Best Used Cars

Whether it’s something fun to drive, a reliable commuter, or a family car, these models represent some of the best used car values available today.

Toyota MR2: Model History and Buyer’s Guide

In addition to big hair, synthesizer music, and acid-washed jeans, the 1980s introduced a glorious return to performance for automakers. After the dark days of the “Malaise Era” (roughly 1975 -1982) wherein increasingly tougher emissions standards and the solutions to meet them sucked the life out of engines, the Yuppie Decade brought welcome advancements in engine technologies that allowed cars to once again provide thrilling performance. This rebirth of performance wasn’t just limited to straight-line gusto either, as advances in chassis development and tire technology also meant greater handling and braking abilities as well.

As a result, the “gr80ties” ushered in lots of new, fun-to-drive models, such as Toyota’s MR2, which debuted for 1985. It was, along with Honda’s CRX Si, a great example of a car not needing a lot of power to be a blast to drive. Indeed, the cover of Automobile Magazine’s debut issue (April 1986) featured the MR2 and a Ferrari 308, driving home the point of how the little MR2 provided plenty of exotic mid-engine sports car thrills for a price most anyone could afford. Low maintenance costs and Toyota’s reputation for quality and longevity didn’t hurt its appeal either.

Fittingly enough, the second generation of the MR2 brought exotic styling that was seemingly inspired by that Ferrari, while the third and last generation switched gears as the MR2 became a soft-top roadster that placed Mazda’s ridiculously popular Miata in the crosshairs of its Toyota logo.

Even though it came in these three distinct flavors, any version of the MR2 is a tasty treat that is virtually guaranteed to rev up those who get a kick out of driving a responsive and engaging sports car.

In this buyer’s guide, we’ll teach you everything you need to know to find the perfect “Mister Two” for you.

Mercedes-Benz E-Class: Model History and Buyer’s Guide

The E-Class may not be the most iconic car to come from Mercedes-Benz. That honor likely belongs to something a bit more extravagant, such as the 300SL Gullwing.

But that doesn’t make the E-Class any less significant to the brand. That’s because it has long been the most practical car in the German automaker’s lineup. Indeed, since Benz first introduced a midsize sedan back in the 1950s, the E-Class has represented a near perfect combination of size, comfort, and value.

Equally capable of running errands, handling the daily commute, or hauling the family across the country, the E-Class is the ultimate do-anything vehicle. And while it’s never been cheap to buy, it’s built well enough to provide decades of useful service.

If you’re in the market for an E-Class Mercedes, you have quite a few options to choose from, ranging from classic models to modern cars laden with cutting-edge tech. In this buyer’s guide, we’ll give you the scoop on every E-Class generation from the last thirty years to help you find the perfect one for you.

What’s the Best Cheap Off-Road SUV? 5 Picks Under $10,000

If you’ve been shopping for a used off-road SUV lately, you’ve probably noticed something. They’re expensive. Especially models that have a strong reputation for tackling the trails with aplomb.

A Toyota Land Cruiser is arguably the best of the breed. It combines legendary Toyota reliability with rugged body-on-frame construction and plenty of serious off-road hardware, including a low-range transfer case and locking differentials. But a nice example of even the cheapest Land Cruiser generation, the 100 series, will set you back at least $20,000 these days. Meanwhile, examples of the increasingly-collectable 80-series Land Cruiser have been fetching twice that much and more on auction site Bring a Trailer.

But you don’t have to spend the equivalent of a sizable down payment on a house just to enjoy the backcountry in a capable off-road SUV. In fact, we’ve identified five lesser-known models that share many of the Land Cruiser’s best off-road features — but with a price tag of more than 50% off.

Porsche 981 Boxster/Cayman: Model History and Buyer’s Guide

Two seats. Mid engine. Flat six. Manual gearbox. Low price. The formula for Porsche’s entry-level sports car, the Boxster (as well as its fixed-roof sibling, the Cayman), is a great one. It’s made the model, now in its 25th year, a major success story for the German automaker.

