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Top Ten Used Cars Under $10,000

This article was written by in Consumer. 23 comments.

If you have $10,000 available to spend on a car, has suggestions for you with a recent top ten list. Here’s their methodology:

[W]e crunched retail values for late-model used cars and factored in reliability ratings, safety equipment and crash-test scores. Using those criteria, what began as a list of 215 contenders from 2002 onward shrank to 40 finalists. To pare things down further, we solicited our experts for opinions on each car — things like gas mileage, cabin comfort and driving refinement. Finally, we took a hard look at how many of these used cars had key safety features like side-impact airbags and antilock brakes installed.

It seems to me that the list was designed to include the latest model available around $10,000 for each of the brands. Otherwise, we might have seen two different years of the Honda Accord (or, for that matter, of the Ford Focus). Here is the list.

  1. 2005 Ford Focus
  2. 2005 Ford Taurus
  3. 2003 Mazda Protegé
  4. 2003 Mercury Sable
  5. 2002 Buick LeSabre
  6. 2002 Chevrolet Impala
  7. 2002 Ford Windstar
  8. 2002 Honda Accord
  9. 2002 Honda Civic
  10. 2002 Oldsmobile Aurora

Before you go and buy a car based on this list, check Consumer Reports which may provide more information on the quality of these vehicles.

Updated January 12, 2018 and originally published August 7, 2007.

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About the author

Luke Landes is the founder of Consumerism Commentary. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about Luke Landes and follow him on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar 1 Anonymous

I had some many problems with my two year old ford focus, it made me quickly run back to Japanese cars.

I would have a hard time not buying a used honda, toyota or nissan when I go to buy a car for around 4k -5k when mine 1994 Nissan finally goes.

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avatar 2 Anonymous

I think used American cars are the best value. I have a 98 Ford Contour that still runs just fine. Had to fix it a few times, but nothing expensive.

If I buy new, I like Japanese. Generally, I don’t spend more than $25k on a car. I may be lowering that limit soon.

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avatar 3 Anonymous

I’d like to be a witness for a car maker that didn’t make the list: Hyundai. Consumer Reports quite likes them from about 2004 on. I hear the crash results aren’t stellar (good thing I have a short commute and try to do it by car only a couple times per week!).

However I got my 2005 car in 2006, with 15,000 miles on it, for $6k. And it runs great, and gets good gas mileage.

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avatar 4 Anonymous

I agree with the Mazda Protege. I have had mine for over six years and it is a wonderful car. They are a good bargain used, are fun to drive and reliable. Pretty good gas mileage too.

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avatar 5 Anonymous

Given Ford’s recent number of recalls, loss of market share and other issues. The fact that Ford products take the top two spots is surprising to me.

It would be terrific if they were making a comeback, but I’m still skeptical.



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avatar 6 Anonymous

I’m also skeptical about the Fords in the top 2 spots. If Ford was making great cars in 2005, their market share wouldn’t be suffering the way it is today.

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avatar 7 Anonymous

I cannot believe that the ford focus is on the list at #1. My girlfriends well maintained 3 year old focus with 60k miles was falling apart when she traded it in ($14k new and $3.5k trade-in). She tried to keep it going to get more mileage out of it but when the transmission was on its way out and the car had a tendency to stall out every once in a while while on the freeway or on off-ramps. 60k miles in a for focus equals CV joints going out, window quit working, bad tranny, stalling, poor dealer support, broken off interior pieces, and 2 sets of rotors

The ford windstar is also a bad idea as I have had several acquaintances who had them and they were very trouble prone

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avatar 8 Anonymous

My Windstar went 120,000 like a champ. gave it away to a friend who put a grand into it and has been driving it over a year with no troubles. The scary part is how different the reliability is from car to car. That’s what I see as the problem.

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avatar 9 Anonymous

I didn’t have as many problems as your girlfriend, but I had dumped at almost 2k into a 3 year old car. I bought it for 9k and traded for 6k a year later. I got a deal on the trade in(above blue book), be cause Car Sense in PA is a nice company. Even as I traded it in, the engine light was on as the door handles failed to open the doors sometimes.

The whole year cost me almost 5k, although it did allow me to pay cash for that car and the Nissan we got after the Focus. Which was the whole point. I bought the Focus, because lists like this one continually give the Focus good rating even in reliability.

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avatar 10 Anonymous

I have a 2002 Ford Focus that I’ve had for three years. I haven’t had any problems with it (other than replacing a side mirror that some college kid knocked off). My husband has a Ford Ranger. Both of them are still in pretty good shape; I think a deciding factor in the longevity of U.S. cars (Ford, GM, Chrysler) is whether you get an automatic transmission or a manual. All the automatics my family has owned had problems. All the manuals we were able to run into the ground; most of them lasted until their 10th “birthday”, if not longer.

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avatar 11 Anonymous


That is an interesting point about manual vs automatic. My 94 sentra is manual and my junker 2002 focus was automatic, so your theory holds! I will have to take notice of this in the future.

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avatar 12 Anonymous

Hey, my 2000 Focus is in the shop right now. The dealer is looking into whether I get to have the recalled fuel pump replaced or if they will wait until I’m more stranded than we have been lately.

Sticking to Japanese from now on. Oh, and maybe a Saab for me. I dunno.

