Best Used Cars

That signature smell inside the cabin might be nice, but there may be no worse investment than a new car. As we all (should) know by now, every automobile depreciates substantially the minute you drive it off the lot, and that value is never coming back. According to Consumer Reports, the resale potential of that new car you just bought will drop 27% in the first year and it will be worth about half (!!!) what you originally paid in just three year’s time.

The better investment is obvious: Buy used. Fortunately, these days, cars are more reliable and last longer than ever. Yes, there will always be some bad apples in the batch. And all the recalls in the news during the past few years may have you questioning brands you otherwise wouldn’t. But most of those defects have affected a relatively small percentage of makes and models. With a little bit of care, you should be able to shop with confidence and find something you love — at a great price.

There are of course many factors that every buyer needs to consider: overall price, size and capacity, personal needs and vehicle capabilities, model year and mileage, wear and tear, number of owners, distance from home and current availability, and much much more.

What we want to focus on is one thing: value for the money. If you understand your own must-haves and place a priority on value, you should be on the right track to driving in style. The following breakdown looks at some of the best used cars on the market today in this context.

Midsize, Mid-Value Standard: Honda Accord

There is a reason that the Honda Accord has become the poster child for used cars. It just holds up so well — even at high mileage — that few other makes can compare when it comes to durability. Consumer Reports ranks three model years (2013, 2014, and 2015) at the top of its list for the best-value used sedans between $15,000 to $20,000 along with the Lexus ES 2011 and 2012. If you look to Kelley Blue Book, which compares the Accord favorably with the Toyota Camry for overall value, you might even be able to do a bit better (as low as $12,000 to $14,000). “For many years the Honda Accord has been the standard-bearer in the midsize class, and for good reason,” states Kelley Blue Book in its analysis.

Reliable Runner Up: Toyota Corolla

If the Accord is not the first vehicle you think of when it comes to reliable value, the Toyota Corolla probably is. If you’re looking to stay on even more of a budget, Consumer Reports ranks the 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015 models as the best value for the compact car class under $15,000. Adding even further to its wallet-friendly benefits is its fuel efficiency. On top of the good price you are sure to get for a reliable ride, you will be saving at the pump as well. Throw in the roomy comfort and smooth driving, and you will see why it has earned its reputation.

Value SUVs: CR-V, RDX, RAV4 & 4Runner

Need a bit more space or just prefer the style of a small SUV? Well, Japanese reliability still rules the day. The Honda CR-V models from 2008 to 2011 can be had for under $15,000. “This SUV is one of the most popular, thanks to its strong resale value, agile handling, excellent reliability, and fuel-efficient powertrains,” states Consumer Reports. Need something a bit bigger? Opt for an Acura RDX, from 2009 or 2010, and you’ll get a bit more size in the same price range without sacrificing on value. And if you’re ready to pay a bit more, you can still get a ton more miles out of even near-decade old Toyota RAV4s (2011, 2012, 2013) and Toyota 4Runners (2008 and 2009).

Finding Value with Confidence

Many people, even those who can’t really afford it, opt to purchase a new car off the lot simply out of fear that they will wind up with a lemon if they buy secondhand. But these days that isn’t a concern that has to keep you up at night.

One way to protect your investment is through an extended car warranty (or used car service contract) that offers security when it comes to repairs. A range of plans from Protect My Car, for example, can offer different types of assurances depending upon the type of used car you buy. One plan is designed for cars with more than 50,000 miles while another provides protection to an additional 125,000 miles on cars even older than that. And just to cover all the bases, the company also offers an extended warranty that will supplement the manufacturer warranty of a new car purchase if you do go that route.

Given all the good buys to be had and the additional warranty options, buying used simply isn’t nearly as risky as it used to be. There are great cars out there just waiting to be loved by a new owner. From the standard bearer Honda Accords and Toyota Corollas to RAV4s and 4Runners, there is no reason you shouldn’t be the next person to jump behind the wheel of a pre-owned vehicle.