The Boxster has changed quite a bit since its 1996 debut — and not always for the better. One of the most significant updates occurred with the current generation, dubbed “982” by Porsche, which first appeared for the 2017 model year. That’s when Porsche swapped its traditional horizontally-opposed six-cylinder engine for a turbocharged flat four. To be fair, the four-cylinder version is still an excellent car. But there’s no doubt some of the original magic has been lost.

The good news is that the previous generation, known as the “981,” represents the best of everything Porsche’s mid-engine sports car has to offer, including a free-revving and sweet-sounding flat six as standard equipment. Combine that with the fact that these cars are now between six and 10 years old, making them more affordable than they’ve ever been, and you have a recipe for a genuine used car bargain.

Lexus LS 430: Model History and Buyer’s Guide

What’s the best car ever made? It’s a tough question. The answer depends largely on what you appreciate most in an automobile. It could be the Model T, which was the first car accessible to the masses. Or maybe the McLaren F1. Almost 30 years after its debut, it’s still one of the fastest cars ever made. Or perhaps it’s the Mercedes-Benz 600 Grosser, a limousine so opulent that, it seems, it could only be truly appreciated by corrupt heads of state.

But it could also be the Lexus LS 430. The third generation of Lexus’ flagship sedan combines luxury, engineering, and affordability in a way that arguably surpasses any vehicle to come before it. Or since.

Between 2001 and 2006, buyers purchased quite a few third-gen LSes — over 160,000 of them in the US, in fact. Many understandably used them quite extensively, piling on hundreds of thousands of miles. But there are still quite a few well-preserved examples out there. And after 15+ years of depreciation, even a pampered low-mile garage queen can now be had for as little as $10,000, making an LS from this generation not just a great car but a genuine used car bargain.

Chevrolet Volt: Model History and Buyer’s Guide

Roll the clock back to 2011, and you’ll find only a handful of electric vehicles (EVs) on the market. The sales leader at the time was the original Nissan Leaf, boasting about 85 miles of range. And the sole Tesla model available was the two-seat, Lotus-based Roadster with a price tag over $100,000. EV sales for the year totaled just 17,000 units.

Enter the Chevrolet Volt. The Detroit-designed and -built compact sedan offered sharp looks, room for four, and an innovative hybrid-electric powertrain that could travel well over 300 miles without a refill. GM reportedly spent a billion dollars developing the car. Yet you could buy it for just $32,495 (after federal incentives).

No wonder the Volt was a hit, racking up an impressive list of kudos, including North American Car of the Year and World Green Car, and landing a spot on Car and Driver’s 10Best list, the first electrically powered car to do so. It quickly became America’s best-selling EV, a crown which it held for many years, only recently ceding it to the Tesla Model 3.

The qualities that made the Volt a popular new car — its outstanding fuel efficiency, robust engineering, and affordable price — make it an even better used one. After nearly a decade of production spanning two generations, there are plenty of Volts available for sale on the used market. And thanks to deprecation, excellent used examples are now available for as little as $10,000.

But which is the best Chevy Volt to buy? And are there any problem areas to avoid? We explore that and more in this detailed buyer’s guide.

BMW i3: Model History and Buyer’s Guide

Shopping for a used electric vehicle, or EV, can be tricky. While EVs are spiking in popularity, they still only represent about 2% of all vehicles sold in the U.S., according to a recent study by Pew Research. So you won’t find a ton of used EV listings on Craigslist or Autotrader.

Further compounding matters, EV technology is evolving at a rapid clip. That means many EVs on the used market are woefully out of date. Worse, their battery packs are aging, and it’s not yet clear how long they’ll last before it’s time for an expensive replacement.

But there’s one particular EV model that bucks most of these trends: the BMW i3. In this buyer’s guide, we’ll explain why we think the i3 a great EV to buy used.

Volvo V70 XC / XC70: Model History and Buyer’s Guide

Volvo wasn’t the first automaker to offer a lifted, all-wheel drive wagon. That honor goes to American Motors, whose novel Eagle wagon first hit showrooms in 1979. Unfortunately for AMC, the Eagle was far ahead of its time. Sales were tepid, and it vanished from the market just eight years later.

