A pre-owned dealership with used cars for sale is shown.

Choosing the Used Car Life: Cars That Are Best Bought Pre-Owned

It used to be that specifically looking for used cars for sale was something of a shameful act. Buying a used car implied that you couldn’t afford a new car, so you had to “take your chances” with something pre-owned. Fortunately, that stereotype is no longer accurate. Cars, trucks, SUVs, and vans are designed to last above and beyond 200,000 miles, which means that most of the options at a reputable used car dealership are barely broken in. Furthermore, consumers are armed with greater information about how to avoid scams, get a great deal, and enjoy a used car for a very long time.

In fact, there are quite a few vehicles that, like fine wine and expensive cheese, seem to get better with age. That’s not to say every vehicle you encounter will be in perfect shape, and you should never skip the inspection, whether it’s completed by a reputable dealership or a mechanic you trust. However, the following vehicles frequently show up on “best of the used” lists, which implies that experts and real-life drivers agree that these are the real deal when it comes to value.

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Used SUVs to Consider

The laws of probability indicate that for every fantastic, road-worthy, amazing deal you find on a used car, there will be at least one dud of the same make and model to balance the odds. Therefore, don’t take this list as an all-knowing guide to perfect used vehicles. Instead, these are vehicles that multiple experts and real-life drivers have rated highly based on their long-term cost of ownership, overall value, and reliability. Still, a lot of a used car’s condition depends on how it was driven and maintained by its previous owner.

That being said, there are three small SUVs that frequently make the top ten lists for the used subcompact SUV category: the Toyota RAV4, the Honda CR-V, and the Mazda CX-5. What is it about these three vehicles that provide greater value than the other options in an admittedly crowded segment? In each case, these vehicles are lauded for their economic outlook, fun and functional ride, and overall ease of ownership.

The RAV4 has been a favorite among drivers of all experience levels and age groups for over 30 years. Now offered in gasoline-powered or hybrid Prime versions, the RAV4 is an economical choice, with many recent models enjoying over 30 miles per gallon on the highways. Furthermore, trim options range from sporty to off-road ready, giving drivers the ability to select a version that works best for their lifestyle and needs.

The Honda CR-V has a loyal following as well, thanks to its highly economical take on fuel consumption and full array of standard features. The Honda Sensing suite of safety and driver assistance tools has been standard on all trims since 2020, with an ever-increasing list of included features and optional add-ons.

While not as economical as the Toyota or Honda options, the Mazda CX-5 is designed for drivers, with sporty engines that provide a smooth, responsive experience behind the wheel. Mazda recently announced a brand move towards luxury vehicles, which comes as no surprise to those who have enjoyed the abundant comfort and convenience features that have come standard on the CX-5 for several years.

Several fuel pumps of assorted colors are shown.

Cars With Economical Fuel Appetites

Sedans and coupes may be heading the way of the dinosaurs in modern model years, but shopping the used market opens up plenty of opportunities for those who are interested in a smaller and zippier vehicle. The familiar choices in this category include the Honda Accord and Civic or the Toyota Corolla and Camry, but there are quite a few cars that bear mentioning as pre-owned assets.

For example, the Chevy Cruze may have been discontinued in 2019, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of available options on the used market. Furthermore, in its final year, a diesel option was offered, which increased fuel economy to 48 miles per gallon on the highway, which today is unheard of for non-hybrid models.

The Nissan Sentra is another economical option, with 2022 pre-owned models providing up to 39 miles per gallon on the highways, depending on the trim selected. Models manufactured from 2020 onward also include Nissan Safety Shield 360 technology as standard equipment, regardless of trim.

The Kia Forte is another small car with big practicality ratings. Featuring manual and automatic transmission options, and multiple drive modes, the Forte also offers an impressive array of trims, allowing drivers to match their budget and driving needs to a vehicle that can help them get from Point A to Point B in style.

Pickup Trucks of All Sizes, Shapes, and Duties

As anyone who regularly drives a pickup truck can tell you, trucks come in a wide variety. Some are meant for off-roading, others are meant for hauling massive loads, and still, others are sportier adventure transportation. Regardless of what you need your truck to do, there are abundant options on the used market. When it comes to buying a used truck, it’s important to do some due diligence to determine if the option advertised is able to tow, stow, or crawl exactly the way you need it to, as the differences between trim levels can be immense.

That also means the difference between price tags can be equally huge. Smaller trucks, like the Honda Ridgeline or Toyota Tacoma, will typically have more budget-friendly price tags than a Ram 2500 or Ford F-250, depending on the trim, mileage, and condition of the truck. But that doesn’t mean heavy-duty trucks need to cost more than you’re able to afford.

By rewinding a few years, drivers can find a well-equipped truck that can handle a full range of work duties. The 2015 GMC Sierra 2500 HD, for example, can tow up to 13,000 pounds while offering drivers plenty of in-cab features that make driving big trucks more enjoyable than you might anticipate. And the 2019 Ram 2500 and 3500 heavy-duty series has seen significant appreciation among HD drivers thanks to receiving a redesign that year that allowed for a new towing capacity of up to 35,000 pounds.

Exploring Used Cars for Sale Near You

There are plenty of things you should keep in mind when shopping for a used car for sale. It’s a good idea to do your research before you start trying out vehicles to get an idea of the overall user experience. Some SUVs, cars, and trucks have model years that aren’t as beloved as others, either due to manufacturing concerns or overall drivability. When checking out different makes and models, it’s not a bad idea to do a little educational internet searching to make sure you’re getting a good deal.

Also, remember that today’s vehicles are running longer and more dependable than ever before. With more and more vehicles engineered to last 200,000 miles or more, buying a used vehicle is less a case of buying someone’s hand-me-downs and more about making a wise investment in a budget-friendly, economical vehicle that can do all of the things you need it to do without breaking the bank. While it’s always a good idea to be a smart and cautious consumer, there is no time like the present to shop for a used car with confidence and peace of mind.