Consumer Reports best minivan

Toyota Sienna score in Consumer Reports plunges, no longer top-rated

Buying a preowned car is more than just a great way to save money—it could get you into a model that has safety and luxury features you couldn’t afford in a new car.

We dug through years of test data and hundreds of thousands of survey responses to find the 30 best used cars for under $30, 000. We’ve made it easy for you to find a solid choice: Just determine your budget and choose a vehicle from the list below. Each one performed well in our road tests when it was new and has above-average reliability for the model years shown. In addition, each vehicle has electronic stability control as a standard or optional feature—indicated in the charts under "ESC Opt. From" and "ESC Std. From."

A few years ago, some of these models from a showroom may have set you back $50, 000, but depreciation has made them more attainable. When it comes to savings, used cars not only are less expensive from the get-go but can also cost less in taxes. And surveys show that these models have many years of reliable service still ahead.

Of course, even for used cars we recommend, there can be outliers—maybe a former owner didn’t care much for car maintenance, or there was a problem at the factory the week the car rolled off the line. Before you buy, make sure to pay for a thorough inspection by a certified mechanic so there are no surprises down the road.

The charts below highlight the model years that fall within the various price categories. For space, these are abbreviated, such as "07-11" at $5-$10k for the Honda Fit.

Click on the model names in the charts to learn more.

Honda Fit

This reliable, cleverly designed hatchback offers easy cabin access and an amazing amount of storage room for such a small car. It feels responsive to drive because of its smooth, willing engine and agile handling, though the ride can be choppy and the cabin loud. ESC has been available since 2009 and standard since 2011.

Toyota Corolla

The Corolla lives in the sweet spot of the used-car market because of its practical size, decent performance, and ironclad reliability. The cabin is fairly quiet, and over the years, the Corolla has grown roomier with each redesign. Fuel economy has always been at or near the top of the class. ESC has been standard from 2010.

Honda Accord

The Accord is an excellent used-car choice, offering smooth and fuel-efficient four-cylinder engines, powerful and quiet V6s, and even hybrids. Ride and handling are very good, and the cabin is roomy and comfortable. ESC became standard in 2008.

Lexus ES

The ES continues to do everything well in our tests, no matter the generation. Versions with the V6 are powerful and relatively fuel efficient. The hybrid version, which arrived in 2013, has plenty of zip to go along with its excellent fuel efficiency. Handling is secure, the ride is composed, and the cabin is quiet. ESC has been standard since 2007.

Mazda MX-5 Miata

Zesty performance, nimble handling, and precise steering make the Miata as fun to drive as any sports car available—including those with two or three times as much power. The ride is tolerable, but the constant road and engine noise can get tiring. Still, few cars can put a grin on your face like the Miata. It’s the perfect weekend getaway car.

Toyota Venza

Overlooked and difficult to classify, the Venza straddles the station wagon and SUV worlds. The refined V6 delivers plenty of power and respectable fuel economy. The cabin is easy to access and quiet, with a very roomy rear seat. Handling is secure but agility and ride quality are compromised.

Honda CR-V

The CR-V blends a spirited, fuel-efficient four-cylinder engine with agile handling, a composed ride, and a roomy interior. Road and engine noise are more pronounced than with other small SUVs, but that's our only major gripe.

Toyota Highlander

The Highlander is an excellent used-SUV choice, roomier (a third row is available) and less expensive than its Lexus RX sibling. Fuel economy from the V6 is among the best of all midsized SUVs, and the hybrid version is even better. Both powertrains are smooth, the ride is comfortable, and the roomy cabin features easy-to-use controls.

Honda Ridgeline

The Ridgeline is the sensible pickup truck, with respectable capabilities and a supple, steady ride. Handling is agile, the cabin is roomy, quiet, and easy to get into, and fuel economy is better than any big pickup. Standard ESC is just one more reason to like the Ridgeline. Unless you need the ultimate towing or off-road capabilities of a full-sized pickup truck, go for the Ridgeline.

Editor's Note: This article also appeared in the April 2017 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.

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