Best Used SUVs, Sedans, and Small Cars, According to Consumer Reports

These top models should suit all budgets

Person driving a Nissan Leaf Photo: Nissan

If you need new wheels but have to stick to a budget, buying a used car can be a way to get the biggest bang for your buck. Used cars can give you many of the same features that are available on newer models, but at a far lower price.

Picking out a good used car from a sea of bad ones can be tricky. You want a vehicle that’s reliable, affordable, and equipped with modern safety features. And with used-car prices at record highs, it’s important to find one that won’t cost you more money down the road.

We’ve created this guide to help you find the small cars, sedans, and SUVs that are most likely to fulfill your needs without breaking down and soaking you with ­repair bills.

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The vehicles listed below performed well in CR’s road tests when they were new and had consistent above-average reliability for multiple years, according to our surveys of CR members. Even among the used cars we recommend, there can be stinkers because of a bad day at the factory or a neglectful owner who didn’t keep up with the required maintenance. Make sure to have the car you’re considering thoroughly inspected by a certified mechanic before you sign on the dotted line.

If you’re a Consumer Reports member, the results below are available to you. If you’re not a member, click below to join and access this full list of cars, pickup trucks, SUVs, and wagons. As a CR member, you’ll also get access to our exclusive ratings and reviews for every product we buy and test, including cars, grills, mobile phones, and flat-screen TVs.

Once you’re ready to shop, go to our Used Car Marketplace to browse local vehicle listings and see how their reliability and owner satisfaction scores stack up.

Under $10,000

Small Cars
Nissan Leaf 2013, 2015-2016
Toyota Prius C 2012-2013

The Leaf is a very affordable electric vehicle with a typical range of 75 miles. Smaller and more affordable than the regular Prius, the C returned an excellent 43 mpg overall in our tests.

Other Good Choices
Mazda3 2012
Toyota Corolla 2012

Nissan Leaf
2013 Nissan Leaf

Photo: Nissan Photo: Nissan

Midsized Cars Under $10,000
Mazda6 2012
The Mazda returns impressive fuel economy without compromising performance. It’s fun to drive and comfortable, and has a well-finished cabin.

Midsized SUVs Under $10,000
Nissan Murano 2012
This generation Murano is more luxurious than sporty, with a comfortable ride and nice interior. Expect 19 mpg overall from the 3.5-liter V6 engine.

$10,000-$15,000

Small Cars
Ford C-Max 2014-2016
Toyota Prius 2012-2015

The Focus-based C-Max is practical and nicely finished, and returned 37 mpg overall in our tests. The Prius proves that you don’t have to give up space or ride comfort to get stellar gas mileage—its 44 mpg overall is excellent. 

Other Good Choices
Mazda3 2013-2015
Nissan Leaf 2017
Toyota Corolla 2013-2015
Toyota Prius C 2014-2016
Toyota Prius V 2012-14

2014 Toyota Corolla
2015 Toyota Corolla

Photo: Toyota Photo: Toyota

Midsized and Large Cars for $10,000-$15,000
Honda Accord 2012-2013
The redesigned 2013 Accord is roomy and comfortable, has a number of available active safety systems, and has good fuel economy.

Other Good Choices for $10,000-$15,000
Mazda6 2014-2015
Subaru Legacy 2012-2013
Toyota Avalon 2012
Toyota Camry 2012-2014

Luxury Cars for $10,000-$15,000
Buick LaCrosse 2012-2013
The Buick boasts a large, well-finished interior, responsive handling, and lots of available active safety features.

Another Good Choice
Lexus ES 2012

Wagons and Minivans for $10,000-$15,000
Toyota Venza 2011-2013
Part wagon, part SUV, the Venza has a quiet interior, a roomy rear seat, and a generous cargo area. Handling is secure though not sporty. Reliability is impressive.

Another Good Choice
Toyota Sienna 2012-2013

Small SUVs for $10,000-$15,000
Honda CR-V 2012-2013
Mazda CX-5 2013-2015
Honda’s affordable and functional CR-V has generous rear-seat and cargo room. Fuel economy is good, and the suspension soaks up bumps with ease. Mazda’s small SUV has taut, agile handling and well-weighted steering, although the ride is choppy and the cabin gets loud. Look for a version with the 2.5-liter engine, which gets 25 mpg and is more responsive than the 2.0-liter engine.

Another Good Choice
Toyota RAV4 2012

Midsized and Large SUVs for $10,0000-$15,000
Nissan Murano 2014

Pickup Trucks for $10,0000-$15,000
Toyota Tacoma 2012-2013

$15,000-$20,000

Small Cars
Mazda3 2016-2017
Toyota Prius V 2015-2017

The Mazda3 is a joy to drive, thanks to super-sharp handling, sprightly yet efficient engines, and smooth transmissions. It also has a premium-feeling interior. The Prius V offers a roomy rear seat and generous cargo area, along with an excellent 41 mpg overall.

