Edmunds.com's annual Best Used Cars selections are based on the following criteria: reliability, safety and availability. Wider availability of a particular vehicle almost always translates to more competitive prices and better value for used car shoppers. Eligibility is limited to cars originally sold from 2006-'11.
About Edmunds.com's Best Used Cars
Our editors are often asked what the best used car choices are, so here we present the collective opinions of our editorial staff through our Edmunds.com Best Used Cars.
In order to put together this list of our top choices in the used vehicle market, we prioritized the most important criteria: reliability, safety, value and availability. Eligibility is limited to vehicles from 2-7 years old for the following reasons: Older vehicles will probably have too many miles on them, and newer ones will not have fully taken the large depreciation hit that typically makes a 2- or 3-year-old car (with low miles) the best value. For these reasons, our list is limited to used cars with model years ranging from 2006-'11.
First, we looked at our consumer ratings as well as sources that report on reliability and longevity, and applied our own experience and judgment to determine a vehicle's reliability. Second, we considered the way these vehicles rated in various crash tests conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Third, we looked at value, taking into consideration Edmunds True Market Value (TMV®) and True Cost to Own (TCO®). And fourth, we considered availability: The larger the spread of potential model years a buyer has to choose from, the better. This is why one (more abundant) car may have beaten out another (less available one) if the two were otherwise closely matched.
The following vehicles are our selections for the best used cars of 2013.
Subcompact | Compact Sedan | Midsize Sedan | Large Sedan | Coupe | Convertible | Wagon | Compact SUV/Crossover | Midsize SUV/Crossover | Large SUV/Crossover | Minivan/Van | Cargo Van | Compact Truck | Large Truck | Luxury | Hybrid | Two-Seat Sports Car | Performance Car
Previously available in other parts of the world and introduced to the U.S. market in 2007, the Honda Fit has won over editors and consumers with its spirited and nimble driving demeanor, high fuel economy and incredibly space-efficient design. The Fit's unique rear seat can be configured four different ways, including one in which the seat bottom flips up against the backrest, allowing fairly tall items to be carried within the cabin. Folding the seat down flat provides a surprising amount of cargo space: up to 57 cubic feet in the second-generation version (2009+).
There are but two demerits to a used Honda Fit. One is the noticeable engine noise at highway speeds and the other is the first-generation Fit's lack of a telescoping steering wheel, which could annoy taller drivers. Introduced for the 2009 model year, the second-generation Honda Fit (which we had in our long-term fleet) brought a telescoping steering wheel, more passenger and cargo space, a little more power (117 horsepower versus 109) and the availability of a navigation system.
A complete redesign in 2001 earned the Hyundai Elantra our respect, which was bolstered by a tough tour of duty in our long-term fleet. We've liked this compact sedan ever since. In addition to peppy performance and a smooth ride, the Elantra offers solid build quality, reliability and operating economy. A GT hatchback version provides added cargo capacity in addition to standard leather seating, a moonroof and a sport-tuned suspension. Impressive crash test scores are another feather in the Elantra's cap.
For 2007, the Elantra was again redesigned. It was initially offered only as a sedan and boasted more interior room and higher fuel efficiency than the previous generation. A wagon (dubbed Elantra Touring) debuted for 2009, boasting a more European feel both in terms of its design and chassis tuning. The Hyundai Elantra took a trip uptown for 2011, when a full redesign gave it fancier styling, a roomier cabin and available luxury features such as keyless ignition/entry and heated rear seats. This version also boasts improved fuel economy.
This selection nearly encompasses the first two generations of the Fusion: 2006-'09 and 2010-'12. Either version of this competent sedan offers a spacious cabin, responsive driving dynamics, solid build quality and attractive styling. The Ford also offers something rather rare in this segment: a sporty driving personality to go along with its practicality. In addition to four- and six-cylinder gasoline engines, Ford offered a hybrid Fusion. It debuted for 2010, sporting a 39 mpg combined fuel economy rating.
Shoppers should be aware of some notable changes over the years. Front-seat side and full-length side curtain airbags became standard for the 2007 model year, so we highly recommend that you seek out a 2007 or newer Ford Fusion. All-wheel drive and a factory navigation system also became available in 2007. The 2009 model year brought optional stability control, a desirable safety feature. Apart from its refreshed front and rear styling, the second-generation Fusion looks similar to the first, but consumers should take note that this later version of the Ford Fusion has more powerful engines and more standard safety features.
