Although cars come in all shapes and sizes, one of the most important things they must provide is dependable transportation. Sports cars and brawny SUVs may look exciting, but if they can't get from point A to point B without breaking down, they're little more than a driveway decoration. No one knows that better than recent graduates, who often have to fit a barely-affordable car into an already tight budget, without any money left over for expensive maintenance. But if you want to play it smart, forsaking high-end luxury or low-slung sports cars for a car that'll last until your ten-year reunion (and beyond), we have some suggestions for you.

  • 1 2011 Honda Fit

    2011 Honda Fit

    $16,675

    27 City / 33 Hwy

    It's hard to argue that the Honda Fit is among the best subcompacts on the market. It may not have the pizzazz of Ford's neat new Fiesta, but Honda's smallest hatchback continually tops JD Power's coveted Vehicle Dependability Study, ranking the reliability of cars after three years on the road. It's also a resale-value champion, with used models fetching impressively high prices thanks to increasing gas prices. With only 117 horsepower, the Fit may not provide much driving excitement, but it's still one of the best long-term buys around.

  • 2 2011 Mazda MX-5 Miata

    2011 Mazda MX-5 Miata

    $21,850

    22 City / 28 Hwy

    The MX-5 Miata is proof that you can have both practicality and fun. Of course the MX-5 Miata's practicality comes not from extra seating capacity or a cavernous trunk, but rather its consistently high resale value, great fuel economy, and long-term reliability ? which might be more important, unless you're looking to carry a lot of people or stuff. If that's the case, you may have to look elsewhere ? but you?ll be missing out on a car that offers the most dependable fun for the money.

  • 3 2011 Ford Fusion

    2011 Ford Fusion

    $17,850

    22 City / 32 Hwy

    Although many of today's college graduates grew up believing that the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry were the only midsize sedans worth considering, times have changed ? and the Ford Fusion is leading the charge. With options ranging including a miserly four-cylinder, powerful V6 and fuel-sipping hybrid, the Fusion is on par with Camry and Accord in terms of resale value, features per dollar, and even reliability, with JD Power recently naming it the highest-ranked midsize car in terms of long-term dependability. If you're looking for a car built to last through the ten-year reunion and perhaps even accommodating a family down the road, look no further than the Ford Fusion.

  • 4 2011 Honda CR-V

    2011 Honda CR-V

    $21,250

    21 City / 28 Hwy

    If you want the extra space and higher ride height that comes with an SUV, the CR-V is hard to beat for good, solid transportation. Resale values are consistently high, and though it's no speed demon, that lends itself favorably to fantastic fuel economy. Another JD Power reliability favorite, the CR-V is a smart buy for anyone looking for a practical, compact SUV.

  • 5 2011 Toyota Tacoma

    2011 Toyota Tacoma

    $18,000

    21 City / 25 Hwy

    Toyota's midsize pickups are well documented as some of the most durable vehicles ever created, and the Tacoma is no exception. With the Japanese automaker's midsize pickup line available since the late 1960s and offered in 140 countries worldwide, its longevity and quality can hardly be called into question. Hefty styling, powerful engines, and competitive pricing help cement the Tacoma's image as one of the best buys around ? and notoriously high Toyota truck resale values don't hurt, either. Best of all, Tacomas can still be relatively affordable, with base models starting at just over $15,000.

  • 6 2011 Ford Mustang

    2011 Ford Mustang

    $21,825

    19 City / 29 Hwy

    The sporty Mustang joined the aforementioned Fusion among the ranks of the most dependable cars on sale in JD Power's 2011 Vehicle Dependability Study. Available as either a coupe or a convertible and featuring a wide array of features, trim levels and engine choices, the Mustang is a fantastic buy that deserves a second look from anyone considering a sports car ? and even some who think a rear-drive ragtop might not be a practical purchase. The best part: the new Mustang's six-cylinder gets up to 31 mpg, but is almost as powerful as the previous generation's gas-slurping V8.

  • 7 2011 Chevrolet Tahoe

    2011 Chevrolet Tahoe

    $31,575

    15 City / 21 Hwy

    Recent college graduates might be hard-pressed to pony up the $38,000-plus for a new Tahoe, but anyone who does will be pleasantly surprised by the level of comfort, sophistication, and dependability offered by the large SUV. Consistently popular since its 1995 introduction, the Tahoe enjoys high customer satisfaction, continued strong sales, and high resale value, despite the recent fluctuations in gas prices. JD Power reinforced the Tahoe's reputation earlier this year when the automotive analytics group dubbed the Tahoe the most dependable large SUV in its long-term dependability study.

author photo

Jeffrey Archer is fortunate to have turned a passion for cars into a career. His wide-ranging automotive experience includes work for automakers and dealers in addition to covering the news. When not writing, he spends his time searching for unique cars on AutoTrader.com.

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