Choosing a car that fits your budget, needs and wants can be overwhelming. We have compiled a list of the top 10 models frequently found on KSL Cars for under $10K that will make your most reasonable, understated and reliable dreams come true. (We get it; many of our wilder dreams were killed by the Great Recession, too.) To do that, we sorted through 80,000 listings just to give you the lowdown on cars that won't break the bank (because, again, the mortgage crisis already took care of that). Here are some things to know before you bring one of these home to live in the garage with your millenial.
2012 was the year Ford decided to focus on this model’s esthetic and deviate from the budget rental carlook of previous generations. Watch for transmission issues, but otherwise customers rave about its speed and gas mileage. Complaints dropped significantly between the 2012 and 2013 models. Ford sold around 200,000 Foci each of these years, so there should be plenty of selection out there. If you’re into speed, look for an RS that claims 252 horsepower; more rare is the electric version, sold only in New York, New Jersey and California.
Browse listings under $10,000 for 2012-2014 Ford Foci here.
The Elantra’s tired look was updated in 2011 and was freshened up even more in 2013. Customer reviews of the coupe report that they love it but some wish for more power. Complaints spiked for the 2013 model with people arguing the claimed gas mileage was too high. That being said, automotive reporting outlets conducted their own tests, with some resulting in better mileage than the EPA claims. Go figure. (No, literally: Drive an Elantra, track the mileage and help us find some peace over this.) Hyundai (and Kia) also reimbursed 900,000 owners after reassessing MPG estimates for the Elantra and a few other models.
Browse listings under $10,000 for the 2013 Hyundai Elantra here.
The 2012 Altima is the last year of this generation but the styling was ahead of its time and hasn't dated. Consumer complaints are far fewer for the 2012 than the 2013. The 2.5-liter engine is rated for four more miles per gallon than the 3.5. Sometimes known as the poor man’s Maxima, the Altima has many adoring fans who respond to such insults by driving very affordably into the sunset.
Browse listings under $10,000 for the 2012 Nissan Altima here.
The 3 is Mazda’s simple, fun-to-drive sedan or hatchback. Consumer complaints spiked for the 2010 model, mostly about its clutch, but the numbers are still relatively low. There is a lot of love for this car out there, with plenty of five-star reviews, as customers gush about its handling, gas mileage and value. Mazda sold about 100,000 of these a year, so it should be a cinch to find one despite its rabid following. The 2008 and 2010 look very different but are about the same underneath. The 2.0-liter engine was carried over, but the 2.3-liter option was replaced by a 2.5 liter claiming 167 horsepower. The SKYACTIV engine technology didn’t show up until the 2012 model.
Browse listings under $10,000 for the 2008–2010 Mazda3 here.
There weren’t any major changes from the 2011 to 2012 Cruze, but it claimed two more miles per gallon than the 2011, which adds up to 38 mpg on the highway (every mpg is precious). Customers love the 1.4-liter turbo and brag about gas mileage they say is better than the EPA rating, with one driver claiming 50 miles per gallon on a highway trip. That driver is probably lying, but choose what you want to believe because it’s 2018 and you can find something on the internet to justify pretty much any claim. Anyway, look out for transmission issues, but 2012 complaints were down 35% from the 2011 model.
Browse listings for the 2012 Chevrolet Cruze here.
Reported problems for the normally solid Civic spiked when the redesigned 2006 model came out and then slowly declined to its usual low by 2011. Complaints for 2008 are mostly about its paint. It comes in a coupe and sedan, with engine choices spanning hybrid, natural gas, conventional gasoline-sipper, and 197-horsepower Si. The Si engine loves to rev and you won’t have any trouble selling it should you choose to move on. Which you won’t, because you love to rev more than anyone will ever know. And because if you’re reading this article you probably can’t afford a Lamborghini. (Here are some Lambo listings in case you want to prove us wrong though.)
Browse listings under $10,000 for the 2008 Honda Civic here.
The Sonata got a makeover in 2010 and there were few changes for 2011. The look was bold at the time and it has held up well over the years, kind of like Dolly Parton. Customers occasionally complain about the engine dying and steering problems, but it still rates well overall.
Browse listings under $10,000 for the 2011 Hyundai Sonata here.