There are plenty of new cars under $15,000 but not plenty for $12K. As such, buying a used car is a much better investment. A good thing is that there are many, a few years old cars under $12,000 worth considering. Keep in mind that hybrids with high mileage should be avoided. If you have to replace the battery, it will cost you almost as the price of that vehicle! Only choose hybrids with as low mileage as possible. But, with our help, you can get the best-used cars for $12K or even less, cars which are reliable and offer great capabilities. The key is in the reliability, so we will rate them accordingly.
1. 2012 Toyota Corolla ($12,000) | Reliability: 5 Stars
This model is one of the cars under $12,000 that is the wisest investment. As most Toyotas, it is incredibly reliable and it will last for many years to come. 1.8L engine with 132HP and manual transmission is the best option. It will do 26/34 mpg which is above the average. Obviously, it is available only with front-wheel drive.
Inside you get decent quality and plenty of features, but nothing too much. It is a comfortable car that is easy to drive in cities and on highways. Make sure to invest some time in searching for a well-preserved unit, with a low mileage. If you find it, you will get a vehicle that will last longer than some brand new cars!
2. 2012 Scion xD ($11,000) | Reliability: 5 Stars
Scion xD is a small car that is extremely reliable, so we liked it. In a matter of fact, it has some of the highest reliability ratings in the market right now. Besides this advantage, it is also fuel efficient and it will do 27/33 mpg, with a 128HP engine. You can choose between two trims, but both of them are very similar. Front-wheel drive and automatic transmission are standard.
This car is small, practical and it is easy to maneuver. Maintenance is affordable as well, so it can be an ideal vehicle for new drivers. The only drawback is the lack of cargo space, but it is normal for cars of this range.
3. 2010 Toyota Prius $12,000 | Reliability: 5/5 Stars
This is a well-known hybrid car, so choose it wisely. Only units with very low mileage should be considered. If you find one with a recently replaced battery, it would be the best car here. 51/48 mpg fuel economy is the main advantage of Prius. You get 98HP, front wheel drive and an automatic transmission.
Cargo space is above the average and the quality of the interior is superb. Standard equipment includes power windows, 7 airbags, ABS and 4-speaker system. Additionally, you can get better stereo, leather, and navigation. Model for 2010 was fully redesigned.
4. 2012 Toyota Yaris $11,000 | Reliability: 5 Stars
Toyota Yaris is another car that is worth of your time even as used vehicle. It is small, practical and very reliable, no matter how you drive it. 30/38 mpg is outstanding result thanks to the 106HP engine and automatic transmission. Front wheel drive is the only option here.
Manual transmission is available as well and it may be even more affordable. The bottom line that this is a city car that offers a lot, but only if you don’t look for something extraordinary. Interior is simple and modern, seats are cozy and soft and comfort is typical for small cars.
5. 2011 Honda Civic ($12,000) | Reliability: 4.8/5 Stars
This model is outstanding if we consider the dimensions, a variety of engines and the fuel consumption for the price. Add the fact it is reliable and we get one of great cars under $12,000. Choose a version with 1.8L engine and 140HP. It is more affordable and more economical than other versions. The fuel consumption is 26/34 mpg. Front wheel drive and automatic transmission are standard and highly desirable.
The 2012 model was redesigned, so it is significantly more expensive, but it offers similar platform and features. That’s why most drivers prefer this model specifically. Beside roomy interior and large boot, this car offers a smooth ride on all terrains. Maintenance may be slightly more expensive than its rivals have, but it is still within acceptable range.
6. 2013 Nissan Versa ($11,800) | Reliability: 4.7/5 Stars
If a design isn’t crucial for you and you are looking for a suitable used car for the daily commute, Versa is the model to choose. This version has been slightly improved, by improving the CVT transmission and offering all-new 4 gear automatic gearbox (which should be your priority). 1.6L engine with 109HP will do 31/40 mpg and it is revy making it great for city drives. On the other hand, it is slightly underpowered for highway drives.
Front-wheel drive is standard and there are no other versions available. We also liked this model due to the fact it comes with excellent cargo space, room inside and with basic, but essential features. Audio, AC and rear-view camera are standard.
7. 2013 Scion iQ ($11,500) | Reliability: 4.6/5 Stars
Scion iQ is a great small car known for superb reliability and high overall score. Maintenance is more than just affordable and fuel efficiency is one of the best you can get. Obviously, this is a city car, so don’t expect too much from it. The fuel economy is 36/37 mpg and even if you rev the engine most of the ride, you won’t get higher ratings.
Space inside is typical for city cars. Rear seats are for children only and there is low of cargo space. On the other hand, we have a 94HP engine which does a decent job delivering acceleration and performance. The suspension is also an advantage of this car. All of you looking for newer city car will be satisfied with iQ.
8. 2011 Honda CR-Z ($11,500) | Reliability: 4/5 Stars
CR-Z is a sports hybrid car. It is known for impressive performances, if we take into consideration the price and the specs. 122HP engine and electric motor will achieve 35/39 mpg even if you drive it on a track. This fuel consumption is only achievable if you get the version with automatic transmission. Anyway, a model for 2011 was completely redesigned, so it still looks fresh and better than most of equivalent cars.
