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20 Used Cars You Can Buy With the Average 2019 Tax Refund

Tax season is upon us, which has many Americans hoping to see a substantial tax refund in the coming weeks. According to a CNN Business article released in late February 2019, the average federal tax refund for 2019 is currently hovering around $3,000, which is no small figure. This got us thinking: What used cars can you buy with this amount, we’re you to choose to spend your 2019 refund on a vehicle? After some research, we’ve put together this list of 20 vehicles that can be purchased with the average 2019 tax refund. Depending on the vehicle you choose and on your individual situation, you may have to kick in a few hundred dollars, but you’ll still be able to get a running car in reasonably good shape.

Ford Taurus

1. Ford Taurus

With just about 200 different Ford Taurus models listed on Autotrader for $3,000 or less, Ford’s longtime midsize sedan is a good place to start your search. At a price in line with the average 2019 tax refund, expect to find an early-to mid-2000s model with 100,000 to 150,000 total miles. Of course, you’ll also get the Taurus’s durable design, roomy interior, cavernous trunk and standard V6 power. Look hard and you might even be able to find a Taurus wagon, which combines SUV like cargo capacity with a car-like driving experience, or even a sporty Taurus SHO, which offers increased performance. Find a Ford Taurus for sale

2. Ford Explorer

There are more than 200 different Ford Explorer models listed for $3,000 or less. What kind of Explorer will this get you? Well, it won’t get you the latest model, that’s for sure, and it won’t get you the previous-generation version, either. Instead, expect a well-equipped 1995-2001 Explorer or a base-level 2002-2007 model, either with in excess of 150,000 miles on the odometer. You will have your choice though of rear- or 4-wheel drive, V6 or V8 power, and 2- or 4-door body styles. Find a Ford Explorer for sale

3. Honda Accord

The Honda Accord can be considered reliable, simple family transportation, a great first car or commuter vehicle with a fuel-efficient powertrain. And with around 300 examples listed on Autotrader for $3,000 or less, it’s also a great way to spend your tax refund money. Of course, you shouldn’t expect a perfect car: Many Accords listed at around $3,000 have more than 200,000 miles on the odometer, along with fading paint (which can be typical depending on the era) and the occasional mismatched wheel or missing hubcap. But parts for these cars are plentiful, and many used Accords will run for years to come with only regular maintenance and the occasional timing belt service. In the end, that makes the Accord a great choice for shoppers who want a good, inexpensive used car. If it were our personal choice, we might look for a good Accord Coupe with a manual transmission. Find a Honda Accord for sale

4. Ford F-150

Yes, the $3,000 pickup truck exists, and right now there are around 200 Ford F-150s listed on Autotrader for the amount of the average tax refund or less, which is great news for drivers who want a practical work vehicle without spending a fortune. The only catch? Used F-150 models in the $3,000-or-less price range often have well over 180,000 miles on the odometer, and they don’t come equipped with many creature comforts. Most are from the F-150’s 10th or 11th generation, which covered the 1997 to 2005 or 2006 model years. Take a long test drive to make sure such a pickup is right for you, and be sure to get a thorough mechanical inspection to ensure that the truck is still mechanically sound under the hood. Find a Ford F-150 for sale

Honda Civic

5. Honda Civic

Few compact cars have the Honda Civic’s reputation for reliability and long-lasting durability, provided, of course, that it’s had regular maintenance, such as oil changes, brakes and timing belts. If you’re looking for a dependable compact car for around $3,000 or less, you should check out the Civic. The majority you’ll find at this price range will be from the vehicle’s seventh-generation, built from the 2001 to 2005 model years. Don’t be put off by high mileage figures (expect 150,000 miles and up) or noticeable cosmetic blemishes. Instead, take a thorough test drive and, if anything gives you reason to worry, get a mechanical inspection. Then expect to stay behind the wheel of your Civic for years to come. Find a Honda Civic for sale

Chevrolet Cobalt

6. Chevrolet Cobalt

The Chevrolet Cobalt is a compact car built between 2005 and 2010 that came before more modern small Chevys such as the Cruze, the Spark and the Sonic. With around 150 different Cobalts currently available on Autotrader for around $3,000 or less, there are a lot of different examples to choose from. You’ll have your choice between coupe and sedan body styles. Expect a sub-$3,000 Cobalt to come with at least 120,000 miles on the odometer. Find a Chevrolet Cobalt for sale

