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10 Cars You Should Buy Used (and 5 You Shouldn’t)

Whether you're on a tight budget or seeking a first car for your teen, at some point most car buyers stroll onto a used car lot looking for a deal. Here are ten cars you should buy used — and five to avoid.

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Row of pre-owned cars for sale

Time to Buy a Car

When it’s time to go to the dealership to buy a new car, there are so many options that it can be overwhelming. Narrowing your search to used cars to get more bang for your buck can be helpful. Before you start shopping, make sure you know about these cars that you should and shouldn’t buy used. These are the cars that owners keep the longest.

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Toyota CamryOvu0ng/shutterstock

Car You Should Buy Used: Toyota Camry

No surprise here, as one of the auto industry’s most reliable cars continues to deliver a worry-free, low maintenance experience for its second or third owners. Buying a used Toyota Camry might not be the best deal financially at the start because they are in demand and retain their value well, but you’re unlikely to pour big money into your used Toyota at the repair shop. Camry is a great used car because it is almost guaranteed to last you 250,000 miles.

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New York International Auto ShowAnadolu Agency/Getty Images

Car You Should Buy Used: Kia Rio

The ideal used car wasn’t expensive when purchased new, and remains reliable for many years after it leaves the lot. Kia Rio qualifies on both counts. As Business Insider points out, “Hatchbacks are less expensive than compact SUVs to begin with, and as they are in less demand than crossover SUVs, they are a better deal for the buyer.” When shopping for a used Rio, look back three years because while “a brand new Kia Rio has a base price of just $15,390 making it one of the best new car deals under $18,000; 2016 models now cost about a third less than that.” Get your vehicle looking like new with these simple interior and exterior car detailing tips that you can do yourself.

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Subaru Outback 2018 Test Drive Dayteddyleung/Getty Images

Car You Should Buy Used: Subaru Outback

The all-wheel-drive Outback is a rugged, high-mileage workhorse that delivers a low-maintenance, low-cost ownership experience, even models from a dozen years ago. Subarus are often considered good values used and new. See if the Outback ranks as one of the top cars to buy new.

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Nissan Altima seen at the New York International Auto Show...SOPA Images/Getty Images

Car You Should Buy Used: Nissan Altima

The No. 1 used car under $15,000 on Carmax’s 2019 survey, a mid-decade Altima scores big because it “provides the ideal balance of affordability, functionality, and style.” While the price and performance will get you to sign the paperwork, what’s under the hood of the Nissan Altima will leave you driving away happy. Per Carmax: “The base engine packs a surprising punch with its 2.5 liter, 182 horsepower engine.”

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Toyota SiennaEd Aldridge/shutterstock

Car You Should Buy Used: Toyota Sienna

A used minivan can be a mixed bag because you know many kid-made messes occurred inside the cabin. A pre-owned Sienna may still be hiding some crumbs and crayon nubs, but it will deliver additional years of solid performance for a new family. Toyota’s reliability makes this a safe choice in the used minivan market. If you’re willing to go back a decade for your next family car, thinks you may be able to snag a Sienna for less than $5,000! The following 13 handy hints will help you complete automotive maintenance and small fixes with ease.

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2020 Honda Civic Sedanshaunl/Getty Images

Car You Should Buy Used: Honda Civic

If you’re willing to buy a ten-year-old vehicle, you can probably get a great deal on one of the most well-known reliable cars. Trusted Choice says that “the best part about Civics is that there are a range of models, all of which are affordable. In fact, you’ve got the coupe, sedan, and even a hybrid to pick from.” Because there are always a lot of older Civics for sale, “you can probably get one [from 2006 to 2010] well within a $5,000 budget.” If your goal is to keep your car in great shape, don’t even consider doing any of these things or you’ll regret it.

