New car prices have soared to record heights in the past two years, and the result is that many are looking to find the best used cars they can to save some cash. Many used vehicles offer much of what new cars provide but in a slightly older package. Perhaps there are fewer safety and technology features, but there are plenty of good, affordable used cars from which to choose.
The $10,000 to $15,000 price range still offers some of the best used car deals on the market. It’s cheap enough to allow some financial wiggle room while not being so low that you are afraid of what you’re going to buy. They come in all shapes and sizes, too.
1. 2015-2020 Honda Fit
The Honda Fit has been a favorite of reviewers for years because of its zippy nature and good use of its space. Regardless, it is still too small for some people, and Honda has discontinued it for the 2021 model year. One upside to its small size is also its small price tag. You can currently get a 2015 or newer Fit with well under 100,000 miles for less than $15,000.
What you get for that price is a 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine, 130 horsepower, outstanding fuel economy, and even pretty good room for larger passengers in the rear seats. Though some reviewers have complained about its finicky infotainment system controls, everything else about the Fit is designed to be supremely practical.
2. 2014-2018 Mazda3 and 2014-2017 Mazda6
The Mazda3 is known as the athlete of the compact car class. Its agile handling and superior driving dynamics have given it a reputation as a sports car that isn’t. That is not its only offering, though. It also has a great interior, a stylish exterior, excellent fuel economy, and an easy-to-use infotainment system. The larger midsize Mazda6 plays the same game as its sibling.
The Mazda6 is only offered as a sedan, but its larger size is a little more family-friendly. It’s often overlooked in favor of the Camry or Accord, but it is every bit as fun to drive as the Mazda3 and has a slightly more powerful standard four-cylinder engine.
Even though it’s smaller, the Mazda3 is slightly more versatile since you can have one as a sedan or a hatchback. You can also easily find them with a manual transmission regardless of the model year.
Both are excellent choices within the 2014-2018 model year range. With the Mazda3 especially, you can get a well-equipped model with low mileage for $15,000. Mazda6s are a little harder to find, mainly because they are less popular, but plenty are still around.
3. 2014-2019 Toyota Corolla
The Toyota Corolla is the perfect car to buy within this price range for many. It’s already affordable as a new car, so used car prices for three to five-year-old models are very reasonable. In addition, they are fuel-efficient, reliable, stylish, and practical for their size. If you can find a certified pre-owned Corolla at a Toyota dealership, you even get a 1-year/12,000-mile warranty with a powertrain coverage extension.
The 11th-generation models — 2014 to 2019 — are the ones you will most likely find with the best combination of modern technology and standard features within the $10,000 to $15,000 price range. The worst thing reviewers have said about the Corolla is that the interior feels a little cheap and dull to drive. Those things are not terrible if you only need A-to-B transportation and get an EPA-estimated 40 MPG in the LE Eco trim level.
4. 2010-2017 Ford Mustang and 2010-2017 Chevrolet Camaro
Many people believe that you cannot buy a fun car for less than $20,000, much less $15,000. Both the Ford Mustang (pictured here) and Chevy Camaro prove that notion wrong. Admittedly, it is harder to find a used one with a V8 engine from within this past decade, but both are available with turbo four-cylinder engines or V6 options.
The Mustang is generally easier to find on the used market. The turbocharged four-cylinder powertrain came to the Mustang lineup in 2015, and the V6 was dropped for 2018. But both engines produce about 300 horsepower. Both are also available with a manual transmission. Older model years offer a little more variety but do not offer the modern styling of the 2015-2017 years.
The Camaro is much the same. The 2016 models can be found with a turbocharged four-cylinder and a manual transmission, while the V6 option has been available for much longer. Like the Mustang, the Camaro comes standard with a six-speed manual transmission and rear-wheel drive. Many reviewers believe the Camaro to be the more fun to drive of the two, but horrible visibility has turned many buyers toward the Mustang.
5. 2015-2017 Honda Accord
The Honda Accord is one of the best-selling vehicles of all time. Its blend of comfort, styling, affordability, safety, and reliability have made it a staple on the market. Used Honda Accords are everywhere, and for $15,000, you can quickly get a ninth-generation model. They offer the best in modern safety features, modern technology, and affordability at current. Buyers can find the Accord with either a four-cylinder or a more powerful V6 engine.
A 2016 model is ideal for searching since the Honda Sensing suite of safety features was first available on each trim level. Additionally, features like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Bluetooth, dual-zone climate control, and smartphone integration were available. Older model years are a little less expensive, but 2017 models are still new enough and have enough technology to make them a little hard to find with reasonable mileage.
6. 2013-2017 Toyota Camry
The Toyota Camry is nearly the perfect used vehicle. It’s one of the most reliable vehicles year over year, has just the right amount of comfort, is fuel-efficient, has just enough safety features, and has enough tech features to make most normal commuters comfortable. There are also a lot of them because it is one of the best-selling cars of all time.
Right out of the gates, the Camry is a relatively affordable car. Used ones can be had from just about any model year and cover a vast price range, including our current sub-$15,000 budget. In addition, buyers have the choice of two powertrain options: front-wheel drive, an automatic transmission, and the choice of either a four-cylinder or V6 engine. It’s not fast, but both get the job done. Though reviewers agree that the Accord is generally the nicer of the two rivals, most agree that the Camry is more likely the better long-term option.
