Best Used Cars

5 Fun Daily Drivers for Under $10,000

If you’re like most of us, you can count your car “collection” on one finger, so whatever you drive needs to do a lot of things well. It needs to get you back and forth to work without fail. It needs to keep your maintenance and upkeep costs to a minimum. And of course it needs to be fun.

Fortunately, you don’t have to take out a big loan or be Jay Leno to buy a fun set of wheels that can double as a practical daily driver. Indeed, there are some very entertaining choices out there to be found in nice shape with low mileage for less than $10,000 — whether you need something that seats the whole family, or you can make do with just room for two.

Here, in no particular order, are five cars we think deserve consideration from anyone looking for serious bang for their daily driver buck.

Which Jeep Should I Buy? Wrangler YJ vs. TJ vs. JK

From hardcore off-road enthusiasts looking to tackle the next trail to LA’s high school kids cruising Santa Monica, the popularity of the Jeep Wrangler is wide ranging. Sales for the 4×4 continue to climb. Last year, Jeep sold about 240,000 units, and over 90 percent of them were the 4-door Unlimited model that debuted over a decade ago (2007).

The Wrangler is so popular most of its rivals have ceased production. Over the decades, the Jeep has driven trucks like the Nissan Xterra, Isuzu Amigo, and Chevy Tracker right out of business. And Jeep doesn’t just sit back and collect the cash. It continues to invest in its iconic 4×4, launching the latest generation of the Wrangler, the JL, in 2018.

Other brands that abandoned this market decades ago want back in, badly. Ford is bringing back the Bronco after several years of hype, and sales of the new, more authentic Land Rover Defender are about to kick off.

Meanwhile, the prices of used Jeep Wranglers are flat, and they remain affordable. Very affordable. Buyers have three generations to choose from: YJ, TJ, and JK, which were sold from 1987 to 2018. Collectively, they’re some of the most off-road capable SUVs ever made.

But which used Wrangler is right for you? Yes, there are many similarities between them. They all have four-wheel drive with a low range transfer case, and they all feature a removable roof. But each generation of Wrangler is quite different than the other. Each version of the iconic SUV has its own appeal, and buyers should be aware of their unique trouble spots.

To help you climb this rocky trail, we’ve created this Jeep Wrangler buyer’s guide. We’ll cover the pros and cons of each as well as their current values.

What’s the Best Used Sports Car Ever? Corvette vs. Miata vs. 911

Sports cars are an indulgence. Comfort, space and even reliability are all sacrificed on the altar of Handling and Speed. And if that altar is busy, then all that can be offered up to the God of Beauty and Allure instead. In most ways, sports cars are just like other cars.

But it’s the ways in which they’re no like other cars that matter most.

Why Volkswagen TDI Models are Used Car Bargains

It’s no secret that we’re fans of the Mk6 generation Volkswagen Golf. In our model-specific buying guide, we say that anyone “looking for one car that’ll do it all” for under $15,000 should look no further than VW’s popular hatchback, which manages to balance performance, economy, refinement, and even reliability with surprising grace.

At the time, we stopped short of recommending any of the turbodiesel, or TDI, variants. That’s not because they aren’t good cars. On the contrary, VW’s punchy turbodiesel engine pairs quite nicely with the Mk6 chassis, making for an efficient and fun-to-drive all-rounder. However, in the wake of VW’s emissions scandal, aka “Dieselgate,” there was too much uncertainty about how the the TDI models would be affected to give them a solid thumbs up.

But in recent months, the Dieselgate dust has begun to settle, bringing some important new factors to light — factors which have caused us to revise our stance. Dramatically.

In fact, we now believe that VW’s TDI models represent one of the best used car buying opportunities to come along in years.

Which Corvette Should I Buy? C4 vs. C5 vs. C6

You can’t help it. You’re captivated by the sleek styling, the open top, the storied heritage, the rumbling V8 that shoves you back in the seat. Let’s face it. You’ve got Corvette Fever.

You’ve also got a budget ranging from $10,000 to $20,000 — a relatively modest outlay that nevertheless gains you access to three different generations of Chevrolet’s iconic sports car, spanning 30+ years and a wide variety of styling, engineering, and performance options.

What’s the Best Cheap Porsche 911? We Pick 5 Affordable Options

Automotive historians and car experts will tell you that Porsche has offered a good number of entry-level models since the 1970s. They’ll produce a list of relatively affordable sports cars from the German automaker, a list that includes models like the 914, 924, 944, and the current Boxster, which has been the brand’s least expensive thrill maker since 1997.

Porschefiles, however, know better. They’ll tell you that the best entry-level Porsche over the last 50 years has always been a used 911. And it still is.

Buyer’s Guide: Pontiac Trans Am (1970-1981)

Originally the Pontiac Trans Am was a flop. Launched in 1969, just 697 were sold that year.

But the highly stylized and high-performance version of the Pontiac Firebird would soon become the automotive icon of the following decade and a bona fide favorite of car collectors all over the world.

Named for the Sports Car Club of America’s popular “Trans Am” racing series, the model cost Pontiac a $5.00 royalty for every Trans Am it sold. It didn’t add up to much at first, but in 1970, Pontiac redesigned the Firebird, along with the Trans Am, and its second generation would go on to sell in huge numbers.

Best known for its massive “Screaming Chicken” hood decal, the second gen Trans Am was produced for more than a decade, making it one of the most successful American muscle cars ever. And today, after several decades of middling interest, their values are on the rise.

