The Most Reliable Used Cars for Under $10,000

If you’ve been around for a while, you know that I am a big fan of Consumer Reports – particularly for their car reliability ratings.  I purchased a 2007 Honda Fit based on it’s very high ratings with them and after 150,000 miles the only issue I’ve had is a few lightbulbs burning out too quickly – not too bad.

Older Honda Civics and Toyotas have always been good choices for reliable (yet still pretty cheap) used cars, but there are really quite a few reliable options out there these days.

In the latest issue of Consumer Reports they had an article that shared a few great choices to consider if you have a budget of $10K, but are still looking for something that is a pretty reliable choice.  Here are some of their findings:

2009 Pontiac Vibe

2009 Pontiac Vibe GT Reliable used car

2008 Hyundai Sonata (4 cyl)

used hyundai sonata

2004 Acura TSX

reliable Acura TSX

2004 RAV4 (4 cyl)

toyota rav4 reliable car



So if you just happening to be shopping for a cheap reliable car, hopefully this will give you a few good ideas to check out.

Any other super-reliable cars that should be added to this list?

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  1. Sharon

    Friends don’t let friends drive Sonatas. I don’t know where CR gets their data but there is a reason Sonatas sell for considerably less $$ than their competition. We have a 2007 model and have had to replace (among other things) the air conditioning system ($800 +) and, of all things, the sun visors ($300). It is a bare bones car with almost no options. The only plus is that it gets great mileage – although that is probably owing to the fact that it is a manual transmission. Never will buy a Hyundai again. Our mechanic says they are a great deal but get rid of them before 100K miles. I think ours has about 80K miles and we are seriously considering unloading it soon.

    • ST

      Wow. That’s a powerful statement.
      I am currently driving a 2004 Nissan Sentra – works great.

  2. Pat

    Where can you buy a any of these cars from for under $ 10,000 I would like the name of the Dealders or Company ,City and State. Thank you

    • rob

      I’m not sure they can get you the info you need on the “Dealders” sorry Buddy.

    • Radin

      Pat, while you can certainly buy from a dealer, but that does NOT guarantee a more reliable car, and you’ll end up paying more for the same car than buying from a private seller. I have had great experiences buying private (2 cars already). You can find private sellers on car buying websites (, or your local newspaper. The *key* is to have the car inspected *before* purchase. For a used car, YOU CANNOT AFFORD TO SKIP THIS STEP, dealer or private. The cost would be $150-$200 and well worth the expense. Look up auto inspectors on yellow pages or the web and read their reviews. These folks are professional and come to the car. Make sure to arrange time with the seller first. If a seller does not agree to inspection, simply thank them and leave. If the inspection reveals big problems (read: accidents, bent frame, etc.), again thank them and leave. If the issues are minor, you can use your findings to negotiate fixing the car before buying, or bringing the price down for that amount. Also make sure to check the CARFAX report, again well worth the money.

  3. Michael

    You mentioned my car at the beginning of the article: Honda Civic. I have a 2003 manual transmission that I was able to buy used with only 55,000 miles on it. And that was two years ago! It’s the barebones DX model and doesn’t even have air conditioning, CD player or antilock brakes. I am around 80K miles now and want to keep it until 150K. Which will probably take me hopefully about 6-7 years.

    • Joseph Lalonde

      Wow, sounds like you were able to snag a gem Michael! An eight year old vehicle with only 55,000 miles on it is almost unheard of now.

  4. Joseph Lalonde

    When buying used vehicles, I tend to go a bit further back than you did in the list and have had excellent luck in picking winners. From a GMC Sonoma that I got rid of right before it hit the 200,000 mile mark to the Ford Ranger I’m quickly approaching 200,000 miles. Aside from little things here and there, they’ve been excellent vehicles.

  5. jim

    Where’s the subaru s/w on this list? We just “donated” our 1992 subaru to a charity after 253,000 miles. It got both our kids thru high school, college and the first year of their jobs after college. Old “Sal” wasn’t too good looking, but she was as reliable as they come – put her in a blizzard – no problem. And she survived all those little accidents first time drivers experience. Other than regular tune ups, we barely put a dime into her maintenance.