But times change. When Subaru followed suit with the Outback, which first appeared for the 1995 model year, their timing was impeccable. Americans had just begun their love affair with the SUV, and the Outback offered much of an SUV’s utility in a friendlier-to-drive package. It was sales hit — and continues to be to this day.

Volvo — long the wagon-maker of choice for college professors and suburban carpoolers — took note of this development. They took their excellent V70 model, added 1.4 inches of ride height and all-wheel drive, threw on some rugged-looking trim, and voila! The Volvo “Cross Country” — or “XC” for short — was born.

The Cross Country wagon has been a mainstay in the Volvo lineup ever since. (It’s sold new today in two different formats: the midsize V60 and the full-size V90.) And unlike the Subaru Outback, which is now far more SUV-like, Volvo’s XC wagon has always stayed true to its longroof roots.

With the XC wagon nearing a full 25 years in production, now is an excellent time to look back through its variation generations, each of which offer some compelling value propositions for the used car buyer.

Lexus GX 470: Model History and Buyer’s Guide

With some vehicles, the designers and engineers get pretty much everything right. They look sharp, they drive well, and they last — sometimes well beyond 200,000 miles. The Lexus GX 470 (2003-2009) is one of those vehicles.

Hailing from some of the peak Lexus years, the GX 470 offers the unusual combination of off-road prowess with on-road civility. And it does so with both style and grace — not to mention a good dose of Toyota reliability.

Back in the day, a brand-new GX cost a pretty penny. One could easily top $50,000 with options. That reserved them mainly for the well-to-do (and/or highly leveraged). But nowadays, outstanding used examples can be had for less than half that amount, making the GX a relative bargain in the world of used SUVs — especially considering its superior off-road capabilities.

So if you’re in the market for a luxury vehicle that can almost literally go anywhere and won’t break your wallet in the process, a used GX should definitely be on your shopping list.

Volvo C30: Model History and Buyer’s Guide

The C30 is a different kind of Volvo. It’s small and nimble. It’s entertaining and quick. It’s brash and stylish. In other words, it’s everything that most Volvos are not.

At the same time, it’s very much a Volvo — an upscale, safe, and reliable conveyance that traces its roots to classic models from the Swedish automaker dating back to the 1970s.

Best of all, the C30, produced from 2008 to 2013, is now an affordable used car, with excellent examples available for as little as $10,000.

In this buyer’s guide, we’ll teach you everything you need to know to find and buy the perfect one for you.

The Mercedes-Benz C55 AMG is a Used Car Hidden Gem

AMG gets lots of press for souping up high-end Mercedes-Benz models, such as the autobahn-storming, 621-horsepower CL65. But the engineers at Affalterbach also have a long history of tinkering with cars from the lower rungs of the MB ladder. In fact, the mid-1990s C36 — a humble C-Class stuffed with a stroked 3.4-liter inline six — was the very first AMG car officially sold by Mercedes dealers.

It was a hit, and since then AMG has pushed the small car, big engine formula even further, eventually leading to today’s flamboyant C63, which sports a bonkers 469-hp turbo V8 under the hood.

But one of the very best Mercedes-AMG collaborations is a much subtler affair. Unless you know what you’re looking for, you’d never guess that the understated C55 AMG, which was produced for just two model years (2005-06), is anything more than an entry-level C-Class. That is, until it dusts you off the line.

The anonymity of the C55 AMG is one of its best traits. Not only does the bantam Benz shrug off the prying eyes of neighbors (as well as the local constabulary), it also has yet to attract the attention of most collectors. That means prices for a used C55 remain quite reasonable — cheap even, if you consider the levels of performance it offers.

And that makes the C55 AMG a used car hidden gem.

The Longest-Lasting Used Cars, Trucks, and SUVs

Reliability is a top concern for many used car buyers. Which makes sense. Most used cars no longer carry a factory warranty, so the owner is responsible for any repair bills. And they can add up. In fact, maintenance and repairs make up the second costliest expense of used car ownership (as we note here). If you want to keep your transportation costs to a minimum, it’s important to buy a used car that spends more time on the road and less time at the repair shop.