Here’s everything you need to know before you buy yours.

The Best Half-Ton Pickup of All Time

Trucks aren’t about beauty. But there are beautiful trucks. Trucks aren’t about comfort. But a comfortable truck is a better truck. Trucks are about work. And a truck that can’t work isn’t much of a truck.

Evaluating the greatest used pickup of all time requires a clear-eyed evaluation of how well a truck can be used to get things done. All the other things that matter a little, only matter a little. Working matters a lot.

Buyer’s Guide: BMW Z4 E85 / E86 Generation (2003-2008)

Imagine a spirited drive along your favorite road in a top-down roadster. The scenery rushes past, and there’s nothing but sky above you. With nicely weighted steering and near 50:50 weight balance, the chassis becomes an extension of your fingertips, while your feet coax beautiful arias from the smooth-spinning inline six under the hood.

It’s no pipe dream. Thanks to the magic of depreciation, this fantasy, in the shape of the E85 generation BMW Z4, can be yours for less than $10,000.

And considering that buys you a premium German roadster with some of the best powertrain options ever offered in a BMW, we think it represents an outstanding buying opportunity in today’s market.

The 7 Most Reliable Used Vehicles for Under $10,000

Many shoppers who’re thinking about buying a used car fret about vehicle reliability, and these qualms aren’t without merit. Relative to a new car, a used vehicle is more likely to need work under the hood earlier in the ownership experience. And the older the used car, the greater the likelihood of a significant repair bill. 

So it’s no surprise that reliability is often the number one consideration for shoppers in the used car market.

What’s the Best Cheap Muscle Car? Mustang vs. Camaro vs. Firebird

The recipe for a successful American muscle car has always been simple. One part thunderous V8 engine. One part rear-wheel drive. Add a dash of attitude. Sprinkle in a low price. Stir vigorously until tires fry.

Although the flavors have evolved over the decades, gaining sophistication and complexity, that recipe hasn’t changed much since the 1960s, and our appetite for this unique American style of automotive cuisine is as voracious as ever.

Detroit keeps whipping up tasty dishes, delighting our taste buds with cars like the sweet and spicy Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat and Ford’s new Shelby Mustang GT500. But have you checked the prices on the menu lately? Wow, they’ve gotten expensive. Excuse me waiter, there’s a fly in my soup.

Fortunately there are still affordable American muscle cars out there. You just need to know where to look. Used muscle cars have always stretched the enthusiast’s performance dollar the furthest. And back in the 1990s, Ford, Chevy, and Pontiac were grilling up V8-powered Mustangs, Camaros, and Firebirds with plenty of power and attitude.

The fourth-generations of the Ford Mustang, Chevy Camaro, and Pontiac Firebird are now more than 20 years old, and they’re quickly making the transition from used cars to desirable classics. Their values have inched up over the last few years, as the teenagers of the era begin to buy the cars they wanted in high school. But they remain cheap. Dirt cheap in some cases, with prices ranging from about $5,000 for those that have led a hard life, to around $25,000 for well-preserved and rare examples.

Is a 1990s American muscle car right for you? To help you cut through the clouds of tire smoke, we’ve created this buying guide. We’ll cover the similarities between the three models as well as their differences. Each has its own appeal, but buyers should be aware of their unique trouble spots, pros and cons, and current values.

Which Toyota Land Cruiser Should I Buy? Series 60 vs. 80 vs. 100

Toyota has been building the Land Cruiser since the 1950s, and it has changed quite a bit over the decades. There are many different generations of the SUV, from the original FJ40, which was first imported into the United States in the mid-1960s, to the latest version of the 200 Series, a model that’s still available at your local Toyota dealer.

With so many different versions to choose from, there’s quite a bit to consider before you purchase a secondhand Land Cruiser.

Buyer’s Guide: Ford Mustang GT SN95 Generation (1994-1998)

The now iconic 5.0-liter V8 equipped “Fox body” Mustang, whether in plain Jane LX or gussied-up GT form, has seen its stock rise quite a bit in recent years. We like these frisky, squared-off “Box body” ponies as much as the next car buff. But these days it’s getting increasing tough to find one that hasn’t been ridden hard and put away wet, modified in questionable taste, or priced too optimistically.

On the other hand, the Fox’s successor, the ’94 to ’98 Mustang — known to pony car fans by its “SN95” internal factory moniker — is, in GT form, something of a dark horse that is currently an outstanding value.

The 1992-1996 Toyota Camry (XV10) is a Used Car Hidden Gem

Paint fades, that new car smell wafts away, upholstery wears, and dings and dents are inevitable. Great used cars don’t avoid those indignities, they wear them as battle scars. They’re indomitable and intrepid; reliable and resilient; and cheap to keep on the road. A great used car has an aging nobility to it.

So the greatest used car of them all is the 1992 to 1996 Toyota Camry. Here’s how it got to be that.

Used Cars with Great Gas Mileage: Top Picks for $15,000 or Less

According to data gathered by the U.S. Department of Transportation, on average, American drivers add 13,476 miles to their odometers each year. With that much driving, it’s easy for fuel costs to leave a notable dent in the pocketbook.

A vehicle’s gas mileage plays a crucial part in this equation. Mileage can vary dramatically from model to model, even among those within the same vehicle category. For this reason, Klipnik recommends taking a hard look at fuel economy if you’re considering a vehicle purchase.