With its roomy cabin and upscale ambience, the Toyota Avalon is almost a bargain-priced large Lexus sedan. Other Avalon virtues include a smooth and very quiet ride, a powerful yet fuel-efficient V6, a massive backseat and top-notch build quality. Adding peace of mind is Toyota's reputation for reliability.
A used Toyota Avalon from any of these years should satisfy, as they are all similar and changes through the years were minimal. That said, buyers should note that 2009 brought standard stability control across the board, and for 2011, the Avalon saw a mild refresh with updated front and rear styling and a tweaked dashboard design.
Since most Accords are sold in the sedan body style, it's easy to forget that Honda also offers its best-seller as a stylish coupe. This selection represents two generations of the Accord coupe: 2003-'07 and 2008-'12. Either way, you'll get tight build quality, a smooth ride, refined powertrains and a strong reputation for reliability.
The earlier cars offered engines ranging from a 160-hp four-cylinder to a 240-hp V6, and unlike the sedan, the coupe could be had with a manual gearbox (a six-speed) hooked up to the smooth and energetic V6. Still, even in that configuration, the Honda Accord coupe was more a pleasant cruiser than canyon carver. The following generation had more power (190 hp on four-cylinder Accord coupes, 271 hp on V6 versions), sharply chiseled styling and better fuel economy despite the increase in power.
Thanks to its retractable hardtop, the Volvo C70 is essentially two cars in one. Top up, it's a luxury coupe with the quietness, weather isolation and security of a solid roof. Lower and stow away the roof (with the press of a button) and you have a stylish convertible in which you can share al fresco motoring with three other adults.
In addition to its versatility, the C70 also provides the traditional Volvo strengths of comfortable seating and an abundance of safety features. Its turbocharged inline five-cylinder engine with either 218 hp (2006-'07) or 227 hp (2008-'11) could be matched to a manual or automatic transmission (though most of the used Volvo C70s you'll find will be automatics). Regardless of the horsepower rating or transmission, this engine provides ample thrust. And while it's no sports car, the C70 handles confidently enough around turns and provides a compliant ride over bumps and ruts. With the top up, the cabin is luxury-car quiet, and the breeze is well controlled when it's down.
Although the highly entertaining Mazda MX-5 Miata has taken the Best Used Convertible honor in past years, we felt that a greater number of used car shoppers would be interested in a more practical, four-passenger convertible. However, if you only need two seats, the Miata remains a top choice for a used convertible.
This selection includes two generations of the Subaru Outback wagon. The earlier of the two (2005-'09) offered a wide variety of trim levels, and engine choices included a 170-hp base four-cylinder, a 243-hp turbocharged four-cylinder and a 245-hp six-cylinder. A manual transmission could be had with either of the four-cylinder engines, while the six-cylinder was automatic only. All-wheel drive was standard on every Outback, which is a real asset for shoppers in the Snowbelt. These Subaru Outbacks were also known for their solid build quality and well-balanced ride and handling qualities.
In addition to its radically different styling, the later-generation Outback wagon (2010-'11) has more passenger and cargo room within a similar footprint thanks to its increased height and width. Although the six-cylinder picked up some power (now at 256 hp), the feisty turbocharged four was dropped, and handling is noticeably less sporty. On the practical side, however, the newer Subaru Outback wagon wins out, thanks to its roomier backseat, increased cargo capacity and better fuel economy from the base four-cylinder engine.
Space-efficient, fuel-efficient and easy to drive and own, the five-passenger Honda CR-V does almost everything well. With as much passenger and cargo space as some midsize SUVs, the compact CR-V crossover will easily meet most consumers' needs for comfort and space. Although no V6 engine is available, the CR-V's four-cylinder provides sufficient power in normal driving and returns respectable fuel economy. A smooth ride, an excellent reliability record and strong crash test scores underscore why the Honda CR-V is a top pick among our staff and consumers alike.
The CR-V was redesigned in 2007, but there were no significant mechanical changes. However, a few key upgrades did take place, including improved handling, the adoption of a more user-friendly liftgate (which replaced the previous side-opening door) and the availability of a factory navigation system. Honda also undertook measures to quiet the ride in 2007, but the cabin still wasn't very serene at highway speeds, and the elevated noise level remains one of the few knocks against a used Honda CR-V. There were a few updates for 2010, including 14 more horses and the introduction of Bluetooth.
