25 best used cars under $15,000

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(iSeeCars) – With used car prices reaching all-time highs, finding the right used car at an affordable price is harder than ever before. While the average used car price has risen to $26,486, there are plenty of lower cost vehicles to choose from. But does lower cost equate to lower quality? If you’re a savvy car shopper, the answer is no.

For a budget of $15,000 or less, there are a number of high quality used vehicles to choose from. But how can you find the right car without breaking your budget? Opting for a reliable used car that has already taken most of its depreciation hit is a smart and practical choice. After all, cars depreciate quickly and the average vehicle loses half its value in five years. We’ve done the legwork for you and put together a list of the best used cars that can be found in the $15,000 price range.  

(Photo courtesy of Honda)

Best Used Cars Under $15,000

The vehicles on our list are between five and seven-years-old, from the 2014 and 2016 model years, and rank the highest on iSeeCars quality analysis that takes into account long-term reliability, value retention, and highest average safety ratings from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Based on this criteria, an iSeeCars Quality Score was calculated.

We divided top cars into the following segments: small cars, midsize sedans, large sedans, SUVs, and hybrid cars.

Best Small Cars Under $15,000:

Small cars are a popular choice for drivers who don’t require a lot of passenger and cargo space and who want an efficient vehicle. Because of their small size, these cars tend to be more affordable than their larger counterparts.

Best Used Cars Under $15,000: Small Cars
RankVehicleiSeeCars Quality Score (of 10)Average Used Car Price
12014 Honda Civic9.0$13,524
22016 Honda Fit9.0$13,891
32016 Toyota Corolla8.9$13,868
42016 Subaru Impreza8.9$14,623
52016 Mazda MAZDA38.9$13,986
62014 Volkswagen Golf8.8$14,389
72016 Kia Soul8.7$12,891
  1. Honda Civic

iSeeCars Quality Score: 9.0
Reliability Score: 8.7
Value Retention Score: 8.8
Safety Score: 9.5

Earning top honors as the best used car under $15,000 is the Honda Civic, which has enjoyed a longstanding tenure as one of the most popular compact cars in America. The 2014 Civic is available in sedan and coupe body styles. The versatile Civic, which appeals to both sporty and practical drivers alike, is known for its comfortable drive quality, high safety scores, and fuel efficiency. It comes standard with front-wheel drive and a five-speed manual transmission, but a five-speed automatic transmission is also offered. The Civic also offers a 143-horsepower four-cylinder engine. A 2014 used Honda Civic can be found for an average price of $13,524. 

  1. Honda Fit

iSeeCars Quality Score: 8.9
Reliability Score: 8.0
Value Retention Score: 8.8
Safety Score: 10

The Honda Fit earned top honors on our list of Best Subcompact Cars thanks to its safety and reliability ratings as well as for providing ample passenger room and cargo room with its “magic seat” that folds down to help haul large objects. A 2016 Honda Fit for sale can be found for $13,891. 

  1. Toyota Corolla

iSeeCars Quality Score: 8.9
Reliability Score: 8.1
Value Retention Score: 8.7
Safety Score: 10

No small car list would be complete without the Toyota Corolla, which ranks third. The Corolla is fuel-efficient, earning a combined 32 MPG, which is above-average for the class. It also offers ample seating space and cargo room. A 2016 used Toyota Corolla can be found for an average price of $13,868.

  1. Subaru Impreza

iSeeCars Quality Score: 8.9
Reliability Score: 7.9
Value Retention Score: 8.7
Safety Score: 10

The Subaru Impreza ranks fourth. The compact Impreza offers standard all-wheel drive and is considered among the most affordable and best AWD cars on the market. Along with being reliable, it earns high safety scores and offers a spacious cabin. A used 2016 Subaru Impreza costs an average of $14,623.

  1. Mazda MAZDA3

iSeeCars Quality Score: 8.9
Reliability Score: 8.0
Value Retention Score: 8.6
Safety Score: 10

The compact Mazda MAZDA3 ranks fifth. The fun-to-drive small car has impressive driving dynamics, provides a comfortable ride, and earns excellent fuel economy with a combined 32 mpg. The MAZDA3 also has sporty exterior styling and an upscale interior that belies its price point. The 2016 Mazda MAZDA3 for sale costs an average of $13,986.

