It’s no secret that used-car prices have gone through the roof. You have to work harder these days to find a good buy on a safe, reliable used car. But good cars still exist that can fit your budget. To help your search, we poured over Cars.com’s listings to find a selection of solid vehicles for a $15,000 budget, but tap the links below to see our picks if you’re on a $10,000 or $20,000 budget.
We included a variety of vehicles that can meet different needs and tastes — be it a car, truck, SUV or minivan — avoiding anything before the 2012 model year, as such examples are likely to have higher mileage and more mechanical problems. Some of our candidates offer sportier driving, more tech or a fancier interior, but all meet specific criteria to qualify for our list. First, Cars.com editors have judged them to be good vehicles for the years in question. They also all have respectable reliability scores in U.S. Vehicle Dependability studies by analytics company J.D. Power. And they all have no red flags for their day from crash tests by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
Then comes the hard part, given that the federal government’s inflation report in June showed vehicle prices up 30% from the same period a year prior. Cars.com analyzed thousands of used-car listings as of June to identify vehicles that meet these criteria but also have a median price of about $15,000 — half of all used examples priced above the mark and half below — so you should be able to get one for about that much.
Unless noted otherwise, the listings below include all body styles and powertrains offered in those years. If you tap the link to each vehicle’s model years, details and reviews, you’ll see complete data on trim levels and features you might find while shopping.
Here are our safe and reliable choices for around $15,000, listed by type. Of note, our listed EPA mileage comes after revisions the agency issued in early 2016 that may affect stated mileage as far back as 2011. As such, figures on certain older cars below may not align with original window-sticker mileage.