Best Used Cars

Best Used Cars

Top-Rated Used Cars, Trucks and SUVs

Jump To: Best Used Sedans | Best Used Hatchbacks | Best Used SUVs | Best Used Trucks | Best Used Hatchbacks | Best Used Hybrids & Plug-In Hybrids | Best Used Minivans | Best Used EVs | Best Used Wagons | Best Used Luxury Cars | Best Used Luxury SUVs

You probably already know that a new car begins to lose value the minute you drive it off the dealer's lot. So why would you buy one, anyway? There are some good reasons, of course. Maybe you want the latest safety and connected technology, or you just like the idea of a new product with no unknown history. Maybe you revel in that new-car smell and the joy of driving off in a whip you've researched, compared, desired, and worked hard to own.

But make no mistake: A new car's value plummets in the early days and years of ownership. Savvy buyers know that there's money to be saved — often nearly 50% or more — by choosing a used car that's just a few years old.

If that sounds like your style, you're in the right place. We've compiled a list of today's best used cars, broken down into specific categories. It's important to note that we focused on models sold new in the 2016 model year since these vehicles are likely to be coming off lease today and entering the used-car marketplace.

How did we pick them? To make the cut, each of our used cars needed both a strong rating from our test team experts and a solid consumer rating based on our plentiful consumer reviews. We also combed through Edmunds' robust nationwide transaction data to determine how much you can expect to save by buying used compared to a new model of the same vehicle. Because let's be real — when it comes to used-car shopping, price is paramount. But saving less up front generally means a better resale value down the road, so that's another factor to consider.

Best Used Cars

Utility vehicles have become so popular that it's easy for regular used cars to get lost in the shuffle. That's a shame, because cars have so much to offer, whether you're looking at tried-and-true family sedans or versatile hatchbacks and wagons. You can even opt for a hybrid, plug-in-hybrid or fully electric used car, and there are plenty of used luxury cars that might now be in your price range. It's a great time to be a used-car shopper, so let's get started.

Best Used Sedans

Forget what you've heard. Sedans aren't dead; they're not even dying. They're just no longer the shiny new objects thanks to today's countless SUV variants. But really, a lot of drivers don't like to sit so high. And a lot of them still like trunks.

Used Nissan Maxima

The Maxima's dramatic design and punchy six-cylinder engine make it a strong choice among used sedans. Its high-quality interior also rivals those of luxury sedans. A new Maxima is priced like similar full-size sedans from Toyota and Buick, which may give some buyers pause. But grab a 2016 Maxima and you'll save an average of 46%, making it a top value for a big, bold family car.

Average 2016 Nissan Maxima transaction price: $21,123
Savings vs. new: 46%
Edmunds rating: 7.6/10
Average consumer rating (2016): 4.4/5
Used Nissan Maxima years for this generation: 2016 | 2017 | 2018

Shop all used Nissan Maxima models

Used Mazda 3

The Mazda 3 has long been a staff favorite thanks to its dynamic handling and sophisticated style. But it's not just us. Consumers love it, too, and it also might just be the best used car you can buy. That's a bold claim, but it's backed up by the numbers. The average 2016 Mazda 3 buyer gets nearly 50% off the price of a new one. What's not to like?

Average 2016 Mazda 3 transaction price: $14,064
Savings vs. new: 47%
Edmunds rating: 7.9/10
Average consumer rating (2016): 4.5/5
Used Mazda 3 years for this generation: 2014 | 2015 | 2016 | 2017 | 2018

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Used Toyota Avalon

Looking for a family sedan with loads of room, a large trunk, comfortable seats and an interior ideal for long-haul driving? Look no further than the Toyota Avalon. A quiet cabin and optional luxury touches such as rear-seat climate control make the Avalon perfect for road trips. Although the ride sometimes isn't as smooth as we'd like, this big Toyota comes with a muscular V6 engine that really hauls the mail while returning good fuel economy. It's also quite rare to find a well-regarded Toyota model that depreciates this quickly, so the Avalon should be especially appealing to used-car shoppers.