  1. Volkswagen Golf

iSeeCars Quality Score: 8.8
Reliability Score: 7.8
Value Retention Score: 8.6
Safety Score: 10

The Volkswagen Golf compact hatchback has an upscale interior and impressive driving dynamics. It also has above-average cargo space for the class, making it a practical and fuel efficient SUV alternative. A 2014 Volkswagen Golf for sale costs an average of $14,389. 

  1. Kia Soul

iSeeCars Quality Score: 8.7
Reliability Score: 7.7
Value Retention Score: 8.5
Safety Score: 10

The Kia Soul ranks seventh. The small wagon has ample cargo and seating space and has a low cost of ownership. A 2016 Kia Soul for sale costs an average of $12,891.

Best Used Midsize Sedans Under $15,000

Drivers who want a vehicle with slightly more space can find a midsize sedan to suit their needs. Here are the best used midsize sedans that can be found for under $15,000.

Best Used Cars Under $15,000: Midsize Sedans
RankVehicleiSeeCars Quality Score (of 10)Average Used Car Price
12014 Honda Accord9.0$14,933
22014 Toyota Camry9.0$13,291
32016 Hyundai Sonata8.9$14,030
42014 Subaru Legacy8.5$12,467
52014 Kia Optima8.5$12,330
62014 Mazda Mazda68.5$12,769
72016 Ford Fusion8.3$13,909
82016 Nissan Altima8.3$13,928
  1. Honda Accord  

iSeeCars Quality Score: 9.1
Reliability Score: 8.8
Value Retention Score: 8.5
Safety Score: 10

The Honda Accord earns the top spot as the best midsize sedan. The Accord is praised for its sporty handling and provides more passenger room than what’s typical for its class. It comes standard with either a six-speed manual transmission or a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT).The popular sedan also has an upscale interior and gets excellent fuel economy. A rearview camera is the only standard driver’s assistance feature, while forward collision warning,  blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning, and adaptive cruise control are available on higher trim levels. A 2014 Honda Accord for sale costs an average of $14,933.

  1. Toyota Camry

iSeeCars Quality Score: 9.0
Reliability Score: 8.4
Value Retention Score: 8.6
Safety Score: 10

The Toyota Camry midsize sedan ranks second. The Camry offers a comfortable ride and has ample legroom and headroom for passengers. The Camry also has below-average ownership costs thanks to its stellar reliability rating. Available safety features on the Camry include a rearview camera, blind spot monitoring, and rear cross traffic alert. A 2014 Toyota Camry for sale has an average cost of $13,291.

  1. Hyundai Sonata

iSeeCars Quality Score: 8.7
Reliability Score: 7.8
Value Retention Score: 8.2
Safety Score: 10

The midsize Hyundai Sonata ranks third. The Sonata provides a comfortable ride and has a spacious interior filled with high-quality materials. It comes with standard features including a 7-inch touch screen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Bluetooth, remote keyless entry, and a rearview camera. A 2016 used Hyundai Sonata costs an average of $14,030.

  1. Subaru Legacy

iSeeCars Quality Score: 8.5
Reliability Score: 7.9
Value Retention Score: 7.6
Safety Score: 10

The Subaru Legacy ranks fourth. The Legacy is one of the only cars in its class that comes with standard all-wheel drive, making it a practical choice for all-weather driving. It has a spacious interior, offering two comfortable rows of seating. A 2014 Subaru Legacy for sale costs an average of $12,467

  1. Kia Optima

iSeeCars Quality Score: 8.5
Reliability Score: 7.6
Value Retention Score: 7.9
Safety Score: 10

The Kia Optima ranks fifth. The Optima offers pleasant drive quality and a 192-horsepower four-cylinder base engine that is among the strongest in its class. It also has an upscale interior and two rows of comfortable seats. A 2014 Kia Optima for sale costs an average of $12,330.

