The global COVID-19 pandemic has suckerpunched both the macroeconomic and microeconomic well-being of nations around the world. On the family level, many are having to find ways to scale back costs, and one of those ways is in the family vehicle arena.
For those who had purchased new cars just before the pandemic, the cost of keeping up with repayments, lease payments and more must have been incredibly frustrating, especially since their cars were mostly sitting unused in garages and on driveways. A great number of those people have decided to sell those cars and look for a cheaper alternative.
If you happen to be one of those looking for a cheaper but also high-quality alternative to your previous car in the pandemic, then this is the blog post for you. Below we’re listing the best used cars not just for their price points and depreciation, but also for their quality, reliability and decent style.
The perfect mix would be cars that are very affordable to purchase without finance, and yet still efficient to run, cheap to maintain and at least look the part, too. We think we’ve got the best choices. If you're looking for something zipp-ier, check out our list of the best cheap tuner cars.
Here's Our List for the 8 Best Used Cars to Buy in the Pandemic
1. Mazda3 (2010-2015)
These are the second-generation models of the Mazda3, which greatly improved on the previous generation for reliability and protection for the car from corrosion. That’s great especially if you’re going to be facing another winter ahead and are worried about the effects of road salt.
The Mazda3 has great handling, pleasing interiors that look good but aren’t overly ornate or controversial. It’s also very practical thanks to its hatchback build, large trunk and ample seating space for up to 5.
A Mazda3 from 2010-2015 will likely cost you between $5,000 and $10,000.
When looking to buy, make sure to keep in mind what mileage range makes sense for your purchase.
2. Toyota Prius (2006-2012)
The Toyota Prius is the original hybrid car and the one that set the standard for years that others have had to follow. What you may not know is that far from just saving you huge amounts of money on gas use, the Prius is also a very affordable and reliable car to purchase when you get the right model year. The best model years are from 2006 to 2012. Models up to 2009 are in the second generation, and after that are part of the third generation.
If you want to keep things under $10,000, then you should stick with these generations, but if you have a bit more to spend, especially given the efficiency of the car and the cheapness to run and maintain, you could stretch to the fourth-gen models which are superb value. The 2010 model gets up to 51mpg in the city and 48mpg on the highway.
They’re not the most exciting car, but when value is the name of the game you’ll struggle to do better.
A Toyota Prius from 2006-2012 will likely cost you between $3,500 and $8,995.
3. Honda Fit (2008-2016)
It’s like a mini minivan, but it’s reliable, fuel efficient (up to 31mpg) and can be surprisingly refined if you buy the later versions starting from the 2009-2010 model years. It ticks all the boxes as far as pandemic worry is concerned, however - great value, easy and fun to drive, and a good-enough size for most families.
Some drawbacks include it being noisy on the highway with a bit of a buzz from the engine, and also that it rides on small tires which wear quickly. With even 2016 models coming in at under $10,000, however, it’s really hard to argue with that kind of value.
A Honda Fit from 2008-2016 will likely cost you between $4,900 to $9,990.
4. Acura TSX (2004-2012)
The first- and second-generation TSX models were superb machines with pleasing executive looks, a fun driving experience and an overall premium feel to the interior and exterior features. The main drawback is a small back seat, which obviously isn’t great if you’re looking for a bigger family car.
Acura did add a V6 engine as well as a wagon layout, but they’re rarer and harder to find. The majority you’ll see available are inline-4 sedan cars but still output 201-hp and 170 lb-ft of torque. The models from 2009 to 2012 are a little less sporty, but Acura dialed up the comfort and luxury for those models.
An Acura TSX from 2004-2012 will likely cost you between $4,500 and $9,980.
5. Lexus ES (2007-2012)
When a Toyota Camry just doesn’t have the gravitas that you’re looking for in a high-quality and affordable used car, then you can easily turn to their luxury wing at Lexus. The ES from model years 2007 to 2012 makes an ideal choice, and is a mature choice since the ES had already entered its 5th generation by 2006.
People might think that Lexus is too fancy a name to go in the affordable bracket, but the fact is that their reliability keeps them most affordable. They don’t typically break down so you’ll not be surprised by sudden auto shop bills. They are surprisingly powerful, too, equipped with 272-hp V6 engines.
Their two downsides are fuel economy --- 19mpg in the city and 27 on the highway --- and their somewhat lackluster design. The car won’t bowl anyone over, but it has pleasing executive styling and won’t let you down on reliability.
A Lexus ES from 2007 to 2012 will likely cost you between $4,600 to $9,500.
Photo from - Wikipedia
6. Volkswagen Golf GTI (2010-2014)
Volkswagen’s globally popular hot hatch the Golf and Golf GTI have long captured the hearts and minds of people everywhere. The Golf is great for younger drivers, older drivers, new drivers, experienced drivers, for singles, families and everyone else in between. This really is the everyman car. As “downgrades” go to meet the challenges of the pandemic, a Golf is a pretty nice step down.
The Golf houses a surprisingly powerful 2.5L 5-cylinder gasoline engine, or a torque-strong 2.0L diesel option. They did get caught up in the whole Dieselgate affair, but they were fixed up without losing an iota of their impressive performance capabilities. The higher-end GTI models might take you north of that $10,000 threshold, but if you want the additional performance, it’s well worth it.
For the most part, these are just ideal city cars: easy to park, fuel-efficient (30mpg in the city and 42mpg on the highway), a simple but comfortable interior and more.
A Volkswagen Golf or GTI from 2010-2014 will likely cost you between $4,900 to $10,000, and possibly more for a feature-packed GTI from a model year later than 2014.
Photo from - Wikipedia
7. Mazda6 (2011-2013)
If the Mazda3 hatchback isn’t quite enough car, then you could go for a larger family sedan in the form of the Mazda6. It’s not quite as athletic or dynamic as its predecessor the MazdaSpeed 6, but still does well with its 2.5L 4-cylinder engine outputting some 170-hp.
You won’t compromise on trunk space either, being given quite a generous 14.7 cubic feet in your Mazda6, not to mention a more executive look that’s suitable for white-collar professionals. The model years we recommend here are affordable to buy and also cheaper to run thanks to gas mileage that’s not competing with any hybrid, but not bad for a full-size sedan at 22mpg in the city and 31mpg on the highway.
A Mazda6 from 2011-2013 will likely cost you between $4,900 and $9,999.
8. Nissan Rogue Sport (2017-2018)
Time for an SUV in the list. You might not have thought any SUV from 2017-2018 would make it into our best used cars for affordable pandemic times list but the Nissan Rogue Sport is an exception. It’s a subcompact SUV which means it uses its space and size efficiently, but it’s also Japanese which makes it fuel efficient: 25mpg in the city and 32mpg on the highway.
You’ll have to stretch the budget to max. $15,000 for something like the Rogue Sport, but obviously you do get quite a lot more car for it, and because it’s from a fairly recent model year it comes with a number of pleasing modern conveniences such as daytime running lights, tire pressure monitoring, traction control, rear-view camera, dual-zone climate control, keyless ignition and much more. A Nissan Rogue from 2017-2018 will likely cost you between $14,000 and $15,000.
Conclusion: Options Aplenty
The fact is that you needn’t ever despair and think that getting a budget vehicle to ride out the costs of the pandemic means significantly downgrading. There are many great options out there and this is an age where cars in general are built better than they were in the past.
A car being 10 years old or having 100,000 miles on the clock is nothing like the obstacle it once was. Explore your options and remain open to more brands and marques to get the best results that can meet your needs.