Average 2016 Toyota Avalon transaction price: $22,176
Savings vs. new: 42%
Edmunds rating: 7.6/10
Average consumer rating (2016): 4.6/5
Used Toyota Avalon years for this generation: 2013 | 2014 | 2015 | 2016 | 2017 | 2018

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Best Used Hatchbacks

Once you've owned a hatchback, you might never want anything else. The perfect hybrid of sedan handling and wagon practicality, the hatchback is the Swiss Army knife of the automotive world.

Used Scion iM

Scion may be no more, but its mission to bring fun, youthful and affordable cars to new buyers lives on in the used iM hatchback. The iM was reasonably priced when it was new, and now it's a solid used-car value, loaded with features and backed by Toyota's reputation for reliability. It's not particularly fast or roomy, but it's comfortable and well-suited to tight city spaces. Note that the model's name changed to Toyota Corolla iM from 2017, and the iM was discontinued altogether after 2018.

Average 2016 Scion iM transaction price: $13,532
Savings vs. new: N/A
Edmunds rating: 7.5/10
Average consumer rating (2016): 4.6/5
Used Scion iM years for this generation: 2016

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Used Volkswagen Golf

The Golf's athletic handling, high-quality interior and zesty turbo engine make it a favorite among both our expert staffers and our consumer reviewers. It's one of the best used cars for people who enjoy driving, and buying used can save you nearly 40%. Some examples even came with a proper manual transmission. You can reach back a number of years for a used Golf at a great price, but we suggest sticking with a 2016 or later model. The Golf was completely redesigned for the 2015 model year, but in 2016 Volkswagen upgraded the touchscreen infotainment offerings and added USB connectivity.

Average 2016 VW Golf transaction price: $14,587
Savings vs. new: 39%
Edmunds rating: 7.8/10
Average consumer rating (2016): 4.8/5
Used VW Golf years for this generation: 2015 | 2016 | 2017 | 2018

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Used Hyundai Elantra GT

It might look small from the outside, but the Hyundai Elantra GT offers substantial cargo capacity. With 51 cubic feet of maximum space, it's nearly as commodious as some small SUVs. The GT's 173-hp engine is also one of the strongest in its class, although it takes a toll on fuel economy. Add in many desirable standard features (heated seats and Bluetooth audio streaming) and a savings of 50% when buying used, and you've got a Hyundai hatch that punches well above its weight.

Average 2016 Hyundai Elantra GT transaction price: $12,547
Savings vs. new: 50%
Edmunds rating: 7.6/10
Average consumer rating (2016): 4.1/5
Used Hyundai Elantra GT years for this generation: 2013 | 2014 | 2015 | 2016 | 2017

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Compare Used Hatchbacks

Best Used SUVs

Americans love SUVs so much that the category has displaced sedans as the average family's daily transportation. With an elevated height, extra passenger space and useful cargo capacity, it's easy to understand why.

Used Mazda CX-5

There are many good small SUVs, but the Mazda CX-5 stands out for sharp steering and handling that make it feel more like a sport sedan than an SUV. Yet the CX-5 still has the tall seating position and large cargo hold of an SUV, along with impressive fuel economy and top safety ratings. You'll want one with the 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, though; the base 2.0-liter is too underpowered.

Average 2016 Mazda CX-5 transaction price: $19,133
Savings vs. new: 36%
Edmunds rating: 8.1/10
Average consumer rating (2016): 4.3/5
Used Mazda CX-5 years for this generation: 2013 | 2014 | 2015 | 2016

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Used Ford Edge

For drivers who need an SUV with more room than compact models, the Ford Edge fits the bill. With midsize dimensions, it's not dramatically larger than smaller alternatives, yet it offers appreciably more passenger and cargo space while still feeling tidy and maneuverable on the road. Most drivers will be satisfied with the standard 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, but there are two other options, including a twin-turbo V6 with over 300 horsepower for those seeking more punch. Any used Edge represents a solid value, but 2016 and later models benefitted from the introduction of Ford's excellent Sync 3 touchscreen infotainment system and standard keyless entry and ignition.

