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For a large group of drivers today, you want a compact car that is easy to park and reliably gets you where you need to go. Even more so, you want all of this on a budget and will sacrifice a few luxuries to meet it. With all of that in mind, you might expect something rather old but you would be surprised. Given these requirements, what are the five best reliable used small cars you can buy for under $15,000 in 2023?

1. 2017 Kia Soul

2017 Kia Soul orange
2017 Kia Soul | Kia

A beloved car by many, not just because of the dancing hamster advertisements, the 2017 Kia Soul is number one on this list. With an astonishing amount of seating and cargo space, excellent reliability ratings, and great crash test ratings, the Kia Soul is a wonderful choice. Not only does the Kia Soul score a 4.5 out of 5 from J.D. Power for reliability, but it scores an overall 9.0 from U.S. News. Commended for many things, the only piece the Kia Soul lacks is a more powerful base model engine. For some, the issue won’t even cross their mind.

2. 2018 Kia Rio

2018 Kia Rio blue
2018 Kia Rio

What comes as no surprise is another Kia at the top of this list. The 2018 Kia Rio gives you exactly what you would want. Spirited driving dynamics, user-friendly interior, and predicted reliability make the Rio a good choice for a used small car. The Rio has a stout 130 horsepower and gets up to 37 mpg on the highway. However, with the base model being extra lean on features like crank windows, you will want to spring for a slightly better-optioned model.

3. 2014 Honda Civic

2014 Honda Civic red
2014 Honda Civic | Honda

You can’t have a used small car list without mentioning the Honda Civic. The 2014 Honda Civic is a perfect candidate for reliability in a compact car. The Civic stands out with a more refined interior than the Kia Rio or Kia Soul. It is third in this list due to its limited trunk space and has some temperamental user controls. In 2014 you will find a CVT in place of the old five-speed automatic. With the addition of the CVT, the Civic will see up to 41 mpg on the highway.

4. 2014 Toyota Prius

2014 Toyota Prius blue
2014 Toyota Prius | Toyota

Squeaking into the price range for this list of small cars is the 2014 Toyota Prius. The famous hybrid Toyota is known for its excellent fuel economy and spacious interior. As reported by J.D. Power, good reliability and low maintenance costs keep the Prius going for 200,000 plus miles. The only complaints from most owners are the cheap plastics around the interior and sensitive brakes. In addition, Toyota designed the Prius to use the electric motor for roughly 80% of the brake pedal, causing them to be touchy.

5. 2018 Chevy Cruze

2018 Chevy Cruze orange
2018 Chevy Cruze | Chevy

The 2018 Chevy Cruze rounds out this list as a proper compact commuter. Excellent reliability ratings and a quality interior bump the Cruze into the top five reliable used small cars. User-friendly features like the intuitive console controls give the Cruze an edge over others in its class. Where the Cruze lacks, however, is its slow acceleration and overall ownership costs. Yet, even with the negatives, this Chevy sedan is one to look out for.

What is the best reliable used small car for 2023?

Considering it is the first on this list, the 2017 Kia Soul holds the crown, according to U.S. News. Although it may not be the most luxurious, the interior quality is still above average. Combining that with excellent reliability and fuel economy set the Kia apart from the rest. Putting all of this together for under $15,000 is an incredible deal.


5 Best Used Cars Under $20,000, According to KBB