Car Buyer Labs

Car Buying Advice, Tips, and Reviews

A black 2022 Honda Civic Si is shown next to a wall with lights after leaving a used car dealer.

Buying on a Budget: The Best Used Cars for Under $10k

Let’s face it, not everyone can buy a brand-new vehicle. It can even be hard to afford one that is just a couple of years old. Getting an auto loan might not be ideal for everyone, and many people still prefer to pay cash. There are a lot of benefits to paying for a used vehicle upfront, from avoiding interest payments to not accruing any debt that could get your car repossessed.

It is entirely possible to buy a great vehicle for under $10k from a reputable used car dealer. In fact, there are some cars, trucks, and SUVs that are known for being the best vehicles to buy for under $10k. While they tend to sell like hotcakes, these automobiles are worth scooping up if you manage to find one in your price range.

One thing you will need to pay attention to while shopping for used vehicles under $10k is their model years. Some model years are indeed better than others, which is why it is crucial to read through some research before making your final decision on what to buy.


First up, we’re going to take a look at a few sedans that offer a lot of reliability and performance––all for under $10k. When you’re trying to make your dollar go further, a sedan is usually your best bet. Plus, they tend to be more fuel-efficient as well. Bear in mind that sedans can come in different sizes, and there might be key features you want on one model that are not available on the others.

Honda Civic

First up, we have the Honda Civic. The best model year you can find for under $10k is the 2013 Civic. With its superb fuel economy and high safety test scores, the 2013 Civic packs a lot of value. The suspension is tuned for comfort, and the interior does not disappoint when it comes to build quality and features. The most affordable trim will be the base-level LX, but if you want to stretch your budget a little, you might be able to find an EX or EX-L model with additional features.

Honda Accord

The Civic’s big sibling, the Honda Accord, is another great used sedan that you can find for under $10k. This midsize sedan is roomy and refined, offering superb ride quality from its well-tuned suspension and capable powertrain. The 2011 Accord was a model year that received many desirable revisions. From the restyled front grille to USB ports and an available backup camera, the 2011 Accord still holds a lot of value. Moreover, this model year even offers slightly better fuel economy than the outgoing lineup.

Toyota Corolla

Another top contender in this segment is the Toyota Corolla. The 2012 Corolla is known for being fuel savvy and having quite a few tech features, including Bluetooth connectivity. The 2012 model was also the first time the base L trim received standard power windows and locks. The 2012 Corolla has a lot of resale value since it is such a durable and dependable vehicle. In terms of reliability, the Corolla is a sedan that is difficult to beat. Is it modest in its design? Yes, but it offers a lot of peace of mind and affordability.


The Mazda3 should not be left out of the discussion of the best sedans for under $10k. The 2012 Mazda 3 is available as a hatchback or sedan, so there are two body styles to choose from. It also saw the addition of the Skyactiv engine, which strikes a good balance between power and fuel economy. The Mazda 3 is a practical vehicle with engaging driving dynamics and an optional manual transmission. It even offers two available engine options. The 2.0L Skyactiv engine delivers up to 32 MPG combined, while the 2.5L engine serves up a solid 167 hp for a fun ride.


Finding a fantastic SUV for sale under $10k might feel like a difficult task since prices can be pretty high. However, there are some used options out there that give you a lot of dependability, spaciousness, and power.

Honda CR-V

If you love Honda but need more space than the Civic and Accord offer, the CR-V might be more your speed. The 2010 CR-V is a stylish crossover SUV with a lot of practicality backing it up. The standard engine delivers 180 hp and provides a fuel economy of 24 MPG combined. Look for the mid-range EX trim level in your search to find a 2010 CR-V. All-wheel drive is available on the EX, and a moonroof is standard equipment––both of which add some value to the SUV. The CR-V has a lot of resale value, too.

A green 2022 Subaru Outback is shown on a path with kayaks on the roof.

Subaru Outback

Subaru is known for making ruggedly athletic vehicles that can be driven for years. With a good fuel economy of up to 27 MPG combined on the 2013 model, the Subaru Outback is a strong choice for drivers craving standard AWD. This vehicle retains a lot of its station wagon vibe, which means you get plenty of cargo space without losing the easygoing driving performance. The 2013 Outback receives high marks on its crash test scores. What’s more, it is an affordable vehicle with a good resale value. You get a lot of utility from this vehicle for years to come.

Chevy Equinox

Small but not cramped, the Chevy Equinox is a small SUV that offers a vast amount of passenger space and a good amount of room for cargo in the rear. The 2013 Equinox can be purchased for under $10k and is easy enough to find for sale. The Equinox’s V6 models can tow up to 3,500 lbs, making it a capable hauler, but the standard four-cylinder engine is more affordable and efficient. Given that the Equinox has good fuel economy, you will not have to worry about this vehicle guzzling gas.


You might not think a great used truck is available for under $10k. However, you can find some excellent options out there that check all the boxes. Just be prepared to shop around, knowing that you will likely have to look at older models.

Ford F-150

The F-150 is a staple of the Ford lineup. This pickup truck is strong and capable of getting the job done. The 2009 F-150 is a used model that can be bought for under $10k, and despite its age, this truck can have a lot of life left in it. With 294 lb-ft of torque on tap from the base 4.6L V8 engine, this truck can tow a hefty load. In fact, you can tow up to 11,100 lbs without needing to upgrade to a more expensive engine option.

Toyota Tacoma

Another option for you is the Toyota Tacoma. The 2006 Tacoma delivers an estimated 21 MPG combined, making it fuel efficient for its segment. But that doesn’t mean this truck is boring––far from it. The Tacoma is known for its reliability, besting many fierce competitors in its class. Small but mighty, this pickup truck can last for years without any major repairs being needed. That reliability means you can safely shop for an older model without worry.

A green 2021 Toyota Tacoma TRD is shown kicking up dust.

Shop Smart, Spend Thrifty

Shop smart and spend thrifty––it’s possible in the world of used vehicles! There are some excellent used vehicles on the market, and they offer you a financially savvy solution to your needs. If you find yourself in a bind and need an affordable vehicle, do not count out the models mentioned above. Each of them is known to be reliable and durable, keeping them circulating for years on the used market. It is never a bad idea to consider some of these vehicles when you go out looking for an affordable used auto under $10k.