Do you need new wheels but have a specific budget? Buying a used car can be a way to get the biggest bang for your buck. It’s simple: After one year, a new car on average depreciates 27 percent from its sticker price; after three years, it’s worth about half.

Picking out a good used car from a sea of bad ones has never been easy. You want a vehicle that’s reliable, affordable, and equipped with modern safety features. And you want to avoid one that's been damaged in an accident. The whole process can sometimes feel overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to.

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.

more on used cars

The group of cars below performed well in CR road tests when they were new and each had consistent above-average reliability for multiple years. In addition, these models offered electronic stability control—which monitors the car's traction and adjusts how power is distributed to the wheels to maintain control and prevent skidding—as a standard or optional feature.

At CR, we know that ESC can save lives. It's so important that it has been required on all new cars since the 2012 model year. If you're looking for a car, pickup, or SUV older than that, look for models that have the feature.

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.

Click through the model names below for road test, reliability, owner satisfaction, pricing, and more.

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

2009 Toyota Matrix driving.
2009 Toyota Matrix

Compact Cars
Pontiac Vibe 2008-2010
Toyota Matrix 2008-2010

The Pontiac Vibe and its corporate twin, the Toyota Matrix, are reliable and spacious compact hatchbacks. Both have fairly nimble handling, with rides that are borderline jittery. AWD was available as an option, and ESC was standard starting in the 2010 model year.

Other good choices: 
Kia Soul 2010-2012
Mazda3 2009-2012
Scion xB 2008-2012
Toyota Corolla 2008-2011
Toyota Prius 2008-2009

Sedans
Mazda6 2009-2011
Mazda’s midsized sedan is a sporty four-door, with nimble handling, good steering feel, and a supple ride. Reliability is excellent, and the four-cylinder engine is fuel-efficient. ESC was standard starting in 2009.

Other good choices: 
Honda Accord 2008-2009
Toyota Camry 2008-2009


$10,000-$15,000

Used 2013 Toyota Corolla.
2013 Toyota Corolla

Subcompact Cars
Honda Fit 2013
Although it can be a bit noisy, the Honda Fit is a standout for reliable, fuel-efficient transportation. Its flexible interior makes it a practical choice among subcompact cars.

Compact Cars
Toyota Corolla 2012-2015
The Corolla offers dependable, fuel-efficient transportation. There isn’t anything flashy, but the interior is comfortable and roomy. ESC and curtain airbags were standard after 2010.

Other good choices: 
Kia Soul 2013-2015
Mazda3 2013-2014
Toyota Prius 2010-2013

Sedans
Acura TSX 2008-2011
Toyota Camry 2010-2013
You can stick to your budget and still get a reliable premium car if you choose the slick-handling TSX, which is a sporty car based on the European Honda Accord. The Camry is a solid choice because of its outstanding reliability, strong value, and fuel-efficient powertrains.

Other good choices:
Acura TL
2008-2010
Acura TSX 2008-2011
Honda Accord
2010-2012
Infiniti G 2008-2010
Infiniti M 2008
Lexus CT 200h 2011
Lexus ES 2008-2010
Lexus GS 2008
Mazda6 2012-2013
Toyota Avalon 2008-2011

Small SUVs
Honda CR-V 2008-2011
This SUV is one of the most popular, thanks to its strong resale value, agile handling, excellent reliability, and fuel-efficient powertrains. Curtain airbags and ESC are standard.

Other good choices: 
Toyota RAV4
 2008-2010

Midsized SUVs
Acura RDX 2009-2010
The RDX has a host of standard safety features, including ESC, and side and head-protection air bags. The SUV is agile but has a stiff ride. Reliability is very good.

Other good choices:
Lexus RX
2008


$15,000-$20,000

Used 2013 Honda Accord.
2013 Honda Accord

Compact Cars
Toyota Prius 2014-2015
The Prius has always proved that you don’t have to give up space or ride comfort to get stellar gas mileage—its 44 mpg is better than that of any vehicle that doesn’t plug in.

Other good choices:
Kia Soul 2016
Mazda3 2015-2017
Scion xB 2015
Toyota Corolla 2016-2017

Sedans
Honda Accord 2013-2015
Lexus ES 2011-2012
With its cavernous backseat, Honda’s typically responsive suspension, and impressive fuel efficiency, the Accord is a dependable choice among used sedans. If you want a bit more luxury for your money, the ES takes the platform of the reliable Toyota Camry and adds luxury appointments, road-trip-worthy front seats, and a quiet cabin.

Other good choices:
Acura TL 2013
Acura TSX 2012-2014
Infiniti G 2011, 2013
Infiniti M 2011
Lexus CT 200h 2012-2013
Lexus GS 2010-2011
Lexus LS 2008
Mazda6 2014-2015
Mercedes-Benz E-Class 2010-2011
Toyota Avalon 2012-2013
Toyota Camry 2014-2015

Sporty
Scion FR-S 2014-2015
Subaru BRZ 2014
These rear-wheel-drive sports cars are fun-to-drive coupes with impressive agility and super-responsive handling. The cabins are relatively plain, and the ride can get stiff and tiring.