  1. Mazda MAZDA6

iSeeCars Quality Score: 8.5
Reliability Score: 8.1
Value Retention Score: 7.3
Safety Score: 10

The midsize Mazda Mazda6 ranks sixth. The Mazda6 is praised for its driving dynamics, and it has an upscale interior that rivals a luxury sedan. Cloth seats are standard, but leather seats are available on higher trims. Its base engine is a powerful 184-horsepower four-cylinder that provides swift acceleration and athletic handling.  A 2014 Mazda MAZDA6 for sale costs an average of $12,769.

  1. Ford Fusion

iSeeCars Quality Score: 8.3
Reliability Score: 7.8
Value Retention Score: 7.2
Safety Score: 10

The midsize Ford Fusion ranks sixth. The Ford Fusion provides a smooth and comfortable ride and has powerful engine options. It comes standard with front-wheel drive, but all-wheel drive is also available on higher trims. All Fusions feature a rearview camera, Bluetooth connectivity, and Ford’s SYNC voice control system. A 2016 Ford Fusion for sale costs an average of $12,769.

  1. Nissan Altima

iSeeCars Quality Score: 8.3
Reliability Score: 8.0
Value Retention Score: 7.0
Safety Score: 10

The Nissan Altima midsize sedan ranks eighth. The fuel efficient sedan rides comfortably and has a stylish cabin with lots of passenger and cargo room. A 2016 Nissan Altima for sale costs an average of $13,928.

Best Used Large Sedans Under $15,000

The large sedan segment has declined in popularity, leading to the discontinuation of several models. While the most popular large sedans are above $15,000 for their five- to seven-year-old versions, two discontinued models make the list.

Best Used Cars Under $15,000: Large Sedans
RankVehicleiSeeCars Quality Score (of 10)Average Used Car Price
12014 Chevrolet Impala8.4$14,914
22014 Ford Taurus8.2$12,686
  1. Chevrolet Impala

iSeeCars Quality Score: 8.4
Reliability Score: 6.9
Value Retention Score: 8.4
Safety Score: 10

The Chevrolet Impala is the best used large sedan that can be found for under $15,000. The Impala provides a comfortable ride with roomy front and rear seating. A 196 horsepower four-cylinder comes standard, but a 305 horsepower V6 is also available. As the only large sedan that has a front-row bench seat, it can seat up to six passengers. A seven-year-old Chevrolet Impala for sale can be found for $14,914.

  1. Ford Taurus

iSeeCars Quality Score: 8.2
Reliability Score: 6.2
Value Retention Score: 8.4
Safety Score: 10

The second spot goes to the Ford Taurus, which has a stylish exterior and a powerful standard V6 engine. The spacious sedan also can be equipped with all-wheel drive to appeal to drivers in all-weather climates. A2014 Ford Taurus for sale can be found for an average price of $12,686.

Best Used SUVs Under $15,000

Although SUVs tend to be more expensive than sedans, there are still used SUVs that represent a smart car buying choice and can be found for under $15,000. Five compact used crossovers make the list.

Best Used SUVs Under $15,000
RankVehicleiSeeCars Quality Score (of 10)Average Used Car Price
12014 Subaru Outback8.7$14,940
22014 Subaru Forester8.7$14,313
32016 Kia Sportage8.4$14,948
42014 Hyundai Tucson8.4$13,065
52014 Ford Escape8.2$12,961
  1. Subaru Outback

iSeeCars Quality Score: 8.7
Reliability Score: 8.0
Value Retention Score: 8.1
Safety Score: 10

The best used SUV that can be found for under $15,000 is the Subaru Outback. Although the Outback is technically classified as a wagon and resembles a hatchback, it offers standard all-wheel drive and competes with vehicles in the compact SUV category. Perfect for adventure seekers, the Outback can handle light offroading, has class-leading cargo space, and comes standard with a roof rack. It also has above-average towing capacity for the class, at up to 3,000 pounds. A 2014 Subaru Outback for sale costs an average of $14,940.