That’s why we’ve put together this list of the longest-lasting vehicles on the road today. These are the used cars, trucks, and SUVs that owners actually drive the most over the long haul. Where lesser vehicles are breaking down and getting parked or scrapped for parts, these models keep piling on the miles, year after year.

Acura RL: Model History and Buyer’s Guide

In the race to establish premium Japanese automotive brands in the US, Honda was first with its Acura division. In 1986, Acura debuted its flagship model, the Legend, alongside a sporty hatchback, the Integra. Both sold well and established Acura as a top luxury marque in North America practically overnight.

The Legend was a truly remarkable car, deserving of its rather ambitious name. Shortly after its debut, it found a place on Car and Driver’s 10Best list three times in a row (1988-1990), and its second iteration, which first appeared in 1991, was even better. YouTube car reviewer Doug Demuro profiled the second gen Legend in this video, calling it one of the coolest cars of the era.

The RL was born when Acura changed its model naming convention, moving to alphanumeric monikers in the mid 1990s. Thus the third-generation Legend, which first appeared in 1996, became the Acura RL — or, more specifically, the “3.5RL” since Acura wanted to call attention to the new 3.5-liter V6 engine under the hood.

While the RL was technically a new model, it built upon the essential goodness of the Legend that preceded it, featuring top-quality Honda engineering in a handsome and highly-functional package, with plenty of luxury touches to make it feel special.

And those are the qualities that make the RL an interesting used car purchase today.

Porsche 996: Model History and Buyer’s Guide

The ever-increasing mania and resulting skyrocketing values of air-cooled Porsche 911s have put those cars way out of reach for most buyers. Meanwhile, prices for the 996 generation, the first 911 with a water-cooled engine, have languished, in part because the prevailing wisdom among Porsche collectors is that the sun rises and sets only on the air-cooled cars.

Values are depressed, too, because of a known design flaw in the standard 996 engine that can, if not attended to, lead to a catastrophic failure, costing tens of thousands to repair. While this understandably gives most buyers pause, the truth is that a preemptive fix is readily available — and, even better, that many 996 examples on the market today have already had it applied.

This is all great news for the more practical enthusiast who wants to get in on the all-around goodness of Porsche’s iconic and entertaining sports car but without breaking the bank.

If you’re in the market for an inexpensive Porsche 911, there is no better choice than the 996. In this buyer’s guide, we’ll teach you everything you need to know to find and buy the perfect one for you.

Honda Element: Model History and Buyer’s Guide

Produced from 2003 through 2011, the Honda Element is practical, quirky, and unique. It’s also impressively space efficient. A full eight inches shorter than a Civic, the Element still has enough room inside for four six-footers to ride in comfort thanks to its boxy form and tall cabin. With a pair of smaller, reverse-opening doors next to the front doors and the absence of a “B” pillar, the Element offers a nearly 56-inch-wide opening with all the doors opened up, making it easy to load up passengers or cargo.

As far as styling, the Element is pretty hip for a squared-off form. Honda stated at the press intro that its design was inspired by a beach lifeguard station along with a surfboard, the latter’s influence evident in the curved roofline. They also noted that the Element was geared towards young and active sorts, including campers, dog owners, skiers and snowboarders, and of course surfers. As such, the front and rear ends are comprised of unpainted plastic composite panels, the idea being you didn’t have to worry about scratches or dings while exploring the great outdoors.

Yet, despite Honda’s diligent demographic angling, many older folks also have found the Element to be ideal for their lifestyles, which may or may not involve visits to antique shops, wherein the Element’s large portals and tall cabin can swallow up large pieces with ease. Of course, the Element’s elemental all-around goodness factors in as well, contributing to its popularity among the young and old alike.

These qualities, along with its solid Honda engineering, make the Element an excellent used car buy, with outstanding examples available for $10,000 to $15,000. In this buyer’s guide, we’ll teach you everything you need to know to find and buy the perfect one for you.


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