While you always have the option of choosing one of the best new cars under $15,000 out there, savvy buyers would want more bang out of their buck. The huge depreciation of value that a new car is sure to bring with it makes it a not-so-wise deal for them.
If you aren’t aware, a new car may lose as much as a quarter of its value in the first year itself. In another two years, the overall value may be down to just one-third of its original value – which certainly doesn’t make a lot of financial sense.
That said, reliable used cars that are in good condition have a history of offering a great value. However, you just need to be a little careful while buying one, just to make sure it isn’t too demanding as far as its maintenance needs are concerned.
Checking for certification and looking for generous warranties may help you big time in getting around this rather common issue. So let us now cut to the chase and take a look at what seem to be the best used cars under $15,000.
#1 2014 Toyota Camry
If you’re on a tight budget but still don’t want to compromise on the reliability front, you probably can’t go wrong with the Toyota Camry. The 2010-2012 Toyota Camry has been rated as a top used car by Consumer Reports.
As a matter of fact, The Camry is a wildly popular sedan, with over 400,000 units being sold in the US every year since the last four years. This speaks volumes about the kind of reliability you can expect from this modest yet modern sedan.
Another thing that really works in your favor while buying a used Toyota Camry is that for your budget of under $15,000, you can find something as recent as a 2014 version.
Now, you probably won’t be blown away with the Camry if you’re a lover of thrill, but it definitely doesn’t fail to offer you an exciting driving experience. This is especially true if you go for the sleeper-status V6, as it hits the 60 MPH mark on the speedometer in a mere 6 seconds.
However, if you fancy a trade-off between the excitement and fuel economy, the Camry Hybrid is probably what you would want to consider.
#2 2010 Lexus ES 350
The 2010 Lexus ES 350 is not only one of the most reliable used cars out there, but also among the most spacious and comfortable ones. What’s more, it got plenty of power too, making it a really tempting option in the under $15,000 range.
The fifth-generation 2010 version comes with pretty much everything you can ask for in a used car, and probably a bit more. The interior is pretty spacious and comfortable, the reliability is top notch, and of course, the V6 engine’s power is something that’s not matched by many.
On top of this all, you also get a great bargain, as the brand new 2017 costs a little under $40,000. This means you’re saving big by opting for the used 2010 version, which is certainly a wise option given that reliability isn’t a concern in the slightest.
#3 2013 Chevrolet Malibu
If you’re looking for luxury and glamour, go elsewhere – the 2013 Chevrolet Malibu is not for you. However, if you would take rock-solid reliability over a great design any day of the week, the 2013 Malibu is going to hit the spot for you.
It received the prestigious J.D. Power’s Dependability Award in 2016, which certainly makes it one of the most reliable used cars in the midsize sedan segment.
It’s worth noting that regardless of what you’re looking for, the 2013 Malibu is going to impress you. What we mean is that you have the option of going for the speed monster turbocharged 2.0-liter engine, or the fuel efficient Malibu Eco. It’s rather rare to get exactly what you’re looking for while going for a used car, especially when you’re on a strict budget.
Finally, let us tell you that the search for a good 2013 Malibu – whether the turbocharged or Eco version – is going to be easier than you think. There seem to be plenty of them on the market that are available in pretty good condition, but are still priced well under $15,000.
#4 2011 Toyota Sienna
Experts think the Sienna is one of the best used vehicles to buy in the minivan segment, especially if $15,000 is all you can spend. It’s specifically known for its exceptional dependability, which is certainly hard to come by when it comes to minivans.
The 2011 model of the Toyota Sienna had been redesigned to offer two options – a 2.7-liter engine and a 3.5-liter V6. It goes without saying that you would want to opt for the latter if you can find one in good condition for your budget.
However, something that you would want to be careful about is the condition of the sliding doors and tailgate, as they are often found to have issues.
