10 Best Values in Used Cars, 2014
Good news for used-car buyers: Desirable trade-ins and vehicles at the end of their lease—especially luxury models—are streaming onto the used-car market, and that means more choices at lower prices.
We picked ten three- and four-year-old vehicles that not only were tops in Kiplinger's rankings for performance, value and safety when they were new, but also get good marks for reliability. (See Sweet Deals on Used Cars for strategies on how to get the best bargain.)
Vehicles have automatic transmissions, unless noted otherwise, and all have standard stability control and front, front-side and head-protecting airbags. Dealer, private-party and certified prices are averages based on actual transactions reported by Kelley Blue Book for previously owned vehicles with 12,000 miles per year.
2011 Honda Civic
- Price when new: $22,765 (EX-L)
- Certified used price: $17,867
- Dealer used price: $17,292
- Private-party price: : $14,792
- MPG (city/hwy): 25/36
“Compact” stopped meaning “cheap” years ago, and that’s especially true for Honda’s reliable Civic. We picked the top trim level, because with its standard stability control, it won a Top Safety Pick award from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The EX-L model comes with heated leather seats and heated door mirrors. Models with navigation include Bluetooth for hands-free phone calls.
2011 Toyota Prius
- Price when new: $23,810 (II)
- Certified used price: $18,272
- Dealer used price: $17,172
- Private-party price: $14,972
- MPG (city/hwy): 51/48
The Prius landed on our Best New Model list after its 2010 redesign, and we named the 2011 Prius Best in Class for its fuel economy (50 miles per gallon in combined city and highway driving) and loads of cargo space. Look for models with a remote-control air conditioning system that draws power from the battery, so you can cool the car before getting in without turning the car on.
2010 Subaru Legacy
- Price when new: $20,690 (2.5i, manual)
- Certified used price: $15,683
- Dealer used price: $14,533
- Private-party price: $12,833
- MPG (city/hwy): 19/27
Standard all-wheel drive with surefooted handling has always been the Subaru hook, but the Legacy, which got a redesign for 2010, proved Subarus could be sexy, too. With sleek exterior lines, high-quality materials grace the interior, and a choice of engines gives you latitude on the power versus fuel economy spectrum. Choose the base 2.5-liter, four-cylinder with 170 horsepower (2.5i models), the six-cylinder with 256 horses (3.6R models) or the turbocharged four-cylinder with 265 horses (2.5GT models).
2011 Toyota Camry
- Price when new: $22,985 (LE, automatic)
- Certified used price: $16,345
- Dealer used price: $14,995
- Private-party price: $13,395
- MPG (city/hwy): 22/32
Toyotas have a longstanding reputation for reliability and, true-to-form, the three-year-old Camry earned the highest ranking in J.D. Power’s Vehicle Dependability Study. Choose among four-cylinder, V6 and hybrid trims (Camry hybrids get 35 miles per gallon on the highway) and look for models with Bluetooth, USB connection for music, moon roof and reclining rear seats.
2011 Mercedes-Benz E-Class Sedan
- Price when new: $50,275 (E350)
- Certified used price: $34,167
- Dealer used price: $32,367
- Private-party price: $29,267
- MPG (city/hwy): 17/25
Among German luxury cars, Mercedes-Benz is the cream of the crop when it comes to safety. The 2010 E-Class redesign brought to the lineup standard Attention Assist, which monitors the driver via steering inputs for signs of drowsiness and alerts you if you need a rest. Other features in the 2011 models include lane-departure warning, blind-spot assist and a collision-warning system that will brake automatically if the warnings are not heeded. Nine airbags come standard, and some models have rear-seat side airbags to bring the total to 11. If the 268 horses on the V6 E350 aren’t enough, check out the E550 (382 hp), the E63 AMG (518) or the efficient E350 BlueTec diesel.
2011 Mitsubishi Outlander
- Price when new: $22,805 (ES)
- Certified used price: $15,509
- Dealer used price: $14,009
- Private-party price: $12,459
- MPG (city/hwy): 23/28
The Outlander is an affordable but sporty crossover, with nimble handling and stop-on-a-dime brakes. The base 2.4-liter, four-cylinder engine (168 hp) can be upgraded to a V6 (230hp), but fuel economy is lower and premium gas is recommended. Need to seat seven? It’s a tight squeeze, but some Outlander models come with a third row.
2010 Lexus RX 350
- Price when new: $38,500 (base model)
- Certified used price: $31,195
- Dealer used price: $29,095
- Private-party price: $25,995
- MPG (city/hwy): 18/25
Looking for luxury plus utility? The Lexus RX gives you a sleek package with a silky smooth ride, plus ample options. Ten airbags, Bluetooth and a nine-speaker sound system are standard. You’ll find models with smart headlights (adaptive front headlights that let you see around curves, plus automatic high beams), collision-warning systems with adaptive cruise control, and head-up display (to see your speed and other data without looking down at the dash). Lexus also sells a hybrid version, the RX 450h. The 2010 RX was the highest-ranked midsize premium crossover/SUV in J.D. Power’s Vehicle Dependability Study.
2010 Mazda CX-9
- Price when new: $29,555 (Sport)
- Certified used price: $19,383
- Dealer used price: $18,183
- Private-party price: $15,983
- MPG (city/hwy): 16/22
Designed for families, the CX-9 crossover’s second row slides fore and aft and reclines for maximum comfort. You can unlatch the seat and move it forward for access to the third row with a single motion. Bluetooth comes standard on the base model; the Touring model adds leather, and the Grand Touring includes a blind-spot monitoring system. When the car was new, options included such desirable features as a power lift gate, rear-seat entertainment system and navigation with a rearview camera.
2011 Acura MDX
- Price when new: $43,815 (base model)
- Certified used price: $30,782
- Dealer used price: $29,182
- Private-party price: $26,682
- MPG (city/hwy): 16/21
Acura’s big crossover has seating for seven, a standard rearview camera and tri-zone climate control. Standard all-wheel drive provides enhanced driver control no matter what the road conditions, and the 3.7-liter V6 has plenty of power, with 300 horses. Built-in convenience features include under-floor storage, a power tailgate and Bluetooth. Look for models with adaptive cruise control, a collision warning system and blind-spot monitoring.
2011 Chevrolet Tahoe
- Price when new: $38,520 (LS)
- Certified used price: $27,799
- Dealer used price: $26,399
- Private-party price: $23,899
- MPG (city/hwy): 15/21
If hauling the soccer team around or a trip to the lake with the boat is on your list of activities, Chevy’s Tahoe can do the job. It seats up to nine (with the optional front-row bench), has 60 cubic feet of cargo space when you remove the third row, and can tow up to 8,500 pounds. All models come with Bluetooth. Look for family-friendly features such as the power fold-and-tumble second row, rear park assist, rearview camera and blind-spot monitoring system. A hybrid is available, but you only get a smidge better mileage and it’ll cost you at least $10,000 more.