Bargains in used cars are tougher to find. A dip in new-car sales and leases during the Great Recession means fewer three- and four-year-old used cars are entering the market. Plus, in the wake of the recession, buyers turned to used cars in a big way, tightening supply even more.
We picked ten vehicles -- five sedans, three crossovers, a wagon and a minivan -- that received top scores in Kiplinger's rankings for performance, value and safety, plus got high marks for reliability. We didn't pick super-fuel-efficient models, such as the Toyota Prius, because prices have soared to stratospheric levels. If you're in the market for a small car with high fuel-economy numbers, do the math and see whether a new model is a better value. For tips on finding bargains, check out our article on how to get the best deal on a used car.
Dealer and private-party prices are based on actual transactions reported by Edmunds.com for previously owned vehicles considered to be in "clean" condition and driven an average of 12,000 miles a year. We also include the certified used price of each vehicle, based on actual sales. Certified vehicles pass a rigorous inspection and include a warranty that goes beyond the car's original warranty.
2008 Hyundai Sonata GLS
Price when new: $19,545 (automatic)
Dealer used price: $9,902
Private-party price: $8,731
Certified used price: $11,480
MPG (city/hwy): 21/30
Hyundai's Sonata offers a thrifty 2.4-liter engine, standard stability control and six airbags. Plus, it keeps ownership costs low -- the brand's five-year/60,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty and five years of no-charge roadside assistance transfer to new owners, as does the 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty.
2009 Subaru Impreza 2.5i sedan
Subaru Price when new: $18,190
Dealer used price: $12,191
Private-party price: $10,967
Certified used price: $12,859
MPG (city/hwy): 20/27
Engaging driving dynamics and Subaru's always-standard all-wheel drive are only part of the Impreza's appeal. It garnered a Top Safety Pick from the IIHS and has side and side-curtain airbags. If a collision causes the front airbags to deploy, smart technology protects the driver and front-seat passenger. Sensors measure the driver's proximity to the steering wheel, as well as the passenger's weight (to determine whether a child or an adult is occupying the seat), and adjust the airbags' force accordingly.
2009 Chevrolet Malibu 1LT
Chevrolet Price when new: $23,225
Dealer used price: $13,114
Private-party price: $11,937
Certified used price: $14,141
MPG (city/hwy): 22/33
With its 2008 redesign, the Malibu garnered a lot of accolades: Kiplinger's Best New Car and Best in Class awards were just a cherry topping to the industry's prestigious North American Car of the Year award. But to play it safe, we recommend buying a redesigned vehicle in the second year of production -- the first year's examples often have kinks to work out. For 2009, stability control became standard across the trim lineup, along with side and side-curtain airbags.
2009 Nissan Rogue S
Nissan Price when new: $21,020
Dealer used price: $14,971
Private-party price: $13,435
Certified used price: $16,123
MPG (city/hwy): 22/27
After a 2008 redesign, when we named it Best New Small Crossover, the Rogue ascended to Kiplinger's Best in Class award for 2009. Its stylish exterior complements the value it holds inside -- including a peppy 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, stability and traction control, and six airbags. Plus, it was rated a Top Safety Pick by the IIHS.
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