Best Used Cars

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.

Buyer’s Guide: Volkswagen Golf / GTI Mk6 (2010-2014)

Suppose you’re looking for one car that’ll do it all. Slip into compact spaces with ease. Accelerate and handle with grace. Fit four adults and their luggage in a well-appointed interior with little apparent cost-cutting. Command the road at highway speeds. Let’s throw in 30+ mpg fuel economy for good measure.

Now suppose you’re looking to spend $15k or so, and the cheaper the better. If you’re thinking about new cars, don’t waste your time. Even the cheapest new car on the lot will likely surpass the $15k threshold, and the only boxes it’ll check are the ones pertaining to parking and fuel economy.

But for the same money or quite possibly far less, you could have a sixth-generation (Mk6) Volkswagen Golf. Step up to the 200-horsepower GTI version if you’re feeling frisky; it’s in your price range too. As the final Golf built in Germany before VW shifted to a more global (read: cost-conscious) product strategy, the Mk6 arguably represents the pinnacle of Volkswagen’s small-car engineering.

Thanks to the magic of depreciation, a gently used specimen can now be yours for pennies (okay, quarters) on the dollar, promising years of delightful motoring with hardly any age-related drawbacks.

The Chevrolet SS is a Used Car Hidden Gem

The Chevrolet SS is a bit of an odd duck. It looks unassuming, but it boasts Corvette power. It’s a big sedan, but it handles well. It’s an American car, but it’s imported from Australia. Perhaps that makes it less of an odd duck and more of a platypus.

Like the platypus, the Chevy SS is a pretty rare sight. Despite plans to sell as many as 15,000 units a year, GM unloaded only a fifth of that number, or about 13,000 total over its four-year run (2014-2017).

That’s mixed blessing for used car buyers. On the plus side, the limited supply helps to keep depreciation at bay. On the minus side, a good used SS still commands a premium, with prices ranging from around $30,000 to as much as $50,000 or more, depending on the year, miles, and options.

But considering what that buys you — a modern Q-ship that’s equally capable of driving grandma to bingo as it is of breaking the tires loose on the 2-3 upshift — we think that makes the Chevrolet SS a used car hidden gem.

The Ford Fiesta ST is a Used Car Hidden Gem

Being equal-opportunity car enthusiasts, we at Klipnik love the idea of driving something that’s not only fun and relatively inexpensive, but also that doesn’t get as much time in the spotlight as its more popular peers. We’re here to give you the inside scoop on these unsung heroes, like the Ford Fiesta ST.

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.

Buyer’s Guide: Mercedes-Benz SL-Class R129 Generation (1990-2002)

The Mercedes-Benz SL-Class traces its roots all the way back to the 300 SL Gullwing, a 1950s style icon that drove even better than it looked, capturing the checkered flag at storied races like Le Man and the Carrera Panamera. These days a Gullwing will set you back a cool million. But there’s another SL out there that’s not only a deserving heir to the name but also a great value: the R129 generation.

Produced from 1990 through 2002, the R129 Mercedes SL wears classic lines that look sharp to this day. Famed designer Bruno Sacco called it his masterpiece. And its beauty isn’t skin deep. Under the hood you’ll find a number of legendary engines, including V8 and V12 mills with their own impressive racing pedigrees.

The supply of nice R129 SLs is quite good, thanks in part to its long production run and also to the fact that many owners kept them as second or third cars, driving them only on special occasions. Now, thanks to the power of depreciation, these excellent roadsters are also about as cheap as they’ll ever be.

So if you’re in the market for a classic roadster that looks like a million bucks but only costs about $10-15 grand, you’re in the right place. Here is the Klipnik Buyer’s Guide for this thus-far overlooked generation of Benz’s iconic luxury roadster.

BMW 3 Series F30 Generation (2012-2018) Buyer’s Guide

The BMW 3 Series is as storied as they come. Spanning seven generations, from the E21 of the 1970s to the G20 of today, it boasts a legendary combination of athleticism, style, and livability. In fact, Car and Driver has named the 3 Series to its annual 10Best list a record 22 times in a row (from 1992 to 2014). No wonder it’s BMW’s best selling model, accounting for about a third of its worldwide sales.

The sixth generation, dubbed F30 for sedans and F31 for wagons (or “Touring” in BMW speak), carries the 3 Series mantle quite well, despite some notable departures from prior versions (which we’ll discuss below). And now that most are at least five years old, the F30 generation has gotten quite affordable, too, with excellent examples available for as little as $15,000.

