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A Guide To Selecting The Best Used Cars Under $10,000

In my preceding article, ” A Guide To Selecting The Best Used Car”, I listed my personal criteria for finding the best used car in the $10,000 and up price range. My criteria is based on over forty five years of buying and selling cars and over 17 years of selling new and used cars for a dealer. I do hope that you found the article interesting and informative. This article focuses on the buying of a used car less than $10,000, and, as you will see, most of the same criteria apply.

Because of my background in selling Toyotas, Hondas, and Nissans, I firmly believe that these brands offer the consumer the “best reliability factor.” Also, very respected magazines such as Consumer Reports gives the highest reliability ratings to Toyota, Honda, Mazda, Subaru, Hyundai and Kia. I mention this because when purchasing a used car under $10,000, reliability in the long run is extremely important. Many buyers prefer GM, Ford and Chrysler and that’s fine. The criteria that I list in this article applies to all brands and all models. As an example, if you are looking at a 2007 Jeep Wrangler, it is very important to research the car. Does the Jeep have the right mileage for a 2007 Jeep Wrangler? Are you able to get a Car Fax on the vehicle? Check the interior and exterior condition and of course have a trusted mechanic thoroughly inspect the car.

If you are looking for a $2000 to $4000 car, the first advise I have is to be very careful. A car that sells in this price range is usually 8 – 15 years old and most likely has accumulated many miles. The most important thing is to have a trusted, qualified mechanic inspect the car to make sure it is in good running order. No one wants to buy a car only to find it needs $500 or more in repairs to get it back on the road.

I realize that purchasing any car is, to some people, an emotional decision, and that reliability may not play as important a role in the buyer’s purchasing decision. I experienced this as a salesman. People are spending a lot of money for a car and they want the car that excites them. My main point here is to keep in mind that I am guiding you to buying the best used car under $10,000.

So, when purchasing a used car or truck for $10,000 or less, these are the most important factors to consider:

1.  Road test the car

Road testing a used car, in any price range, is vitally important. Even more so for a car that is in this price range. It is a tricky thing to know how the car was maintained unless the buyer obtains a Car Fax. One of the negatives of purchasing an older car from a private party is that the seller may not have service records of previous owners of the car. Have a mechanic road test the car to listen for pings and noises that might indicate mechanical problems.

2.  ESC – Electronic Stability Control

3.  ABS – Anti-lock braking system

4.  Appropriate mileage for the model year

For example, a 2010 car should have around 96,000 miles on it. The formula is 12,000 miles per year.

5.  A thorough mechanical inspection by a trusted, reliable and  qualified mechanic.

6.  A car fax (if purchasing from a dealer)

7.  Reliable Dealer


I prefer purchasing a used car from a dealer because the car (depending on age) will have a dealer and state warranty. Also, the dealer has serviced the car to make sure it is mechanically sound. The dealer has reconditioned the car, checked the engine and transmission, inspected the suspension, brakes, steering and cooling system and checked that the tires have good tread. A good used car dealer will only sell a car if it is in the best operating condition because of reputation and cost management. If you do intend to buy a car from a private party, be extremely cautious. Remember you are buying the car “as is.”

Listed below are the 10 most reliable used cars under $10,000, as determined by U.S. News and World Report.

Model Reliability Average Price Score
2009 Hyundai Genesis 5/5 $8051 9.5/10
2008 Mercedes Benz E-Class 4/5 $9368 9.5/10
2010 Ford Fusion 5/5 $7548 9.3/10
2008 Acura RL 5/5 $8410 8.9/10
2009 Audi A3 5/5 $7747 9.2/10
2010 Lexus ES 5/5 $8781 9.3/10
2007 Honda Accord 4.5/5 $5002 9.3/10
2010 Mazda Miata 5/5 $9794 9.1/10
2009 Saturn Outlook 5/5 $7329 9.2/10
2009 Toyota Sienna 5/5 $9432 9.2/10

Listed below are the 10 most reliable used cars under $10,000, as determined by Consumer Reports.

Compact Cars

Pontiac Vibe 2008 – 2010
Toyota Matrix 2008 – 2010
Kia Soul 2010 – 2012
Mazda 3 2009 – 2012
Toyota Corolla 2008 – 2011
Toyota Prius 2008 – 2009

Sedan Cars:

Mazda 6 2009 – 2011
Honda Accord 2008 – 2009
Toyota Camry 2008 – 2009

Summary:

In my opinion, for all car buyers searching for a used car $10,000 or less, the following are the most important things to do:

  1. Road test the car
  2. If possible, buy a car with ESC – Electronic Stability Control
  3. Buy a car with ABS – Antilock Braking System
  4. Buy a car with the appropriate mileage
  5. Have the car thoroughly inspected by a qualified mechanic
  6. If purchasing from dealer, obtain a Car Fax
  7. Purchase from a reliable dealer
  8. Remember that reliability is just as important as affordability
  9. Check with Kelley Blue Book for used car pricing
  10.  