Ever since its debut back in 2001 as one of the first midsize crossovers, the Toyota Highlander has offered pleasant driving dynamics, a comfortable ride and plenty of cargo capacity. Of course, consumers have also been attracted to Toyota's longstanding reputation for reliability and low upkeep costs and, on Highlanders equipped with all-wheel drive, the confidence to handle foul-weather driving conditions.
Either of the two generations represented here (2001-'07 and 2008-'13) are solid picks. Both offer a choice of four- and six-cylinder power and strike a nice balance between a comfy ride and confident control. Those looking for greater than five-passenger capacity should know that a third-row seat was offered from 2004 onward, increasing seating capacity to seven. The third row became standard for 2008, and for 2011, it gained a more useful 50/50-split folding design. A hybrid Highlander joined the lineup for the 2006 model year and combined a V6 engine with a battery pack and a couple of electric motors to provide both solid acceleration and class-leading fuel economy.
The larger, second-generation Toyota Highlander does have a few significant advantages, however, among them a roomier cabin (which is especially noticeable in the third-row seat), a more powerful V6 and some handy new features, including a 40/20/40-split second-row seat with a removable middle section that can be stowed to provide "walk-through" access to the third row.
A large, seven-passenger crossover SUV with sporty handling capabilities seems about as likely as a ventriloquist winning America's Got Talent. Yet both have happened. The Mazda CX-9 does indeed have athletic chops, and it's an excellent choice if you have kids and pets in tow but still really enjoy driving.
With its steady handling and precise steering, the CX-9 feels considerably smaller than it actually is and feels right at home on the occasional back road. Yet none of this comes at the expense of practicality. The Mazda features a truly spacious interior with adult-friendly third-row accommodations and plenty of cargo space (if the Toyota Highlander isn't big enough for your family, the CX-9 should fill the bill). You also get peppy performance from the responsive powertrain (a 3.7-liter V6 paired with a six-speed automatic) and a comfortable ride (provided you avoid the 20-inch wheels that come on the Grand Touring trim level).
Ever since 1999, the Honda Odyssey has been a top pick in the minivan segment. A powerful V6, cavernous interior, strong crash scores and a favorable reliability record have contributed to this ideal family shuttle's ongoing popularity.
Typically a standout in our minivan comparison tests, the Odyssey consistently impresses us with its agile handling (it drives more like a sedan than a van), tight build quality and comfortable seating in all three rows. It's also one of the few minivans that provides seating for eight passengers (although lower-line models topped out at seven). A full redesign for 2011 brought somewhat controversial styling, along with an even roomier interior, better fuel economy and some handy new features, including a chilled storage compartment and a USB input (earlier Odysseys offered only an auxiliary jack). You'll probably have to lay out a few more greenbacks for a used Honda Odyssey than other used minivans, but we'd consider it money well spent.
Sold under the Dodge brand from 2006-'09 but built by Mercedes-Benz (and sold under that name from 2010 onward), the Sprinter looks rather bizarre compared to its American cargo van competitors. But that tall architecture allows (with the taller of the two available roof heights) a 6-foot-3 adult to walk around upright inside the Sprinter, while no one taller than 4-foot-3 could walk around upright inside a Ford E-Series. Furthermore, in its biggest configuration the Sprinter boasts a maximum storage capacity of 547 cubic feet. That's more than twice what a Chevy Express can muster.
You might expect a Sprinter to feel only slightly less cumbersome than piloting a city bus, but it actually proves easy to drive, thanks to its modern chassis design, large windshield and short nose. The one downside to buying a used Sprinter is that just one engine is available, a turbodiesel five-cylinder whose output (boosted in 2010) is easily bested by its rivals' V8s. But even though it's down on power, the turbodiesel engine provides enough torque to handle most tasks and also returns better fuel economy and has longer maintenance intervals.
In addition to its well-known strengths of impressive overall quality and a rock-solid reliability record, the Toyota Tacoma lineup offers a large variety of cab styles, bed lengths and trim levels. As expected, there is a choice of four- or six-cylinder power and rear- or four-wheel drive.
