Javascript is not enabled.

Javascript must be enabled to use this site. Please enable Javascript in your browser and try again.

Skip to content
Content starts here
CLOSE ×

Search

Leaving AARP.org Website

You are now leaving AARP.org and going to a website that is not operated by AARP. A different privacy policy and terms of service will apply.

12 Types of Used Vehicles for Less Than $15,000

As money gets tight, consider pre-owned cars that are affordable, reliable, safe


spinner image blue Toyota Prius
TOYOTA

You want the trifecta when shopping for a used car: low price, reliability and reassuring safety scores.

Now that the coronavirus pandemic has torpedoed the concept of normal and made finances seem shakier than a straw hut on the San Andreas fault, you naturally think of a good used car as an asset. You might want to sell your new-ish car that's still nicking your budget for payments that now seem too big and head for the used-car lot.

spinner image Image Alt Attribute

AARP Membership

LIMITED TIME OFFER

Flash Sale! Join AARP today for $16 per year. Get instant access to members-only products and hundreds of discounts, a free second membership, and a subscription to AARP The Magazine.

Join Now

Or you might be between cars and think it's smarter to buy used.

Even in normal times, a used car can be the smart play. It's already done much of its depreciating.

Used cars are a better fit in many budgets. And you should be able to get a nicely appointed used machine for the same as, or even less than, you would pay for a low-end new vehicle.

The database experts at iSeeCars sorted and searched for AARP and came up with cars, minivans, pickup trucks and SUVs, ranging from electric and hybrids to luxury sedans and get-'er-done workhorses. All are priced at $15,000 or less, enjoy good reliability scores and did well in safety tests.

Keep in mind that to fit the budget, some vehicles are perhaps older than you would prefer. One reason: They held their value well and took longer to drop into our price range. According to iSeeCars, its multi-million-car database shows these vehicles were considered reliable when new and continue to give dependable service.

We're looking at the categories in alphabetical order, but be aware that in the new-vehicle market, SUVs have nearly replaced ordinary sedans. The easy-in-and-out seat height is one lure; another is the improved view ahead and around because you sit higher.

spinner image white Toyota Corolla
David Dewhurst Photography

Compact car

2017 Toyota Corolla

Our take: This Corolla is the newest of any vehicle in this list, which means it's more likely to seem modern, or new-ish, than some of the others. But drawing from more than 25 years of test driving, it's a bit tepid. A sportier-feeling alternative is the 2015 Honda Civic for $13,973. Its scores are similar to the Corolla's, except for J.D. Power's consumer satisfaction score of 73.

Price, based on iSeeCars most recent data: $14,601

Miles per gallon (MPG), combined city/highway, from Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) testing: 30 to 34, depending on trim level; the manual transmission, often thought of as a fuel saver, isn't

Yearly fuel cost, from the EPA: $950 to $1,050

Crash rating, overall, from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration: 5 stars, the top rating

Consumer Reports’ reliability rating: 5, the top score; also one of the magazine's recommended models

J.D. Power overall consumer satisfaction rating: 84 out of 100

spinner image brown 2014 Chevrolet Volt
Raymond Boyd/Getty Images

Electric car

2014 Chevrolet Volt

Our take: Yes, you can get an electric car for less than $15,000. The Volt has a gasoline engine, but it's designed to kick on at about 38 miles or so and run a generator that keeps the batteries charged and adds another 300 miles or so of electric range.

Price: $12,610

MPG equivalent: 98 for those first 38 miles, 37 using premium gas for the rest

Yearly fuel cost: $850

Crash rating: 5 stars, the top rating

Consumer Reports’ rating: 5, the top score

J.D. Power rating: 70 out of 100

spinner image light blue Toyota Camry Hybrid
Toyota

Hybrid car

2014 Toyota Camry hybrid

Our take: The hybrid version of the Camry's 2012 redo was a gem. By the time of the 2015 update, it had turned pretty sour and unpleasant to drive. Make up your own mind with a personal test drive.

Price: $14,063

MPG: 39 to 40, depending on trim level

Yearly fuel cost: $800

Crash rating: 5 stars, the top rating

Consumer Reports’ rating: Not available. The magazine didn't rate the hybrid individually but gave all Camrys a 5, the top score, and also considered the lineup one of the magazine's recommended models. Its test drive of the Camry hybrid was a thumbs-up.

J.D. Power rating: 82 out of 100

spinner image blue Toyota Prius
Toyota

Hybrid car

2014 Toyota Prius

Our take: Introduced in the U.S. in 2000 and now so ubiquitous it's almost a synonym for “hybrid,” the Prius has been pleasant if not stunning in our test drives. Another one you should try before you buy.