Fun car reading: beaterreview dot com

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avatar 13 Anonymous

I had an ’02 Focus SVT for all of six months. In that time the brakes needed replacing after a few months(expected wear and tear, but the replacements were far more expensive than they should have been, and this comes from a former Integra Type-R driver), the transmission would regularly stick in second and fourth gear (no mechanic could ever sort out the linkage), the dual-stage intake assembly broke ($900 with labor) and the ECU was “failing”, requiring an almost $4000 full replacement. At that time I bit the bullet and traded it in at a loss (rolled in $3k) for an ’05 Saab 9-2X Aero, which is actually just a rebadged Subaru WRX wagon and reliable as an old boot, to boot. The SVT was a blast to drive and wonderfully practical – when it was running. Otherwise it was the biggest POS I’ve ever owned.
My suggestion – find an unmolested Civic EX or a Protege, or if you’re feeling a little quirky an Impreza or Legacy. Plenty of those for under $10K!

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avatar 14 Anonymous


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avatar 15 Anonymous

Oh please…the Mazda is a maintainence nightmare, the Focus is a disposable car. Buying a used car is a crap shoot and the longevity depends on how the vehicle was driven AND maintained BEFORE you bought it. FWD cars will seldom hold up the way a rear wheel drive car will. Transverse engines, trans-axles and CV joints just don’t take the same abuse that traditional drive trains can. Add to that, the majority of Americans don’t do the most rudimentary routine checks of oil, tire pressure, a/t filters and the result is a bunch of cars that don’t make it long.

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avatar 16 Anonymous

If you read the original article, you will notice that the list is not a “top” 10 in the sense that it is ranked, but merely a list of the 10 best used cars under $10k. Therefore, the Fords are not in the “top 2”, nor are the Hondas in the bottom spots. The numbering on this site is very misleading. In fact, if you look carefully, they are in fact ordered alphabetically by descending year. In addition, the article lists a 2003 Taurus and not a 2005.

It’s best to cut out the middle man, and the confusion: link

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avatar 17 Anonymous

Danke Shoen.

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avatar 18 Anonymous

i hope all of you that are hanging from foreign auto makers, move to there county of origin…..the brain walshed media junky’s who belive quality is coming from across the big water should move across that water…..notice the closings of domestic car plants? very very soon you will be hit by the same sweeping hand of forign investment!!! and all of you who throw the free enterprise flag….lets see if you throw that flag when you cant buy food….its coming!!! america is on a downward spiral becouse of the liberal media brain walshing thats been going on sence the 60’s….open your eyes before its too late!!!!!!! id rather invest in a broke down domestic than invest in a brand new forign auto…..

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avatar 19 Anonymous

What a dork. Your “American” car was made across one border or another and that isnt becuase ppl dont buy American. Look into free trade agreements like NAFTA, Gatt (WTO) or the SPP to find out why domestic plants moved out and set up shop in Mexico.

Heres some food for thought you ignoramus:

“The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is a poorly devised policy that benefits multinational corporations at the expense of U.S. and Mexican workers. NAFTA was approved after the largest, most expensive lobbying effort in history, paid for by less than 100 of the wealthiest multi-national corporations…”

“In reality, NAFTA allows U.S. companies to move their operations to Mexico where they can exploit Mexican workers, take advantage of low wages, lax environmental laws, and government cooperation in settling labor disputes, so that they can sell in the U.S. at a higher profit.”

“Additionally, NAFTA allows multinational companies to avoid U.S. tariffs and standards by establishing operations Mexico, then exporting to the U.S. free of charge.”

GTFO your soapbox and know what you’re talking about before you go babbling and telling ppl to get out of the USA.

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avatar 20 Anonymous

Sorry but GM has been making their stuff in Mexico and Canada for years. GM has plants in China that build the drivetrain for the Chevy Equinox and one other model at present. They have cars that can’t even be considered “North American” because of the Chinese drivetrain. If you can’t get toys from China without getting poisoned or having them break, would you drive a car with parts from there?

Honda, Nissan, Hyundai etc are building their cars in the US with American labor but American auto makers are sending their labor elsewhere and leaving Americans out of work. So, where is their loyalty to their workers now? Chrysler is closing plants here but has things in the works in China, just like GM.

. I have 2 Hondas that were built right here. One has 188,xxx miles and has only had a leaky pan gasket replaced at the shop. I’ve done the regular stuff like brakes & tune up. I still get 30+ mpg on the highway with no problem. My Pilot has over 100K miles and has NEVER had a dealer lift the hood for anything. I expect that both cars should last for years without any major trouble.

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avatar 21 Anonymous

I’m in search of a Cadillac model which I’m not getting from this blog. I think the Cadillac used car will be useful for me for a long journey in the coming winter. Thanks…

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avatar 22 Anonymous

I use Toyota/ Corona/ 1981 till the moment and will keep it as long as I can. Right, I made a lot of repairs, reshapes, but made it go on for the moment and may be for the next five years.
Thanks to Toyota.

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avatar 23 Anonymous

Some of you need to take into consideration that The model years make a huge difference in quality. A 2001 compared to a 2003 MODEL shouldnt be relative. If you owned a 2008 Ford Focus that gave you nothing but trouble, That doesnt necessarily mean the ’05 does. Consumer Reports clarifies this for you when searching for cars.

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