Edmunds recommends 15 used cars for under $15K

Edmunds recommends 15 used cars for under $15K
This photo provided by Honda shows the 2015 Honda Civic sedan, a perennial favorite in the used-car market. This wasn't the automaker's strongest Civic model, but it's still a great option for buyers shopping for a vehicle under $15,000. (Courtesy of American Honda Motor Co. via AP)

Depreciation may be the bane of new-car buyers, but it's also the reason so many shoppers buy used. We scoured our annual Edmunds New Car Buying Guides from years past to see what cars we loved back in the day can now be had for $15,000 or less. For each vehicle, we've provided a range of years offering the best selection and value. In certain cases, getting an even older model is a viable option, too.

SMALL CARS

The 2013-2015 Honda Civic is a great place to begin our list. We didn't like this generation Civic much when it came out for 2011, but Honda improved it dramatically by 2013. It's spacious and easy to live with, and it offers quite a few technology options. It's also available as a fuel-sipping hybrid or as the fun-to-drive 205-horsepower Civic Si.

For more luxurious comfort and safety, check out the 2011-2014 Volvo S60 sedan and the V60 wagon . This Volvo has front seats perfect for long hauls, and the available engines are surprisingly peppy. If you value performance over practicality, try the 2009-2012 BMW 1 Series . It never sold in big numbers, but this littlest BMW provides lots of fun in either coupe or convertible guise.

Finally, the 2011-2014 Volkswagen GTI combines fun with hatchback practicality. The GTI has always been one of our favorites thanks to its refined driving experience and near-luxury interior.

MIDSIZE CARS

The 2011-2014 Cadillac CTS marked a turning point for Cadillac, challenging European competitors with its quality, comfort and driving precision. Look for CTS models with the 3.6-liter direct-injected V6, which puts out 304 horsepower without sacrificing fuel economy.

Edmunds recommends 15 used cars for under $15K
This photo provided by Volvo shows the 2014 Volvo V60, a small wagon shoppers will find priced under $15,000. The V60 provides a comfortable interior, with the benefit of Volvo's reputation for safety. (Courtesy of Volvo Cars of North America via AP)

The 2011-2014 Acura TSX is a good all-arounder that didn't stand out from the crowd when new. But for under $15,000, it makes a compelling alternative to a used Accord. Look for one with the Ttechnology package to get the rearview camera and upgraded sound and navigation systems.

For something a little newer, try the 2014-2016 Mazda 6 . Like many Mazdas, a used Mazda 6 can be a little hard to find, but its handling is among the best in the class. An upscale interior, plenty of backseat room, and an easy-to-use technology interface round out the appeal of this late-model midsize car.

SUVs

The safe bet for used SUVs is the 2012-2016 Honda CR-V . It's a practical, reliable compact SUV, if not the most exciting to drive. In 2015, the CR-V was updated with a more fuel-efficient engine. We also recommend the 2013-2015 Mazda CX-5 , especially in Touring or Grand Touring trim. The CX-5 has an upscale interior and excellent handling, returns good , and is just as practical as competitors.

Edmunds recommends 15 used cars for under $15K
This photo provided by BMW shows the 2012 BMW 1 Series, a sports car available in the used-car market for less than $15,000. The 1 Series is available in both coupe and convertible models. (Daniel Kraus/Courtesy of BMW of North America via AP)

If you want a three-row crossover, check out the 2009-2012 Ford Flex with its distinctive big-wagon styling. It's one of the better-driving three-rows, with an available turbocharged V6 engine, lots of passenger space and cross-country roadtrip-worthy comfort. Another solid option is the 2010-2015 Mazda CX-9 . Its athletic road manners are complemented by comfortable seats, three usable rows and plenty of cargo capacity. Just note that its crash safety scores weren't the best.

HYBRIDS

There's no shortage of Toyota Priuses around, but we prefer the 2012-2015 Toyota Camry Hybrid . It provides reasonable acceleration for a hybrid, along with a comfortable interior and ride, and it returns about 40 mpg. It's not quite as efficient as the Prius, but it's nicer to live with day to day.

We're going to break one of our rules for this next one: We never featured the 2011-2015 Lexus CT 200h in an Edmunds Buying Guide, but it's a great used pick. New, it fell short of its promise of being a sporty hybrid, but as a Prius alternative it's an appealing proposition. It's more luxurious and better to drive and returns 42 mpg in combined (city and highway) driving.