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hyundai sonatabmcent1/Getty Images

Car You Should Buy Used: Hyundai Sonata

Thanks to a generous five-year, 60,000-mile warranty, many used Hyundais may still be covered when they hit the used car market. Add to that the extra benefit of a used sticker price about $10,000 less than the original cost for a three-year-old Sonata and you have one of the best used car deals available. You may need an affordable used car in a hurry if you see one of these 13 signs that your car is about to die.

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First drive of new Ford Focussupergenijalac/Getty Images

Car You Should Buy Used: Ford Focus

According to, “The mechanical simplicity of the Ford Focus means that parts are widely available and maintenance is relatively inexpensive.” The popular used car website also notes that Focus models from 2008 to 2011 can regularly be had for less than $5,000, making this small car leader a top choice for anyone on a tight budget. A Focus is affordable to maintain but here are 30 things your car mechanic won’t tell you.

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honda fitotomobil/shutterstock

Car You Should Buy Used: Honda Fit

Taking first place in the subcompact category of Car Gurus’ annual best used car awards, late model Honda Fits are not only funky and cool visually, but a used one is easy on the pocketbook too. Car Gurus notes that “the smallest Honda has proven to be a standout in value retention” and that its “tiny exterior dimensions have long belied its spacious interior” which helps to make it a choice for small families as well as teens shopping for their first used car. Learn how to check the remaining life on your brakes with this simple test.

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Volvo XC90Jarretera/shutterstock

Car You Should Buy Used: Volvo XC90

“Luxury vehicles typically lose most of their value over a relatively short period of time, yet the second-generation XC90 projects to keep more than 40 percent of its value after 12 years,” according to Car Gurus. Volvo’s award-winning, sleek and safe SUV is the top choice for a used SUV. Additionally, Volvo ranks as one of the car brands with the least number of recalls.

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Latest model MINI COOPERSisoje/Getty Images

Cars You Should NOT Buy Used: Mini Cooper

They are almost too cute and have European style to spare, but the reliability of Mini models across the board, from the Roadster to the Clubman to the classic Mini Cooper itself, drags down their value in the used car market. You’ll end up paying too much at the repair shop for this one. Check out: The best and worst car brands for customer satisfaction.

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Chevrolet SparkArt Konovalov/shutterstock

Cars You Should NOT Buy Used: Chevrolet Spark

U.S. News & World Report has words of warning for used car shoppers looking for a cheap compact car. While pleasant to drive and a good value purchased new, “Used [mid-decade] Chevy Sparks have poor reliability ratings, which means that maintenance and upkeep may erode any potential savings.” Don’t miss these weird car features you didn’t know you might have.

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Dodge Grand CaravanArt Konovalov/shutterstock

Cars You Should NOT Buy Used: Dodge Grand Caravan

“The Grand Caravan [from 2013 to 2016] has a low-reliability score, falling far short of class leaders,” says U.S. News & World Report, which goes on to ding the Dodge minivan further. “Parents should also be concerned about the Grand Caravan’s low safety scores, and while its low-rent cabin materials aren’t a deal-breaker on their own, cheap upholstery and plastics mean that your new acquisition will probably already be showing its age.” This van is one to avoid on used car lots.

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SuzukiGrzegorz Czapski/shutterstock

Cars You Should NOT Buy Used: Suzuki and Saab

You may be tempted by a low sticker price on a used car dealer’s lot, but proceed with caution when looking at any model Suzuki or Saab. Why? As Business Insider points out, “You can often get a great deal on a used car from a brand that’s no longer around in the United States but once that vehicle needs repairs, you may well pay dearly for the upkeep.” In addition to pricey labor costs, “parts will be harder to find [as well as a repair shop that knows the vehicles inside and out] and thus much more expensive.” Already own a Suzuki or Saab? Make sure you follow these 100 car repairs you don’t need to go to the shop for.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published on Reader's Digest

Jeff Bogle
Jeff Bogle is a dad of daughters, herder of house cats, award-winning photographer, avid traveler, and English football fanatic who has had the privilege of writing stories for Esquire, PBS, Good Housekeeping, Time Out New York, and Trip Advisor's Family Vacation Critic, among other fine publications.