    • Rebecca

      I would agree about the Subarus. I drive a 98 Forester with 177k on it. I’ve had to do a few repairs (alternator and other things you’d expect with an older car), and it’s starting to get a little rusty (probably my fault for not washing salt off enough), but it runs like a champ. Love that thing.

  6. Annie

    We have 276,000 mi on a 2001 Nissan Maxima. Still going strong!

  7. Annie

    Oh, and 160,000+ on a 2008 Honda Civic EX. Love it, too! Just do the preventative oil changes, etc. and enjoy your car much longer!

  8. Kimberly Kay

    My 2005 Scion TC manual transmission is a wonderful car. It has 110,000 miles and purrs like a kitten. I have done routine maintenance on it and the up keep is really easy. Other than preventative oil changes, check ups, and the like, this car is amazing!

  9. James

    Where are the Honda Accords? My 2000 Accord SE currently has 254,000 miles on it and runs like a champ. Has had very little repair other than normal wear and tear items.

    • Radin

      I second Honda Accord!! Mine is a 2004 V6 EX model. Bought used w/ 10K mi. In 6 years I have put on another 130K!! Other than the maintenance stuff, the only things I changed are: timing belt and spark plugs at 100K, light bulbs, a window regulator motor (cheap). This car is soooo fun to drive. Sporty suspension is way more fun than Toyota Camry…. If you go for V6, it’s only 2 mpg worse than 4cyl, but LOADS more fun. The EX-V6 is nearly the same as a mid-level Acura: comes w/ 240 HP engine, automatic CLIMATE CONTROL, HEATED SEATS/MIRRORS, SATTELITE RADIO, 6-disc in-dash CD CHANGER, full LEATHER, upgraded alloy wheels. I love this car so much that I’ve made a pact w/ myself not to part with it unless it’s driven to the ground or (God forbid) totaled. The nice thing with a Honda is that they are so reliable, you can buy a higher mileage one and still count on it being relatively hassle-free. And runs great on grade 85 gas, unlike an Acura. Best combo of fun/reliability/utility IMHO.

  10. 216,000 miles and counting on my 1997 Toyota Corolla. Got a couple more rattles than it used to have but then I do too. Still runs like a champ.

  11. Kathleen

    My faithful l996 Toyota Corolla has over 225,000 on it. I love my car!

  12. KDB

    Sometimes you can even go older than those listed and still get a great car. About 2 years ago I got a 1999 Honda Accord for $4,000. It had 140,000 miles when i bought it, and now has over 190,000, and still runs great. It looks pretty good too. No, it doesn’t look like the newer models, and has some “dings”. But I’m not embarrassed at all by the car. It’s great on gas, low taxes & insurance, and I’m hoping it reaches 250,000 miles. So if you have a smaller budget, you can still do well. Just look around online to get an idea of what’s available, then decide what’s most important – mileage, color, 4 dr or 2 dr, etc. Then set your price limit, and keep looking until you find it. Took me a few weeks, but I ended up with a great car.

    • James

      Since I have put 254,000 on my 2000 Honda Accord, it is not unreasonable for you to make it. What I recommend is to abide by the maintence manual recommendations. I actually sent oil samples off to Blackstone Laboratories. From their analysis, I am able to drive 5,000 between oil changes and still have plenty of protection in the oil. Also, don’t buy any transmission flushes. Honda only recommends draining and filling. I know a guy who screwed up his Accord’s transmission by going with a garage’s recommendation for a flush. Also, drive on cruise control as much as possible. That keeps the engine at a constant speed which is good for wear as well as for fuel economy. Lastly, when the car has been sitting for a number of hours, it’s good to give it 30 seconds to get the oil up and lubricating before putting it into gear.

  13. Lesley Bowen

    The best used car is no longer made. I drive a 1989 Volvo 240 Station Wagon, 306,700+ miles. Best car ever made IMHO. Great for hauling dogs to agility trials or moving from apartments. It’ll stash your trash, no problem! I could fold down the backseat and stretch out to sleep in the back if necessary. Excellent car and still one of the safest drives on the road. I love my Volvo, but will have to move down to a Subaru Outback or Forester since the Volvo 240 was last made in 1993.