Shop Smart: A list of the best used cars for model years 2003-12

Share with others:

Print Email Read Later

As owners hold on to their vehicles longer, fewer late-model used cars are available for sale, resulting in a limited supply and higher prices. To help shoppers choose the best used car for their money, Consumer Reports compiled a list of the best used cars for model years 2003 through 2012.

These are the best sedans, SUVs and small cars available in four price ranges: from $10,000 up to $25,000. Each performed well in its tests when new and had above-average reliability for the model years shown, based on Consumer Reports' Annual Auto Survey. All models came standard with electronic stability control (ESC), a proven lifesaver during the years indicated.

In the $10,000 to $15,000 price range, the following cars made Consumer Reports' list of the best used cars:

Small cars: Honda Fit 2011 and Mazda3 2011 -- The Fit is an excellent choice among hatchbacks. It has amazing space utilization; responsive, agile handling; and a superefficient four-cylinder engine that returns 30 mpg overall with an automatic transmission. For a bit more refinement, look for a Mazda3 hatchback or sedan.

Sedans: Honda Accord (V-6) 2006-2007 and Acura TL 2005-2006 -- The Accord is an excellent choice among used cars. Its smooth V-6 engine is economical and strong, the ride is comfortable and compliant, and reliability is excellent. The four-cylinder version is nice but didn't get ESC until 2008. A more luxurious option is the Acura TL.

Small SUVs: Toyota RAV4 (four-cylinder) 2006-2008 and Honda CR-V 2005-2007 -- The 2006 RAV4 gained more interior room, a V-6, and an optional third-row seat. The four-cylinder's nimble handling, very good 23 mpg overall and versatile cabin propelled it to the top of Consumer Reports' small-SUV ratings. The CR-V is a sportier, if somewhat noisier, alternative.

Midsized/large SUVs: Toyota Highlander (V-6) 2004-2007 and Infiniti FX 2003-2004 -- The Highlander is quiet and comfortable. Testers got 19 mpg overall with the V-6. The interior is roomy, and the controls are easy to use. A third-row seat was optional, and a hybrid version was added in 2006. The Infiniti FX is a sportier two-row alternative.

In the $15,000-$20,000 price range, the following cars made the list of the best used cars:

Small cars: Toyota Prius 2010-2011 and Hyundai Elantra (sedan) 2011-2012 -- At 44 mpg overall, the Prius delivers the best gas mileage of any nonplug-in, five-passenger vehicle. The 2010 redesign brought more room, better brakes and sound -- but not agile -- handling. For a more enjoyable driving experience, look for a Hyundai Elantra sedan.

Sedans: Toyota Camry (four-cylinder) 2010-2012 and Infiniti M 2006-2007 -- Expect impressive 26 to 27 mpg overall with the four-cylinder Camry in addition to a roomy cabin and superb reliability. If a powerful engine and luxurious interior are your passion, opt for the Infiniti M with the V-6.

SUVs: Honda Pilot 2007-2008 and Mazda CX-9 2009 -- The Pilot combines a roomy cabin, good driving dynamics, seating for eight and respectable fuel economy in a package that isn't too big to fit in your garage. But road noise is a bit pronounced. The Mazda CX-9 is a more agile alternative with an even roomier third-row seat.

The Consumer Reports worst used cars list includes 2003 to 2012 models that have had multiple years of much-worse-than-average overall reliability, according to Consumer Reports' Annual Auto Survey. Among the 20 models that made the list are the BMW 7 Series, the Ford Explorer (V-6, 4WD), the Kia Sorento (V-6) and the Mini Cooper S.


Consumer Reports:


You have 2 remaining free articles this month

Try unlimited digital access

If you are an existing subscriber,
link your account for free access. Start here

You’ve reached the limit of free articles this month.

To continue unlimited reading

If you are an existing subscriber,
link your account for free access. Start here