has 8 more horsepower and 11 pound-feet of torque, but also gets a tad better fuel economy. Then there’s the range-topper, a 2.0-liter turbocharged I4 engine that makes 240 horsepower and 270-pound feet of torque. Regardless of the engine choice, a used Ford Fusion is going to come with front-wheel-drive unless it was originally optioned with all-wheel-drive.
The available used Toyota Camry models are decidedly more straightforward, as almost every trim level available in our $20,000 budget is going to come with the same 2.5-liter 4-cylinder that makes 203 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque. The only other choice for 2020 is an outstanding 301 horsepower V6. Both engines are mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. All send power to the front wheels, but all-wheel-drive is available. The Camry is also the more clear-cut winner when it comes to fuel efficiency as its base motor is more powerful and more efficient with a combined rating of 28 mpg at its worst. That figure is achieved when powering all four wheels, while the used Ford Fusion could at best manage 27 mpg combined in its most optimal front-wheel-drive configuration.
Drive a used Toyota Camry and a used Ford Fusion back to back and they’ll feel nearly identical. The Camry is decidedly quicker and more responsive when it’s time to go though. It’s also got a better suspension for more passionate driving, but keep in mind that neither of these sedans is truly sporty. Even the TRD trim level of the Toyota Camry isn’t going to keep up with a real sports sedan in the bends. Although, it does a slightly better job of indulging that desire than the used Ford Fusion though.
The Fusion just doesn’t seem to have an athletic bone in its body. Steering is numb and body roll is much more noticeable than in the Camry. It does take the Toyota down in one important area, braking. The brake pedal feel in the Camry is good, but the Fusion is great. It’s firm, it’s responsive, it’s easy to modulate, and it stops shorter than most other cars in their sedan segment.
Ford also shines in the comfort and interior quality department. First, the front seats are sincerely outstanding. They are by far the best place to be in either of these cars. They’re comfortable, supportive, and highly adjustable. We also really like how quickly the climate control does its job. The Ford Fusion also feels nicer inside too with a cool rotary gear selector, quality materials, and great overall visibility. Over poor road conditions it’s fantastic, and again, the clear winner between the two. It’s also quieter with only hints of the buzzy engine filtering into the cabin itself.
The Toyota Camry doesn’t lag too far behind in most metrics. Visibility is good too and overall it’s very comfortable as well. The seats are a bit less supportive, but they’re still a great place to be even if you’re stuck in the car on a long trip. Where it’s not as good is in terms of overall material quality. The center control stack, aside from being presented in a cool angular way, is comprised of mostly simple hard plastics. The same goes for the door cards which are about as drab as it gets. Over rough roads, the Camry is louder too and much more easily unsettled. Still, it’s not without its highlights. The climate control is a few steps better than that of the Fusion.
The 2020 Toyota Camry offers six different trim levels, L, LE, SE, XSE, XLE, and TRD. Every used Toyota Camry, aside from the TRD, comes with the four-cylinder engine mentioned above and the XSE and XLE can both be optioned with the V6. All Camrys also come with Toyota SafetySense, a full suite of advanced safety features. In addition, they’ll all have Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity.
The base model L gets 16-inch wheels, six speakers, LED headlights, and a USB port. The LE gets another USB port, a power-adjustable driver’s seat, and alloy wheels. At the SE level, buyers will find a sport-tuned suspension, simulated leather upholstery and a leather-wrapped steering wheel that sports paddle-shifters. The XSE is even more luxurious with features like an 8-inch infotainment system, keyless entry and ignition, and dual-zone automatic climate control. The XLE adds even more tech such as heated front seats, a larger driver info display, and a premium JBL audio system. At the top of the range, the TRD edition is only available with the V6 and front-wheel drive. It’s most closely equipped to the SE, but features special touches like 19-inch wheels and can be upgraded with all the tech from the XSE and XLE.
The 2020 Ford Fusion is available in four trim levels, S, SE, SEL, and Titanium. Much like the Camry, the used Ford Fusion comes with standard advanced safety features packaged together in what Ford Calls Co-Pilot360. One notable difference is that Ford doesn’t include Adaptive Cruise Control as Toyota does. Aside from that, each trim level of the Fusion is very different.
The S comes with a 4.2-inch infotainment screen, a 2.5-liter engine, and Bluetooth. The SE gets the more powerful and efficient 1.5-liter engine as well as power-adjustable front seats, and an upgraded audio system. That system includes an 8-inch infotainment system, six speakers, and Android Auto / Apple CarPlay connectivity. The SEL boosts audio performance further with 11 total speakers. It also gets LED headlights, heated front seats, and keyless ignition. Finally, the Titanium Fusion gets everything from the SEL but adds the 2.0-liter engine, ambient interior lighting, a 12-speaker sound system, a sunroof, and heated/ventilated front seats. It also gets Co-Pilot 360 Assist, a more advanced set of safety features that are only optional on other trims.
Both of these sedans are excellent overall and we don’t think anyone will feel as though they missed out by purchasing one over the other, but at the end of the day, the used Toyota Camry is just a better buy than the used Ford Fusion. That comes down to a few specific advantages Toyota holds over the Ford. First, we love the complimentary maintenance offered by Toyota that makes it much more likely that you’re buying a vehicle that’s been well cared for. Next, it’s hard to ignore the additional equipment like better engine options and more standard safety equipment. The Ford Fusion is good used option for under $20,000, but the Toyota Camry is better.