Price: $13,460

MPG: 48

Yearly fuel cost: $650

Crash rating: 4 of 5 stars

Consumer Reports’ rating: 5, the top score; also one of the magazine's recommended models

J.D. Power rating: 74 out of 100; also a Dependability Award winner with the fewest problems at three years old

close up of a gold car parked near the water during sunset

AARP Auto Buying Program Powered by TrueCar

Shop for a car with safety features you want. Buyers can get a free AARP Smart Driver course.

close up of a gold car parked near the water during sunset

Please Select Make

Please Enter ZIP Code

Please Select Make

Please Enter ZIP Code

spinner image black Lexus ES
Dewhurst Photography

Luxury car

2012 Lexus ES 350

Our take: While appealing for its smooth and peppy V-6 engine, the ES 350 always has seemed to us more like a black-tie version of the Toyota Camry, on which it's based, than a pure luxury car. You won't find much wrong, but our drives never sparked any serious enthusiasm either.

Price: $14,879

MPG: 22

Yearly fuel cost: $1,450

Crash rating: 3 of 5 stars

Consumer Reports’ rating: 5, the top score; also one of the magazine's recommended models

J.D. Power rating: Not rated

spinner image 2010 Mercedes-Benz E-Class E350
Drive Images / Alamy Stock Photo

Luxury car

2010 Mercedes-Benz E-Class

Our take: The E-class cars always have been our favorite Mercedes-Benz: accommodating, comfortable, pleasant to drive and just sporty enough.

Price: $14,079

MPG: 19 to 21, depending on trim level; uses premium gasoline

Yearly fuel cost: $2,000 to $2,250

Crash rating: 4.7 of 5 stars

Consumer Reports’ rating: 4 out of 5

J.D. Power rating: 79 out of 100

spinner image silver Toyota Sienna
Toyota

Minivan

2012 Toyota Sienna

Our take: Though new-car buyers largely have forsaken minivans in general in favor of sportier SUVs, only a few test drives are necessary to see they remain the most accommodating vehicle on the market.

Price: $14,798

MPG: 19 to 21, depending on trim level

Yearly fuel cost: $1,500 to $1,650

Crash rating: 4 of 5 stars

Consumer Reports’ rating: 5, top score; also one of the magazine's recommended models

J.D. Power rating: 78 out of 100; also a Dependability Award winner with the fewest problems at three years old

spinner image Honda Odyssey Touring
Car Collection / Alamy Stock Photo

Minivan

2011 Honda Odyssey

Our take: The Odyssey handles a bit sportier than the Sienna, our test drives have shown, and has commendable ratings in almost all categories. The caveat: Consumer Reports gives it a middle grade on dependability.

Price: $12,642

MPG: 21 to 22, depending on trim level

Yearly fuel cost: $1,450 to $1,500

Crash rating: 5 stars, the top rating

Consumer Reports’ rating: 3 out of 5

J.D. Power rating: 72 out of 100

spinner image red Toyota Tacoma
Toyota

Pickup

2008 Toyota Tacoma

Our take: Long the best-selling small and now “midsize” pickup, the Tacoma is a rough-riding, hard-working, old-fashioned truckers’ truck. It also lasts a good, long time, which is why you'll find a 12-year-old vehicle on this list.

Price: $14,173

MPG: 16 to 22, depending on trim level

Yearly fuel cost: $1,450 to $2,000

Crash rating: 4.7 of 5 stars

Consumer Reports’ rating: 4 out of 5

J.D. Power rating: 74 out of 100; also a Dependability Award winner with fewest problems at three years old

spinner image Honda Ridgeline
Drive Images / Alamy Stock Photo

Pickup

2010 Honda Ridgeline

Our take: Based on a car-style unibody chassis, the Ridgeline is more refined than the Tacoma. It rides and handles more like a car, but truck people have trouble taking it seriously despite Ridgeline's ability to tote 1,546 pounds in the cargo bed, matching many bigger, so-called half-ton, trucks.

Price: $14,608

MPG: 17

Yearly fuel cost: $1,850

Crash rating: 4.7 of 5 stars

Consumer Reports’ rating: 4 out of 5; also one of the magazine's recommended models

J.D. Power rating: 75 out of 100

spinner image 2010 Toyota Highlander Limited
Car Collection / Alamy Stock Photo

SUV

2010 Toyota Highlander

Our take: Our test drives show it's a fairly easy-riding vehicle suitable for most tastes. If rougher use and a stiffer ride are your thing, consider Toyota's 2009 4Runner at $14,762, which scores only slightly lower than the Highlander.

Price: About $13,124

MPG: 19 to 26, depending on trim level

Yearly fuel cost: $1,200 to $1,650

Crash rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Consumer Reports’ rating: 5, the top score; also one of the magazine's recommended models

J.D. Power rating: 74 out of 100

spinner image  2010 Acura MDX
Car Collection / Alamy Stock Photo

SUV

2011 Acura MDX

Our take: The MDX works well for those who prefer a premium brand to a mainstream nameplate.

Price: $14,331

MPG: 18, premium gas recommended

Yearly fuel cost: $2,350

Crash rating: 5 stars, the top rating

Consumer Reports’ rating: 3 out of 5

Discover AARP Members Only Access

Join AARP to Continue

Already a Member?

close up of a gold car parked near the water during sunset

AARP Auto Buying Program Powered by TrueCar

Shop for a car with safety features you want. Buyers can get a free AARP Smart Driver course.

close up of a gold car parked near the water during sunset

Please Select Make

Please Enter ZIP Code

Please Select Make

Please Enter ZIP Code