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Best used cars under $20,000

Price and reliability matters when buying used

Published: March 07, 2014 11:30 AM

For car buyers who want to get the most for their money, used cars are often better values than a new model.

The key savings come from reduced depreciation. New cars lose much of their value in the first couple of years. Buying used avoids that painful hit. By targeting the newest model you can afford, you’ll be able to get the latest safety features, such as electronic stability control, and still purchase a car with a long service life ahead.

Here is a sample of five popular used cars under $20,000 that performed well in our tests when new, have proven to have above-average reliability, and earned good marks for safety. (See our full report for more vehicles listed by price in eight vehicle categories.)


The Accord is a great used car choice for families with a roomy, comfortable interior. Ride and handling are very good, and the four-cylinder engine is smooth and powerful. Fuel economy is good at 25 mpg overall.

The Hybrid version is the best of the Fusion lineup and gets an excellent 34 mpg overall in fuel economy. The ride is supple and controlled, making it an enjoyable car for travel. Inside, the seats are comfortable, with good support and plenty of room. Since the Hybrid has a higher price than other Fusions, a used model is your best bet.

If you want a car with even better fuel economy, the Prius should be on your list. It’s the most fuel-efficient car that you don’t have to plug-in, getting 44 miles per gallon overall in our tests. Reliability is excellent and the hatchback with foldable rear seats makes it really practical, too.


The CR-V is a strong competitor in the small SUV category, with responsive handling, a steady ride, and a roomy interior.  Fuel economy is 21 mpg overall, which is competitive for the class.  Inside, the driving position is good, with good support from seats and easy access. Reliability has been excellent.

If you’re looking for something bigger, the Highlander has three-rows and can fit seven people (although the third row is best for children). Fuel economy is 18 mpg overall on regular fuel, which is good for such a big vehicle. Overall, it’s refined, quiet, and has a comfortable ride.

For detailed pricing on these and all used models, check out our used car pricing service.


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