14 almost-new (used) cars you can find right now for under $20,000


Used-car bargains.

Some might suggest used vehicles are all bargains – a way for shoppers to get more car, truck or SUV for their money than buying a new one for the same price.

But not all bargains are created equally, especially if a shopper is looking for something under the average used-vehicle transaction price of $19,657.

In this case, depreciation is not a four-letter word as it is with a new car.

Photo credit: Ford Motor Co. via Newspress USA
The 2015 Ford Focus is second on our list of 14 best bargains under $20,000.

In a study of 4.1 million sales of three-year-old, “almost new” vehicles, iSeeCars.com, a data and research company, identified “best bargains” that depreciated the most relative to other vehicles in their categories, resulting in prices under $20,000.

“While the average vehicle depreciates 35 percent after three years, these highest-depreciating vehicles lose between 46 percent and 52 percent of their value,” reported iSeeCars.com, “resulting in significant savings for consumers opting to buy a three-year-old vehicle in favor of a new one.”

The list we compiled from the iSeeCars.com data comprised a dozen bargain cars and two bargain SUVs.

But in this case, “bargain” does not equate to being cheap, as all 14 vehicles have safety ratings of 5/5 by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Here are the 14 vehicles under $20,000 identified as the best bargains from least to most expensive, followed by the depreciation rate compared to 35 percent category averages:

  1. Kia Forte – $11,545 – 45.4 percent (7)
  2. Ford Focus – $12,061 – 45.7 percent (6)
  3. Dodge Dart – $12,420 – 44.6 percent (9)
  4. Volkswagen Jetta – $13,157 – 48.1 percent (4)
  5. Chrysler 200 – $14,011 – 48.4 percent (3)
  6. Nissan Altima – $14,292 – 44.3 percent (12)
  7. Chevrolet Malibu – $14,370 – 44.5 percent (10)
  8. Volkswagen Passat – $14,906 – 50.7 percent (1)
  9. Ford Fusion – $14,920 – 44.4 percent (11)
  10. Mazda 6 – $15,732 – 44.5 percent (5)
  11. Kia Sorento* – $17,939 – 42.9 percent (13)
  12. Buick Encore* – $17,003 – 42.8 percent (14)
  13. Ford Taurus – $18,098 – 49.7 percent (2)
  14. Chevrolet Impala – $19,280 – 44.9 percent (8)

Just missing the under-$20,000 list if you have a little more to spend on your bargain are:

  1. Chrysler Town & Country – $20,215 – 42.3 percent
  2. Acura TLX* – $22,319 – 46.2 percent
  3. Chevrolet Traverse* – $22,507 – 41.7 percent

* Crossover/SUV category

The depreciation rates mean that, from a pure bargain standpoint, the Volkswagen Passat at 50.7 percent is the best bargain of the 14 vehicles, although that might not be your car of choice or your price point, coming in at $14,906 for a three-year-old vehicle.

If you’re looking for an SUV, the under-$20,000 choice is between the Kia Sorento and Buick Encore. But these have the smallest gaps over category average of 35 percent and are among the highest priced on the list. The slightly more expensive Acura TLX and Chevrolet Traverse, both with 5-star ratings from NHTSA and above-average depreciation, offer a couple additional options.

Ten of the 17 vehicles on the list are made by U.S. manufacturers, seven by foreign-based automakers.

And here are the 10 best bargains overall (based on depreciation above the average), including luxury vehicles, according to iSeeCars.com:

  1. BMW 5 Series – $30,846 – 52.6 percent
  2. Volkswagen Passat – $14,906 – 50.7 percent
  3. Mercedes-Benz E-Class – $34,010 – 49.9 percent
  4. BMW 3 Series – $24,024 – 49.8 percent
  5. Ford Taurus – $18,098 – 49.7 percent
  6. Chrysler 200 – $14,011 – 48.4 percent
  7. Volkswagen Jetta – $13,157 – 48.1 percent
  8. Audi A3 – $21,120 – 47.9 percent
  9. Cadillac SRX – $26,291 – 47.2 percent
  10. Buick Enclave – $26,620 – 46.8 percent

“As the number of off-lease vehicles continues to rise,” iSeeCars.com noted, “late-model used cars are the best deals for consumers looking to purchase an almost-new vehicle.”

“The influx of cars coming off lease [is] creating the opportunity for consumers to find bargains on late-model vehicles,” said Phong Ly, iSeeCars.com CEO. “Consumers who take advantage of these best bargains can purchase a three-year-old car for half the price of what it would cost new.”

I see bargains.