Average 2016 Ford Edge transaction price: $22,200
Savings vs. new: 44%
Edmunds rating: 7.9/10
Average consumer rating (2016): 3.9/5
Used Ford Edge years for this generation: 2015 | 2016 | 2017 | 2018

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Used Kia Sorento

Need room for six or seven passengers in a reasonably sized wrapper? Fully redesigned for 2016, the Sorento could give you the best of both worlds. This midsize SUV offers a lot of versatility, not to mention an abundance of standard niceties, at an attractive average transaction price of less than $20,000 for the 2016 model year. Like the Ford Edge, the Sorento boasts an attractive interior and multiple engine choices, also featuring a long warranty and top safety ratings. One caveat: Although the Sorento's optional third row is useful, it's pretty tight. Kids will be fine, but you won't want to keep adult friends back there for any longer than necessary.

Average 2016 Kia Sorento transaction price: $19,298
Savings vs. new: 40%
Edmunds rating: 7.5/10
Average consumer rating (2016): 4.7/5
Used Kia Sorento years for this generation: 2016 | 2017 | 2018

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Best Used Trucks

Americans love trucks almost as much as SUVs. The top-selling car in the country is actually a pickup, and why not? Pickups can tow and haul but also be civilized and comfortable. Not everyone needs one, but attractive prices on used models mean almost anyone can afford one.

Used Chevrolet Colorado

The Colorado kicked off today's midsize pickup revival with its debut in 2015, offering full-size truck capabilities — hauling, towing, all-terrain — in a more maneuverable package. A comfortable ride, a choice of three engines (including a fuel-thrifty and torque-rich diesel ideal for towing), and advanced infotainment features make the Colorado an easy truck to drive every day. Colorados hold their value, though, so you'll have to hunt for a deal. On the bright side, there'll be more retained value when you're ready to sell.

Average 2016 Chevrolet Colorado transaction price: $25,044
Savings vs. new: 26%
Edmunds rating: 7.6/10
Average consumer rating (2016): 4.2/5
Used Chevrolet Colorado years for this generation: 2015 | 2016 | 2017 | 2018

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Used GMC Canyon

Savvy truck shoppers will know that corporate siblings GMC and Chevrolet offer similar trucks in different packages, and that's true for the Canyon and Colorado twins. So what's different about the Canyon? Exterior styling, for one, highlighted by a bold upright grille, muscular fender flares and more chrome accents than the Colorado. The Canyon's interior is also a step up from the Colorado, with luxury-like touches such as leather upholstery and a leather-wrapped steering wheel.

Average 2016 GMC Canyon transaction price: $25,757
Savings vs. new: 33%
Edmunds rating: 7.6/10
Average consumer rating (2016): 4.0/5
Used GMC Canyon years for this generation: 2015 | 2016 | 2017 | 2018

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Used Ford F-150

The best-selling car in America isn't a car at all, but a pickup truck. The Ford F-150 lineup offers four engines, three cab styles and three bed lengths, making it diverse enough to suit almost any need, from workhorse hauling to weekend towing. It also happens to be an excellent value on the used market. You'll save 40% buying a model that's just a few years old.

Average 2016 Ford F-150 transaction price: $30,923
Savings vs. new: 40%
Edmunds rating: 8.1/10
Average consumer rating (2016): 3.9/5
Used Ford F-150 years for this generation: 2015 | 2016 | 2017 | 2018

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Best Used Hybrids & Plug-In Hybrids

When your priority is maximum fuel savings, nothing beats a hybrid. The best ones get 40-50 mpg combined, while plug-in models feature bigger battery packs that allow you to cover miles on electric power alone.

Used Toyota Prius

The hybrid that became a household name is also one of the top used-car picks. A used Prius may not represent fire-sale savings compared to buying new, but you'll still get about a third off on average, with plenty of examples available for well under $20,000. Funky styling and odd interior quirks aside, that's a solid deal given the Prius' roomy hatchback utility and exceptional fuel economy. Stick with the redesigned 2016 and later models since these are quieter and add a previously absent sprinkling of sporty acceleration and handling.