Saturn ION

7. Saturn ION

Offered as an alternative to compact sedans from the likes of Honda and Toyota, the Saturn ION was available in sedan and coupe bodystyles, the latter of which actually offered a second set of rear-hinged doors, a clever and inventive design element that lets the vehicle offer sedan practicality while still maintaining its sporty coupe styling. The ION was sold from the 2003 to 2007, and within those model years buyers can find some great value, as close to 100 examples of this quirky compact are listed on Autotrader for around our $3,000 budget. Find a Saturn ION for sale

Toyota Camry

8. Toyota Camry

The Toyota Camry has long been one of the leading midsize sedans on the market, so it makes sense that it would turn up on our list of the most popular cars you can buy in the neighborhood of $3,000. Offered over the years in 4-door sedan, 2-door coupe or 5-door wagon body styles, the Camry provides reliable, fuel-efficient transportation and a roomy interior. If you’re looking to spend around $3,000 or less, expect to find Camry sedan models from the late 1990s and early 2000s with around 200,000 miles on the odometer. That may be a big number, but it’s far from the end of a well-maintained Camry’s life. Find a Toyota Camry for sale

Ford Focus

9. Ford Focus

The Ford Focus has long been one of the most popular compact cars on the market. It’s also one of the most popular choices on our list of used cars you can buy with the average tax refund, since there are close to 300 different Focus models to choose from within our price limit. What should you expect from a Focus in this price range? You’ll be able to choose from sedan, wagon and hatchback (3-door or 5-door) body styles, along with manual or automatic transmissions. Mileage will likely be well over 125,000, so you may want to get your Focus checked out by a mechanic before you sign the papers. Find a Ford Focus for sale

Pontiac Grand Am

10. Pontiac Grand Am

While the Pontiac Grand Am is hardly known for standout styling or a cavernous interior, it does offer some benefits, including fewer average miles than many cars on our list, with typical figures in the 100,000- to 150,000-mile range. Right now, there are over 100 options on Autotrader for anyone looking for a Grand Am for the price of an average 2019 tax return. Used Grand Am models available for around $3,000 or less can be found from model years as recent as the mid-2000s. Find a Pontiac Grand Am for sale

Dodge Grand Caravan

11. Dodge Grand Caravan

If you need to transport your whole family for around $3,000 or less, few cars on our list do it better than the Dodge Grand Caravan. Featuring standard 3-row seating and (for most models made after 1996) dual sliding doors, the Grand Caravan offers the last word in family-toting practicality. Best of all, you should have no trouble finding one within our budget, as there are currently almost 200 options listed on Autotrader, many of which are early-to-mid-2000s models with around 150,000 miles on the odometer. Find a Dodge Grand Caravan for sale

Chevrolet Malibu

12. Chevrolet Malibu

The Chevrolet Malibu offers solid, durable construction, a roomy interior and surprisingly powerful engines. Styling is bland and there aren’t many advanced features, but the Malibu is an excellent point-A to point-B car, especially if your budget is around $3,000 or less. And you should have no trouble finding a used Malibu in that price range, since there are currently close to 200 examples on Autotrader, most of which are early-to-mid-2000s models with around 150,000 miles on the odometer. Find a Chevrolet Malibu for sale

Ford Escape

13. Ford Escape

The Ford Escape is a compact SUV that came onto the market in 2001 and quickly became a segment favorite. We like the Escape for its practical shape, optional V6 engine and available 4WD. Currently, there are over 100 Escapes listed on Autotrader for around $3,000. Fuel-conscious shoppers will even find a few Escape Hybrid models within this budget. Regardless, most Escapes you’ll find at this price come with over 200,000 miles, so be sure to have someone go over the vehicle mechanically before committing to buying. Find a Ford Escape for sale

Jeep Grand Cherokee

14. Jeep Grand Cherokee

The Jeep Grand Cherokee is one of the few SUVs on our list, but it’s still a good choice for shoppers on a budget. The Grand Cherokee combines off-road prowess with handsome styling, strong engines and a large, practical design. With a budget of $3,000 or less, expect to find an example from the late 1990s or early 2000s with around 150,000 miles on the odometer. And be sure to get a thorough mechanical inspection before signing the papers, because some models may suffer from transmission failure or other potentially expensive issues. Find a Jeep Grand Cherokee for sale