If you’re not in a hurry, however, you may want to keep searching till you find an all-wheel-drive model, as it’s the absolute best you can get for your budget. It’s believed to work as good as an SUV in snowy climates which is a great plus.
#5 2009 Infiniti G35
The 2007 Infiniti G35 featured in Consumer Reports’ list of the best used cars under $15,000. This really does come off as a bit of surprise as it’s almost 10 years old now.
However, Consumer Reports makes it clear why the G35 features alongside some of the much more recent options, saying that it’s “a terrific sports sedan.” Now, this is really good news for you if you have a budget of $15,000, as you can actually find a 2009 G35 instead of a 2007 model.
In fact, you don’t even have to search hard enough for a 2009 G35 or G37 that’s in great condition. And while the sporty look and feel is definitely not something you can overlook, the G35 is just as reliable as some of the other picks on this list.
Regardless of whether you opt for a G35 or G37, you would get something that comes with an all-wheel drive, rear-wheel-drive layout, as well as a front engine. And any post-2008 model would also get you a mammoth 328-horsepower V8 engine, paired to a manual 6-speed or automatic 7-speed transmission. This is well beyond what many other used sedans under $15,000 offer.
However, let us also tell you that while an automatic transmission G-series is going to be an easy find, the same cannot be said about one with manual transmission. There don’t seem to be many of them on sale out there, especially at this price point.
#6 2013 Toyota Prius
First things first, you’re actually lucky to have the option of getting a 2013 Prius for under $15,000. It was rated as a “hard to beat” car in the under $20,000 category by Consumer Reports, but the price has since went downhill thanks to a drop in gasoline prices, which makes some of its competitors more affordable options.
It also received the J.D. Power Compact Multi-Purpose Dependability Award, so it can certainly boast of quite a few achievements. Surprisingly, however, you can still find 2013 Prius in abundance on the market for well under $15,000. Some experts believe that it’s probably a matter of time before this price shoots up, as gasoline prices aren’t expected to stay modest for a long time.
As the 2013 Prius is a hybrid car with a Hybrid Synergy drivetrain, it offers a fuel economy that is – as Consumer Report puts it – hard to beat.
#7 2008 Chevrolet Tahoe
Surprised to see an SUV on this list? Well, yes, typically SUVs are expensive, even as used cars, so finding something decent at our target price is quite a task. However, if you’re willing to go as back as 2008, the 2008 Chevrolet Tahoe is waiting for you, with its top-notch dependability, excellent value and an amazing amount of power.
One of the most important reasons you may want to consider an SUV over other types of used vehicles is that it’s usually more reliable and offers a much better value in the long term. This is especially true if you manage to get a hold of something like a Tahoe, as most of them would come with an exceptionally powerful V8 engine.
#8 2011 Honda CR-V
This is another SUV that you can consider if: you’re on a tight budget, and, you want to go for a more recent model. However, you would want to note that the 2011 Honda CR-V is a small SUV, but it’s quite a dependable one all the same. If you can search hard enough, though, you may even manage to find a 2012 model for about the same price.
One of the better things about the CR-V is that unlike many other options on this list, finding a model that comes with manual transmission isn’t going to be hard at all. It comes with a 2.4-liter engine that gives out 180 horsepower.
Now, while the engine power isn’t the best you can find even in this price range, the apparently better combination of power and reliability the 2011 Honda CR-V come with helps it have a slight edge over many of its competitors.
#9 Toyota Land Cruiser (1990s)
Now, before we even begin to talk about this one, let us tell you that you will have to make a BIG compromise as far as the model year is concerned. You obviously can’t expect a very recent version of this beast of an SUV to be available for as cheap as $15,000.
With that out of the way, you could still expect pretty much the best in terms of dependability in this price range, even when compared to other SUVs on this list. Another important thing to note here is that the Land Cruiser has a history of holding its resale value, which is precisely why you’re looking at a 90s model even when you’re on a decent budget of $15,000.
