Considering how expensive new cars are, ten grand probably seems a bit more attractive, even if it is a used vehicle. But if you do it right, you can get a pretty good car for this amount, one with all the necessary features for routine travel, good reliability, and great fuel mileage.
In case you are looking for cutting-edge features like adaptive cruise, automatic climate control, or other such things, that might not be possible with this type of money. But you can still get a number of great vehicles that you can use while you work to afford a brand-new car. Let's have a look at them.
Honda Civic (2013) - $9,500
Civics have been taking people from Point A to Point B reliably, day in and day out, since the 1970s. An icon of affordability, dependability, and fuel economy, the Civic can be a great car for anyone from an office worker to a high school student looking for their first car.
The 9th-generation Civic is a fairly capable, safe, comfortable, and dependable car. If you are in the mood for it, you can even add some mods to it and make the Civic a perfect sleeper car that no one can suspect does 0 to 100 in 4 seconds.
Toyota Corolla (2012) - $9,000
Toyota has sold more Corollas than any model of any manufacturer ever. This is because Corollas are the most resilient car there is. These workhorses have been transporting people inexpensively for as long as we can remember. From scorching hot deserts of Africa to freezing cold plains, the Corolla holds its own in all environments.
If you want a car that does not have a lot of frills but can keep working for the foreseeable future by just changing the engine oil on time, there is no better option than the Corolla.
Ford Escape (2013) - $9,500
This compact SUV comes with a choice of strong engines and refined driving manners. The tech features inside the cabin are not quite at par with the ones we find today, but you can forgive that because back then, most of these technologies were just being developed.
If you want an SUV that you can even take off-road, the SEL trim with AWD and a 240hp V6 engine is the way to go. You can find one of those for under $10k, but it would be a bit hard to find. The base SE trim with the 170hp engine and FWD is also not a bad deal and would be considerably cheaper.
Mazda 3 (2013) - $9,000
It's safe to say that the Mazda 3 is one of the most good-looking cars on this list. And in pure Japanese fashion, this car holds up very well in the long run. Though it is the smaller sibling of the brand's flagship sedan (the Mazda 6), it does not cut a lot of corners to achieve the lower price point.
The 3 comes with a 2.0L engine and a 6-speed automatic transmission, which is sluggish, but, we can excuse it as this is a decade-old car, and automatics were not as good back then. Still, you can have a nice, reliable, and cheap car in the Mazda 3.
Toyota Camry (2011) - $8,500
If you want a little bit more features, engine power, and a bigger size than the Corolla, the Camry is what Toyota has to offer. This icon of economy travel in comfort and style might not have sold as many units as the Corolla, but it is every bit as good.
If you have a budget of under $10,000, you will have to settle for a Camry that has covered a lot of ground in its years, but these cars hold up really well upon prolonged use. There are examples of people who have driven these things as much as half a million miles and only ever went to the workshop for an oil change or a set of tires.
Hyundai Elantra (2013) - $9,000
Hyundai's transition has been one of the most radical ones in the auto industry. Within less than a decade, this Korean brand has gone from being a rental car and taxi brand to one of the world's most desired economy and family cars.
If you are in the market for a used car under $10,000, this remarkable evolution is not a particularly good thing. New models of Hyundai look far different and modern as compared to the ones you can grab for $10k. Still, that is not to say these are not good cars in themselves.
Kia Forte (2016) - $9,000
If you can settle for a slightly smaller but newer Korean car, Hyundai's sister brand, Kia, offers a good option in this price bracket. The Forte compact sedan might not be the most powerful or feature-packed car on this list, but it does have the advantages of reliability and dependability.
If you are lucky, you can get this car for as low as $7,000, but within $10,000, you can get a really fine specimen. However, don't get your hopes high. This is a really no-frills car, and the air-conditioning units on these are known to go bad relatively easily.
Honda Fit (2013) - $9,000
This cute little Honda hatchback can be yours for under $10k, and this is an amazing deal for that price. The Fit comes with a mild hybrid system that is good for fuel economy in urban traffic. However, it is a small car, and you will not be able to carry a lot of luggage in the trunk.
If you can ignore that, the Honda Fit is an incredibly well-built vehicle and can last a long time with marginal maintenance. The best part is that this car has no known problems, and you can buy and drive it with peace of mind.
Volkswagen Tiguan (2013) - $9,900
You will definitely face a hard time finding a Tiguan for under $10k, but if you do manage to find one, it comes with a lot of cool features that might not be available on many of the other cars we have seen in this list.
For starters, it has a comparatively timeless look, better materials, composed handling, better ride quality, and a powerful engine. However, thanks to the ample passenger head and legroom for both rows of seats, the cargo space in this SUV is not what others of the same size offer. Again, it's up to you if you want that trade-off.