Chrysler Sebring

15. Chrysler Sebring

The Chrysler Sebring is a popular midsize car offered in sedan, coupe or convertible body styles. We like the convertible in particular, because it seats four people, offers many creature comforts and touts several adequate engine offerings. Right now there are around 150 different examples — about half of which are convertibles — available for around $3,000 or less on Autotrader. If the Sebring convertible sounds appealing, expect our budget here to yield a late-1990s or early-2000s example with over 125,000 miles. Find a Chrysler Sebring for sale

Chevrolet Impala

16. Chevrolet Impala

The Chevrolet Impala is a popular full-size sedan that offers a comfortable ride, a relaxed driving experience and standard V6 power. Its conservative design might not set the world on fire, and neither will its powertrain. But armed with the average tax refund, you should have no trouble finding an Impala from as recently as the 2008 model year with 125,000 to 150,000 miles on the odometer, especially since there are more than 200 different Impalas within our price range on Autotrader. One tip: Look for Impalas from the 2000 model year and up rather than earlier examples, which offer poor fuel economy and dismal repair records. Find a Chevrolet Impala for sale

Chevrolet Trailblazer

17. Chevrolet Trailblazer

The Chevy Trailblazer was a popular midsize SUV for years. Available with 2WD or 4WD and in 2- or 4-door bodystyles, the Trailblazers you’ll find in our desired price range will come with over 150,000 miles on the odometer. Given their age and mileage, be sure to get a mechanical inspection before signing the papers. You’ll also want to ensure that the Trailblazer can fit your whole family and offers you enough cargo room, since it’s a little smaller than most modern midsize SUVs. If you’re considering a Trailblazer, it’s worth including in your search listings for the GMC Envoy, the Oldsmobile Bravada, the Buick Rainier, the Isuzu Ascender and the Saab 9-7x, as these other General Motors SUVs are virtually identical to the Trailblazer despite being offered under different brand names. Factor in all of these additional nameplates, and buyers have around 130 options to choose from listed on Autotrader for $3,000 or less. Find a Chevrolet Trailblazer for sale

Chevrolet Silverado

18. Chevrolet Silverado

The Chevy Silverado is a full-size pickup that constantly battles it out with the Ford F-150 for the title of America’s most popular pickup. Officially called “Silverado” since 1999 and C1500 or K1500 (for 2WD or 4WD, respectively) before that, the full-size Chevy should be easy to find for about $3,000, especially since there are over 130 different models currently listed on Autotrader. Just be sure to narrow your search to the model you want, since the Silverado offers a wide selection of cab lengths, bed sizes, drivetrains and engine configurations. Find a Chevrolet Silverado for sale

Ford Ranger

19. Ford Ranger

The Ford Ranger is a compact pickup with frugal 4-cylinder or muscular V6 power. While a new version just came out, the previous design was offered from 1993 all the way until 2011, as the last Ranger went its entire life with only one substantial update: a big face-lift in 1998. Otherwise, just about every Ranger is mostly the same: a simple, honest, durable pickup, offered in 2WD or 4WD, with as much capability as most truck shoppers will ever need. For your three grand or less, expect to find well-worn examples, with 200,000 miles or more, from the mid- to late-1990s with few frills and almost no modern gadgets. Find a Ford Ranger for sale

Toyota Corolla

20. Toyota Corolla

The Toyota Corolla is a popular, reliable compact sedan similar in size to the Honda Civic. On the market in some fashion since the 1960s, buyers should expect to find a Corolla from the early to mid 2000s with over 150,000 miles on the odometer while remaining within our budget. An extremely simple vehicle, you won’t find many amenities or different body styles when shopping for a Corolla, but you will wind up with a relatively safe, dependable vehicle that you can count on to last a long time. Buyers have the option of around 150 Toyota Corollas listed on Autotrader for around $3,000. Find a Toyota Corolla for sale

Chris O'Neill
Chris O'Neill
Chris O'Neill is an author specializing in competitive analysis, consumer recommendations, and adventure-driven enthusiast content. A lifelong car enthusiast, he worked in the auto industry for a bit, helping Germans design cars for Americans, and now lives in Salt Lake City, Utah. He runs an Instagram account, @MountainWestCarSpotter, which in his own words is "actually pretty good", and has a... Read More about Chris O'Neill

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  1. Must be getting greater refunds that I do as a single guy on my retirement and SS that will get me a bike.

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