The Kelley Blue Book (KBB) has become the hallmark of motor vehicle valuation. It parses retail pricing from trade-in values, and updates its appraisals on a weekly basis. Today the KBB issued a PR Newswire press release, announcing its editors’ 10 top-picks for the best used vehicles with a price tag under $8,000. Are you wondering what to buy for your family or the student heading off to college in a few months? These used cars might just be what you are looking for.
#10 2008 Kia Rio ($7,895)
The original factory warranty – still in effect – is probably the greatest plus for this four-door sub-compact. Valued at $7,895, it is easy on the wallet. “Ride comfort and easy maneuverability head the list of Rio merits,” the editors remark. Of course, they do admit that the engine gets “buzzy” when putting the pedal to the metal; then again, this sound quiets down once you reach traveling speed.
#9 2004 Ford Crown Victoria ($7,970)
This entry-level sedan has featured front and center in plenty of murder mysteries as the car of choice for the detective or amateur sleuth. Its gets 15 city miles to the gallon – and 23 highway miles – and comfortably seats six. With 220 horsepower and 265 torque, this V8 is actually also fun to drive. The drawback is clear: 15 city miles to the gallon (ouch!).
#8 2003 Mazda Protégé 5 ($7,360)
The Protégé gets 22 city miles to the gallon, as well as 28 highway miles, and might just be your cup of tea if you enjoy a hatchback. By the way, do you know how to drive a stick? If not, you might want to keep looking.
#7 2002 Toyota Tundra Standard Cab ($5,925)
Motorists love the Toyota Tundra. While the KBB editors refer to it as “a bit spartan [sic],” the 44.9-foot turning radius does indeed indicate rather nimble handling. Add to this the V8 engine, and it makes sense that used truck buyers are sure to look for this gem. One caveat: It is unlikely that you are buying the vehicle off a granny who only drove it to church and home. Note the odometer mileage and consider carefully just how many more miles you might be able to pack onto the engine, before it is time to replace it or some of its components. If the prior owner declares to have already replaced a few things, ask for service records.
#6 2003 Ford Escape ($7,560)
An inexpensive SUV to be sure, the automobile seats five and features a V6. It gets 16 city miles – and 21 highway miles – to the gallon. The 33.1 cubic feet of cargo space are perfect for families.
#5 2004 Scion xA ($7,805)
Another hatchback, the Scion impressed editors with comfort and convinced them with value. While the four-cylinder engine and 108 horsepower do not exactly scream of driving excitement, the 27 city miles to the gallon are impressive indeed. For this somewhat smaller vehicle, the 11.7 cubic feet of cargo space are also quite remarkable.
#4 2004 Pontiac Vibe ($7,630)
A functional but attractive wagon, the Vibe is low on excess and high on comfort. The sporty design does not minimize the 25 city miles to the gallon – or the 54.1 cubic feet of cargo space. If you are hauling sports equipment, groceries and have just come back from taking the pet to the vet, this wagon can handle it all – and then some.
#3 2002 Toyota Corolla ($6,125)
Toyotas are famous for longevity, and the Corolla is no exception. It is true, the KBB editors outlined that “it may not be the most exciting car on the list,” but who is going to argue with a total interior space of 100.1 cubic feet and 28 city miles to the gallon, as well as 37 highway miles?
#2 2002 Infiniti G20 ($5,965)
This Infiniti is not easy to find; drivers are holding on to them. If you do see one in the used car ads or on the used car lot, check for options. The Bose Premium Sound system should be there, as should be alloy wheels and ABS brakes.
#1 2004 Honda Civic ($7,970)
What persuaded KBB editors to choose the 2004 Honda Civic as their top pick for the 10 best used cars under $8,000? First and foremost, these cars are easy to find used, they offer “many years of trouble-free transportation,” and they make driving a sedan actually a fun experience. This sub-compact also features 27 city- and 34 highway miles to the gallon, a nimble curb weight of 2,449 pounds and 12.9 cubic feet of cargo space. It is an all-around great car for the single driver or the mom carpool operator.
What Cars Did the KBB Editors Miss?
Although quite certainly an exhaustive list, there are a few overlooked vehicles. For example, why did nobody take a liking to the 2003 Honda Civic hybrid sedan? A four-door vehicle, a used version in excellent condition retails for $6,945. It seats five and gets a stunning 37 city miles to the gallon. On the highway, it keeps going for 45 miles on a gallon of gasoline.
And while Toyota is represented nicely in the KBB list of the 10 best used cars under $8,000, where is the nod to Volkswagen? In particular the 2004 Volkswagen Jetta seems to have escaped notice. Available as a GL wagon with four doors, it retails for $7,667. Seating five comfortably and offering 51.9 cubic feet of cargo space, it gets 21 city miles to the gallon (as well as 28 highway miles). Scoring high on NHTSA crash test ratings, it is anyone’s guess why this winner did not make it into the annals of the mom carpools.
What Cars Don’t Belong on the List?
On the flip-side are the cars included in the top-10 list that leave you scratching your head. Who thought the Crown Vic was a good choice? Fifteen city miles per gallon make this car not a pocket-friendly fuel sipper, but more of a gas guzzler. Granted, the Ford Escape was barely any better, but at least it had more than 33 cubic feet of cargo space; the Crown Victoria has little more than 20.6 cubic feet. Why not take a closer look at the 2005 Pontiac Sunfire two-door coupe instead? Retailing for $6,595, it at least gets 21 city miles to the gallon (and 31 highway miles)!
Then there is the hard-to-find 2002 Infiniti G20; it’s a nice vehicle, but it is difficult to find on local used car lots. In addition, it only comes in with a 2,961-pound curb weight and width of 66.7 inches. That’s a bit light on the wheels. If it is luxury you are after, the 2001 Mercedes Benz C240 sedan is easier to find and only retails for $7,850. Better yet, with a 3,310-pound curb weight and 68 inches of width, the Mercedes just feels a bit more solid going around corners.