Honda Accord (2011) - $8,500
Honda's equivalent of the Camry, the Accord, is another car meant to carry people from A to B with no special tricks up its sleeve. The Accord from this era (just like the Camry) comes with a 2.4L inline-4 as the standard engine, but if you are lucky, you can find the V6 variant as well.
However, unlike the Camry, this Honda comes with more safety and convenience features that make driving it easier and less tiring. In fact, if you can find the top-of-the-line version, you can even get cruise control and many other cool features.
Dodge Grand Caravan (2013) - $9,500
If you happen to have a big family and want a bigger vehicle to transport all of them or just need to carry a lot of stuff around, the Grand Caravan from the early 2010s can be a great option. It comes with a modern interior and a powerful engine that is also fuel efficient.
The base 3.6 V6 engine variant can easily be found for just under $10k, but if you want the one with the V8 engine, that might cost you a bit more. While purchasing, ensure that the head gasket is in good shape, as that is known to cause problems on these Dodge engines.
Toyota Prius (2010) - $9,000
It might be the most hated car on the internet, but if you are looking for a used car that is cheap to own and maintain, the Prius is one of the best options out there. Known as the first hybrid car in the world, it is a comfortable and extremely cheap-to-operate vehicle.
You can easily get 40-45 MPG from this hatchback, and it also has ample trunk space for cargo. Though you might have to get the batteries replaced for an old unit, that is not too big of a cost.
Hyundai Accent (2015) - $8,000
If you want a newer Hyundai than the Elantra and won't mind settling for a smaller car, the Accent is a good option in the under-10 grand price bracket. You can easily get a very well-maintained example of the Accent in this kind of money.
But be mindful that the Accent is not a car you would like to use for long travels at highway speeds. The engine is small and creates a lot of noise. However, for use within the city as an inexpensive car, the Accent is one of the best options out there.
Toyota Prius C (2014) - $9,000
Also known as Toyota Aqua in some markets, the Prius C is a compact hatchback with a smaller body but the same powertrain as the regular Prius. That means even better fuel economy and all the advantages of a hybrid but a lower price point if you can settle for a smaller car.
If you are buying a 10-year-old hybrid, the battery is expected to have some issues, but you can find a private repair shop that can replace the battery, making the car essentially brand new, as the rest of the things on these Toyotas just do not break.
Honda Odyssey (2011) - $9,800
The most popular minivan in the US, the Odyssey, has been taking American families to and from soccer practice and grocery shopping for as long as we can remember. Owing to high reliability and low maintenance cost, its used models are costly, yet you can manage to find one under the $10k mark.
From the comfortable and spacious cabin to the adequately powerful engine, there is a lot to love about this minivan. The best thing is that with minimum maintenance and upkeep, it will be with you for a long time.
Hyundai Sonata (2013) - $8,500
If you want to go with the best Hyundai can offer in this price range, the Sonata is the best option. This is the brand's flagship sedan and comes with a powerful engine, a welcoming interior, and a host of standard features that make driving easy and safe.
You can use this midsize sedan equally easily for intercity as well as local traveling, and the fuel consumption is also on the affordable side. However, older models of Sonata are known to burn engine oil, which is something you need to keep in mind while getting this car.
Nissan Versa (2016) - $8,800
The subcompact Versa falls in the same category of cars as the Hyundai Accent, Ford Fusion, and Chevrolet Cruze. This 4-door sedan from 2016 can be yours for less than $9k, and it is a fairly good car for the money.
However, compared to the other cars in this segment, the Versa is the least equipped in terms of tech features and amenities. It has a manual air conditioner, analog gauges, and an overall internal aura of antiquity to it. That said, for a daily commute, this car can get the job done inexpensively.
Kia Sedona (2013) - $9,800
If minivans are your thing, the Sedona can be a good option under $10k. This one might not be as flashy or appealing as you want, but for under $10k, the Sedona is a great minivan. It has a V6 engine and FWD setup similar to the Grand Caravan.
The interior of the Sedona might not be as welcoming, and the exterior not as good looking as the Grand Caravan, but this vehicle is not affected by any issues like the head gasket on the Grand Caravan, so you can just buy and drive without any worries.
Dodge Dart (2013) - $8,500
You might know Dodge for only making over-the-top sports cars, but they also make economy cars like the Dart, and you can grab one of these for under $9k. You cannot expect the Dart to rival the performance of a Charger; you can count on it to rival the fuel economy of a Camry, though.
However, Unlike the Camry, the Dart has a more welcoming and comfortable cabin than Toyotas and Hondas, feeling more modern and upscale. Luckily, these Dodge cars are also not known to have any critical issues, so that is a win-win.
