If you want a used car for less than $15,000, there are actually a raft of good choices. They may not all be exciting or flashy, but the market for inexpensive, efficient cars has never been this good.
Cars below the $15,000 mark are now commonly equipped with modern safety equipment such as stability control and side-curtain air bags, along with some technological advancements like provisions for your smartphone or music device – because who listens to CDs anymore and why should your recent automotive acquisition constantly remind you that it’s from another decade?
Here are five of the best choices for not much money.
It’s so hard to go wrong with a Honda Civic. A popular small car that’s efficient, inexpensive to buy and own and a great size for a lot of people.
The Civic is an extremely competent car that’s developed a reputation for being practical. It isn’t the most sparkling car to look at and the driving experience likely won’t excite too much, but it satisfies more than you might think given its commonality.
Some of your best bets are from the previous generation, made from 2006 through 2011. These have strong safety ratings and a whole suite of modern conveniences. They’re also fairly spacious for rear-seat occupants – a small family might get along just fine in a Civic sedan.
Given that it’s such a well-rounded car, it’s no surprise that you’ll have a lot of choice when looking through the Civic listings.
The Civic’s archrival, the Toyota Corolla is another best-seller that’s hard to go wrong with. While it struggles to stand out as a new-car purchase, the Corolla’s popularity means there are lots of them on the used market for competitive prices.
Driving dynamics aren’t the Corolla’s strong suit, nor is a particularly plush interior or cutting-edge electronics. But the Corolla makes a great used buy because it’s long-lasting and low maintenance. Its four-cylinder engine provides great efficiency and will likely go hundreds of thousands of miles without much problem.
Models made from 2009 and newer offer the best safety equipment and features, but you don’t buy a Corolla because it’s the latest in looks or features. You buy a Corolla because it’s an inexpensive way to get from point A to point B without much hassle.
For roughly the same price as a Civic or Corolla, you could have a generous choice of Hyundai Sonatas. Always a value-leader, the Sonata made from 2006-2010 is a lot of car for the money, and it is a thoroughly competent machine that can be loaded with features.
Even V6 models are common for the low price, but consider the four-cylinder Sonata’s better fuel-efficiency. Most models from 2006 also have standard stability control well before it became mandatory and boast good crash scores. Space and visibility are strong points, too, as the Sonata competes with the best family sedans for interior volume and practicality.
But the more stylish 2011 and newer models can be had for less than $15,000, too, and they boast more space and refinement, along with relatively up-to-date interior technology. And this way, a Sonata can feel like a brand-new car.
If it’s important to drive American, then the Ford Fusion is actually a pretty good bet on the used car market. And the Fusion isn’t just a good midsize sedan for an American brand – it’s a good one full-stop.
First-generation models made between 2006 and 2012 have a solid reputation for reliability and are well-priced, given that they were pretty popular. Driving dynamics are also better than most in the class. You’ll be better off with the base four-cylinder engine, although it’s also possible to secure a 3.0-liter V6 option.
Models made between 2010 and 2012 are the best bets if you can extend the budget, because of a larger 2.5-liter four with more power and refinement, along with a nicer interior that boasts Ford’s SYNC voice recognition system and a beefed-up crash structure. But regardless, the old shape Fusion is a really competitive buy if you’re looking for an inexpensive family sedan.
Think you need all-wheel drive for inclement weather or frequent outdoor excursions? Maybe you don’t need an SUV, but just a Subaru Impreza. Famously the only small car with standard all-wheel drive, the Impreza is a quality product with sensible design that means it’s practical and affordable.
Even current-generation models from 2012 on can be had for less than $15,000, and they’re capable of 36 mpg on the highway, which is impressive for a class where everything else is two-wheel drive.
A spacious interior and available hatchback derivative make the Impreza a very viable everyday car that can accommodate a weekend lifestyle.