TCC's Top Wheels for Dad by Bengt Halvorson (6/16/2003)
With this variety pack of TCC favorites, one of them is bound to fit the dad in your life.
TCC's 2004 Buyer's Guide by Bob Plunkett (10/6/2003)
If you’re a bettor, you’d be better off placing your money on the blackjack table in Las Vegas — or so say the cynics who cringe at the thought of buying a used car.
There’s no question that buying a “previously owned” vehicle is a bit of a crap shoot. These days, though, with new-car quality on the rise, used cars are getting better, too. Basic warranties are getting longer, while the industry’s new certified pre-owned programs are a plus if you don’t mind the added premium.
Want to maximize yours odds? By looking at a variety of industry and third-party reports, it’s possible to put together a list of recommended used cars, vehicles that tend to rise to the top after a few years of service. That’s what TheCarConnection.com has done, and here’s a list of our Best Used Vehicles.
There’s no way to guarantee one used car or truck will hold up as well as another. You’ll find a few of those proverbial bad apples in any crop — and some winners among nameplates that traditionally don’t do well. So consider this list as a good starting point. And remember, whatever car or truck you pick, if possible, have a good mechanic check things a vehicle before you sign, spend, and drive off.
Best Used Compact Sedan: Toyota Corolla
The original Corolla taught Americans that small and affordable didn’t mean cheaply made and unreliable. Now in its ninth generation, Toyota has made a variety of changes to the Corolla lineup over time, so you will find a wide range of body style and engine options, depending on the model year.
Best Used Sporty Coupe: Toyota Solara
Toyota’s not known for its styling prowess, but the Solara is an attractive exception. Sharing key components with the sales chart-busting Camry, the Solara adds a bit of sporty flair that’s perfect if you don’t need the basic functionality of a four-door. Yet you don’t give up the quality the brand built its reputation on.
Best Used Entry Mid-Size Sedan: Chevrolet Malibu
There’s an all-new Malibu this year. But if you can’t spring for the latest, don’t be disappointed. The last generation helped Chevy regain a bit of that mainstream appeal. It’s reasonably stylish, scores high on quality and reliability charts, and offers plenty of room and features for the money.
Best Used Mid-Size/Family Sedan: Honda Accord
To some, the Accord four-door defines plain vanilla, so this isn’t everyone’s favorite. But for those looking for a vehicle that defines the word “bulletproof” it’s hard to find anything better than this mid-size mainstay. Whether you’re looking for something “nearly new” or old and cheap, the Accord’s a smart choice.
Best Used Full-Size Sedan: Ford Crown Victoria/Mercury Grand Marquis
Ford’s twins rank not only as two of the last but also the best among large cars. Virtually identical but for modest interior and exterior details, the Crown Vic and Grand Marquis are unexpectedly affordable used car bargains, especially if you’re looking for maximum room and rear-drive on a reasonably small budget.
Best Entry Luxury Car: Infiniti I30
True, the I30 never made it to the top of the luxury sales charts, but this well-kept secret may be even more attractive in used, rather than new, form. Infiniti products, in general, offer good value, with lots of features and a reputation for reliability. Based on the Nissan Maxima, this is among the best to come out of the marque in recent years.
Best High-Line Luxury Car: Lexus LS400
When it was introduced for the 1990 model year, the LS400 transformed the luxury car market, delivering the quietest ride on the market, rock-solid quality, and an amazing range of features for the money. Prices have gone up over the years, and a used LS400 holds value, but there’s one reason: it’s worth it.
Best Used Entry Sports Car: Mazda Miata
It’s been called “the best British sports car the Japanese ever made.” The Miata was crafted as a loving paean to all those great postwar British roadsters. But it comes with several critical differences: high quality and good reliability. Roll back the top on a sunny day and you may never want to go home.
Best Used Premium Sports Car: Chevrolet Corvette And Porsche 911 (Tie)
This was perhaps the toughest call of all. The usual used car factors, such as reliability had to be balanced against performance and raw, emotional appeal. In this case, we also acknowledged the deep division between domestic and import fans. Actually, the latest version of the Corvette seems to have plenty of crossover appeal. It’s fast, fun, and has scored significant improvements in quality lately. So has the 911, which was long a maintenance nightmare. Porsche’s flagship is offered in a variety of body and powertrain packages, depending on how much you want a speeding ticket. Expect to pay healthy insurance premiums for both cars.
Best Used Crossover: Lexus RX300
This is the vehicle that defined a new segment. The RX300 may not be the best vehicle to take off-road on the Rubicon Trail, but it’s perfect for hauling the family around when the weather’s at its worst. This crossover wagon scores especially high on reliability, too, while delivering unexpected levels of luxury.
Best Used Small SUV: Subaru Forester
It’s not as well-known as some domestic and Japanese nameplates, but those who’ve owned this crossover/ute tend to stay loyal. The Forester offers more room than you might expect, and with Subaru’s all-wheel-drive experience, it keeps all four wheels firmly planted, whether on-road or off, whatever the weather.
Best Used Mid-Size SUV (Traditional): Ford Explorer
Despite the Explorer’s recent publicity problems, it’s remained the industry best-seller. Ford must be doing something right. And that’s translated into strong demand on the used car side, as well. Prices are reasonable and this SUV is both rugged and reliable. That’s a hard combination to ignore. Available in both 4x2 and 4x4, two- and four-doors.
Best Used Full-Size SUV: GMC Yukon
Few trucks better define the breed than this massive sport-ute. The Yukon delivers the complete package, rugged and ready for serious off-roading, yet over the years, it’s become increasingly refined and car-like ride. There’s tons of room and you can find used Yukons loaded with such amenities as DVD for the kids.
Best Used Minivan: Honda Odyssey
It’s indeed been quite an Odyssey for Honda, a late entry into the popular minivan segment. The first generation Odyssey scores well for fit, finish and reliability. But owners sing especially high praise for the latest version, with its easy-to-use, foldaway third-row seats, which debuted as a 1999 model.
Best Used Full-Size Van
While the minivan may dominate the sales charts, there are plenty of folks who prefer full-size vans, and GMC’s Savana is a wise choice for the used car buyer. This rolling guest room offers cargo-swallowing, people-moving capabilities few other vans can match, yet it’s surprisingly easy to drive, despite its size, and easy to customize.
Best Used Small Pickup: Toyota Tacoma
While they’re still figuring out the full-size market, the Japanese defined the compact pickup segment, and nobody does it better than Toyota. Though many are bought by kids on a budget, the Tacoma’s still able to deliver a full day’s work. And it keeps on going — no truck more regularly tops the quality and reliability charts.
Best Used Pickup: Ford F-150
There’s a good reason why Ford’s full-size pickup has been both the nation’s best-selling truck, and number one overall nameplate for more than two decades. It’s reliable, rugged, and versatile. It’s also available in all manner of cab and cargo bed configurations, as well as with 4x2 and 4x4 powertrains.