Families will likely find a Tacoma Double Cab (crew cab) to their liking, especially since you can get it with either a short or long bed. Outdoor sports enthusiasts might look at the PreRunner, a two-wheel-drive truck that offers the beefier suspension, higher ground clearance and aggressive tires of a 4WD truck without the added complexity and appetite for fuel. There's even the X-Runner, which takes the opposite tack with its street attitude, complete with a body kit and a lowered ride height. Whatever you're looking for in a midsize pickup, chances are very good that there's a used Toyota Tacoma to match your needs.
There must be a very good reason that the Ford F-Series has been the top-selling vehicle line in America for most of the last three decades. Actually, we can think of many reasons and all of them are evident in the Ford F-150 pickup, which is the version most consumers end up bringing home. The F-150 features a huge variety of cab styles and trim levels, a comfortable interior with sound ergonomics, a compliant ride, communicative and precise steering, smooth power plants and best-in-class brakes.
A full redesign for 2009 brought more powerful engines along with styling inspired by Ford's Super Duty pickup truck line. Regardless of the year and configuration you settle on, the amazing popularity of the Ford F-150 should make it fairly easy to find a used truck that suits you perfectly.
With rear-wheel drive, a ripping V6 and sporty suspension tuning, the G35 (and later G37 and G25) is Infiniti's answer to the BMW 3 Series. And compared to that German benchmark, the Infiniti G's roomier cabin and lower acquisition and maintenance costs make it a smart choice for savvy enthusiasts.
Available in sedan, coupe and convertible body styles, the Infiniti G series can be anything from a practical midsize family sport sedan to a 2+2 sport coupe to a carefree drop top that boasts a retractable hardtop (as long as you don't mind the minute trunk capacity when the top is down). Naturally, the sedan will make the most sense for most folks, while the rakish coupe and convertible versions are a great alternative for Nissan Z car intenders seeking more practicality and refinement, as their performance capabilities are virtually identical.
After testing the waters with the cramped first-generation Prius, Toyota pulled out all the stops with its second-generation hybrid, which debuted for 2004. That established the template for this iconic hybrid car. The Prius' snub-nosed hatchback design devotes most of the car's body length to passenger and cargo space. The result is a large cabin that provides midsize-sedan room within a compact footprint, making the Prius a snap to park in tight spaces.
The following generation, which debuted in 2010, continued the successful four-door hatchback formula, adding a more conventional center stack design and providing more comfort for taller owners via a height-adjustable driver seat and telescoping steering wheel adjustment. Of course, no matter what Prius you choose, it will get excellent fuel economy. Thankfully, that frugality doesn't come at the expense of respectable performance, as there is more than adequate power on tap for dealing with city traffic as well as passing and merging on the freeway.
The expression "bang for the buck" might as well be trademarked to the Chevrolet Corvette, given its relative affordability and incredible, supercar-level performance. How do zero to 60 in less than 4.5 seconds and a top speed of nearly 190 mph sound? And that's just the base model. Should that be insufficient, you can always go with the 505-hp Z06 or the 638-hp ZR1. Depending on the trim level, you can have a fixed roof, removable roof or full convertible.
These years reflect the sixth-generation ("C6") Corvette, which bowed in 2005 and boasted more power, better build quality and sharper styling than the outgoing C5. Notable changes include the debut of the Z06 in '06, more power, a nicer interior and sharper steering for the base model in '08, and the arrival of the thundering ZR1 in 2009. Whichever Corvette you set your sights on, you'll have a car that can run with exotics. At the same time, prices on used Chevrolet Corvettes are so reasonable that you needn't be a professional athlete or rock star to afford one.
The Ford Mustang GT represents another great performance car value. The first of the American carmakers to bring back a retro-styled pony/muscle car, Ford hit it out of the park with this version of the 'Stang. Although these years represent two generations, the styling of both deftly blends design cues from '60s-era Mustangs. Under their long hoods are burbling V8s whose output ranges from 300 hp in earlier versions up to a seriously impressive 412 hp in the '11 model.
Unlike your uncle's cool but cantankerous '66 model, these modern Mustangs provide plenty of fun along with a measure of practicality. In addition to sizzling straight-line acceleration accompanied by a ripping soundtrack, a used Ford Mustang GT will also provide decent handling on a curvy road (yes, even with its solid rear axle) along with ample everyday practicality, thanks to a surprisingly compliant ride and good ergonomics in the cockpit.
Further Reading: Check out Edmunds.com's picks for the Best Used Cars of 2012.