2005 Ford Ranger used truckEnlarge Photo
Pickup Trucks: 2005 Ford Ranger XLT Edge
82,188 miles; $9,995
Apache Junction, Arizona 85217
I confess: I once owned a Ranger, and I find it hard to ignore any used-car ad that drills away at my retinas with such a suave come-on: "ONE SWEET RANGER HERE!!" This one is pretty sweet, though: it's an Edge, which means extra features on a vehicle that's often more stripped-down than Homer Formby's place on moving day. It has power locks, mirrors, a CD player, and automatic and just over 82,000 miles. A workhorse? It comes with a diamond-plate tool box too, but Rangers are more like work ponies that will last for years doing light-duty chores around your suburb--while you sub out the mulch deliveries and serious towing to bigger vehicles as the need arises. This one's a 3.0-liter V-6 that's flex-fuel capable; it's a groaner, and we'd much rather have the later 4.0-liter versions, but it'll do. They've already come down $2,000, and it's for sale in one of the hardest-hit areas of the country in the recession, so maybe there's a truly sweet deal to be made here.--Marty Padgett (See more used Ford Rangers).
2006 Scion tC used carEnlarge Photo
Coupes: 2006 Scion tC
134,000 miles; $9,995
Junction City, Oregon 97448
The Scion tC, is a smart and enjoyable pick on the budget-conscious used coupe market, and it stands out today for many of the same reasons that it did when new.
This surprisingly affordable model is a sporty-looking, sport-driving car, but it's not a full-on sports car. You'll need to check if you have enough headroom, but with a small backseat plus the convenience of a hatchback (it looks like a trunk in profile), you have plenty of practicality for daily use. The interior was even appointed so nicely that it earned the 'baby Lexus' nickname around the time of its original launch, but beware that it's definitely not up to Lexus standards of cabin quietness.
Opt for the five-speed manual—as this car—and you'll be happiest with the tC's Euro-tuned suspension and strong 2.4-liter engine. But there are plenty of other pluses; you get Toyota reliability, good gas mileage, and perhaps best of all, a full line of off-the-shelf accessories available at the dealership.--Bengt Halvorson. (See more used Scions).
2003 Pontiac Vibe used car
2003 Pontiac Vibe used carEnlarge Photo
Hatchbacks: 2003 Pontiac Vibe
25,500 miles; $9,491
White River Junction, Vermont 05001
Looking for a hatchback under $10,000 located in Vermont, we found three- to seven-year-old models with astounding mileage, in some cases as much as 130,000. We looked at a whole lot of well-used Subarus, some tired Toyotas, and in the end, settled on a pair of 2003 Pontiac Vibes.
The first-generation Pontiac Vibe is all Toyota Corolla underneath, but its Pontiac heritage meant it was always worth less than a comparable Toyota Matrix five-door hatchback. Now that Pontiac is dead, dealers may find moving used ones a tad more challenging--especially at nine years old.
Located at Accord Auto in Richmond, Maine, the more desirable GT model, in black with grey interior, and a fun-to-drive five-speed manual, was listed at $8,875 and had 69,000 miles on it. That price was almost $1,400 higher than the average, and it had been on the lot more than three weeks, so we'd be tempted to start our bargaining at $7,750 and see if the dealer wanted to make it go away.
But possibly the sleeper was a red 2003 Vibe with just 25,500 miles on it. Either this was a weekend-house car or Granny's runaround (it's an automatic), and it had only been on the lot at Balise Ford in Hyannis, Massachusetts, for five days. The list price was $9,491, but we have to think a cash offer somewhere between $8,500 and $9,000 would take it.
Either of these cars should be inspected by a mechanic, since once a car crosses the 10-year mark, things can start to fail with age as well as with mileage. And Hyannis is on Cape Cod--meaning salt air--so you want to know the signs of a beach car (rusty rain gutters are one).--John Voelcker. (See more used Pontiac Vibes).