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Top 7 Used Cars under $10,000

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author photo by Jeffrey Archer June 2012

Finding a good used car for less than $10,000 is no easy feat. Knowing that, we've listed a few of our favorite pre-owned cars available for four figures to help buyers on a budget choose the right car for their needs. Some cars have been maintained better than others, but we're confident that with a good inspection from a local mechanic and a vehicle history report from CARFAX, a cost-conscious car buyer should have no trouble finding a good used vehicle from using list.

2006 Honda Civic

It's easy to see why the Honda Civic is chosen by so many car shoppers on a budget. In addition to a state-of-the-art design with an exciting blue-backlit interior and a digital speedometer, the 2006 Civic offers legendary reliability and tremendous fuel efficiency. It's also easy to find for less than $10,000, with nearly 300 listings currently available nationwide on AutoTrader.com. Our only sticking point with the Civic is a caution to buyers interested in the miserly Civic Hybrid: the sedan's fuel economy rating of nearly 50 mpg may be tempting, but on high-mileage examples, there's a risk of a costly hybrid battery failure that's likely to cost thousands of dollars to fix.

2003 Infiniti G35

If you're looking for a reliable luxury car for less than $10,000, we recommend you look no further than Infiniti's 2003 G35 sedan. While many examples have more than 100,000 miles, the G35 offers a strong reputation for reliability derived from Nissan, the Infiniti brand's parent company. The G35 also includes Nissan's robust 3.5-liter V6, a highly awarded and powerful engine known for long-term dependability. If that's not convincing enough, it's likely that the G35's sporty rear-wheel-drive layout and long list of standard equipment-which includes a six-disc CD changer, remote keyless entry, alloy wheels and curtain side airbags-may help you make up your mind.

2004 Mini Cooper

Budget-minded car shoppers interested in having some fun on the road will have no trouble finding a Mini Cooper for less than $10,000. Indeed, some 100 different 2004 models are currently available on AutoTrader.com, a figure that includes many vehicles with less than 100,000 miles and even a few examples of the hatchback's supercharged Cooper S trim level. Mini's reliability record may not be on par with several of its less thrilling rivals, but we think a thorough inspection-and the hatchback's sublime handling-will help ease any worried minds.

2006 Pontiac Vibe

Car shoppers interested in a practical, reliable vehicle for under $10,000 will find it in Pontiac's Vibe hatchback. Powered by a 1.8-liter 4-cylinder engine designed and built by Toyota, the Vibe offers enough power for nearly any situation. It also offers fuel economy of nearly 30 mpg in the city and about 35 mpg in highway driving. The hatchback also boasts impressive dependability, scoring near the top of its class in a recent J.D. Power Vehicle Dependability Study that examined three-year-old cars. Best of all, used Vibes can easily be found for under $10,000, with nearly 100 different 2006 models currently listed on AutoTrader.com, including more than a dozen with under 75,000 miles.

2006 Scion xB

The boxy xB's styling may not be for everyone, but the hatchback's strong reliability record, practical design and inexpensive pricing should be enough to sway many car shoppers who are on the fence about its appearance. Indeed, almost 200 different 2006 models are available on AutoTrader.com for less than $10,000, and nearly 40 of those have less than 75,000 miles on the odometer. That's an impressive price for the Toyota-built hatchback, which offers 30 mpg in city driving regardless of whether buyers pick the five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission. And since the xB was designed with young buyers in mind, it offers several exciting features including a Pioneer stereo and remote keyless entry, and there is a slew of available aftermarket accessories.

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Used 2003 Toyota Tacoma PreRunner
Used 2003 Toyota Tacoma

2004 Subaru Forester

Subaru's compact Forester SUV is a no-brainer choice for car shoppers interested in an all-weather vehicle for under $10,000. While the Forester's availability is highly dependent on a shopper's location, those in areas with harsh winters will likely find several examples to choose from. In fact, nearly 200 different 2004 models are currently available on AutoTrader.com for less than $10,000. And while only a dozen have less than 100,000 miles on the clock, we wouldn't think twice about buying a well-maintained example with just about any mileage considering Subaru's legendary reliability record. In addition to standard all-wheel drive, the Forester even offers an enthusiast-friendly five-speed manual transmission, making the Forester capable of nearly 30 mpg in highway driving.

2003 Toyota Tacoma

Don't be scared by its age: shoppers interested in one of the most reliable pickups available will find exactly what they want in Toyota's bulletproof 2003 Tacoma. Almost all of the 75 examples on AutoTrader.com for less than $10,000 have more than 100,000 miles on the clock. However, the truck's long-term durability makes its odometer virtually meaningless. The 2003 Tacoma also boasts two different robust V6 engines, available manual or automatic transmissions and enough bed and cab configurations to exhaust even the most seasoned truck shopper. The 2003 model has the Tacoma's prior body style; buyers who want a newer look may even find a few redesigned 2005 examples available within a four-figure budget.

What it means to you: Although it may seem difficult given the myriad of choices, our list shows that choosing a good used car for under $10,000 isn't as hard as you might think.

This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
Top 7 Used Cars under $10,000 - Autotrader