Average 2016 Toyota Prius transaction price: $18,798
Savings vs. new: 32%
Edmunds rating: 7.8/10
Average consumer rating (2016): 4.7/5
Used Toyota Prius years for this generation: 2016 | 2017 | 2018

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Used Hyundai Sonata Hybrid

Hyundai has forged its revamped reputation on delivering value without sacrificing quality, and the Sonata sedan is a key pillar in that effort. Like its conventional counterpart, the Sonata Hybrid blends a refined and roomy interior, ample standard features and a smooth ride. It also boasts fuel economy of up to 42 mpg. That's a lot of car, and with average savings of nearly 50%, you can have one for less than what a new subcompact sedan would run you.

Average 2016 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid transaction price: $16,138
Savings vs. new: 48%
Edmunds rating: 7.5/10
Average consumer rating (2016): 4.6/5
Used Hyundai Sonata Hybrid years for this generation: 2016 | 2017 | 2018

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Used Chevrolet Volt

We liked the original Chevrolet Volt when it debuted in 2011, but the current second-generation model, which arrived in 2016, is even better. A new body structure improves handling and ride quality, while a quieter engine returns better fuel economy. The cherry on top is the upgraded plug-in battery pack, which delivers up to 53 miles of electric range. That's enough for most daily commuting needs without ever dipping into the gas tank, setting the Volt apart from its more limited plug-in peers. The Volt's hatchback-style liftgate also makes it easy to load and remove cargo. Remarkably, this all-around excellent vehicle can now be had for just half of what it cost new.

Average 2016 Chevrolet Volt transaction price: $18,379
Savings vs. new: 49%
Edmunds rating: 8.0/10
Average consumer rating (2016): 4.6/5
Used Chevrolet Volt years for this generation: 2016 | 2017 | 2018

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Best Used Minivans

The family van design that took shape in the 1980s remains with us today. Despite strong challenges from three-row SUVs and crossovers, the minivan is still here and still relevant. After all, it's hard to beat sliding side doors, three-row seating, and a low step into the cabin.

Used Honda Odyssey

We've used words such as "vast" and "cavernous" to describe the space inside the Honda Odyssey, and it's not hyperbole. An eight-passenger crossover might be the solution to minivan-averse families, but there's no denying the practical benefits of the Odyssey's three rows, easy access and immense interior volume. Even behind the third-row seat, luggage space is more than twice what you'd find in a large sedan's trunk. The Odyssey's sliding second-row seats also come in handy, although you'll need some capable arms if you want to remove them completely.

Average 2016 Used Honda Odyssey transaction price: $24,208
Savings vs. new: 34%
Edmunds rating: 8.3/10
Average consumer rating (2016): 4.3/5
Used Honda Odyssey years for this generation: 2011 | 2012 | 2013 | 2014 | 2015 | 2016 | 2017

Shop all used Honda Odyssey models

Used Toyota Sienna

Toyota's attempt to distinguish its Sienna from Honda's Odyssey has led to cringe-worthy marketing descriptions such as "Swagger Wagon." But such boasting isn't without merit. While the Sienna doesn't feel quite as refined or full-featured as the Odyssey, it comes with a robust V6 engine and even a bit of handling verve, particularly in SE trim. The Sienna is also the only minivan available with all-wheel drive, making it a top choice for all-weather drivers.

Average 2016 Toyota Sienna transaction price: $24,716
Savings vs. new: 35%
Edmunds rating: 7.3/10
Average consumer rating (2016): 4.4/5
Used Toyota Sienna years for this generation: 2011 | 2012 | 2013 | 2014 | 2015 | 2016 | 2017 | 2018

Shop all used Toyota Sienna models

Compare Used Minivans

Best Used Electric Cars

The next step beyond a hybrid is a pure electric vehicle, and some good EVs have already migrated to the used-car market. EVs are quiet, handle surprisingly well (thanks to low-mounted battery packs), and can be ideal for drivers who typically cover only short distances. Be aware that as batteries age, they tend to hold less charge and therefore power fewer miles between plug-ins.

