As you probably already know, $10,000 can be a really low budget for a new vehicle. While you would have a few options, they would probably involve quite a compromise.
In fact, unless you have a budget of well over $15,000, your options may really be limited when shopping for a new car. If you can relate to this, we also have a list of the best used cars under $15,000 as well.
However, if 10 grands is all you got for a vehicle, finding something decent on your own may be quite a task. You may likely find yourself doing weeks or even months of research.
That said, if you managed to stumble upon this place, you’re saved the trouble. This is because we have put together a pretty comprehensive list, reviewing what we think are the 25 best used cars under $10,000.
But before we walk you through all these great options, let us tell you that the price factor may vary quite a bit from one place to another. The other factors, however, usually won’t, so there’s nothing really worrying about it.
#1 Mazda Mazda3 (2008)
Starting at $4000 – $5000
The 2008 Mazda 3 is one of the most reliable used cars under $10,000. However, something that makes it stand out from other similar used cars is that the reliability it offers isn’t coupled with boring looks or a lackluster drive quality.
It looks great for a cheap and reliable used car, and its peppy engine ensures that the fun of driving is there. Apart from that, the 2008 Mazda 3 also doesn’t fail to impress when it comes to the fuel economy or safety features. Finally, as it was one of the few low-priced cars released back in the day that did well in pretty much all aspects, the Mazda 3 is also very popular.
This means that finding one in a very good condition for about $9,000 shouldn’t be much of a task.
#2 Pontiac Vibe (2008)
Starting at $5,995
When Pontiac and Toyota had joint hands to work on a project together, the Pontiac Vibe was born. It’s fairly similar to the Corolla in terms of mechanics and design, which adds to its reliability.
The unique design it sports makes it something between a hatchback and a wagon. However, it’s one of the few used cars you would find that comes with plenty of practical features.
That being said, its power output isn’t something spectacular, but for a price of about $8,000 it seems to be a great option for the right buyers.
#3 Acura TL (2005)
Starting at $6,495
When you dream of a luxury car for as less as under $10,000, you have no option but to go back about a decade or so. And this is what brings us to the 2005 Acura TL.
However, a decade old model doesn’t mean having to compromise on the reliability. Used Acura’s have a reputation of being reliable, so this shouldn’t really be a concern.
If you manage to find one that has its routine maintenance taken good care of, you may certainly end up pleased with the purchase.
#4 Toyota Avalon (2005)
Starting at $6,995
The Toyota Avalon is another solid option from 2005. Sure, most buyers can’t seem to look beyond the Toyota Camry and Corolla – which are believed to be two of the safest options as used cars – but the Avalon has some serious “size” advantage over these popular choices.
The Avalon is fairly large as a sedan, and boasts coming with some of the most advanced equipment of that time. And while some of its features may not be a match to the latest ones you find in recent models, the construction and build quality is still top-class.
#5 Acura TSX (2005)
Starting at $7,995
Yes, we have quite a few options on this list from about a decade back, as that is where you get a lot of value when you’re looking for a budget used car.
The Acura TSX was released as a high-end compact sedan, tempting buyers with its luxurious interior and a responsive, powerful and sporty engine.
While the “sportiness” is obviously no longer what it used to be back in 2005, it still hasn’t lost much of its core features: a comfortable ride and reliable power output. Further, the fuel mileage isn’t much of an issue despite the luxury tag.
#6 Hyundai Sonata (2008)
Starting at $4,500
First things first, the Hyundai Sonata isn’t anything about shiny looks or a sporty appearance. Instead, it’s one of the vehicles from Hyundai that helped it brand itself as a manufacturer of affordable, reliable vehicles.
What the 2008 Sonata offer is pretty clear: reliability and comfort without compromising on the affordability. You may be able to find one for as low as about $8,000.
#7 Kia Optima (2008)
Starting at $4,500
Kia Optima was one of the value buys back in 2008, offering plenty of impressive features and equipment. However, over the years, it has also established itself as one of the most dependable used cars on the market.
A 2008 Optima that’s still in a pretty good condition would come with a great level of cost-effectiveness. If you would like to take it even further, you can consider going for the 2008 four-cylinder version.
#8 Honda CR-V (2005)
Starting at $5,595
Before we even begin talking about the Honda CR-V, let us tell you that you have to be really lucky to find this beast (in a good condition) for under $10,000. If you do, however, you wouldn’t want to waste much time in grabbing it with both hands.
Now, with that said, let us explain why it gets so much love from us. First, it seems to be a gorgeous SUV packed in a body of a compact sports utility vehicle. This makes it a great option for those looking for the best used SUVs under $10,000, but don’t have the kind of budget needed for a full-sized SUV.
The second, more important factor the Honda CR-V has been enjoying immense popularity ever since it was launched is that it’s a perfect mix of what you would expect in a compact sports utility vehicle and the look and feel of an SUV.
