Best Used Cars and SUVs for $15,000 to $20,000

If the pandemic-caused chip shortage upended your new-car purchase, these reliable models did well when we tested them

2017 mazda 3 mazda

Buying a pre-owned car is more than just a great way to save money. It could get you into a model that has safety and luxury features you couldn’t afford in a new car.

That is, if you can find a new car or SUV. With the pandemic-related, global shortage of the chips needed for car safety and infotainment systems, shipments of new cars are often delayed or coming in at lower-than-expected volumes. This means supply is short and new-car dealers are charging a premium.

We dug through years of test data and hundreds of thousands of survey responses to find the best used cars that cost $15,000 to $20,000.

The models below (listed alphabetically by segment) are the ones we'd recommend to our friends and family members. Each has standard electronic stability control, an important safety feature. Many are also available with active safety features such as forward collision warning (FCW), automatic emergency braking (AEB), and/or blind spot warning (BSW) as optional or standard equipment.

These vehicles performed well in our tests when new and consistently demonstrated multiple years of much better than average reliability in our Annual Auto Surveys for the 2011 to 2020 model years.

MORE ON USED CARs

Of course, even for the used cars we recommend, there can be outliers; maybe a former owner didn’t care much for car maintenance, or there was a problem at the factory the week the car rolled off the line. Before you buy, make sure to pay for a thorough inspection by a certified mechanic so that there are no surprises down the road.

Some of these models also have our new Green Choice designation, which highlights the vehicles with the cleanest emissions. You can read more about Green Choice here.

If you’re a CR member, this article and the list below are already available to you. But if you haven’t signed up, click below and become a member to access the list and all of our exclusive ratings and reviews for each vehicle we buy and test. Joining also gives you full access to exclusive ratings for the other products our experts evaluate in several categories, including electronics and home appliances.

CR members can search our Used Car Marketplace for vehicles for sale in their area, sorting by the factors that matter most. The listings include CR reliability and owner satisfaction ratings, and most vehicles include a free Carfax report.

Sign up for CR’s Cars email newsletter to be notified when we post our latest road tests.

Become a member to read the full article and get access to digital ratings.

We investigate, research, and test so you can choose with confidence.