Used Volkswagen e-Golf

The e-Golf starts with the goodness of the regular Golf hatchback and subs in an electric motor and a battery pack. You'll find the same high-quality interior, smooth ride and spirited handling in a package that delivers between 80 and 100 miles on a single charge. Plus, the e-Golf doesn't compromise cargo space for its battery pack, as do many EVs based on traditional gas-powered designs. Buying a used e-Golf saves half of what you'd pay new, but you may have to hunt to find one. Production numbers were low and exclusive to a dozen or so states.

Average 2016 Volkswagen e-Golf transaction price: $15,078
Savings vs. new: 50%
Edmunds rating: 7.9/10
Average consumer rating (2016): 3.9/5
Used Volkswagen e-Golf years for this generation: 2015 | 2016 | 2017 | 2018

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Used BMW i3

The i3 is a uniquely BMW take on the electric vehicle. Its stubby body, reverse-hinged rear doors and avant-garde cabin mark a clear departure from conventional car design. Although the i3 comfortably seats four adults and has a versatile cargo area, it's essentially a city car since its short electric range and optional gas-powered "range extender" don't make for much of a long-haul solution. The i3's frisky acceleration off the line also makes it well-suited to traffic around town. At 60% savings compared to new, a used i3 is a nearly unbeatable deal.

Average 2016 BMW i3 transaction price: $19,712
Savings vs. new: 60%
Edmunds rating: 8.4/10
Average consumer rating (2016): 4.4/5
Used BMW i3 years for this generation: 2014 | 2015 | 2016 | 2017 | 2018

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Used Nissan Leaf

The Leaf, the elder statescar of today's EV crop, gives you an exceptionally cost-effective entry into the world of electric vehicles. With around 80-100 miles of range, a used Leaf is a solid pick for anyone with a minor to moderate commute. Like many EVs, the Leaf provides responsive acceleration off the line, so it's a natural at threading through urban traffic, although it can feel a bit belabored getting up to highway speeds. Another reason to consider a Leaf is that it's long been available nationwide.

Average 2016 Nissan Leaf transaction price: $14,271
Savings vs. new: 57%
Edmunds rating: 7.1/10
Average consumer rating (2016): 4.1/5
Used Nissan Leaf years for this generation: 2011 | 2012 | 2013 | 2014 | 2015 | 2016 | 2017

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Best Used Wagons

Wagon lovers may be the most fervent automotive cult, and we understand why. Wagons offer all the goodness of hatchbacks plus more room, while they rival SUVs for practicality without the higher center of gravity. Pretty sensible, right? Especially for folks who don't mind going against the grain.

Used BMW 3 Series Wagon

BMW's 3 Series sedan is an all-time staff favorite thanks to sublime all-around performance and refined manners. The 3 Series wagon bundles all that up into a handier body style with 53 cubic feet of cargo space, making it ideal for shoppers with active lifestyles. You'll also save more than 50% when opting for a used 3 Series, making it a smart pick for a versatile sport-luxury car.

Average 2016 BMW 3 Series transaction price: $23,705
Savings vs. new: 53%
Edmunds rating: 8.2/10
Average consumer rating (2016): 4.4/5
Used BMW 3 Series Wagon years for this generation: 2014 | 2015 | 2016 | 2017 | 2018

Shop all used BMW 3 Series models

Used Volkswagen Golf SportWagen

Drivers who prefer a buttoned-down driving demeanor will find what they're looking for in the Golf SportWagen. The "GSW" has all the sportiness and refinement we've come to expect from the Golf — there's just a bigger cargo area out back. Notably, VW also introduced a Golf Alltrack variant for 2017 that adds some light off-road capability, courtesy of a modest lift in ride height and some sturdier hardware. The result is a tough little wagon that can handle the rocks, ruts and stumps of dirt trails. Either way, this VW is a whale of a used-car deal, transacting at prices that would make new subcompact hatchbacks blush.

