20 Best Used Cars Ever
Between the early 1990s and the mid-2000s, there was a trend among American drivers to purchase brand-new vehicles rather than going with used ones. Economic times have since changed to the point that some consumers can’t afford to purchase new anymore.
Suddenly, used cars are back in style. To help drivers who might be looking for a good used car, we’ve compiled our list of the top 20 best used cars ever.
Once you’ve purchased your used car you’ll need insurance, so enter your ZIP code into our FREE search tool right now to start looking for car insurance quotes online!
For our top 20 list, we looked at a number of factors including price, reliability, cost of repairs, and overall consumer appeal. Please remember that car reviews are very subjective in nature. What is one man’s dream machine could be another man’s nightmare. With all that said, let’s get to our list.
20. Toyota Land Cruiser
The Land Cruiser began production in 1951 to compete with Jeeps and Range Rovers. These tough-as-nails vehicles are designed to handle just about anything a driver can throw at them.
The only series we wouldn’t recommend is the 100 series produced between 1998 and 2003. Land Cruisers manufactured in these years are known for having some serious reliability issues under harsh conditions.
19. Subaru Forester
The Subaru Forester is a mid-size crossover first introduced in 1997. What we like most about it is its reliability and its five-star safety rating.
On the downside, the Forester isn’t as fuel-efficient as other used cars in its same class. And, like most Subarus, repairs can be expensive when it comes to things like the transmission and suspension.
18. Lexus IS 300 (2000-2005)
In 1998, Toyota decided to get into the high-end luxury market with the introduction of the Lexus nameplate. When the IS made it to the States in 2000, it had already had the bugs from the first generation worked out, making it a very reliable car.
The 2003 model of the Lexus IS was issued a five-star safety rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and is still considered one of the safest cars in its class.
17. Chevy Camaro (3rd or 4th generation)
The Chevy Camaro is an icon of the American automotive market that began production in 1966. Chevy ceased production in 2002, but then resumed in 2009 to try to win back some of their lost market share. Assuming you’re on a budget, we would recommend the third or fourth generation Camaro. These Camaros are reliable, sporty, and a great buy for the money.
16. Ford Focus
The compact Ford Focus began production in 1990 as a replacement for the reliable and cheap-to-operate Ford Escort. This line of vehicles remains one of the most reliable coming out of Ford since the late 1980s.
In fact, the Focus has been largely responsible for carrying the company through tough economic times. Ford was the only one of the major U.S. auto manufacturers that did not require a federal government bailout to stay afloat, and the Focus is a big part of that.
15. Toyota Corolla
Toyota has enjoyed a lot of success with a number of vehicles that have remained in continuous production since the ’60s. The Corolla is one such vehicle. It is one of the most reliable compact sedans on the market.
We wouldn’t recommend anything out of the first seven generations (1966 through 1990) simply because age has taken its toll. But eighth generation and later-model Corollas, beginning production in 1991, still represent a great value.
14. Honda Civic (after 1997)
In the 1970s, Honda began manufacturing the Civic to compete in Europe with the Mini Cooper. The car was not a great success in the United States for the first couple of years, but once it caught on, it did so in a big way.
While the Civic is usually a reliable vehicle, we wouldn’t recommend anything prior to 1997 because of safety concerns.
The NHTSA only gave it a one-star rating for front crash safety in 1979 and 1980; it didn’t reach five-star status until 1997.
13. Chevrolet Corvette
If you can afford it, the Corvette might possibly be the most fun-to-drive car ever made. The horsepower, throaty engine, and slap-you-in-the-face good looks has never been matched by any other car manufacturer.
Since 1953, the Corvette has been the definition of American automotive muscle. To stay on a budget, look for fourth-generation ‘Vettes made between 1984 and 1996.
12. Ford Crown Victoria (Second Generation)
If ever there was an American luxury vehicle built to be as tough as possible, the Crown Victoria is it. When the second generation of the car was introduced in 1991, it was a complete remake of the first generation and LTD models that had enjoyed good commercial success. But the second gen was built so well and was found to be so tough that police agencies and taxi companies started buying them up by the thousands.
Today, the Crown Victoria is still the standard among police vehicles.
It’s no longer sold at the retail level but is still produced as a fleet vehicle.
