Used and Improved: Marquee pre-owned cars and trucks can prove safe and reliable at affordable prices

The Honda Fit’s high fuel economy was a key point in being named the top used car by among subcompact sedans (Provided).

If they were pets, these things would be house trained. As golf clubs, they would be broken in. Smart phones? Think lightly used.

The attractions in question are primo used vehicles, specifically the best available pre-owned trucks and cars two- to seven-years old.

They’re in demand: Many shoppers don’t find themselves in the market right now for new $15,000 to $150,000 new models. If you’re not convinced, count how many used car outlets dot the Charleston area or most any city or town.

Customers may eye used models to save money for themselves or in securing a low-priced vehicle for their first-time teenaged drivers. They may need the vehicle for work or as a “beater” to take on fishing trips.

Catering to the varied interests in pre-owned cars, auto information company this month rolled out its yearly list of the Best Used Cars. The findings for this year include 18 cars based on segment.

By carmaker, Toyota and Honda lead with four vehicles apiece, followed by Ford with three cars and trucks. In all, 11 brands scored top picks.

The categories showcase practical choices such as sedans, SUV/crossovers, minivans, trucks and hybrids as well as performance models such as luxury, convertible and two-seat sports car.

“There are a lot of popular cars on this list, and that’s not a surprise,” said Scott Oldham, editor in chief of

“Wider availability of a particular vehicle almost always translates to more competitive prices and better value for used car shoppers,” he said.

Here’s the list by segment with highlights from the report:

• Cargo Van: 2006-11 Dodge/Mercedes Sprinter. “The Sprinter looks rather bizarre compared to competitors. But that tall architecture allows (with the taller of the two available roof heights) a 6-foot-3 adult to walk around upright inside.”

• Compact Sedan: 2006-2011 Hyundai Elantra. “In addition to peppy performance and a smooth ride, the Elantra offers reliability and operating economy. Impressive crash test scores are another feather in the (model’s) cap.”

• Compact SUV/Crossover: 2006-2011 Honda CR-V. “Fuel-efficient and easy to drive and own, the five-passenger Honda CR-V does almost everything well. The compact crossover will easily meet most consumers’ needs for comfort and space.”

• Compact Truck: 2006-2011 Toyota Tacoma. “In addition to its well-known strengths of impressive overall quality and a rock-solid reliability, the Toyota Tacoma lineup offers a large variety of cab styles, bed lengths and trim levels.”

• Convertible: 2006-2011 Volvo C70. “The Volvo C70 is essentially two cars in one: a luxury coupe and a stylish convertible. The C70 provides the traditional Volvo strengths of comfortable seating and an abundance of safety features.”

• Coupe: 2006-2011 Honda Accord. “This represents two generations of the Accord coupe: 2003-’07 and 2008-’12. Either way, you’ll get tight build quality, a smooth ride, refined powertrains and a strong reputation for reliability.”

• Hybrid: 2006-2011 Toyota Prius. “The Prius’ snub-nosed hatchback design devotes most of the car’s body length to passenger and cargo space. The result is a large cabin that provides midsize-sedan room within a compact footprint.”

• Large Sedan: 2006-2011 Toyota Avalon. “Avalon virtues include a smooth and very quiet ride, a powerful yet fuel-efficient V-6, a massive backseat and top-notch build quality. Adding peace of mind is Toyota’s reputation for reliability.”

• Large SUV/Crossover: 2007-2011 Mazda CX-9. “With its precise steering, the CX-9 feels considerably smaller than it actually is and right at home on the occasional back road. Yet none of this comes at the expense of practicality.”

• Large Truck: 2006-2011 Ford F-150. “The F-150 features a huge variety of cab styles, a comfortable interior with sound ergonomics, a compliant ride, communicative steering, smooth power plants and best-in-class brakes.”

• Luxury: 2006-2011 Infiniti G35/G37/G25. “Available in sedan, coupe and convertible body styles, the Infiniti G series can be anything from a practical midsize family sport sedan to a sport coupe to a carefree drop top.”

• Midsize Sedan: 2007-2011 Ford Fusion. “The Ford offers something rather rare in this segment: a sporty driving personality to go along with its practicality. In addition to four- and six-cylinder gasoline engines, Ford offered a hybrid Fusion.”

• Midsize SUV/Crossover: 2006-2011 Toyota Highlander. “Ever since its debut back in 2001, the Toyota Highlander has offered pleasant driving dynamics, a comfortable ride and plenty of cargo capacity.”

• Minivan/Van: 2006-2011 Honda Odyssey. “A powerful V-6, cavernous interior, strong crash scores and a favorable reliability record have contributed to this ideal family shuttle’s ongoing popularity.”

• Performance Car: 2006-2011 Ford Mustang GT. “These modern Mustangs provide plenty of fun along with a measure of practicality. In addition to sizzling acceleration, a Ford Mustang GT will provide decent handling on a curvy road.”

• Subcompact Sedan: 2007-2011 Honda Fit. “Introduced in the U.S. six years ago, the Fit has won over consumers with its spirited and nimble driving demeanor, high fuel economy and incredibly space-efficient design.”

• Two-Seat Sports Car: 2006-2011 Chevrolet Corvette. “The expression ‘bang for the buck’ might as well be trademarked to the Chevrolet Corvette, given its relative affordability and incredible, supercar-level performance.”

• Wagon: 2006-2011 Subaru Outback. “All-wheel drive was standard on every Outback, which is a real asset. The later-generation Outback wagon (2010-’11) has more passenger and cargo room within a similar footprint.” said it based the choices on how reliable, safe and available the vehicles were as well as their overall value. The company’s editors “considered their own professional experiences with the cars and examined consumer ratings.” They also studied crash test results from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Insurance Institute for Highway Safety as well as its own True Market Value prices and True Cost to Own information. Used cars surveyed stem from the 2006-2011 model years.

For the full report of’s Best Used Cars for 2013,

According to the company, shoppers can check to see if any Best Used Cars are in the local area including metro Charleston by searching its used car inventory listings at

Reach Jim Parker at 937-5542 or