Average 2016 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen transaction price: $14,750
Savings vs. new: 38%
Edmunds rating: 7.4/10 (Golf Alltrack)
Average consumer rating (2016): 4.0/5
Used Volkswagen Golf SportWagen years for this generation: 2015 | 2016 | 2017 | 2018

Shop all used Volkswagen Golf SportWagen models

Compare Used Wagons

Best Used Luxury Cars

You'll find some of the best values among used luxury cars. After the original owner has paid the luxury premium, the savings really add up when buying used. It's routine to see savings in excess of 50%, even on the most illustrious brands.

Used Hyundai Genesis

When it debuted in 2015, the second-generation Hyundai Genesis served notice to established European and Japanese luxury brands that Korea meant business. Here was a midsize sedan decked out with opulent features, available V8 power and a classically handsome design. Notably, the Hyundai Genesis became the Genesis G80 in 2017 when Hyundai spun off Genesis as its own sub-brand, but it's fundamentally the same car. A traditional rear-wheel-drive cruiser (all-wheel drive is optional), the 2016 Genesis offers world-class luxury at nearly 50% off compared to a new G80.

Average 2016 Hyundai Genesis transaction price: $26,556
Savings vs. new: 46%
Edmunds rating: 7.8/10
Average consumer rating (2016): 4.6/5
Used Hyundai Genesis years for this generation: 2015 | 2016

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Used BMW 3 Series Sedan

The 3 Series makes this list twice — first as a wagon, now as a sedan — because it's just that appealing. Few other models can satisfy so many different drivers, from those simply seeking a classy commuter car to those for whom every day is track day. Thanks to a wide array of engines and options, it's easy to find a 3 Series tailored to your tastes. As noted above, a used 3 Series represents a particularly strong value — you'll shave more than half the cost of buying new with just a 3-year-old model.

Average 2016 BMW 3 Series transaction price: $23,705
Savings vs. new: 53%
Edmunds rating: 8.2/10
Average consumer rating (2016): 4.4/5
Used BMW 3 Series Sedan years for this generation: 2012 | 2013 | 2014 | 2015 | 2016 | 2017 | 2018

Shop all used BMW 3 Series models

Used Audi A6

Big luxury sedans don't get much more athletic or debonair than the Audi A6. This midsize German chariot offers a leather-lined interior, strong engines and innovative infotainment technology. It also cuts a dashing figure, with handsome lines that will continue to age well. The suspension tends to ride firmly, but sport-minded drivers won't mind. What isn't firm is the hit to your wallet. A used A6 can be had for a song relative to its price when new.

Average 2016 Audi A6 transaction price: $30,628
Savings vs. new: 53%
Edmunds rating: 8.3/10
Average consumer rating (2016): 4.8/5
Used Audi A6 years for this generation: 2012 | 2013 | 2014 | 2015 | 2016 | 2017 | 2018

Shop all used Audi A6 models

Compare Used Luxury Cars

Best Used Luxury SUVs

Like their sedan counterparts, luxury SUVs benefit from luxury-badge depreciation, but to a lesser extent. These three luxury SUVs tend to hold their value well, which might sting at first but bodes well for a later sale. See our full list of the best used luxury SUVs.

Used Acura RDX

A compact SUV with a burly V6 engine, sharp handling and advanced tech? We'll take it, especially if it's the Acura RDX. A small footprint and nearly 300 horses under the hood make us instant fans, but it's the seat comfort, smooth ride and generous cargo space that would keep us coming back. These qualities also help buoy the RDX's residual value, but you'll still save nearly 40% buying used. The RDX might lack outright luxury cachet, but its impressive performance, versatility and features should render that irrelevant.

Average 2016 Acura RDX transaction price: $26,364
Savings vs. new: 37%
Edmunds rating: 8.3/10
Average consumer rating (2016): 4.2/5
Used Acura RDX years for this generation: 2013 | 2014 | 2015 | 2016 | 2017 | 2018

Shop all used Acura RDX models

Used Volvo XC60

Volvo's unique European style has earned it a loyal customer base, but it's the brand's dedication to safety technology that has made it a household name. With the XC60 compact SUV, Volvo blends those traditional company values with roomy accommodations and fuel-efficient engines. The XC60's handling ability isn't much to brag about, but its long-range comfort and cargo space are top-notch. Saving nearly 50% by buying used also doesn't hurt.

