It’s no secret that Consumer Reports has for the past several years favored cars of the Japanese and Asian persuasion in its testing and reports, though it’s also hard to argue that a few years ago, the American auto industry was at the top of its game. This is a particularly important factor for the publication’s latest issuance, a revised list of best used cars.
Not surprisingly, the list is dominated by Japanese brands, which for years have clung to a reputation of being astoundingly reliable. American cars, meanwhile, didn’t fare so well — fortunately, that appears to be changing, as domestic cars being produced today are arguably the best in many decades.
Nonetheless, those vehicles aren’t old enough to be good candidates for used cars just yet, especially ones sporting a meaningful decrease in price (arguably the first reason buyers shop for used vehicles: they’re cheaper).
Here’s a list of eight used cars that Consumer Reports feels offer the best deals — the most for your money, as it were.
1. Small car: Toyota Prius, 2004-2007
Toyota’s (NYSE:TM) Prius has gone from an experimental new car to time-proven, reliable mass-market favorite in its segment over the last fifteen or so years — since its introduction to the U.S. in the late ’90s. Even used, the Prius still offers mileage in the mid-40s (still commendable by today’s standards, even though the car is ten years old). “With its 44 mpg overall, the Prius is the most efficient non-plug-in five-passenger car you can buy, plus it has plenty of room and a nice ride. Reliability has been first-rate,” Consumer Reports says.
2. Small car: Scion xB, 2004-2006
Scion’s Quirky xB might just be the ticket for those looking for something a little different but practical, fuel-efficient, and with little emphasis on aerodynamics. “The Scion xB has standard [Electronic Stability Control] and is a great city car, with compact dimensions and easy access,” Consumer Reports writes. It’s not really a wagon or a crossover, or even a hatchback, but a sort of amicable blend of everything.
3. Small car: Toyota Matrix, 2005-2007
Once upon a time, Toyota made a Corolla station wagon — and for a while, it did very well. The Matrix was about as close to a Corolla wagon as we’ve come in recent years, and it, too, proved to be quite popular, thanks to its tremendously versatile interior that belies its small footprint. The closest wagon-type vehicle Toyota has now is the larger Venza (or the Prius V), but there are plenty of used Matrixes out there on sale — and for under $10,000, no less.
4. Small car: Pontiac Vibe, 2005-2008
If the Pontiac (NYSE:GM) Vibe looks familiar, it’s because it is essentially a re-skinned, General Motors-badged clone of the Toyota Matrix. That’s not a bad thing, either — it means the Vibe retains Toyota’s renowned credentials for dependability, though it offered trim levels and options that were unique to the vehicle. Like the Matrix, it’s exceptionally versatile and offers a lot of practicality packaged into a small and easy-to-maneuver footprint.
5. Sedan: Hyundai Elantra, 2007-2008
It’s certainly not the prettiest car — in fact, it’s rather boring-looking and likely equally as unexciting behind the wheel. However, the Hyundai Elantra offers an “economical, efficient, and comfortable” ride for those just looking for basic transportation, with “secure handling, and a peppy four-cylinder engine,” according to Consumer Reports. It goes without saying that the Elantra is considerably more attractive than it was just five to seven years ago, but for simple, A-to-B transportation, an older Elantra is a solid bet.
6. Sedan: Acura TSX, 2004
“For something sportier, the Acura (NYSE:HMC) TSX is responsive, quiet, well-finished, and enjoyable to drive,” Consumer Reports notes. Plus, it’s backed with Honda’s reputation for reliability and offers one of the more affordable plays on an entry-level luxury car. The early TSX sedans were warmly received by critics and buyers alike, and it’s no less of a car now, a decade down the road.
7. SUV: Toyota Highlander V6, 2004
Toyota’s respected Highlander is a solid choice for those needing some interior space but wanting to skirt a minivan or large SUV. “The Highlander has a nicely finished, quiet, and comfortable interior, along with a strong V6 engine,” Consumer Reports said. ”Handling is secure, but it leans more toward comfort than sportiness.” Ten years on, Toyota’s reliability reputation still stands, and it isn’t uncommon for cars like the Highlander to easily surpass 200,000 miles.
8. SUV: Mitsubishi Outlander, 2007
The Mitsubishi Outlander is smaller than the Highlander, but for some, that might be just what they need. Its smaller footprint translates into better maneuverability, and though smaller, the interior is as versatile as anything else in its segment. It has the option for a third row seat if buyers so desire, and its appearance has barely aged at all since 2007.