Other Good Choices
Ford C-Max 2017
Nissan Leaf 2018
Toyota Corolla 2016-2017
Toyota Prius 2016-2017

2019-2020 Nissan Murano
2013 Buick LaCrosse

Photo: Buick Photo: Buick

Midsized and Large Cars
Subaru Legacy 2015-2016
This generation Legacy is roomy, refined, and one of the best-riding sedans available. We got 26 mpg overall, impressive given the standard AWD. 

Other Good Choices
Honda Accord 2014-2016
Mazda6 2016-2017
Toyota Avalon 2013-2015
Toyota Camry 2016-2016

Luxury Cars
Infiniti Q50 2014
Lexus IS 2012
The Q50’s powerful V6, impressive handling agility, and firm yet compliant ride makes it fun to drive. Plush and quiet, the Lexus is quick yet also has commendable fuel economy. 

Other Good Choices
Buick LaCrosse 2012-2013
Lexus ES 2012

Sports Cars/Convertibles
Audi A5 2013
Mazda MX-5 Miata 2015-2017

Wagons and Minivans
Toyota Sienna 2014-2015
Toyota Venza 2014-2015

Small SUVs
Toyota RAV4 2013-2015
This version of the RAV4 is roomy and versatile, as well as a wise choice as a used car. The 2012 to 2015 vintage handles nimbly and gets 24 mpg in the AWD version. But the ride is a bit stiff, and the cabin is rather loud.

Other Good Choices
Honda CR-V 2014-2015
Mazda CX-5 2016

Midsized and Large SUVs
Toyota Highlander 2012-2014
The three-row Highlander has a quiet interior, room for seven, straightforward controls, and top-notch reliability. The redesigned 2014 model lost the cushy ride and plush interior of the previous generation, but fuel economy improved to 20 mpg overall.

Other Good Choices
Lexus RX 2012-2013
Nissan Murano 2016

Pickup Trucks
Toyota Tacoma 2014-2015
The Tacoma is rough and utilitarian, but it’s a dependable truck that holds its value.

Another Good Choice
Toyota Tundra 2012-2013

$20,000-$25,000

Small Cars
Toyota Corolla 2018-2020
The Corolla’s rear seat rivals that of some midsized sedans, but the car returns a frugal 32 mpg overall. Ride comfort is commendable, and handling is responsive. Plus, FCW and AEB are standard, a rarity in the class.

Other Good Choices
Mazda3 2018
Nissan Leaf 2019
Toyota Prius 2018-2020
Toyota Prius Prime 2017-2018

2018 Subaru Legacy
2018 Subaru Legacy

Photo: Subaru Photo: Subaru

Midsized and Large Cars
Toyota Avalon 2016-2017
Toyota improved the Avalon’s ride in 2016, making it more luxurious and less harsh. The V6 returned 24 mpg, while the hybrid version got a terrific 36 mpg overall. A variety of active safety systems was available.

Other Good Choices
Honda Accord 2017
Subaru Legacy 2017-2018
Toyota Camry 2017

Luxury Cars
Acura TLX 2015-2016
Buick LaCrosse 2017
Infiniti Q50 2017
Lexus ES 2015-2016
Lexus GS 2013-2014
Lexus IS 2014

Sports Cars/Convertibles
Mazda MX-5 Miata 2016
A 2016 redesign took the Miata back to its roots. It feels light and quick, is frugal with fuel, and is fun to drive at slow and fast speeds. It gets loud and has a stiff ride, but it’s sure to put a smile on your face when you can take your time and drive it on curvy roads. 

Another Good Choice
Audi A5 2015

Wagons and Minivans
Toyota Sienna 2016

Small SUVs
Mazda CX-5 2017-2018
Nissan Rogue Sport 2017, 2019
The nimble CX-5 has a better ride and a quieter cabin than the previous generation. It still gets a good 25 mpg. The Rogue Sport has good handling, a civilized ride, and a mostly quiet interior. Look for a 2019 model, which has standard FCW and AEB.

Other Good Choices
Buick Envision 2017
Honda CR-V 2016-2017
Subaru Crosstrek 2018
Toyota RAV4 2016-2017

Midsized and Large SUVs
Lexus RX 2014-2015
The RX is a relaxed cruiser and has proved to deliver a near-headache-free ownership experience. It also offers a quiet and plush cabin. In our tests the powerful V6 engine returned 21 mpg overall, while the hybrid got 26 mpg, which is very impressive for an SUV.

Other Good Choices
Nissan Murano 2017
Toyota 4Runner 2012-2013
Toyota Highlander 2015-2016

Pickup Trucks
Toyota Tacoma 2016
Toyota Tundra 2014-2015

$25,000-$30,000

Small Cars
Toyota Prius 2020-2021
The fourth-generation Prius was a revolution, getting an incredible 52 mpg overall, brought by a new, larger, and more efficient engine. The car sits low, sacrificing some access, visibility, and rear-seat space, but handling is more surefooted and interior noise was reduced.