Average 2016 Volvo XC60 transaction price: $27,067
Savings vs. new: 47%
Edmunds rating: 7.1/10
Average consumer rating (2016): 4.7/5
Used Volvo XC60 years for this generation: 2010 | 2011 | 2012 | 2013 | 2014 | 2015 | 2016 | 2017

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Used Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class

Comfortable, well-equipped and blessed with a nearly peerless brand, the Mercedes-Benz GLE is ideal for drivers seeking a luxury SUV at a sensible price. A broad range of four- and six-cylinder engines, including both diesel and gasoline options, and a long list of standard tech and safety features mean there's a GLE to suit most needs. A sharp-handling SUV the GLE is not, but as a straight-ahead cushy cruiser, it excels. Note that the GLE was called the "M-Class" prior to 2016, but these models are very similar under the skin.

Average 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLE transaction price: $38,388
Savings vs. new: 38%
Edmunds rating: 7.7/10
Average consumer rating (2016): 4.4/5
Used Mercedes-Benz GLE years for this generation: 2016 | 2017 | 2018

Shop all used Mercedes-Benz GLE models

Compare Used Luxury SUVs

Used Cars vs. Certified Pre-Owned

When it comes to shopping for a used car, are certified pre-owned (CPO) examples better than non-CPO? As always, your mileage may vary. CPO cars are subject to a more thorough inspection by the dealer and often offer an extended warranty period. They may also come with special incentives, attractive financing and even roadside assistance. On the other hand, CPO cars are typically more expensive than non-CPO cars, and dealers may be loath to negotiate.

By comparison, non-CPO cars tend to be abundant and less expensive, with more room to negotiate on price. The caveat here, of course, is that these cars are likely to be older and have more miles. Conditions will range from "great" to "fair," the car comes "as-is," and you may even consider spending money on a pre-purchase inspection to guard against short-term surprises.

Dealership or Private Party

When shopping for a used car, is it better to buy from a dealer? A Craigslist stranger? The proverbial little old lady whose 20-year-old sedan is in pristine shape after only being driven 2,500 miles a year? Buying from a dealer often means a wider selection, a free history report and easier financing. It's also more straightforward to resolve potential problems by following the dealer's chain of command.

On the other hand, you'll tend to pay more at the dealership, and independent dealers can also be hit-or-miss when it comes to follow-up service. You'll probably find it easier to negotiate with a private seller, who can also discuss the car's history and who won't need to factor business costs into the transaction. But the buyer must verify the condition of the car because there's no warranty in this arrangement. Since there's also no financing, you'll also need to come up with the full price unless you can secure third-party financing. Furthermore, you'll need to beware of scams and sellers just looking to flip cars quickly.

Tips for Buying a Used Car

Buying a used car needn't be confusing or intimidating. Here are some helpful tips if you're considering taking the plunge.

• Before committing to buying a lightly used car, compare its price to that of a brand-new version. Rebates or end-of-season deals may reduce the price of a new car to an irresistibly low level.

• The "asking price" is just that: the amount the seller asks for the car, knowing that it might not be the full price that's eventually paid. That goes for dealerships, too. If your research suggests that a dealer is asking too much for a car, then, by all means, make a substantially lower offer and see what happens. It could be the start of a profitable conversation for you.

• When car salespeople negotiate price, they don't typically include sales tax or various dealer fees. Before agreeing to a deal, ask for the "out-the-door" price so you know exactly what additional fees you will have to pay.

• Factor in extended warranty costs, interest costs and maintenance costs to the total cost of your car.

• Get a vehicle history report for any car you're seriously interested in buying.

• Ask a dealership service department or a trusted independent mechanic if service visits will be expensive for the car you want to buy. Also, consider downloading a service manual for the car to price out recommended services.

• Conventional wisdom says that buyers should avoid used rental cars because they've been abused by drivers, which may be true in many cases. But our used-car experts on staff suggest considering them anyway. You might find a diamond in the rough for a great price.