Thursday, May 14, 2009

For The Smart Car Shopper: Best and Worst Used Cars

In today's economic times, some used cars are commanding premiums. I personally have noticed that our two cars have actually appreciated in value. According to Kelley Blue Book, the Loan Values for my wife's 2004 Lexus and my 1998 Acura have increased in value. While the increase was marginal, it's nice to see that we're not losing value quickly like what people typically experience with new cars.

If you're like me, you might yearn for a new car, but you appreciate the economic sense of buying used. We bought my wife's last car used. It was a three year old Lexus ES330 with 45k miles which we bought for $18,200 (out the door price). My wife has since put 32k miles on it and we have replaced one tire, changed the brakes and replaced one gasket. Replacing the gasket was a surprise but the car has otherwise been low maintenance. Our last Lexus held up for 160k miles which is when we gave it to our son and daughter who drive it daily.

My 98 Acura CL is getting old and I prefer not driving it across country on our family's next military move. I have been studying both new and used car deals. On the new car side, I found that the cheapest car with five star crash ratings for side, front and rollover is the 2009 Mazda 6. The Mazda may not be a classy car when compared with our Lexus and Acura. If I'll be racking up a lot of miles at my next job I may get something like the Mazda 6. If my drive to work is relatively short, I will likely opt for a low mileage upscale car, something that I could get for about the same price as maxed out Mazda 6.

According a recent consumer reports article, the best used upscale cars to buy are:

* Lexus ES. I would prefer the 2006 since this is the last year that doesn't require premium gas.
* Lexus IS
* Toyota Avalon
* Acura TSX
* Lincoln MKZ, Zephyr (FWD)
* Infiniti G20
* Acura TL
* Infiniti I30, I35
* Infiniti G35 (sedan)
* Volvo S60
* Buick Lucerne (V8)
* Nissan Maxima

My personal favorites from this used car list are the Lexus ES, Acura TL, Toyota Avalon and the Nissan Maxima. The Maxima is thrown in the list since the new Maxima body style actually gets 5 stars in all safety categories, to include rollover.

Before buying any car from the above list I would specifically watch the crash test videos of it on YouTube and do research on its safety at and NHTSA (via and data carried at MSN autos).

If an upscale car isn't for you, you can check out the full listing of best and worst used cars here. The list includes the following categories: small, family, upscale, luxury, sport, minivans, small SUVs, medium/large SUVs and pickup trucks.

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