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Buying a used car is not only a great way to save money. It also offers you the chance to purchase a car with more safety or luxury features than you could afford otherwise. We’ve compiled a list of the best used cars for under $20,000 in 2019. According to Consumer Reports, each of these cars performed above-average when new and has a proven track record of reliability, making any of them a great pre-owned buy.

Best Small Cars Under $20,000 

Honda Civic

A well-known name among used-car enthusiasts, the Honda Civic is one of the most reliable and easy-driving cars on the market. If you want to buy a pre-owned Civic, steer clear of the 2012 redesign, which has a cheap interior and is an uncomfortable ride. Stick to the classic 2009 model or look for a deal on a 2016 redesign. The latter gave the Civic a total makeover and addressed many long-time complaints of Civic drivers, such as minimized road noise inside the car.

Toyota Corolla

The interior of a Toyota Corolla rivals that of some mid-sized SUVs. So if you hope to take a cross-country trip or anticipate many passengers, the Corolla is a great choice. At its excellent used price-point, you’ll enjoy a touchscreen infotainment system and automatic climate control. In 2017 models or later, you’ll get standard forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking. With all of these features for a used-car price, the Corolla is truly one of the best cars at used dealerships.

Best Mid-sized & Large Cars Under $20,000

Honda Accord

If you’re buying a used Honda Accord, look at models after 2008. The 2008 redesign includes standard electronic stability control — an essential safety feature that does not come with earlier design models. Other than that, the Accord is a mainstay of mid-sized reliability, with a roomy interior and a smooth yet powerful four-cylinder engine. 


The comfortable, well-finished cabin of a Mazda6 includes many safety features (although they require getting used to the console system). Downsides involve tight rear seating and noisy driving on the highway. The 2018 redesign addressed the discomfort and noise. However, the earlier models are still a smart used-car purchase, with impressive handling, agile turning, and smooth yet powerful acceleration.

Best Luxury Cars Under $20,000

Infiniti G

Infiniti G37 concept car
The Infiniti G37 is introduced at the New York International Auto Show. | Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images

Infiniti’s 2007 update to the G series made for serious improvements in multiple categories, namely the interior features and control layout. Consumer Reports even named it the top-rated car in its class that year.  

Acura TSX

The second redesign of the Acura TSX came out in 2009. It provides an enjoyable ride with some luxury features, roomy front seats, and an impressively smooth and economical four-cylinder engine. Tight rear seating and not-so-great steering are the downsides to this bargain of a luxury vehicle.

Lexus CT 200h

Powered by the same 134-hp, four-cylinder hybrid powertrain as the Prius, the Lexus CT gets 40 MPG overall — okay by industry standards. It’s a reliable ride. However, the interior and other features don’t quite live up to its category of “luxury car,” with cramped seating and rear visibility issues.

Best Sports Car Under $20,000

Mazda MX-5 Miata

LA Auto Show - 2018 Mazda MX-5 Miata
People inspect the 2018 Mazda MX-5 Miata. | Justin L. Stewart/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

The fourth-generation Mazda MX-5 Miata stays true to the original design of a lightweight, rear-wheel-drive roadster. The Miata is a fairly speedy little car, though it gets only about 34 MPG. Consumer Reports suggests skipping the automatic option because “shifting the delightfully accurate six-speed manual shifter is a joy.” With some premium features and slick exterior, the Miata won’t impress if you have long distances to drive. But for those seeking an affordable sports car, it’ll certainly make the cut.

No matter which category you’re interested in, these cars are a great pre-owned purchase. They’ll likely hold up for many years, cost far less than the newest models, and are all fairly economical to drive. As the price of new cars continues to rise, you’re not alone when considering the used market for a safe, comfortable ride.