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Hey Graduates - Here Are the Best Lightly-Used Car Models For Under $20K

Shopping for a slightly used vehicle for yourself or a new graduate? Here is a list of models that have the best deals.


It's graduation season and across America, young people will soon be pouring into the workforce or getting ready to commute to college. Those folks need reliable transportation and a fixed cost of ownership. Lightly used vehicles offer both. But which makes and models are the best deals? A new study by iSeeCars helps answer that question. The group looked at 4.8 million model year 2106 used car transactions to create this list. EVs were excluded (taxpayer subsidies skew their resale value).

Here is a top-down list of models that include crossovers, sedans, and hybrids.

best used cars under $20KBest Used Sedan Values Under $20K
The best deal overall is the midsized Lincoln MKZ sedan. As our chart shows, after three years its price has dropped a whopping 55% from its new car price. Chevy's Impala also makes the list and is a bit less expensive. The larger Ford Taurus and Kia Cadenza are also great bargains for those who want size.

Best Used Crossover Value Under $20K
The Volkswagen Tiguan is the best used crossover deal on's list. Those who will need cargo flexibility and possible AWD, should start here. We remember the 2016 Tiguan from our testing. The Tiguan is fun to drive and sort of like a Golf on the road.

Best Hybrid Vehicle Values Under $20K
Three hybrid sedans make the list! If you want to save thousands per year on fuel and enjoy the comfort of a midsized sedan, shoppers should seek out the Ford Fusion Hybrid, Kia Optima Hybrid, and the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid.

Remember, hybrids typically have longer drivetrain warranties, so be sure to research that if you consider one. None of these three are underpowered. They all drive like base sedans and save you money on fuel. Phong Ly, iSeeCars CEO, commented on the hybrid deals. He says, "New hybrid vehicles are more expensive than their non-hybrid counterparts with the Kia Optima Hybrid costing an additional $4,303.

However, there isn’t a high demand for these hybrid vehicles, and their steep depreciation brings their resale value close to that of their non-hybrid versions. For example, the average price of a three-year-old Fusion Hybrid is only about $200 more than a gasoline-powered Fusion, making the fuel savings more valuable.”

We'd Check These Off Our List
The Fiat 500s on this list are models we'd cross off. Given Fiat's limited dealer network, a poor reputation for quality, and the small size of these cars, we would not recommend then for graduates.

Graduates have many great lightly used models from which to choose. That these models are such a good value is what sets them apart from the pack.

Top of page image courtesy of Chevrolet.

John Goreham tweets at @JohnGoreham. Please, follow him and send tips.