Edmunds recommends 15 used cars for under $15K
This photo provided by Volkswagen shows the 2014 Volkswagen Golf GTI, a small car available for less than $15,000. The popular GTI offers the convenience and versatility of a hatchback. (Courtesy of Volkswagen of America via AP)

TRUCKS AND VANS

While there is no end of old Ford F-150s and Chevrolet Silverados available, our pick has to be the 2007-2013 Toyota Tundra . This rugged, durable truck offers a burly V8 that can tow up to 10,000 pounds. Unless you're a patient bargain hunter, you might have to opt for a slightly higher-mileage Tundra, but we think the extra miles are worth it for such a capable truck. Buyers looking for something smaller should check out the Tundra's popular little brother, the Tacoma.

If you need to haul people rather than bricks, the 2011-2013 Honda Odyssey is your best bet. Compared to its predecessor, the redesigned 2011 Odyssey sports more interior space and offers more upgrades including a premium stereo, chilled storage box and rear-seat entertainment system. Pre-2011 Odysseys are great choices, too.

EDMUNDS SAYS: No matter which vehicle you choose, remember to do your research to make sure you're getting the best used car for your money. You'll be able to find some cars on our list with certified pre-owned warranties, but checking vehicle history reports and having an independent inspection done will give you added peace of mind.

  • Edmunds recommends 15 used cars for under $15K
    This photo provided by General Motors shows the 2013 Cadillac CTS, a midsize sedan available for under $15,000. The 304-horsepower CTS is a solid pick in the used-car market. (Courtesy of General Motors Co. via AP)
  • Edmunds recommends 15 used cars for under $15K
    This photo provided by American Honda Motor Co. shows the 2014 Acura TSX, a midsize sedan that can be found for less than $15,000. The TSX is a good choice for buyers looking for optional tech features. (Courtesy of American Honda Motor Co. via AP)
  • Edmunds recommends 15 used cars for under $15K
    This photo provided by Mazda shows the 2014 Mazda 6, a midsize sedan available in the used-car market. The Mazda 6 offers a sporty look and feel for less than $15K. (Courtesy of Mazda North American Operations via AP)
  • Edmunds recommends 15 used cars for under $15K
    This photo provided by Honda shows the 2015 Honda Civic sedan, a perennial favorite in the used-car market. This wasn't the automaker's strongest Civic model, but it's still a great option for buyers shopping for a vehicle under $15,000. (Courtesy of American Honda Motor Co. via AP)
  • Edmunds recommends 15 used cars for under $15K
    This photo provided by Mazda shows the 2015 Mazda CX-5, a small SUV available in the used-car market for less than $15,000. The Mazda CX-5 is not only practical, but it also provides sporty handling on the road. (Courtesy of Mazda North American Operations via AP)
  • Edmunds recommends 15 used cars for under $15K
    This photo provided by Ford shows the 2011 Ford Flex, a full-size SUV available in the used-car market for less than $15,000. The Flex rivals most minivans for passenger space, with three rows of seating. (Sam VarnHagen/Courtesy of Ford Motor Co. via AP)
  • Edmunds recommends 15 used cars for under $15K
    This photo provided by Mazda shows the 2015 Mazda CX-9, a full-size SUV available for less than $15,000. If the CX-5 is too small for your needs, the CX-9 is a step up in space and features. (David Dewhurst Photography/Courtesy of Mazda North American Operations via AP)
  • Edmunds recommends 15 used cars for under $15K
    This photo provided by Lexus shows the 2014 Lexus CT 200h, a hybrid available in the used-car market for under $15,000. The small CT 200h offers a touch of luxury, plus an EPA rating of 42 mpg combined. (David Dewhurst Photography/Courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. via AP)
  • Edmunds recommends 15 used cars for under $15K
    This photo provided by Toyota shows the 2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid, which is available for less than $15,000. The Camry Hybrid offers a comfortable interior and ride, and it returns about 40 mpg. (Courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. via AP)
  • Edmunds recommends 15 used cars for under $15K
    This photo provided by Toyota shows the 2010 Toyota Tundra, one option for buyers looking for a used truck under $15,000. The durable Tundra offers a V8 that can tow up to 10,000 pounds. (David Dewhurst/Courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. via AP)
  • Edmunds recommends 15 used cars for under $15K
    This photo provided by Honda shows the 2015 Honda Odyssey, a popular minivan now priced under $15,000. Plenty of family-friendly features make the Odyssey a sensible option for small and large families. (Courtesy of American Honda Motor Co. via AP)

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