It’s very practical, highly efficient, and most importantly, extremely reliable (especially when compared to most used SUVs).
Finally, while it’s hard to find this one-of-a-kind used vehicle for under $10,000, you may be able to if you spend just enough time searching around.
#9 Mitsubishi Outlander (2007)
Starting at $7,995
This is another option on this list that’s actually not very commonly sold for under $10,000, but can be a great choice if you find it in that price range.
It’s without a doubt one of the best used SUVs under $10,000, especially given the power it brings to the table with its V-6 engine, which is rare in this price range for SUVs.
It’s a tried and tested used vehicle and hence reliability generally isn’t a problem. You would also have the option of going for the front-wheel drive version if you’re after a better fuel economy, although it means settling for less of the “utilities.”
Some of its other features worth considering include a comfortable cabin and a spacious, roomy interior.
#10 Honda Pilot (2005)
Starting at $6,495
When you compare the Honda Pilot to some of the other, more well-designed SUVs, you will likely be turned off by its uninspiring footprint. But if you’re someone who likes to look beyond the outside and discover what the “inside” offers, you may be pleasantly surprised with the huge amount of interior space.
That, coupled with solid reliability and massive cargo storage, makes the 2005 Pilot a perfect option for big families.
#11 BMW 325i (2005)
Starting at $5,995
You could only dream of getting a new BMW 3 Series model, but if you’re willing to go back about a decade back or so, you could probably partly live that dream. And while you wouldn’t get all the top modern amenities with the decade old version as you would with a new one, the quality would still be there.
The average price of used BMW 325i vehicles seem to be just around the $10,000 mark, so you wouldn’t really have a problem getting one in good condition if your budget is just under $10,000.
Finally, if you’re looking for timeless luxury and the prestige that comes with a BMW, a used BMW 325i is probably your best shot at it.
#12 Honda Fit (2007)
Starting at $5,495
The Honda Fit is all about simplicity and reliability. It’s probably one of the most basic vehicles on this list, but it’s actually one of its important selling points.
And this works well for used car buyers, as there aren’t as many signs of aging as with many other used vehicles. Another great selling point of the Fit 2007 is that it offers a great fuel economy, so it’s not only going to be an affordable buy, but also an affordable driving experience.
You can easily find a used Fit 20007 model for about $9,000.
#13 MINI Cooper S (2006)
Starting at $7,495
The MINI Cooper is actually pretty popular as a used vehicle, but going as back as 2006 allows you to get significantly more power without having to shell out more money.
Some of the highlighting features of a used MINI Cooper S 2006 model are a supercharged four-cylinder and a surprisingly large number of useful features. However, you need to be a little more careful while shopping for a Cooper S, as signs of abuse seem more common than many other vehicles.
That being said, a well-cared-for MINI is going to be a fairly good option for used car buyers that are looking for a rather rare combination of power and features without compromising on affordability. You shouldn’t have much of a problem finding one for under $9,000.
#14 Nissan Versa (2011)
Starting at $5,995
The Nissan Versa is another basic vehicle that serves its purpose well. It’s a compact car that’s available both as a sedan and a hatchback. This means you get to go for a lot of extra cargo space if you want.
Apart from that, a 2011 Versa is going to please you with its affordability and efficiency. Besides a decent fuel mileage, it’s also available with a manual transmission.
As you can see, you have plenty of options to choose from while going with a 2011 Versa, though it’s actually a pretty rare thing when it comes to used vehicles. The modest price tag of under $9,000 makes it a worthy candidate as well.
#15 Saab 92-X (2005)
Starting at $9,250
The Saab 92-X is one of the few vehicles on this list you would have trouble finding as a used vehicle. It’s primarily because it’s from a brand that has gone defunct.
The reason you still see it on this list is that it boasts some impressive and innovative engineering. While it sports a Swedish exterior given to it by Saab, its reliability and sportiness is inspired by Japanese sport compact vehicles.
It’s also available both as a sedan and a hatchback, and probably something to consider if you don’t mind a bit of experimentation and nothing else on this list really appeals to you. The average priced at which used Saab 92-X vehicles are sold is just under $9,000.
#16 Ford Mustang Mach 1 (2003)
Starting at $6,500
Now’s the time to tell you about a vehicle you surely didn’t expect for the kind of budget you have: Ford Mustang Mach 1, a true sports car. However, if you’re imagining it to be an old and outdated 1970 model, your imagination cannot be any further than what it actually is.
The Mach 1, as we said, is a true sports car that offers pretty much everything that a sports car of this generation does, including even the breathtaking looks.
A sporty acceleration of 0 to 60 mph in a mere 5.3 seconds, solid gripping when taking hard turns, smooth but simple ride and handling, as well as a beast V-8 engine makes the Mach 1 one of the best sports cars under $10,000.
