When it comes to choosing a used car, actual owners of the model you're interested in, offer the most unbiased reviews. That is, of course, when they're not trying to sell you their own car… As you probably already know, Consumer Reports (CR) not only tests cars, but it also asks its almost 1 million subscribers each year how their vehicles are doing through its Annual Auto Survey.
While CR’s reviews may offer first-hand details on certain qualities and faults of new vehicles, usually long-term ownership reveals how good a car is. This is why the publication compiled a Best & Worst Used Cars list for model years 2003 through 2012.
Based on feedback from its subscribers and on Consumer Reports’ own reviews, the report names the best budget sedans, SUVs and small cars available in four price categories – from $10,000 or less up to $25,000.
Less than $10,000
In the most economical category, CR found the 2009 Pontiac Vibe to be the best small car. It is the only U.S. brand that won a category (it also helped that the Vibe was a twin of the Toyota Matrix). The best sedans in this price range are the 4-cylinder 2008 Hyundai Sonata and 2004 Acura TSX, while the 4-cylinder 2004 Toyota RAV4 was picked the best SUV.
$10,000 - $15,000
The best cars in this segment are all Japanese. The best small car title is shared by the 2011 Honda Fit with the 2011 Mazda3, while the sedan category is an all-Honda affair, with the 2006-07 Honda Accord V6 sharing honors with its more upscale sibling, the 2005-06 Acura TL. The 2006-08 Toyota RAV4 and 2005-07 Honda CR-V tie for the title of the best small SUV, while the 2004-07 Toyota Highlander V6 and 2003-04 Infiniti FX share the title of best midsized/large SUV.
$15,000 - $20,000
The 2010-11 Toyota Prius and 2011-12 Hyundai Elantra sedan are the best small cars in the third price range, while the 2011-2012 4-cylinder Toyota Camry and 2006-07 Infiniti M are the best mid-size sedans. The SUV award goes to the 2007-08 Honda Pilot and 2009 Mazda CX-9.
$20,000 - $25,000
Surprisingly, the only German car to win a category is the 2009 BMW 328i, which shares the best sedan title with the 2009 Infiniti G and 2010 Toyota Avalon. Best SUV goes to 2007-08 Acura MDX and 2008 Lexus RX.
And the worst are…
Consumer Reports’ list also includes 20 models from the 2003 to 2012 model years with multiple years of “much-worse-than-average overall reliability”. The list is dominated by U.S. brands (with 7 Chrysler Group vehicles, 4 GM cars and 2 Fords), but there are also German cars (BMW 7 Series, BMW X5, Mini Cooper S, Mercedes-Benz GL-Class and VW Touareg), as well as Korean (Kia Sorento V6). You can take a look at the full list here.
By Dan Mihalascu