So if you’re looking for a great used car that excels at almost everything — from commutes, to road trips, to backroad blasts — an F30 generation 3 Series should definitely be on your list. In this buyer’s guide, we’ll teach you everything you need to know to find and buy the perfect one for you.

What’s the Best Cheap Mercedes S-Class? Generations W126 vs. W140 vs. W220

They say there’s nothing more expensive than a cheap Mercedes. And if by “cheap” they mean run down, neglected, and worn out, they’re absolutely right. But the truth is, even though a Mercedes S-Class represents the very best in German engineering and can sell for well over $100,000 when new, you can find outstanding used examples for as little as $10,000. You just have to know how to look.

That’s why we’ve put together this guide to the most affordable S-Class generations from the last 40 years. Check it out to learn which one is right for you.

Subaru Outback: Model History and Buyer’s Guide

One of the most popular crossover SUVs in America is actually a station wagon. Well, sort of. Defining the Subaru Outback has never been easy. Is it a wagon? Or an SUV? The answer has always depended on who you ask. Its appeal, however, is undeniable.

Today, after nearly 30 years of sales success, the Outback seems like a no brainer. But it was a radical idea at the beginning. Back then, most SUVs were trucks. Car-like crossovers — which combined the cool rugged image of an SUV with the more refined road manners of a sedan — weren’t commonplace. The original Subaru Outback helped invent the genre, and it remains one of Subaru’s best selling models five generations later.

Ford Flex: Model History and Buyer’s Guide

Mix one part minivan, one part wagon, add a dash of SUV, and what do you get? Probably something like the Ford Flex. It’s the Blue Oval’s recipe for stylish family transportation for folks who want something a little different — and, in many ways, better — than the standard fare.

The public got its first glimpse of the Flex at the 2005 Detroit Auto Show, where it was introduced as a concept vehicle. It was a hit, and Ford put the concept into production three years later, as a 2009 model, selling over 300,000 units during its ten year run (2009-2019).

Ford discontinued the Flex in 2019. But that’s good news for used car buyers. The attributes that made it popular when new — its distinctive looks, spacious interior, and overall practicality — make it an even better used car. Thanks to depreciation, you can find a good used Flex 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.

Toyota FJ Cruiser: Model History and Buyer’s Guide

The FJ Cruiser began life purely as a design concept. It’s retro lines — penned by then 25-year-old Jin Won Kim of Toyota’s Calty design studio in Newport Beach — recall many elements of Toyota’s iconic FJ40, the original Land Cruiser.

Even though Kim was born a quarter century after the original FJ rolled off the assembly line, he nailed the look. In fact, it wowed people so much at its 2003 debut at North American International Auto Show in Detroit that Toyota greenlit the FJ Cruiser for production.

Three years later, a new icon was born.

What’s the Best Cheap BMW M3? Generations E36 vs. E46 vs. E92

As serious car enthusiasts, even we here at Klipnik are sometimes surprised by the skyrocketing values of certain models. For years these cars and trucks remain affordable to non-wealthy enthusiasts, then, seemingly as if a switch is flipped, they become the flavor of the month, and their values go stratospheric. Case in point is BMW’s E30 M3, whose values headed for the moon a few years ago. Indeed, top examples of these have become valued up to $70,000 and more.

Granted, they are certainly desirable cars with their unique, racing-derived, and high-powered (for the time) inline four, firm sport suspension, serious sport seats, and radical body modifications. And they also have the added cachet of being a model built and sold to be homologated for racing. We know, we know — it’s all about supply and demand as well as what the market will bear.

Great cars, those early M3s, but there are much more affordable and better performing alternatives to be found right within the M3’s own family tree. We’re talking about, and presenting for your consideration here, the three generations that came after that first M3 which offer much better performance at a much more approachable purchase price.

Buyer’s Guide: Toyota 4Runner 3rd Generation (1996-2002)

The Toyota 4Runner is a legendary rig. One of the last SUVs still made with rugged body-on-frame construction, it pairs off-road prowess with Toyota reliability and longevity. Indeed, iSeeCars ranked it as the longest-lasting midsize SUV in a recent study. As a result, it remains not only a top seller at dealerships, but used 4Runners also command significant demand and thus tend to retain their values surprisingly well.