How to Find the Best Used Cars for Under $10,000

Toyota PriusUsed has become chic, especially when it comes to cars. Trouble is, with everybody clamoring for cheap transportation, demand has risen and pre-owned has gotten pricier, which means you'll have to do a bit of digging to find deals. has made that hunt a little easier with its Best Used Cars Under $10,000 list. What models made the cut and why? Read on:

Fuel Efficient Cars

Winner: 2004 Toyota Prius

In this category, Toyota's (TM) 2004 Prius takes the crown. You get the tech bells and whistles, plus a less painful experience at the gas pump. A used 2004 Prius averages 48 city/45 highway miles per gallon at a price under $10,000, reports Web2Carz.

Luxury Cars

Winner: 2003 Lexus ES300

If you want to get the most for your hard earned cash in the luxury category, it will take some effort, because used luxury cars retain their value better than their stripped-down compact brethren. If you're hoping for luxury, performance and a price tag of less than $10,000, good luck. Remember what features you're looking for in a used luxury car, and weigh the perks against performance and price, recommends Web2Carz.

The ES300 is about stylish comfort, and a smooth ride too It also gets kudos for stand-out safety technology and bragging rights for reliability.

Sports Cars

Winner: 2004 Mazda Miata MX-5

For a used sports car under $10,000, consider this hot little Mazda (MZDAF) -- it moves and grooves with you. The 1.8-liter 4-cylinder engine is fun on quick spins or when you have to go the distance. At highway passing speeds, though, the Miata is alleged to be a bit noisy, says Web2Carz. But you'll not only look good driving a MX-5, you can smile while you do so, because with a fuel economy of 20 mpg city/26 mpg highway, gas prices won't give you a reason to frown.

SUVs and Crossovers

Winner: 2004 Honda CR-V

This Honda (HMC) is ideal if you're on the hunt for a dependable, fuel efficient, drivable, roomy ride. Add on its five-star safety rating and it's easy to see what got the folks at Web2Carz excited. It is equipped with a 2.4-liter, 4-cylinder i-VTEC engine that delivers 160 horsepower. Another plus: the LX versions come in front or all-wheel drive. The 2004 Honda CR-V averages 23 mpg in the city and 28 mpg on the highway.

Compact Trucks

Winner: 2005 Toyota Tacoma

Used Toyota trucks have been extremely popular in the compact class. And why not? They're a hearty lot and reliable -- buy one and it might just outlive you. The Tacoma offers a variety of sizes, and you have your pick of 2- and 4-wheel drive editions. The one negative: You won't be riding in the lap of luxury. This truck offers minimal interior comforts and limited features on the base models.

Full-Size Trucks

Winner: 2007 Ford F-150

Ford's (F) comfort and rugged durability for heavy-duty hauls is a good combination. It's no wonder the Ford F-series has produced America's best selling vehicles for 20 years. A used 2007 Ford F-150 also offers a selection of cab models. The heavier F-150 is no speed demon, though, compared to competitors, and can be sluggish under heavy tow, says Web2Carz.

How to Get the Gems

Okay, so you know what vehicles are worth your $10,000, the issue is how to find them in today's hyper-competitive market for all things cheap and used. To start with, make your mantra patience and persistence.

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Next, widen your gaze. "Be prepared to travel a little further to find that great used car under $10,000. We recommend that online car shoppers increase the search distance/radius from the default setting of 25 miles which is used by most sites to a 50 mile radius," says Alex Bravy, co-founder of "Not only are you more likely to find the car that you are interested in, but car dealers outside of major metropolitan areas are more likely to offer you a better deal on a used car."

Third, contact multiple sellers to increase your bargaining power and keep the price in check.

Unlike new cars, each used car is unique and it has its own history. "Avoid getting blindsided by a great deal and buying a lemon. Request to see a vehicle history report on every car you are interested in. Be very careful if the seller cannot provide you with an official vehicle history report," warns Bravy.

Also, summer is a hot, hot time for buying cars. If you can wait, you might be able to get a better deal in late fall.

Take the time to research the car dealership where you think you've found your "must-have" car. Reading a few consumer reviews can help you avoid a lot of headaches in the future, says Bravy.

Finally, if you're interested in a car which is being offered by a private seller, make sure that you physically visit the seller and test drive the car. Make no assumptions, and don't close your eyes and hope for the best. "Avoid any deals, no matter how great they sound, that involve the shipping of the car or any escrow services," says Bravy.

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