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.

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

2018 AUTOS SPOTLIGHT

Consider the models listed below (alphabetically by segment) to be the vehicles that we'd recommend to our friends and family members who want to buy a used car on a $20,000 budget. Each performed well in our tests when it was new and has consistently demonstrated multiple years of much-better-than-average reliability for the 2008-2017 model years. Years are excluded when reliability did not meet this high standard or there was insufficient data.

Of course, even for 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 there are no surprises down the road. 

Click on the model names to access road tests, pricing, and more.

Small Cars

2011 Honda Fit
2011 Honda Fit

Honda Fit '09-13
Kia Soul '10-16
Mazda3 '09-17
Pontiac Vibe '08-10
Scion xB '08-12, '15
Toyota Corolla '08-17
Toyota Matrix '08-10
Toyota Prius '08-15


Midsized & Large Cars

2014 Toyota Camry
2014 Toyota Camry

Honda Accord '08-15
Mazda6 '09-15
Toyota Avalon '08-13
Toyota Camry '08-15 


Luxury Cars

2013 Acura TL
2013 Acura TL

Acura TL '08-10, '13
Acura TSX '08-14
Infiniti G '08-11, '13
Infiniti M '08, '11
Lexus CT 200h '11-13
Lexus ES '08-12
Lexus GS '08, '10-11
Lexus LS '08
Mercedes-Benz E-Class '10-11 


Sports Cars

2015 Scion FR-S
2015 Scion FR-S

Scion FR-S '14-15
Subaru BRZ '14 


Wagons

2014 Toyota Prius V
2014 Toyota Prius V

Toyota Prius V '12-14
Toyota Venza '09-12 


SUVs

2014 Honda CR-V
2014 Honda CR-V

Acura RDX '09-10, '12
Honda CR-V '08-14
Lexus RX '08-10
Mazda CX-5 '13-15
Toyota 4Runner '08-09
Toyota Highlander '08-10
Toyota RAV4 '08-13
Toyota Sequoia '08 


Pickup Trucks

2008 Toyota Tundra
2008 Toyota Tundra

Editor's Note: This article also appeared in the April 2018 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.