Find the best used cars to buy with these two resources


Best used cars to buy.

It’s what some 40 million Americans a year seek.

But the number of choices goes, literally, into the thousands, making it a daunting task unless you have some way to narrow the possibilities.

Fortunately, resources are available online to help you do that fairly quickly.

“Picking out a good used car from a sea of bad ones has never been easy,” wrote Jon Linkov in Consumer Reports’ Best Used Cars by Price. “You want a vehicle that’s reliable, affordable and equipped with modern safety features … The whole process can sometimes feel overwhelming.”

Best used cars to buy
Photo credit: Chevrolet via NewsPress USA
This 2013 Chevrolet Equinox is top-rated used SUV under $15,000.

Among the most useful resources are U.S. News & World Report’s Best Used Cars, which groups vehicles by category – cars, SUVs, trucks, vans and hybrids – then ranks them within budget ranges and by year, and Consumer Reports which lists vehicles by price range and categories. Of course, we also would include the Santander Consumer USA blog’s These are the best used cars to buy in 2018.

Let’s take the U.S. News and Consumer Reports ratings/rankings to see how this works.

For an example, say a shopper knows he/she wants to buy a used vehicle, prefers a crossover SUV, five years old or less, and has a budget of $10,000 to $15,000.

In Best Used Cars, the shopper would go to the SUV section, which shows 12 different categories, such as subcompact, compact and midsize, as well as luxury models and hybrids.

Choosing the section “Used Crossover SUVs $10K to $15K” provides a list of 76 ranked by scores on a 10-point scale. But in Consumer Reports our shopper simply would scroll to a list of $10,000-$15,000 vehicles and continue to the best SUVs, although only four are recommended.

Best Used Cars shows the 2012 GMC Terrain and 2011 Honda CR-V tied for No. 1 in our shopper’s example price range, with an overall rating of 9.0 out of 10 points, but both are outside the target five-year age range. (The overall ratings take into account critics’ ratings, performance, interior, cost to own and safety, along with a separate score for reliability.)

Vehicles that would fit our shopper’s criteria are 2013 Chevrolet Equinox, with an 8.8 score, 2014 Equinox, 2013 GMC Terrain, 2013 Nissan Murano, all tied at No. 7 with overall 8.7 rating. Other vehicles in the top 20 that fit the criteria are a 2014 Mazda CX-5, 2013 and 2014 Buick Encore and 2013 Toyota Venza, with 8.4 ratings or better. Another 29 vehicles appear with ratings from 6.5 points.

In Consumer Reports, the top-ranked 2007-10 Honda CR-V is referred to as “one of the most popular, thanks to its strong resale value, agile handling, excellent reliability, and fuel-efficient powertrains.” Other good choices, according to the magazine, are the 2008 Lexus RX, 2009-10 Acura RDX and 2008-10 Toyota RAV4, but all are older than the age range our shopper set.

Our used-vehicle shopper now must consider whether to (1) stick with his/her five-year age range with the Equinox, Terrain, Murano or other lower-rated SUV, or (2) opt for the RAV4, Honda CR-V or Mazda CX-5, which Consumer Reports lists at a higher price than U.S. News.

But just like that, our shopper has several good used vehicles from which to choose.

And it’s a process that will work whatever type, age or price of used vehicle a shopper decides is the best fit for his/her lifestyle.