The Land Cruiser sports a V8 engine, a super strong body, and off-road capabilities that would give even some of the toughest SUVs out there a run for their money.
If you’re sold on it, you would want to look for a Land Cruiser with less than 200,000 miles in driving. Also, be careful while going for a vintage model, they are considerably more prone to issues such as rusting.
#10 2004 Honda S2000
First things first, the 2004 Honda S2000 isn’t for everyone. If, and only IF, you’re all about a fun ride and a funky style, should you consider the 2004 S2000.
With that said, you probably wouldn’t get a better bang for your buck when it comes to rear-wheel drive roadsters. And then there’s also the fact that the S2000 is arguably one of the greatest sports cars to have ever been put on the road.
If you think it does fit the bill well for you, you can go and get yourself a second generation (AP2) 2002-2009 model. The AP2s are considerably better in terms of power and drive quality. The S2000 only comes with a manual transmission, but it would likely make you forget the rest.
#11 2011 Nissan Maxima
The 2011 Nissan Maxima is one of the few economical vehicles out there that offer the best of both worlds: performance and luxury. It brings pretty much everything to the table that you can expect in a used, affordable sedan – power, spaciousness and style.
The V6 engine offers plenty of power, the four-door interior is comfortable and roomy, the drive quality is smooth and enjoyable, and then there’s also the sporty look and feel.
You would, however, want to avoid the vintage models, as they typically come with more issues and may be a hassle to own and maintain.
#12 2014 Hyundai Sonata
The Hyundai Sonata is one of the most unique vehicles on this list. It’s attractive, it’s efficient, and the features it offers for the price simply sets it apart from its competitors. In fact, some experts go on to say that it has virtually no competitors in the affordable midsize car segment.
And if that wasn’t enough, you can find a model as recent as 2014 for well under $15,000. You would also be pleased to know that it manages to get around most of the typical maintenance issues many used cars encounter, and offers a reasonably trouble-free operation.
With a 190 horsepower 2.4-liter engine and a decent fuel economy, we wonder whether you can expect anything more for what you’re willing to spend.
#13 2012 Honda Odyssey
If it wasn’t already difficult enough to choose a used vehicle given all the great options on this list, we now also have the 2012 Honda Odyssey. If you’re looking for a used family car, the Odyssey is undoubtedly a very tempting option.
It ends up scoring top scores on pretty much all fronts, ranging from efficiency to functionality to the safety and strength as well. There’s no shortage of advanced features, either.
It comes with a system that somehow manages to offer a perfect balance of fuel efficiency and power. The 3.5-liter V6 engine is certainly a bargain at this price point, even for a used vehicle.
However, it also requires period maintenance, so that may add to the overall ownership costs.
#14 2014 Chevrolet Impala
The 2014 Impala is going to be particularly appealing to those who think that it’s only fair to get both a great fuel economy and a decent level of comfort at this price point. It offers a considerably better fuel economy than most American cars, despite the relatively powerful 3.6-liter V6.
There are some issues you would want to look out for before buying a used Impala, though. Some of the common ones include issues related to the hub bearing and ABS. Oil leakage issues aren’t very uncommon, too.
But if you manage to get an Impala you’re sure isn’t dealing with these issues, you’re probably good to go.
#15 2011 Toyota RAV4
The 2011 Toyota RAV4 has so much to offer that it’s really overwhelming. First, it’s an almost mid-size sporty vehicle that offers the kind of performance and ride quality a high-end car would. Second, it’s very fuel efficient, with the handling not leaving anything to be desired as well. Third, and perhaps the more important, it offers a four-wheel drive and a lot of space.
You shouldn’t be surprised if it manages to let in as many as seven passengers, though the more recent models don’t seem to be as generous with their spaciousness. The cargo storage usually wouldn’t be a problem as well. The 3.5-liter V6 offers a surprisingly good mileage.
The maintenance needs, too, seem to be on the lower side when compared to many other used vehicles out there.