7. 2013-2016 Subaru Outback
The Subaru Outback is the most “do anything, go anywhere” choice on this list. It beats out the Forester because it generally has fewer problems in the reliability department. All-wheel drive comes standard, and it is the most off-road capable vehicle here. Most will certainly not be competing with Jeep Wranglers every weekend, but it is good to know that a car has the capability you might need at this price point.
Because of its wagon body style, there is plenty of cargo space behind the back seats. Its adequate passenger space also makes it a great all-around family vehicle. Unfortunately, Subarus tend to hold their value quite well, so finding a good low-mileage used can be tricky. The 2013 and 2014 model years present the best value for money since they came before a redesign, but the 2015 and 2016 model years offer more tech, safety, and styling updates.
8. 2014-2019 Kia Soul
The Kia Soul is a perky little car cut from the same material as the Honda Fit. While it’s technically considered a subcompact crossover SUV, but only offers front-wheel drive. However, it uses its space with its boxy dimensions, giving it better cargo and passenger space than most other subcompact cars.
Kia designed the Soul to be the perfect commuter for younger buyers. The result is plenty of standard technology and safety features suitable for teen drivers, surprisingly sporty handling, and only about 130 horsepower in its base form. As a result, 2014 to 2019 models can easily be found with low mileage and much less than $15,000. More powerful turbo models can also be found relatively cheap, but it is harder to find lower trim levels.
9. 2010-2015 Mazda MX-5 Miata
Many people scoff at owning a Mazda Miata for several reasons, but it has proven to be one of the best pure sports cars of all time. It does have a reputation for not having a potent engine, but it is one of the lightest and smallest cars on the market, making handling its most prominent advantage. On top of that, a manual folding roof prevents serious maintenance problems and allows drivers to experience the open air.
The 2010 to 2015 models are the current Miata sweet spot. Third-generation, NC, Miatas offer between 158 and 167 horsepower, rear-wheel drive, and a five or six-speed manual transmission, depending on the trim level. Though this would never pass for a family car, the Miata provides buyers with good fuel economy, proven reliability, and a pleasurable driving experience.
The 2016 Honda Civic was a leap forward in styling, features, and technology than earlier models, and these cars are starting to become more prevalent on the market at our price point. You can find them in hatchback, sedan, and coupe body styles, a little something for every need.
Like the Camry is to the Accord, the Civic features a better interior and a more upscale feel than the Corolla. However, the Toyota still maintains a generally better reliability record. But for a choice of body styles, excellent fuel economy, a manual transmission, an available turbocharged engine, and plenty of character, the Civic is a good choice.
11. 2012-2016 Toyota Prius
For environmentally-conscious buyers, the Toyota Prius is the way to go. It is not the flashiest car on the road, but it is more practical than its compact size would suggest and more affordable than its technology-packed powertrain would appear. Current 2012 to 2015 models are on the market for at or under $15,000. But don’t worry too much about model year specifics since the Prius has proven to be one of the most reliable cars on the road.
The 2016 and newer models are available, but low mileage examples are hard to come by. They have newer technology than previous years, but older Prius models still come with a touchscreen infotainment system, Bluetooth, a USB port, and some of the highest safety ratings given from the NHTSA and IIHS. Additionally, you get outstanding fuel efficiency, a surprisingly large rear seat, and a rear hatch for more accessible cargo loading.
12. 2015-2019 Volkswagen Golf
Many people know the VW Golf for its performance-oriented GTI variant. However, it can be easy to forget that you can have a non-performance Golf. It’s basically a hatchback version of the Jetta, and its rather boxy design is conducive for interior space, cargo room, and easy access to the trunk. Even if you do not go for the Golf GTI, all Golf models are available with a manual transmission to inject some fun into your daily driving experience.
Depreciation is on your side as the Golf has not held its value quite as well as Honda Civic and Mazda3 hatchback competitors. Three to five-year-old Golf models are easy to find with well under 100,000 miles. With a refined interior, secure handling, decent fuel economy, 170 horsepower, a turbocharged four-cylinder engine, and that exceptional German engineering, you get a lot of car for not much money.
13. 2013-2020 Ford Fusion
Ford decided to discontinue the Ford Fusion after 2020 to focus on trucks and SUVs. That is too bad because it is a great all-around car often passed over for the Toyota Camry, Nissan Altima, and Honda Accord. It has good reliability ratings, a variety of engine and powertrain options from which to choose, and quite a bit of passenger space for a midsize sedan.
Because they are a dime a dozen, you can get them well within our price range. The 2018 models are easy to find for around $15,000, and older ones are even cheaper. Although reviewers have not been kind to its underwhelming base four-cylinder engine, you can find these with more powerful turbo engines. All-wheel drive is a bonus if you can find it. If Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity is a must, you will have to start your search with the 2017 model.
14. 2013-2014 Scion FR-S
Toyota launched the brand new FR-S from its offshoot brand, Scion, in 2013. It was co-engineered with the Subaru BRZ, and it was transferred back to Toyota as the 86 in 2017. The result is that any used FR-S model is in play, but the closest to our price point is the 2013 and 2014 models. Like the Mazda Miata, it is a rear-wheel-drive sports car focused on handling rather than sheer power. Unlike the Miata, though, you have a roof and two “rear seats” to use in a pinch.
The FR-S is available with a manual or automatic transmission and produces 200 horsepower from its boxer engine. Even with its sporty credentials, it gets good fuel economy and has proven reliable, both good things for the young driver or child at heart. For most car shoppers who need more practicality and tech features, the FR-S is an easy pass. However, it’s near perfection for those who want a little extra pizzazz in their every driving experience for $15,000.