The Post and Courier

New car sales are what the auto industry and analysts keep close tabs on, but used models — some as recent as 2012 — tend to draw in consumers.

According to the Research and Innovative Technology Administration, used vehicles routinely outsell the latest editions. The spread has been 2 to 1 or more almost every year between 1990 and 2010 in the United States.

Shoppers, then, may be as familiar with the choices on’s 15 Used Car Best Bets for 2012 than the new vehicle lineup. They may even have looked at or own one or more of the cars and trucks on the list. All of the brands are available in the metro Charleston market.

Editors of the Santa Monica, Calif.-based online resource for automotive information were generous with their choices. Seven carmakers had one best bet, and four makes — Ford, Honda, Hyundai and Toyota — posted two models apiece.

“Our editors are often asked about the best used cars, and this list answers that question,” said Scott Oldham, editor in chief. “By combining our own experiences with consumer ratings and evaluations, we’d suggest these cars to any used car shopper,” he said. editors said they assembled the list based on what they feel are the four most important factors for studying and picking a used truck or car: availability, reliability, safety and value. The time frame for eligible cars was limited to the 2005 to 2010 model years, or 2 to 7 years old.

The auto information company selected a “best” in 15 categories. What follows are the individual winners and brief sketches from of each model:

• Compact Sedan: 2005-2010 Hyundai Elantra. In addition to peppy performance and a smooth ride, the Elantra offers solid build quality, reliability and operating economy.

• Midsize Sedan: 2005-2010 Nissan Altima. The Altima has established itself as an accommodating midsizer with strong performance (especially if equipped with the potent V-6) and athletic handling.

• Large Sedan: 2006-2010 Hyundai Azera. Offering an upscale look inside and out and a number of unexpected luxury features for short money, the Azera also boasts the solid build quality and steadfast reliability that Hyundai is fast becoming known for.

• Coupe: 2005-2010 BMW 3 Series. The BMW 3 Series embodies everything a coupe should be: sporty, stylish and with a level of practicality closer to that of a sedan than a dedicated sports car.

• Convertible: 2005-2010 Mazda Miata. With its ultra-responsive and communicative steering, an exuberant engine and a manual transmission with short, precise throws and an easy clutch, Mazda’s little two-seater wins over even those who don’t know a camshaft from a crankshaft.

• Wagon: 2005-2010 Pontiac Vibe. With more than a touch of style, impressive space efficiency, compact dimensions and a smooth, reliable powertrain, the Vibe makes for a very practical choice.

• Compact SUV/Crossover: 2005-2010 Honda CR-V. Space-efficient, fuel-efficient and easy to drive and own, the Honda CR-V does almost everything well.

• Midsize SUV/Crossover: 2005-2010 Ford Explorer. With its burly V-8 engine, nicely balanced handling and ride characteristics, roomy interior and plentiful family-friendly features, the Ford Explorer has a lot to offer anyone needing a versatile family vehicle.

• Large SUV/Crossover: 2005-2010 Chevrolet Tahoe. Strong performance, a comfortable ride and attractive styling are a few of the Tahoe’s assets. Others include a roomy cabin that can seat up to nine and fairly nimble handling.

• Minivan/Van: 2005-2010 Honda Odyssey. You’ll probably have to lay out a few more greenbacks for one of these vans, even in the used market, but consider it money well spent.

• Compact Truck: 2005-2010 Toyota Tacoma. In addition to the well-known strengths of impressive overall quality and a rock-solid reliability record, the Tacoma offers a pickup for most any need or personality.

• Large Truck: 2005-2010 Ford F-150. There must be a very good reason that the Ford F-150 has been the top-selling vehicle in America for most of the last three decades. We can think of many: comfortable interior, a compliant ride, smooth power plants and best-in-class brakes.

• Luxury: 2005-2010 Infiniti G35/G37. With rear-wheel drive, a ripping V-6 and sporty suspension tuning, the G35 and later G37 are a smart choice for savvy enthusiasts.

• Hybrid: 2005-2010 Toyota Prius. The snub-nosed hatchback design devotes most of the car’s body to passenger and cargo space, making the Prius a snap to park in tight spaces. Of course it gets excellent fuel economy while providing satisfactory performance.

• Sport Compact: 2005-2010 Subaru Impreza WRX. Subaru’s Impreza WRX has long been a favorite of enthusiasts on a budget for its spirited performance and fun-loving personality. Yet the WRX packs a few practical strengths that also make it a good choice as an everyday vehicle.

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Reach Jim Parker at 937-5542 or