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

Updated: Mar. 14, 2024

Whether it is for a teen's first car or a necessity because of a tight budget, at some point most car buyers find themselves strolling a used car dealer's lot looking for a good deal. Here are ten cars you should buy used and five you shouldn't.

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Row of pre-owned cars for sale
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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 get overwhelming. Narrowing your search down to used cars in order 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 Camry

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 will likely not find yourself pouring more money into your used Toyota at the repair shop.

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Car you should buy used: Kia Rio

The ideal used car combo is one that wasn’t expensive when purchased new and is also a proven reliable ride for a long time after it leaves the lot. Kia Rio checks both boxes and 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.”

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Car you should buy used: Subaru Outback

The all-wheel-drive Outback is a rugged, high-mileage workhorse of a car that can be relied on to continue to provide a low-maintenance, low-cost of ownership experience even when buying a used model from upwards of a dozen years ago. Subarus are often considered good values both used and new.

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Car you should buy used: Nissan Altima

Ranking as the number one 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, it is what’s under the hood of the Nissan Altima that will have you driving away happy because “the base engine packs a surprising punch with its 2.5 liter, 182 horsepower engine.”

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Toyota Sienna
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Car you should buy used: Toyota Sienna

A used minivan can be a mixed bag because you know that many kid-made messes have occurred inside the cabin, but a pre-owned Sienna, while it may still be hiding some crumbs and crayon nubs, 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 are willing to go back a decade for your next family car, Autotrader.com thinks you may be able to snag a Sienna for less than $5,000!

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Car you should buy used: Honda Civic

If you are willing to travel back in time to the last decade, you can probably get a great deal on one of the most legendary 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.”

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hyundai sonata
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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 14 signs that your car is about to die.

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Car you should buy used: Ford Focus

According to AutoTrader.com, “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 fit

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 on the eye 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.

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Volvo XC90

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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Cars you shouldn’t buy used: Mini Cooper

They are almost too cute and have European style to spare, but the reliability of Mini models pretty much across the board, from the Roadster to the Clubman and including the classic Mini Cooper itself, drags down their value in the used car market. You will end up paying too much at the repair shop for this one.

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Chevrolet Spark
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Cars you shouldn’t 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 as new cars, “used [mid-decade] Chevy Sparks have poor reliability ratings, which means that maintenance and upkeep may erode any potential savings.” Also, learn about the problem with hybrid cars that no one is talking about.

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Dodge Grand Caravan
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Cars you shouldn’t 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, who go on to ding the Dodge minivan further by noting that, “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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Cars you shouldn’t 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.”