  1. Subaru Forester

iSeeCars Quality Score: 8.7
Reliability Score: 8.0
Value Retention Score: 8.1
Safety Score: 10

Another Subaru, the Subaru Forester compact SUV, ranks second. Like the Outback, it comes standard with all-wheel drive and delivers excellent fuel economy. It also has more passenger and cargo space than what’s typical for the compact SUV class. A 2014 Subaru Forester for sale costs an average of $14,313

  1. Kia Sportage

iSeeCars Quality Score: 8.4
Reliability Score: 7.5
Value Retention Score: 8.1
Safety Score: 9.6

The Kia Sportage compact SUV ranks third. Known for its value, the Sportage has impressive driving dynamics and offers a comfortable ride. On the inside, it features a roomy and stylish interior. As the most affordable vehicle on the list, shoppers can get a newer version of this vehicle than any other SUV on the list. A 2016 Kia Sportage for sale can be found for an average of $14,948.

  1. Hyundai Tucson 

iSeeCars Quality Score: 8.3
Reliability Score: 6.9
Value Retention Score: 8.1
Safety Score: 9.8

The Hyundai Tucson, which shares a platform and many of the same features as the third-ranked Kia Sportage, ranks fourth. The Tucson offers a comfortable ride and is easy to maneuver thanks to its small size. It also has an attractive cabin and comfortable front seats. A 2014 Hyundai Tucson for sale costs an average of $13,065.

  1. Ford Escape

iSeeCars Quality Score: 8.2
Reliability Score: 7.9
Value Retention Score: 7.7
Safety Score: 9.2

The Ford Escape compact SUV earns the fifth spot. The Escape features above-average cargo space, roomy rear seats, and excellent fuel economy estimates. The 2014 Ford Escape comes standard with a touchscreen infotainment system and a rearview camera. A 2014 Ford Escape for sale costs an average of $12,961.

Best Used Hybrids Under $15,000

For shoppers looking for something more fuel efficient, there are used hybrid vehicles that can be found for under $15,000.

Best Used Cars Under $15,000: Hybrid Cars
RankVehicleiSeeCars Quality Score (of 10)Average Used Car Price
12014 Toyota Camry Hybrid8.8$13,783
22014 Honda Accord Hybrid8.5$14,808
32014 Toyota Prius8.4$12,529
  1. Toyota Camry Hybrid

iSeeCars Quality Score: 8.8
Reliability Score: 8.8
Value Retention Score: 7.7
Safety Score: 10

The Toyota Camry Hybrid midsize sedan earns the top spot. The Camry offers the same attributes as its non-hybrid counterpart, including comfortable ride quality and ample legroom and headroom. It has better fuel economy, with 43 mpg city/ 39 mpg highway. A 2014 Toyota Camry Hybrid for sale has an average cost of $13,783.

  1. Honda Accord Hybrid

iSeeCars Quality Score: 8.5

Reliability Score: 7.2

Value Retention Score: 8.3

Safety Score: 10

The Honda Accord Hybrid midsize sedan ranks second. Like its non-hybrid version, the reliable Accord offers a spacious ride and an attractive cabin. It improves on fuel economy with 50 mpg city/ 45 mpg highway. A 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid for sale has an average cost of $14,808.

  1. Toyota Prius

iSeeCars Quality Score: 8.8
Reliability Score: 8.8
Value Retention Score: 8.0
Safety Score: 9.6

Earning the third spot is the Toyota Prius. The Prius is a spacious hatchback with superb fuel economy, earning 55 mpg in the city and 48 mpg on the highway. It also has lower-than-average ownership cost and earns Toyota’s reputation for stellar long term reliability. A 2014 Toyota Prius for sale costs an average of $12,529.

Bottom Line

When it comes to car buying, buying a reliable used car saves you a great deal of money versus buying a brand new car that loses half its value within five years. Even as used car pricing reaches record highs, you can still find reliable used cars for under $15,000 if you know where to look. When buying a used car, be sure to always get a vehicle history report such as Carfax or Autocheck and have it inspected by a trusted mechanic. Additionally, be sure to check out the iSeeCars free VIN Check report that provides you with all the information you need to decide if a used car is a smart purchase decision.

More from iSeeCars.com:

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