Fuel-efficiency has become a major selling point for consumers as gas prices have risen alongside concerns about climate change. More and more, the search for fuel-efficient vehicles has begun to slip down from the top-tier car buyers to the basic consumer, and more and more models have come in an attempt to meet the growing demand for high-efficiency cars.
While many may consider fuel-efficiency to exist only in the realm of new models, the need for efficient vehicles still exists within the used car market, and sellers and buyers alike would be wise to keep this in mind during the hunt for, or sale of, a used vehicle.
For those who can only get bad credit car loans or who simply don’t want to spend an arm and a leg to get a decent used vehicle, there are actually plenty of options for good, high-mileage used vehicles that won’t cost you more than $10,000.
For the sake of easy comparison, we’ve followed a basic protocol for determining the value of these used models through KelleyBlue Book’s kbb.com: In each case, the vehicle in question is in “excellent” condition with only 10,000 miles, at the model’s most basic trim level. This seemed like the fairest way to determine the best possible version of these models, as used vehicles in this high-quality condition tend to be very rare. For each price listed, it’s safe to say that the actual cost to you would likely be lower to account for higher mileage and damage.
Here are the top ten used vehicles we’ve dug up in our quest for affordable efficiency:
2006 Subaru Legacy Wagon
Since its release, the 2006 Subaru Legacy has only gone on to further prove Subaru’s legendary reliability and durability. And, with a powerful 2.5L 4-cylinder engine capable of an impressive 23 city and 30 highway mpg, this sporty crossover offers exceptional fuel economy for its size. As with most Subarus, this model has proven that it can rack up thousands of miles and still keep going strong. Plus, at a kbb.com value of $9,500, this model is still highly affordable for those looking to make a solid investment.
2011 Ford Focus
When Ford released the 2011 Focus, it was meant to compete with the dominant Toyota Corolla. By the first half of 2012, the Focus was the world’s biggest selling nameplate – and the specifications speak for themselves. At an impressive 25 city and 35 mpg highway, this value-heavy vehicle is a great choice for that modest, utilitarian vibe. Valued by kbb.com at around $8,800, it’s pretty easy on the wallet as well.
This Focus was so successful that Ford actually released an Electric version later in 2012, with a 76-mile electric range and 105 miles per gallon equivalent. Valued by kbb.com just outside the $10,000 mark, this model is still worth checking out if you’re not held fast to the price ceiling.
2012 Ford Fiesta
Impressing everyone from critics to drivers upon its release in 2008, the sixth generation fiesta offers a surprisingly sporty performance and excellent handling. This powerful supermini boasts 29 mpg city and 39 mpg highway thanks to its 120 horsepower, 1.6L 4-cylinder engine. kbb.com values this efficient little machine around $7,000 – a steal for that kind of fuel economy.
2008 Toyota Corolla
There’s a reason that the Corolla was the highest selling nameplate in the world for almost fifteen years – from 1997 to early 2012 – and has sold over 40 million units since its first generation. That’s because it’s an almost absurdly reliable car, with many still on the road that have racked up well over 100,000 miles. And, this model is uniquely impressive for its affordability, boasting a whopping 28 mpg city and 37 mpg highway at a kbb.com value around $7500. At that kind of value, this model may be exactly what a used car consumer needs – provided, of course, you can find someone looking to get rid of one.
2006 Ford Escape Hybrid
The Hybrid signaled Ford’s fist foray into the hybrid market with its 2005 model, pushing a space into the relatively empty hybrid SUV market. By 2006, Ford had improved the Hybrid escape to a whopping 34 mpg city and 30 mpg highway, promising around 500 miles on a single tank of gas. This far outstripped the competing SUV market in terms of efficiency, and even put the 19/24 mpg standard Escape to shame. At a kbb.com value of $8500, this SUV is an excellent value for anyone not willing to compromise space and performance for fuel efficiency.
2007 Honda Fit
Born at the height of a high-gas-price plateau, this surprisingly spacious economy model remains one of Honda’s most highly regarded models, with many still on the road and functioning great. And drivers seem to love them too, probably because of the Fit’s 33 mpg city and 38 mpg highway. This efficiency, plus the under-the-radar roominess, make the Fit an excellent car for small group road trips or daily driving. And with a kbb.com value around $7,800, this model is more than just affordable now and later on down the road.
2006 Volkswagon New Beetle
Who knew the Beetle could be known for more than its distinctive design and the painful games it inspires? This 2006 New Beetle model certainly gives Volkswagon something to brag about, with its 5-speed manual transmission version racking up an amazing 37 mpg city and 44 mpg highway. This impressive little hatchback is instantly recognizable and comes at a kbb.com value of only $6,500.
2008 Honda Civic Hybrid
When Honda first released the hybrid version of its incredibly popular Civic model back in 2001, it was the most fuel-efficient 5-door gasoline vehicle in existence – 40 percent more efficient than the standard model Civic. By 2008, the second generation had brought with it a more powerful electric motor to give it an amazing 40 mpg city and 45 mpg highway. Now the second highest-selling hybrid model in the world, this year model of the Civic hybrid is valued at around $8500 by kbb.com in excellent condition.
2008 Toyota Prius standard hatchback
Everybody knows the power of the Prius – it’s been one of the best-selling hybrid cars since its introduction in 1997. What most people fail to realize is that with each successive generation of Prius that’s released, a whole generation of excellent, fuel-efficient cars suddenly devalue to more manageable prices. This impressive model year, with its 48 mpg city and 45 mpg highway, is no exception – valued by kbb.com around $9000 for excellent, low-mileage condition.
2006 Honda Insight
It was honestly even a surprise to us: the grand mack daddy of fuel efficiency is tied for cheapest on the list. Listed at only $6,500 for an excellent, low-mileage condition model, the amazing 2006 Honda Insight was at its release, and still is today, the most fuel-efficient mass-produced hybrid ever released, capable of an astounding 60 mpg city and 66 mpg highway. With the air conditioner off, the E.P.A. estimates that the 2006 Insight can reach 70 mpg – far outstripping even the most impressive hybrid models available today, almost nine years later. For this kind of value, the 2006 Honda Insight is by far the most cost-effective, fuel-efficient used car available today. If you’re as tempted as we are to get one, it’s understandable – just have good luck finding one, as only around 17,000 were ever sold.
As far as we can tell, these are the best fuel-efficient used cars available for under $10,000 today. If you are in the market for a new used car, one of these might be worth considering. If you already own one of these, then maybe consider this list when you go to trade it in – or, better yet, consider keeping it just a little bit longer.