Depreciation may be the bane of new-car buyers, but it’s also the reason so many shoppers buy used. We scoured our annual Edmunds New Car Buying Guides from years past to see what cars we loved back in the day can now be had for $15,000 or less. For each vehicle, we’ve provided a range of years offering the best selection and value. In certain cases, getting an even older model is a viable option, too.
The 2013-2015 Honda Civic is a great place to begin our list. We didn’t like this generation Civic much when it came out for 2011, but Honda improved it dramatically by 2013. It’s spacious and easy to live with, and it offers quite a few technology options. It’s also available as a fuel-sipping hybrid or as the fun-to-drive 205-horsepower Civic Si.
For more luxurious comfort and safety, check out the 2011-2014 Volvo S60 sedan and the V60 wagon. This Volvo has front seats perfect for long hauls, and the available engines are surprisingly peppy. If you value performance over practicality, try the 2009-2012 BMW 1 Series. It never sold in big numbers, but this littlest BMW provides lots of fun in either coupe or convertible guise.
Finally, the 2011-2014 Volkswagen GTI combines fun with hatchback practicality. The GTI has always been one of our favorites thanks to its refined driving experience and near-luxury interior.
The 2011-2014 Cadillac CTS marked a turning point for Cadillac, challenging European competitors with its quality, comfort and driving precision. Look for CTS models with the 3.6-liter direct-injected V6, which puts out 304 horsepower without sacrificing fuel economy.
The 2011-2014 Acura TSX is a good all-arounder that didn’t stand out from the crowd when new. But for under $15,000, it makes a compelling alternative to a used Accord. Look for one with the Ttechnology package to get the rearview camera and upgraded sound and navigation systems.
For something a little newer, try the 2014-2016 Mazda 6. Like many Mazdas, a used Mazda 6 can be a little hard to find, but its handling is among the best in the class. An upscale interior, plenty of backseat room, and an easy-to-use technology interface round out the appeal of this late-model midsize car.
The safe bet for used SUVs is the 2012-2016 Honda CR-V. It’s a practical, reliable compact SUV, if not the most exciting to drive. In 2015, the CR-V was updated with a more fuel-efficient engine. We also recommend the 2013-2015 Mazda CX-5 , especially in Touring or Grand Touring trim. The CX-5 has an upscale interior and excellent handling, returns good fuel economy, and is just as practical as competitors.
If you want a three-row crossover, check out the 2009-2012 Ford Flex with its distinctive big-wagon styling. It’s one of the better-driving three-rows, with an available turbocharged V6 engine, lots of passenger space and cross-country roadtrip-worthy comfort. Another solid option is the 2010-2015 Mazda CX-9. Its athletic road manners are complemented by comfortable seats, three usable rows and plenty of cargo capacity. Just note that its crash safety scores weren’t the best.
There’s no shortage of Toyota Priuses around, but we prefer the 2012-2015 Toyota Camry Hybrid. It provides reasonable acceleration for a hybrid, along with a comfortable interior and ride, and it returns about 40 mpg. It’s not quite as efficient as the Prius, but it’s nicer to live with day to day.
We’re going to break one of our rules for this next one: We never featured the 2011-2015 Lexus CT 200h in an Edmunds Buying Guide, but it’s a great used pick. New, it fell short of its promise of being a sporty hybrid, but as a Prius alternative it’s an appealing proposition. It’s more luxurious and better to drive and returns 42 mpg in combined (city and highway) driving.
Trucks and vans
While there is no end of old Ford F-150s and Chevrolet Silverados available, our pick has to be the 2007-2013 Toyota Tundra. This rugged, durable truck offers a burly V8 that can tow up to 10,000 pounds. Unless you’re a patient bargain hunter, you might have to opt for a slightly higher-mileage Tundra, but we think the extra miles are worth it for such a capable truck. Buyers looking for something smaller should check out the Tundra’s popular little brother, the Tacoma.
If you need to haul people rather than bricks, the 2011-2013 Honda Odyssey is your best bet. Compared to its predecessor, the redesigned 2011 Odyssey sports more interior space and offers more upgrades including a premium stereo, chilled storage box and rear-seat entertainment system. Pre-2011 Odysseys are great choices, too.
No matter which vehicle you choose, remember to do your research to make sure you’re getting the best used car for your money. You’ll be able to find some cars on our list with certified pre-owned warranties, but checking vehicle history reports and having an independent inspection done will give you added peace of mind.
This story was provided to The Associated Press by the automotive website Edmunds. Will Kaufman is an associate staff writer at Edmunds: Instagram @didntreadthestyleguide