Mazda CX-5 (2013) - $9,800
The CX-5 might be the best-looking SUV on a budget. It comes with Mazda's signature Skyactiv-G engine, the same that is found in the Mazda 6, and if you look hard enough, you can even find an AWD version of the vehicle for under 10k USD.
The CX-5 from this era might not be the most advanced car from Mazda, but it is the most advanced one you can find at this price. You will find cruise control, automatic climate control, and other safety and convenience features, all of which make it great for daily use.
Subaru Legacy (2013) - $9,800
Probably the most unusual entry on this list, the Legacy would cost you just under $10k for a fine specimen. It comes with a 2.5 I4 or a 3.6 V6 engine, which are great for daily use. The V6, however, is particularly great for highway cruising.
The Legacy would be hard to find, but if you do get your hands on one of these, you will not have to worry about anything, as these cars are built like a tank. If you are into tuning and mods, this car welcomes them quite well.
Chevrolet Sonic (2014) - $9,000
The Sonic is a good option if you want a car that has an aggressive style, multiple engine choices, and plenty of interior features. This might be a small car, but the 138hp 1.8L engine coupled with a manual transmission makes it fun to drive, and the interior features are the same as found in the bigger and more expensive Chevys.
If you go through enough ads online or visit enough dealerships, you can find one with features like a powered moonroof, fog lamps, MyLink entertainment system, forward collision warning, and adaptive cruise control.
Nissan Sentra (2014) - $9,500
The Sentra was on the top-10 list for its segment back in 2014 when this model came out and for all the good reasons. This car comes with a 130 horsepower engine and an option of a 6-speed manual or a CVT transmission. The CVT offers the best fuel economy, while the manual one is the best for highway driving.
You can get up to 38 MPG from the Sentra, and it is also a low-maintenance car. While purchasing, look for a unit with the improved CVT if you go for that transmission, as the original CVT had many issues that Nissan revised later on.
Hyundai Elantra GT (2014) - $9,000
If you are looking for a small but powerful car that is fun to drive and inexpensive to maintain, the Elantra GT from the mid-2010s can be a great option. This car comes with a 2.0L I4 that puts out just shy of 180 horsepower, a significant number for a car of this size.
You can get this Elantra as a sedan as well as a hatchback, but if performance and handling are what you are looking for, hatchback is the way to go. To spice things up even further, go with the manual transmission version.
Ford Fusion (2014) - $9,500
The Fusion might not come with the same level of prestige as its big sister, the Taurus, but if you want to buy a Ford for under $10k and expect it to be an experience with no problems, the Fusion is the way to go. It looks like a baby Taurus from the same time with identical design language, just shrunken down to a smaller, cuter size.
Moreover, thanks to its efficient engine and small size, the Fusion will also give you better fuel economy than its bigger sister, so for people looking for an affordable car, there can hardly be a better option than Ford.
Kia Soul (2014) - $9,800
Owing to its long list of standard features, great crash test ratings, and good fuel economy, the Soul was named the best compact car in 2014 when it came out. It is a nice compact crossover for family travel with good reliability and dependability scores.
The 2.0L I4 in the Soul is good for traveling in the city and even on highways at the maximum speed limit, but the combination of the CVT and the meager engine makes the car sluggish on hills. Other than that, there is nothing to complain about the Soul.
Chevrolet Malibu (2013) - $9,800
The Malibu was well-received when it first came out in 2013, with the only complaints being an engine that leaves you longing for a bit more power and tight legroom in the rear seats. Even the tight legroom issue is insignificant if the front passengers are not very tall.
But the 6-speed automatic transmissions on these cars are not the most durable ones, so if you are planning to get this Chevy, just make sure that the transmission was taken good care of, with timely oil changes. Aside from that, there are no issues with this car.
Kia Forte (2014) - $9,000
The Forte is a subcompact sedan from Kia, almost the same as the Rio. You can get a nice one with low mileage for under $10,000 and drive it for a couple of years without needing any notable repair or maintenance work.
The Forte comes with a 1.5L engine and a CVT or a 5-speed manual transmission. Being a typical economy car, there are not a lot of standard options in the Forte, but it will be your reliable travel partner for the time when you are planning to get a better car.
Volkswagen Jetta (2013) - $9,000
You cannot find a good Audi in this budget, but the closest you can get to one is the VW Jetta. It is one of the most specious cars in this category, with a high comfort rating and refined driving manners but a lower reliability rating than you would find in a Japanese car of the same era and at a comparable price.
The Jetta comes with a 115 or a 170-horsepower engine that has enough power when you keep in mind that you paid under $10k for this thing. But on an absolute scale, this thing is a bit underpowered for most people's taste.
Nissan Rogue (2013) - $9,500
The Rogue might look ugly, but once you get past its looks, the car has a powerful engine, a welcoming interior, and a high safety and reliability rating, meaning you get almost everything you can ask for in a car that costs under 10k.