11. Honda Accord
Like the Civic, the Honda Accord has been around since the 1970s. It is one of Honda’s most reliable vehicles and, according to the FBI, one of the most consistently stolen vehicles in the United States.
Car thieves love the Accord because their long life makes used parts extremely valuable. To get the most bang for your buck, we recommend the fifth and sixth generations, manufactured between 1994 and 2002.
10. Volkswagen Golf
It’s hard to imagine Volkswagen being on this list, being that the brand name typically conjures up images of the 1960s-era Beetles and Buses. Yet the Golf is one of the most popular vehicles sold in the U.K., as well as a recipient of many European car awards.
Though they didn’t receive rave reviews in the United States, they still are very dependable cars that seem to run forever. Fourth- and fifth-generation models manufactured through 2003 can generally be had for less than $10,000, making them an extremely good value.
9. Mazda MX-5
If you like roadsters, the MX-5 from Mazda might be the one to beat. It certainly can’t compete with 1960s predecessors like the MGB Midget, but for a late-model roadster it’s an excellent car.
Mazda began production in 1989 and has enjoyed good success throughout the life of the car. Your best bet for the dollar would probably be the first two generations up through 2005.
8. Hyundai Accent
Though the Hyundai Accent is not necessarily as old as some of the other cars we’ve recommended, it deserves a place on our list for its reliability and affordability. Any model year would be a good choice as long as the car is in good mechanical condition.
The best part of the Accent is its artificially low resale price. In other words, because the Hyundai name doesn’t get the same recognition as some of its competitors, the Accent is not a high-demand used car. That keeps prices lower than comparable cars in its class, so you get a lot of bang for the buck.
7. Cooper Mini (BMW)
The Mini is one of those iconic nameplates that evoke fond memories in a lot of people. Minis made prior to 2000 are hard to come by in the States, because they were manufactured primarily for a British market during that time period. But when BMW brought them across the Pond at the turn of the century, they became an instant hit.
We love the Cooper model because it is sleek, sporty, sexy, and a lot of fun to drive. Look for one manufactured prior to 2007 if you’re on a budget.
6. Chrysler Town & Country
Chrysler basically invented the minivan category. And, as anyone knows, minivans became the dominant family vehicle beginning in the 1980s. The Town & Country began production in 1990 to replace the Caravan and Grand Caravan models of the ’80s.
As the inventor of the minivan, Chrysler still leads the way in innovation and overall value.
That means you can get an older model with features like Stow ‘n’ Go seating, in-floor storage, and dual sliding side doors. Other manufacturers didn’t start adding such features until years later.
5. Jeep Cherokee XJ
The Cherokee XJ may very well have saved Jeep from going out of business in the 1980s. Struggling for market share in the United States, where all of the attention was being paid to Chrysler K cars, the older Jeep Cherokees were the antithesis of everything American car buyers want.
But the XJ changed all that by offering an extremely reliable and rugged vehicle that would well outlive its payment book.
4. Nissan Sentra (all models)
Introduced in 1982, the Sentra was the first huge commercial success since the re-branding of the company from the old Datsun nameplate to Nissan. To this day, the Sentra is one of Nissan’s most reliable models. It offers great value, great gas mileage, and easy repair bills.
3. Pontiac GTO (1964-1974)
The Pontiac GTO is an awesome used car for raw power and good looks. Don’t buy the 2004-2006 models, as they are GTOs in name only. If you’re worried about buying something from ’74 or earlier, remember that the GTO is a very sturdy vehicle and parts are still available at junkyards. You can buy one very inexpensively, restore it, and have a great car worth a lot of money.
2. Ford Mustang
The Mustang set the standard for sports cars in the United States when it was introduced in 1964. If you can afford it, any model year makes a great used car.
If you’re on a budget, consider the fourth generation made between 1994 and 2004. Anything earlier begins to enter the collector category, while late-model editions still have a high resale value.
1. Lincoln Town Car
If you’re looking for a tank masquerading as a luxury car, you’re after the Lincoln Town Car. Ford produced the car for 30 years, from 1981 through 2011, alongside the Crown Victoria and the Mercury Mark series.
It’s not unusual to see a lot of 1980s Town Cars still on the road simply because they last so long.
If you don’t mind poor gas mileage, you can’t do much better for luxury in an American car than the Lincoln Town Car.
So there you have it, our top 20 list of the best used cars ever. Enjoy shopping for, and driving, whichever one you purchase!
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