Right now, there’s a wide variety of great cars on the market, and while consumers may look at the new car price and cringe, the market for used vehicles in the U.S. is heating up. Since the average car costs less than have of the average new car, more people are flocking to their local dealers and used car lots. Just like buying a new car, consumers are concerned about safety and reliability, among other factors. We’ve gathered a list of the top 15 most popular used cars here in the states, and while some may be a given, there might be a few on the list that will surprise you.
1. Ford Focus
Ford has rebounded from its reputation as an unreliable brand over the last decade, and has produced vehicles that are safe, reliable, and affordable. The Ford Focus has become one of the most popular cars in Ford’s lineup, as well as in the compact car segment. Now in its third generation, the Focus is a global best-seller, and although the starting price for a new model isn’t terribly expensive at just under $17,000, we’d suggest opting for a used second-gen that costs between $8,000 and $15,000.
2. Acura TL
The Acura TL comes well-equipped in terms of standard features, and the current model is one that we would recommend to our friends and family. However, a 2014 model will run you just over $36,000, but if you go back a few years to the early 2000’s, you can get behind the wheel of one of these for around $8,000. We think that’s much easier to swallow. While it may not be as stylish as the new model, it is reliable and has a good reputation to back it up.
3. Nissan Maxima
The Nissan Maxima is one of those cars that have been on the road for decades. While originally launched as the Datsun 810, the Maxima name didn’t appear until 1980. Since then, the car has grown in size and price to become the four-door sports car we know today. Safe and reliable, the Maxima continues to sell well for the brand. While the newest Maxima is slated to come out in late 2014/early 2015, the current generation comes in at just over $31,000. However, for between $13,000 and $32,000, a used model offers a better deal.
4. Ford Fusion
In the early 2000’s, Ford launched the Fusion midsize sedan with high expectations. As the car found its footing in the market, it soon became one of the top-selling nameplates for the brand. Now with hybrid and plug-in variants, the Fusion has become a full lineup. Used first-generation Ford Fusions are priced between $9,600 and $23,000, while new models have a price tag between $22,500 and $36,500, before added features and packages. But we feel that the $10,000-plus difference is worth checking out a used model.
5. Toyota Camry
As one of the best-selling vehicles in the United States, the Toyota Camry has carved out a place as one of the top cars people shop for, whether new or used. Having only been around since the early 1980s, this model quickly gained traction thanks to its brand recognition, affordability, and reliability. Although not as stylish as some of its competitors, it continues to get the job done. Since today’s cars are so heavily loaded with technology and connectivity features, we’d opt for a used 2006 model year or newer. Pricing for those will range between $10,000 and $31,000.
6. Ford Escape
The Ford Escape was designed to be economical. With decent gas mileage for a vehicle of its size and an affordable price, this compact SUV was an instant hit. And while this model seemed to have issues with reliability when first introduced, Ford has, for the most part, managed to revamp its reputation. Now in its third generation, the Escape features a modern design with all the latest bells and whistles. But when looking for a solid compact SUV in a specific price range, the Ford Escape provides a good option. For between $10,000 and $31,000, those prices sure beat out the new model’s $23,000-$36,000.
7. BMW 3 Series
Luxury cars are very popular among used car buyers, as they depreciate exponentially as soon as they leave the lot. However, some customers are wary of looking at a luxury car simply because they feel they may be too expensive to purchase or maintain. The BMW 3 Series is a good used luxury option as it is reliable, not terribly expensive to fix, and has a good reputation to back it up. Most small families or individuals don’t want to pay $30,000-plus for a car, but if you can’t live without the brand name, a used model will run between $12,000 and $40,000.
8. Toyota Corolla
The Toyota Corolla is one of those cars that you see on the road all the time. And while the new generation is just gaining traction, the previous models have become more and more common thanks to brand recognition, safety, and reliability. After eleven generations, the Corolla is still one of the best-selling vehicles in the Toyota lineup, and even used, offers a great value. A new model will range from $16,800-$25,000, but used models in the 10th and 11th gens are priced between $9,000 and $18,000. We’d say it’s worth it to check out the used models.
9. Toyota Highlander
Toyota is known for its safety and reliability, making it one of the top choices when it comes to buying a car, whether new or used. When looking for a reliable, reasonably fuel-efficient SUV, Toyota has a good offering in the form of the Highlander. The new 2014 Highlander recently hit dealerships with a starting price just under $30,000. However, used prices are significantly less. No matter what model year you end up going for, you can feel confident that it is a quality vehicle. And with used prices between $10,000 and $43,000, it’ll be easy to find one for almost any budget.
10. Chevrolet Silverado
Trucks have become more and more popular as they are no longer just service vehicles. Oftentimes you can find the same level of convenience and connectivity features, if not more, than in some of the sedans on the road today. The Chevrolet Silverado, winner of numerous awards, offers a good used value between $11,600 and $48,000, while a new model will run you between $26,000 and $52,000. And while this model is only in its third generation, you know that a used model will offer the same capabilities as the newest model.
11. Honda Civic
The Honda Civic seems to be in an eternal battle with the Toyota Corolla to be the top in the compact car segment, and with extensive updates, it pulls ahead every once in a while. But the Civic has a long history of being a reliable, safe, and stylish car, with past generations keeping their edge in the used car markets. This model has been around since the 1970s, and isn’t going away anytime soon, as it is in its ninth generation. With seven different models to choose from, there will be one for every price range, especially when bought used. Expect prices for the eighth- and ninth-gen models to go between $9,500 and $25,000.
12. Nissan Altima
The Nissan Altima hasn’t been around quite as long as some of the other models on this list, but that doesn’t make it any less popular among used car buyers. With five solid generations under its belt, consumers are drawn to the Altima for its great gas mileage, safety, and spacious interior. As far as used models go, we’d recommend opting for a fourth-gen model that was sold between 2007 and 2012. Used prices start at just over $10,000 and cap at $24,000.
13. Honda Accord
The Honda Accord is also one of those ever-popular models and is head-locked in a battle with the Toyota Camry as the best-selling nameplate in the U.S. Both cars offer their pros and cons, but it seems like more people gravitate to the Accord when looking for a used vehicle. With low maintenance costs, good fuel economy, and safety, the Honda Accord stays in the spotlight. While new models aren’t terribly expensive with a starting price around $21,700, used models between model years 2003 and 2012 can range between $9,000 and $26,000.
14. Chevrolet Camaro
The Chevrolet Camaro was made instantly popular by starring in the Transformer movie franchise, appealing to a wider audience. And while General Motors may be under some heat for its massive recall list, the Camaro remains virtually untouched by the drama. While production for this model stopped for a period between 2002 and 2010, it came back with a vengeance with completely new and modern styling, but with the muscular edge that makes it stand out from the crowd. A new Camaro may cost you between $24,000 and $73,000, depending on options, but a used fifth-gen will run you between $18,000 and $56,000.
15. Honda CR-V
One of the top-selling SUVs in the states, the Honda CR-V has become a household name. After four generations, the CR-V is the smallest SUV in the Honda lineup and provides owners with a versatile cabin and the latest technological features. And for around $23,000, a brand new one could be yours. But the older models offer up such a great value. Third- and fourth-generation models start around $12,000, nearly half the price of the current generation. If price isn’t enough of a reason to check out used versions, knowing that it has been an IIHS Top Safety Pick for those two generations should make the decision a little easier.