Other Good Choices
Nissan Leaf 2020
Toyota Prius Prime 2019-2020

2014 Toyota 4 Runner
2014 Toyota 4Runner

Photo: Toyota Photo: Toyota

Midsized and Large Cars
Toyota Camry 2018-2019
This Camry is a bit more agile than its predecessors, but the ride is still smooth and comfortable. We got 32 mpg with the standard four-cylinder engine; the hybrid got an astounding 47 mpg overall.

Other Good Choices
Honda Accord 2019
Mazda6 2019
Subaru Legacy 2019-2020
Toyota Avalon 2018

Luxury Cars
Lexus GS 2015-2016
The GS is a true sports sedan, with nimble handling and a supple ride. Its comfortable cabin is roomy and luxurious.

Other Good Choices
Acura TLX 2018
Infiniti Q50 2019
Lexus ES 2017
Lexus IS 2015
Lexus LS 2013

Sports Cars/Convertibles
Mazda MX-5 Miata 2019-2020

Wagons and Minivans
Toyota Sienna 2017

Small SUVs
Subaru Crosstrek 2019-2020
The Crosstrek delivers good fuel economy and impressive ride comfort. Its handling is competent and enjoyable. Look for a version with the optional FCW and AEB.

Other Good Choices
Buick Envision 2018-2019
Honda CR-V 2018-2019
Lexus NX 2015-2016
Mazda CX-5 2019-2020
Nissan Rogue Sport 2020
Toyota RAV4 2018

Midsized and Large SUVs
Toyota 4Runner 2014-2016
For those whose driving takes them off the beaten path, the 4Runner is an off-road champ. It has a quiet, well-finished interior, a smooth V6, and an available third-row seat.

Other Good Choices
Nissan Murano 2018
Toyota Highlander 2017

Pickup Trucks
Toyota Tundra 2016-2017
Among full-sized pickups, the Tundra is a reliable option. There’s plenty of power from the V8 engine, off-road prowess and towing capability are impressive, and fuel economy is competitive. The damped tailgate is a nice convenience feature.

Another Good Choice
Toyota Tacoma 2017

$30,000-$40,000

Small Cars
Toyota Prius Prime 2021
This plug-in Prius can usually drive about 23 miles on electricity only. It takes 2 hours to charge through a 240-volt connector and 5 hours on a regular 120-volt. When not running in EV mode, the Prime gets 50 mpg overall.

2019-2020 Nissan Murano
2019 Nissan Murano

Photo: Nissan Photo: Nissan

Midsized and Large Cars
Honda Accord 2020-2021
The Accord has responsive handling and a composed ride. The turbo engines are both powerful and efficient, while the Hybrid versions get 47 mpg overall. FCW and AEB came standard.

Other Good Choices
Subaru Legacy 2021
Toyota Avalon 2019-2020
Toyota Camry 2021

Luxury Cars
Acura TLX 2019-2020
Buyers can find TLXs with four- and six-cylinder engines, the latter available with all-wheel drive. Fuel economy is good from both engines, and FCW and AEB were standard.

Other Good Choices
Lexus ES 2018
Lexus LS 2014-2015

Sports Cars/Convertibles
Audi A5 2018
Audi’s A4-based sports coupe and convertible has the same frugal-yet-powerful turbo four-cylinder engine, precise handling, supple ride, and quiet interior.

Wagons and Minivans
Toyota Sienna 2017
Toyota Venza 2017

Small SUVs
Buick Envision 2020-2021
Lexus NX 2017-2020
The Envision is pleasant, if unexciting. It has a well-finished interior, a user-friendly infotainment system, and stellar reliability. But fuel economy is unimpressive. The NX returns good fuel economy and is very reliable. Plus, in 2018 FCW and AEB became standard. However, the SUV’s ride is fairly stiff, the interior is cramped, and the controls are frustrating to use.

Other Good Choices
Honda CR-V 2020-2021
Mazda CX-5 2021
Subaru Crosstrek 2021

Midsized and Large SUVs
Nissan Murano 2019-2020
While an older model, the Murano is still a refined, comfortable, and reliable SUV. The ride is steady and absorbent on the 18-inch wheels and tires, and fuel economy is average for the class.

Other Good Choices
Lexus RX 2016-2018
Toyota 4Runner 2017-2019
Toyota Highlander 2018, 2020

Pickup Trucks
Toyota Tacoma 2018, 2020-2021
Toyota Tundra 2018-2019

Tips for Buying a Used Car

There are a lot of things you need to check when shopping for a used car. On the "Consumer 101" TV show, Consumer Reports expert Keith Barry explains to host Jack Rico how to evaluate a pre-owned vehicle and negotiate with the dealership to get the best possible deal.


Jon Linkov

I owe my career to two fateful events: my father buying a 1965 Corvette and my purchase of an Audi A4 rather than a Chevy Tahoe. The Corvette jump-started my love of cars, and the Audi led me to automotive journalism, track days, and amateur car repair. In my free time I cycle as much as possible, no matter the season.