#17 Toyota Highlander (2007)
Starting at $8,250
We have another one of the best used SUVs under $10,000. Some of the things that makes it stand out as an SUV is its solid reliability and great safety features. Apart from that, it offers a tempting combination of SUV versatility and car-like handling and drive quality, something you usually won’t find in this price range, especially when going for an SUV.
The 2.4-liter four-cylinder isn’t the strongest out there among SUVs, but it’s efficient. However, if the power factor is something that attracts you towards SUVs, you can opt for the optional V6.
The interior isn’t luxurious but well-designed. Finally, the third row isn’t very spacious, but would be a comfortable place to be for your kids.
#18 Toyota Prius (2009)
Starting at $5,500
The Toyota Prius is a stylish, classy sedan that apparently offers a bit more than you would expect for under $10,000. This is especially true when it comes to the looks, as finding anything decent without going back a decade or more is certainly a challenge.
But our praise for the Prius doesn’t end here. It surprises us with its fuel economy, spaciousness and a well-laid-out interior, as well as a lot of cargo space. However, all is not perfect with the Prius.
The safety scores it got are lower than other, similar vehicles, the driver seat is not very comfortable for tall drivers, and the rear visibility leaves quite a bit to be desired as well. That being said, assuming you can’t get everything for less than $9,000, which is the price point at which you can find a well-maintained 2009 Prius, it’s probably still a pretty decent deal.
#19 Mercury Milan (2007)
Starting at $5,995
Despite the Milan’s sophisticated exterior, its interior is simple and spacious. In fact, you will be surprised at how much space it offers for a sedan.
There’s plenty of cargo space as well, and the Milan is overall a very comfortable vehicle to drive and travel in. But wait, there’s more to it.
The sporty look and feel doesn’t make it look cheap in any way, while it also comes with some of the best safety features of its time.
Finally, what’s even more surprising is that you get all of this for an amazingly low $5,000 to $7,000 price tag.
#20 Lincoln Town Car (2007)
Starting at $7,500
This is another option on this list that asks for a bit of comprise, but offers a lot in return. While it doesn’t have a lot to show on the power front, it does offer a massive trunk. The more important features you get, however, include a quiet cabin, spacious interior, smooth ride, and great safety scores.
On the other hand, some of the important things that are a letdown with the 2007 Town Car are the less-than-desirable braking power and slightly outdated exterior and interior (despite the spaciousness). However, if these things don’t bother you, you probably don’t have much of a reason to not consider the 2007 Lincoln Town Car, which is available for well under $9,000.
#21 Ford Fusion (2009)
Starting at $8,199
The Ford Fusion is another classic model from the 2005–2010 period. Again, the base engine of the 2009 Fusion is a bit disappointing, but you can go for larger engines to find a better match for the pleasantly engaging ride it offers.
Both the rows of the 2009 Fusion offer plenty of space, and safety is definitely not a concern, either. If this is what you’re looking for, you can look for a price range of $8,000 to $9,000.
#22 Suzuki SX4 (2010)
Starting at $9,799
The Suzuki SX4 is not a good option for you if you’re looking for either of power or a good fuel economy. It’s almost disappointing on both these fronts.
However, it’s certainly going to please you if you’re after an attractive exterior. In fact, the many model options the SX4 offers is primarily the reason for its popularity.
However, it also does come with a good few standard features, though they may or may not seem “standard” now that they have been around for so many years. The headroom and reliability, though, are certainly nothing to be worried about with the 2010 SX4.
#23 Mazda MX-5 Miata (2007)
Starting at $9,799
To your surprise, we have another sports car here that you can grab for well under $10,000. However, you don’t get any bells and whistles with this one. Although, it’s a sports car that’s nothing less than what it’s actually supposed to be.
While the lack of ample space and a small trunk are some of the features that aren’t going to please you, it’s a lot of fun to drive around, just as a sports car is expected to be.
Finally, given that you can find a 2007 MX-5 Miata for as low as about $8,000, it seems to offer a decent bang for buck.
#24 Honda Accord LX (2007)
Starting at $7,995
The Honda Accord 2007 offered two engine options, and the initial tests concluded that both of them ensured a solid performance. The comfort of driving is something that gives it a unique edge over some of its competitors.
The interior is pretty comfortable as well with comfortable, spacious seats, and a decent fuel economy makes sure that the 2007 Accord doesn’t leave much to be desired.
#25 Scion xB (2010)
Starting at $7,799
This is one of the more latest vehicle ranking on our list of the best used cars under $10,000. Like many options on this list, however, it has a few pros and cons, too.
As for the pros, it offers a lot of passenger space, comes with many standard features, as well as does well on the safety front. However, some of the not-so-good things about it include a low fuel economy and a lackluster engine. The cargo space, too, isn’t sufficient for a family car, especially when the back seats are occupied. (Article updated on July 26, 2017)