By following the guidelines above, you are insuring that you purchase the best car possible within your budget.

Happy Motoring!

Remember for your auto parts, please shop online from Amazon.com, Tirerack.com, and Vividracing.com.

A Guide to Selecting The Best Used Car Over $10,000

What are the best used cars? This is a “loaded” question because what’s best for one person is not necessarily the best for someone else. A person on a very limited budget may only afford a $2000 car as compared to someone who has $2000 to put down as a down payment. For purposes of this article, I am referring to the “best” used cars as those that are considered the most reliable by Consumer Reports and have purchase prices of $10,000 (retail price) or more.

Since 2003, I have purchased only used Japanese cars. I am a firm believer that the most reliable cars present the best overall “value” to the consumer. What do I mean by “value?” It equates to those cars that offer the most quality and product for the money. I admit to having a bias for Japanese car brands, but that bias is based upon research and many years of experience buying and selling cars.

Consumer Reports, which is my “bible” for rating the reliability of automobiles, has consistently rated Honda, Subaru, Mazda, Toyota, Hyundai, and Kia as the top rated new and used cars. For luxury brands, they rate Infiniti, Lexus and Acura as the most reliable, although it varies by each model year. Toyota has a popular advertising slogan: “The best new cars make the best used cars” which directly reflects the findings of Consumer Reports.

So, reliability is the most important factor in selecting the brand and model of a used car. Once you have chosen a brand, here are the most important things to look for when purchasing a used car:

1.  Electronic Stability Control (ESC)

ESC is computerized technology that improves a car’s stability by detecting and reducing loss of traction. In essence, ESC regulates the degree of traction and helps prevent skidding in inclement weather. I recommend that the used car that you purchase have ESC. (most cars after 2012 have ESC standard.

2. Anti-Lock Braking Systems (ABS)

ABS is a safety anti-skid system that operates to prevent wheels to lock up during braking. This is a “must-have” feature and is standard in many used cars from 2012 on.

3.  Thorough Examination

Have a “trusted” mechanic, or technician, check out the used car before you buy it. The mechanic will check all operating systems to make sure that they are in good running order. The most important things are: to check the engine and transmission for cracks and leaks; check transmission to make sure it is not slipping; check brake pads and rotors for wear; check axle and suspension for wear – look for cracked ball joints and leaking wheel bearings; check all belts and hoses for wear; check to make sure heating and air conditioning are in proper working order; check tires for wear; check flasher and lights; and, check exterior and interior for wear. This is a vitally important check on the overall condition of the car to make sure it was well maintained by the previous owner(s).

4.  Certified Cars

Certified cars are the most recent model year offerings that have had 120 to 160 point dealer mechanical inspections. They have the best exterior and interior condition and offer certified limited power train warranties that extend the standard manufacturer’s power train warranty to 7 years or 100,000 miles, whichever comes first (from date of original ownership when new). There is, in addition, a 12 month or 12,000 mile bumper-to-bumper warranty with most certified warranties. I recommend certified cars because they offer security to the buyer in that the car has been thoroughly inspected and serviced, and, as such, protects the buyer from mechanical problems for a specified time and mileage.

5.  Reliable Dealer

Buy from a reliable dealer rather than a private owner. Why? Because when buying the car from a dealer you are protected by the manufacturer’s, dealer’s and state’s warranty. You get no warranty when purchasing a used vehicle from a private party. You buy the car “as is.”

6.  Mileage

A good tip is to always purchase a used car with low mileage. 12,000 to 15,000 miles per year is the normally accepted benchmark for a used car.

7.  Ask for a Car Fax

A Car Fax gives the service history, lists the owner(s) and any recorded accidents. All Certified Cars come with Car Faxes.

In conclusion, I thoroughly agree with the year-by-year findings of Consumer Reports that the best used cars are those manufactured by Toyota, Honda, Mazda, Subaru, Hyundai, Kia, Lexus, Infiniti and Acura. The “best” means the best value and the most reliable. After you have decided on make and model, make sure the used car you are purchasing has: ESC, ABS, a thorough mechanical inspection by a trusted technician, a manufacturer’s certification and, has low, or normal mileage. It is also very important to buy from a reliable dealer rather than from a private party. The above facts are based on my many years of car ownership and over 17 years of experience as an automobile salesman. If you utilize the information above to serve as a guide to purchase a used car, you are insuring yourself a quality car and trouble free driving for many years to come.

Happy Motoring!

Remember for your auto parts, please shop online from Amazon.com,  Tirerack.com and Vividracing.com.