The CVT on these cars is not the best transmission out there, but still, it offers good fuel economy and is fairly reliable. It means you will not have to worry about the operating or maintenance cost of this car. And if you are lucky, you can even find an AWD rogue at this price.
Toyota Sienna (2010) - $9,500
Toyota's answer to the Odyssey is the Sienna, and it might not be as popular, but it is every bit as capable and reliable as the Odyssey. From carrying the whole family on vacation to moving your entire apartment, this minivan has enough interior space for all your needs.
The Sienna interior has no special features or luxuries, but it is highly functional and will keep getting the job done for you with little care and attention. The Sienna is the next best option if you cannot find a good Odyssey at this price.
Buick Verano (2013) - $9,000
The Buick might not be the best looking of the bunch, but its outstanding reliability, quiet cabin, and high safety scores make it one of the most desirable used cars in the sub-10 grand price bracket.
Yes, the Verano's engine could use a bit more power, but you will only feel that during overtaking. As long as you are driving within the city, the Verano would not appear to be lacking in power. These models are not known to have any issues that can cause problems down the line, so investing $10k in this car is a pretty safe bet.
Subaru Impreza (2014) - $9,500
The WRX or STI version of the Impreza from the early 2010s is among some of the best handling and most powerful ones in this price range. They are also highly reliable and dependable in true Japanese fashion.
However, if you get the base variant with the 2.0L naturally aspirated engine, you will find yourself wishing for more power when overtaking on the highway. Those models, however, also cost a lot less than the WRX and STI trims, so it's up to you if you want to save a couple thousand dollars or get more power.
Subaru Forester (2012) - $9,800
The Forester is the only true off-roader on this list and the only true off-roader under $10k that is not from the pre-historic era. With a powerful engine, capable AWD system, great forward visibility, and excellent handling even in poor driving conditions, the Forester doesn't leave much to be desired at this price point.
To top all that, these things are incredibly well-built and will last a lifetime. The only downside is that the interior does not have any nice materials, as the focus here is on durability and longevity, not comfort and luxury.
Kia Rio (2015) - $9,000
Available as a sedan and a hatchback, the Rio is a sub-compact car from the Korean brand Kia that can be yours for well under $10k. If you manage to get your hands on a fully loaded version, you can even get luxuries like adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assist.
The only downside is that the air conditioning units on these cars are known to go bad, especially if you live in a hot area. Other than that, these cars are well-built and will not give you any trouble with regular use.
Honda CR-V (2012) - $9,800
The CR-V is the best option if you want to play it safe with an SUV under $10k. It comes with a 2.4L engine, the same tried and tested unit from the Accord, a 5-speed automatic transmission, and FWD.
The CR-V is one of the best-selling cars in the US market for a reason. It is that type of car you just have to do routine maintenance on, and it will never give you any sign of trouble. With just simple maintenance and oil changes, you can keep running it for at least another decade.
Toyota RAV4 (2011) - $9,500
It might not be a proper off-roader like the Land Cruiser or a full sedan like the Camry and Corolla, but the RAV4 is the best combination of a car and an SUV possible in the world. It is available with FWD as well as AWD configuration, and both are without any known issues.
You can easily find one of these for way less than $10,000, and if you are willing to pay closer to the maximum amount of $10k, you can get a unit with low mileage and good upkeep. Just keep changing the oil on time, and it will keep running for a long time.
Chevrolet Equinox (2013) - $9,500
Easily available for under $10k in used form, the Chevrolet Equinox comes with ample trunk space, a sliding second row of seats, and plenty of engine power. But like many American cars of the time, it has a higher ownership cost as compared to other options on the list.
If you are really into this SUV, you can find a V6 variant with AWD configuration under $10k, but that one will come with quite some miles on the odometer. If you don't care about that, it will be a great on and off-road car.
Ford Edge (2013) - $9,800
With a quiet and comfortable cabin, lots of standard features, composed handling, great ride quality, and available Eco-Boost engines, the Ford Edge is a pretty attractive proposition in this price range. A low mileage unit might not be easy to find in this price range, but if you are ready to settle for a couple hundred thousand miles, you have a deal.
The only complaints about this car are the sluggish automatic transmission and the even more sluggish MyFord infotainment system that is hard to connect to a phone and generally navigate around the OS. The rest of the SUV is flawless.
Chevrolet Cruze (2014) - $9,000
The Cruze can be thought of as a shrunk-down version of the Impala. With a small 4-cylinder engine and a questionable transmission, this is not the best of options in this price range. However, if you insist on only buying American cars, this can be the way to go.
But remember that you need to get the transmission's health verified by a professional. In fact, make sure that there is a record of transmission oil changes over the age of the car so that you don't get into a car that needs a new transmission, as that may cost as much as the car itself.