Inside, there is space for 2 passengers. USB, ABS, power steering and power windows were standard, while Bluetooth and navigation were optional extras. Interior is modern and offers high-quality, but don’t expect too much from it. The last, but not least important advantage is the cargo space, which is better than most models from the class have.
9. 2013 Hyundai Accent ($11,500) | Reliability: 3.5/5 Stars
Accent is the appealing car you can get for this amount of money. It offers looks that will stay attractive for many years to come, the interior shares the same passion and it is reliable. In fact, it is one of more reliable vehicles from this year. Choosing a model with a sunroof, AC, satellite radio, and stereo is recommended. Doing so will mean you get one of cars under $12,000 that looks better than newer vehicles.
138HP and front-wheel drive are standard. The suspension makes ride comfortable but allows you a glimpse of a sporty ride. The engine is only 1.6L, but it is revvy and it delivers plenty of power when you needed. Of course, don’t expect some impressive accelerations. Manual transmission is preferable and with all of this, you can expect 28/37 mpg. In addition, the cargo space is excellent.
10. 2009 Volkswagen GTI ($10,500) | Reliability: 3/5 Stars
Golf GTI is one of the best hot hatchbacks you can possibly get nowadays. It was and it remains an absolute leader in the class. However, brand new models are expensive, so for less than $12,000, you can only get a used GTI. Model from 2009 is the choice to make. Engine is 2.0L, 4 cylinders, turbocharged unit and it will deliver 200HP. Sent to the front wheels through a manual transmission, car is overall suitable for a rough ride.
Brakes and suspension are port-focused, so the car won’t be very comfortable but it will handle and stop much better than most of its rivals. Inside, you get quality audio system, radio, power windows and etc. Look for optional extras such as leather steering wheel, leather seats, and heated seats.
11. 2009 MINI Cooper ($12,000) | Reliability: 3/5 Stars
MINI made in 2009 is one of the best cars under $12,000 but only if you manage to find a well-preserved unit. Due to originality and quality, these cars usually reach higher prices, so you will have to be patient and to know which version to look for. Version with 118HP and 28/36 mpg fuel economy is the most affordable and most economical, so we will recommend it.
If you like the car and you want more power, John Cooper Works with 208HP is available. Then, you will get a sports car rather than a small hatchback. Inside, AC, 6-speaker system and power features are standard. Navigation and Bluetooth are optional extras. Most owners claim that it comes with plenty of features and equipment inside, incorporated into the unique interior of a vehicle.
12. 2009 Pontiac G5 ($10,000) | Reliability: 3/5 Stars
We liked this model due to the fact it comes with a mixture of a great design and practicality. Among cars under $12,000 that have the potential for tuning and to be used as everyday vehicles, G5 is truly an amazing investment. The engine is 2.2L, with 155HP and it will do 25/37 mpg. Safety rating is also one of the best in this price range, so is the number of features inside.
Standard features include a stereo system, power windows, AC, keyless entry and etc. Look for included optional extras such as ABS, larger wheels and cruise control. Advantages of this model are large trunk and great fuel economy.
13. 2011 Volkswagen Jetta ($12,000) | Reliability: 3/5 Stars
Spacious interior and superb ride quality are just some of the advantages this car has to offer. In general, it is a decent vehicle, which is affordable, yet practical. Space inside is more than sufficient and it made this one of the best cars under $12,000. Fuel economy with TDI engine is 30/42 mpg and safety ratings are above the average.
Chose 2.0L, with 115HP or 2.5L with 150HP in order to get the best match of fuel consumption and performance. Most of the features, standard for Golf and cars from this segment are included but pay attention to the navigation and better wheels. They can make this car much better. Additional facts we must mention is a cost to own, which is above the average as well and larger trunk than most of the cars from this class.
14. 2011 Suzuki SX 4 ($10,000) | Reliability: 2.8/5 Stars
Suzuki SX 4 has been known as one of great cars for the money. It is affordable, but yet offers the average performances and great design. Space inside is also an advantage, so is the cargo space. 6-speed manual transmission, with front wheel drive and the 2.0L engine, is highly recommended. Still, you can expect around 23/33 mpg.
Additional features include ABS, several airbags, day lights, child lock, and power steering. Because it is possible to find one for less than $8K, we must say that among all, cars on the list, SX 4 is one of the best cars under $12,000 with these specifications.
15. 2012 Ford Focus ($12,000) | Reliability: 2.7/5 Stars
Ford Focus, a model for the year 2012, more precise was completely redesigned, so you will actually get a car that still looks appealing. Available as sedan and a hatchback, this vehicle is a common used car that most people buy right now. Even older models are appreciated and commonly chosen today.
Fuel consumption of 28/40 mpg is outstanding and it comes from 160HP, 2.0L engine. Manual transmission and front-wheel drive make it easy to drive, but the suspension and brakes are better than competitor models have, so rough ride is definitely an option. For the end, this is one of the cars under $12,000 that will soon be even more affordable but still, offer great advantages.
All of the cars under $12,000 on the list have advantages we prefer and all of them are reasonably reliable, which made them suitable for purchases as used vehicles. They are still cars of the newer generation, so don’t expect a lack of features and obsolete design.