Wagons
Toyota Venza 2010-2012
Part wagon, part SUV, the Venza has a quiet interior, a roomy rear seat, and a generous cargo area. Its handling is secure, but it's not sporty. Its reliability is rock-solid, making this a wise choice.

Other good choices:
Toyota Prius V 2013-2014

SUVs
Toyota RAV4 2011-2013
Toyota 4Runner 2008-2009
These models are two different takes on SUVs. The RAV4 is available with four- and six-cylinder engines, both of which are very fuel-efficient. It is great for urban and suburban families, and its nimble, secure handling is a plus. On the other hand, the 4Runner is a serious off-roader with a well-finished and quiet interior, a smooth V6 or V8 engine, and an available third-row seat.

Other good choices:
Acura RDX 2012
Honda CR-V 2012-2014
Mazda CX-5 2013-2015
Lexus RX 2009-2010
Toyota 4Runner 2008-2009
Toyota Highlander 2008-2010
Toyota Sequoia 2008

Pickups
Honda Ridgeline 2008-2010
It isn’t macho, but the Ridgeline is an excellent alternative to a full-sized pickup truck. It has a carlike ride, an innovative composite cargo bed, and a powerful V6. If you don’t need to tow more than 5,000 pounds, consider buying the Ridgeline.

Other good choices:
Toyota Tundra 2008


$20,000-$25,000

2012 Lexus LS.
2012 Lexus LS

Sedans
Toyota Avalon 2014-2015
Infiniti M 2013
Lexus LS 2011-2012
For less than the price of a new sedan, you can buy one of these slightly older models. The Avalon features a generously sized cabin, luxury features, and an available hybrid powertrain for a non-luxury price. Infiniti’s midsized M is plush, quiet, quick, and fun to drive. Fuel economy is decent, and a hybrid version is available. The LS is the flagship of the Lexus line, a competent cruiser that floats over bumps and ruts. It’s supremely comfortable, emphasizing quietness and luxury over sportiness.

Other good choices:
Honda Accord 2016-2017
Infiniti M 2011-2012
Lexus CT 200h 2014-2015
Lexus ES 2013-2014
Lexus LS 2009-2011
Mercedes-Benz E-Class 2012-2013
Mazda6
 2016-2017
Toyota Avalon 2014-2015
Toyota Camry 2016-2017
Toyota Prius 2016

Sporty
Scion FR-S 2016
Subaru BRZ 2015-2016

Wagons
Toyota Prius V 2015-2016
Longer than a standard Prius, the V still returns excellent fuel economy despite its extra weight and larger size. It takes the attributes of the Prius and adds a roomier rear seat and expanded cargo capability.

Other good choices:
Toyota Venza 2013-2014

SUVs
Mazda CX-5 2016
Toyota Highlander 2011-2012
Mazda’s small SUV is one of the sportier offerings, with taut, agile handling and well-weighted steering. The ride is choppy, and the cabin gets loud. Reliability is very good. The Highlander is a roomy three-row SUV available with four- and six-cylinder gas engines as well as V6-powered hybrid version. It has a quiet interior, room for seven, straightforward controls, and top-notch reliability.

Other good choices:
Acura RDX 2013
Honda CR-V 2015-2016
Lexus RX 2011-2012
Toyota 4Runner 2010-2011
Toyota RAV4 2014-2016
Toyota Sequoia 2010

Pickups
Toyota Tundra 2010-2011
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.

Other good choices:
Honda Ridgeline 2011-2012


$25,000-$30,000

2016 Lexus CT 200h.
2016 Lexus CT 200h

Sedans
Lexus CT 200h 2016
Lexus GS 2013-2014
The Lexus CT is based on the Prius, but with a nicer interior and more responsive handling. Reliability is excellent, but the car is smaller than the Prius, particularly the rear seat and cargo area. The GS was transformed with its 2013 redesign: It became a true sports sedan yet had a supple ride. Its roomy, comfortable, and luxurious cabin is an excellent place to spend time as the miles tick by.

Other good choices:
Lexus ES 2015
Lexus LS 2015
Toyota Avalon 2016-2017
Toyota Prius 2017

Sporty
BMW 2 Series 2015-2016

Wagons
Toyota Prius V 2017
Toyota Venza 2015

SUVs
Lexus RX 2013-2014
Toyota Sequoia 2011
The RX offers a cabin that is quiet, comfortable, and luxurious; fuel-efficient gas and hybrid powertrains; and a plush ride. Its reliability has been stellar. The big Sequoia SUV has seating for up to eight passengers and a refined V8 powertrain. And its fuel economy is respectable for such a large SUV.

Other good choices:
Acura RDX 2014-2015
Honda CR-V 2017
Toyota 4Runner 2012-2013
Toyota Highlander 2010
Toyota RAV4 2017

Pickups
Honda Ridgeline 2013-2014
Toyota Tundra 2012-2013