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August 2011: Best deals on used small cars

Consumer Reports News: August 01, 2011 02:18 PM

With high gas prices and an uncertain economy, a small used car can be a smart choice. To help car shoppers, we have compiled a list of the best used car deals, presenting reliable, fuel-efficient models that look to be relative bargains.

The prices for the cars below are in the low teens--some even dip below $10,000. With small, affordable cars, it is important to make sure they are equipped with safety features such as side air bags and stability control. Unfortunately, these features are not always standard on each model variant, so shoppers need to be diligent about confirming the car they are considering is equipped with the desired safety systems.

Buying a used car has many benefits. Chief among them is that the original owner takes the initial depreciation hit, as new cars lose much more value in the first and second years than those that follow. Also, by looking at a recent models, you can find reliable used cars that offer contemporary convenience, performance, and safety, yet are still affordable.

When shopping, look for cars that scored well in Consumer Reports’ tests when new, have good reliability, and perform well in government and insurance industry crash tests. Before handing over the cash, have the vehicle inspected by a trained and trusted mechanic to make sure there are no hidden problems.

Check out our top deals for recommended small cars from the 2006-2008 model years. We placed the vehicles in order of the cheapest price you might be able to get when buying from the dealer. The models listed below are priced between 20- and 41-percent less than retail when the vehicle was new. Plus, all of the models have at least average reliability according to our latest subscriber survey.

Make & model Mileage MSRP when new Selling to dealer avg price Buying from dealer avg price Drop in private sale vs. MSRP Drop in retail value vs. MSRP
2006 Subaru Impreza 2.5 75,000 $19,095 $9,120 $11,300 52% 41%
2006 Scion xB Release Series 3.0 FWD 75,000 17,140 8,630 10,675 50% 38%
2006 Honda Civic DX 75,000 15,560 7,730 9,750 50% 37%
2006 Toyota Corolla CE 75,000 14,905 7,480 9,425 50% 37%
2007 Suzuki SX4 47,000 16,099 8,370 10,275 48% 36%
2006 Mazda3 s 75,000 17,370 9,245 11,300 47% 35%
2007 Honda Civic Hybrid 47,000 22,600 12,670 15,050 44% 33%
2006 Toyota Prius 75,000 21,725 12,405 14,750 43% 32%
2008 Suzuki SX4 36,000 16,370 9,500 11,450 42% 30%
2007 Subaru Impreza 2.5 47,000 18,795 11,280 13,600 40% 28%
2007 Toyota Corolla LE 47,000 16,315 9,660 11,800 41% 28%
2007 Mazda3 s hatchback 47,000 18,630 11,610 13,825 38% 26%
2008 Honda Civic EX coupe 36,000 20,710 13,875 16,325 33% 21%
2007 Toyota Corolla LE 36,000 16,415 10,910 13,175 34% 20%

See our complete list of used-car deals across a variety of vehicle categories.

Liza Barth

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