Buying an inexpensive car today does not necessarily mean giving up safety.
Modern cars are now loaded up with both active and passive features designed to protect occupants from serious injury. That should give peace of mind if you’re looking for something that a student might drive to school, or if you need a family car to drive children around in. Fortunately, there are plenty of used cars out there that offer safety and won’t cost the earth to operate.
Here are five vehicles that we frequently see in our listings for $10,000 or less, and are among the safest, based on their scores in the battery of crash tests conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety , including the stringent small overlap front crash test.
Ford Focus (2012-present)
Available as a hatchback as well as a sedan, the current Ford Focus is fun to drive and safe, too. All models come with a full complement of air bags and garner some of the highest IIHS crash test ratings.
While some of its tech features can be a little confusing (at least in models that don’t have the newest Sync 3 infotainment system), the Focus gets good fuel economy ratings, and its solid feel and road manners will inspire confidence behind the wheel.
Honda Civic Sedan (2012-2015)
The previous-generation Honda Civic may not have been the most exciting vehicle the company ever produced, but it was an exceptionally safe compact car. Additionally, its availability on the used car market means there are plenty of examples to choose from starting well below $10,000.
Civic fuel economy and reliability has also been a strong suit, so expect low running costs to go along with that added piece of mind of safety. It may not be the last word in individuality, but a Civic has been a safe choice for both the budget and its occupants.
Kia Optima (2011-2015)
The Kia Optima has long been one of the best values among midsize sedans. But the previous generation model introduced buyers to a Kia sedan that was also striking to look at. It’s a large, comfortable sedan, too, which is perfect for accommodating people and cargo. And the good crash test scores underline its viability as a family vehicle for not much money.
Like other Kias, common niceties like Bluetooth and USB inputs are widely available on Optimas, meaning that even though it’s a few years old, you’re not likely to miss out on most modern conveniences at this price.
Subaru Legacy (2010-2014)
The often-forgotten Subaru Legacy deserves credit for both its standard all-wheel drive – which is a plus in harsh winters – and its stellar crash scores. The Legacy has long been regarded as one of the safest midsize sedans out there. Its upright shape makes it easy to see out of, and wide adjustments for seat and steering wheel make it easy for drivers of all sizes to get comfortable, which is something that’s important in avoiding crashes in the first place.
The previous generation model also boasted a roomy interior and good quality. That makes the Legacy popular for those who don’t want an SUV, but still face difficult driving conditions every now and then.
Volkswagen Passat (2012-present)
Combining lots of interior space in a midsize package, the Volkswagen Passat is another strong buy for those who need something to carry people safely on a regular basis. Among the larger of family sedans, the current Passat is also plentiful on the used car market and well-priced.
It’s reasonably powerful and refined to drive, too. But the Passat scores as a used car buy because of its long list of safety features on every model and its practicality as inexpensive transportation.