Recently I’ve been looking at used cars because I know I’m going to need one at some point. I’m hoping I won’t need another car for a while, but it’s fun to look at my options and it helps me plan for how much I’ll likely spend. Throughout my search I’ve found a number of lists giving the “best” cars out there. So…I decided to make my own list! To make the list, the car must have an Edmunds True Market Value below $10,000. The cars are then judged based on a combination of safety, fuel economy, features, and aesthetics. Basically, everything you should care about too. The list itself is in no specific order because this list is meant to serve as a good starting point. It should help you identify some good cars worth looking at, but beyond that, you’ll need to consider your specific needs.
2007 Ford Fusion
MPG: 20 city/29 hwy
The 2007 Ford Fusion is a slick looking family-size sedan. It’s aesthetics set it aside from others in its class. It’s seems nice a roomy, and if you want, you can get the V6 version for $10,043. Plus, Consumer Reports gave the 2007 Ford Fusion a “much better than average” overall rating. The Ford Fusion continues to be one of my top contenders for future car.
2007 Hyundai Sonata
MPG: 21 city / 31 hwy
For $9,906 you can grab the 2007 Hyundai Sonata SE which comes with a V6 engine, but drops down the MPG to 18/27. That trade off will be a personal choice depending on the type of driving you do and the power you want. Consumer Reports gave the 2007 Hyundai Sonata a “better than average” rating. Hyundai has come a long way in its quality, and it’s definitely one that belongs on the list.
2007 Honda Civic LX
MPG: 26 city / 34 hwy
The Honda Civic is one of those cars that makes just about every “best” car list. It is known for having great reliability and great fuel economy. Consumer Reports ranks the 2006 Honda Civic as “much better than average.” The Honda Civic also retains its resale value very well, which is why we had to drop down to a 2006 to get it under $10k.
2008 Hyundai Elantra GLS
MPG: 24 city / 33 hwy
The Hyundai Elantra is the little brother of the Sonata. The car appears to have great interior room for being a compact sedan and from what I’ve read, handles well. Consumer Reports rated the Hyundai Elantra as “better than average.”
2006 Toyota Camry
MPG: 21 city / 30 hwy
The Toyota Camry has long been one of the bread-and-butter cars for Toyota, although in recent years it hasn’t gotten a ton of love from Consumer Reports or enthusiasts. However, Consumer Reports rated the 2006 Toyota Camry “much better than average”, and it gets solid fuel economy for its size.
2007 Mazda MAZDA3 i Sport Sedan
MPG: 24 city / 32 hwy
I think that out of all the cars that made my list, the Mazda3 is the most gorgeous of them all. Many of the other cars look and drive like fuel economy cars. To escape that category, I’d aim for either the Ford Fusion or the Mazda3. It’s not surprising that both would be in the same category since the Ford Fusion is built on the Mazda platform. This car seems a lot more fun to drive than its Japanese counterparts. To top it off, Consumer Reports gives it an “above average rating.”
2007 Honda Fit
MPG: 28 city / 34 hwy
With its small size, I am a bit surprised that the Honda Fit only barely edges out the Honda Civic’s fuel economy. While I may not be the biggest fan of its design (I think the Nissan Versa looks better), its quick handling would make it fun to drive. Consumer Reports has rated it “much better than average” every year since it hit the market in 2007.
That brings me to the conclusion of my best cars under $10,000. There are a few other cars I had looked at adding, but ultimately decided not to. I looked at adding a 2003 Mercedes-Benz to the list but its poor Consumer Reports ratings knocked it off of my list. I also wanted to add the Nissa Versa because I think it looks much better than the Honda Fit, but it has also received poor ratings from Consumer Reports and thus, was knocked off.
Also, I think it’s worth mentioning again, you shouldn’t necessarily dismiss purchasing a new car. In my article Why Purchase a New Car I showed why in some cases it makes more sense to buy new rather than used. I think the Honda Fit is a good example of that. For $10k I could get a 2007 Honda Fit, but for $15k I could get a new 2011 Honda Fit. That’s a depreciation rate of about $1,200 a year, and it’s something that I would consider worth living with. As with most personal finance, a car purchase is going to depend a lot on your uses for your car and your personal preference in style.