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10 best used cars for less than $8,000

Kelley Blue Book's editors name their choices for quality used cars.

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Someone I know was telling me yesterday about their car shopping experience with a girlfriend. Their friend told the salesman she only had $5,000 to spend, and he responded, “Come over here and look at the cars on death row.” When asked why he called them that, he said they were all ready to fall apart. Ouch. Of course, there are reliable used cars out there, but knowing which ones to look for can be difficult. That’s why the editors at Kelley Blue Book (KBB) have put together a list of their top ten picks.

“We first compiled all the used cars 2002 and newer with a Kelley Blue Book ® Retail Value of less than $8,000 as of December 2011,” said Jack R. Nerad, executive editorial director for Kelley Blue Book's “We then went through the list and handpicked the 10 used cars with the most appealing mixes of reliability, versatility and desirability, with an emphasis on track record. The vehicles on our short list offer incredible value for today's budget-conscious car shopper.”

While there’s no guarantee that a given vehicle is available in your area at the price KBB suggests, with ten to choose from, your odds are good. Here are their choices:

10. 2008 Kia Rio for $7,895
The editors note that it’s the newest vehicle they picked, which means it’s still under factory warranty. If you’re looking for a reliable subcompact, it might be just right for you.

9. 2004 Ford Crown Victoria for $7,970
At the opposite end of the scale from the Kia Rio is Ford’s discontinued Crown Victoria sedan. There’s a reason so many police cars have been Crown Vics. Grab one before they become a collector’s item.

8. 2003 Mazda Protege5 for $7,360
KBB’s editors say this five-door wagon makes a good daily driver, with good gas mileage, and is fun to drive to boot.

7. 2002 Toyota Tundra Standard Cab for $5,925
If you need a full-sized pickup truck, this one’s rugged and reliable, and, as a bonus, handles well. According to KBB, “With its smooth and durable V8 engine, a used Tundra will return thousands of sure-footed miles.”

6. 2003 Ford Escape for $7,560
The SUV on the list, the Escape is relatively compact, making it easy to drive, while still having lots of cargo space. No wonder it’s so popular.

5. 2004 Scion xA for $7,805
An economy car, the xA handles well and is comfortable. Look around for one that has the options you want, and you could get a very good deal indeed.

4. 2004 Pontiac Vibe for $7,630
This compact wagon is comfortable, gets good mileage, and has room for passengers and cargo. Sure, it’s not a status-boosting SUV, but it gets the job done at a reasonable price.

3. 2002 Toyota Corolla for $6,125
KBB’s editors say the Corolla is what it’s always been, good value, reliable and comfortable. The price is good, too.

2. 2002 Infiniti G20 for $5,965
An upscale version of the Sentra, KBB’s editors note that it’s likely to have more features than similar-sized cars for the same price. Their caveat? You may have trouble finding one.

1. 2004 Honda Civic for $7,970.
This compact sedan has a reputation for quality and reliability, while still being fun to drive. KBB’s editors say that, “If you have 24 hours and $8,000 to acquire some new wheels, just go buy the nearest used Civic and you’re likely to enjoy many years of trouble-free transportation. Sure beats shopping on death row.

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Anonymous (not verified)    January 9, 2012 - 9:00PM

LOL the only government motors not falling apart that made the list is a discontinued pontiac