These cars may not be hot rods but they are proven rides that will keep you going for years. Whether you're a first-time driver, car buyer, or just needing something reliable to get you from point A to point B, check out these picks. We recommend these vehicles no matter the year, though if you're on a budget all of these models can be purchased used between $5,000 to $10,000 on earlier models.
No surprise here, but the Honda Civic is almost untouchable when it comes to reliability. In fact, some models have over 1 million miles on their odometers. Though we don’t expect you to drive a Civic that long, they can easily make 250,000 miles if routinely maintained and cared for. We especially like the mid-2000s new stylings and zippy V-Tec engine.
Compared to other contemporaries like the Toyota Corolla, the Civic has a bit more acceleration and handles nicely. The Civic’s economic gas mileage is also attractive for young drivers. If you’re old school, manual Civics can still be found. Being a highly common car, you will find no shortage of replacement parts, accessories, and mods for this popular vehicle.
A solid alternative to the Honda Civic is the universally liked Toyota Corolla. With its ample 1.8L engine and 32 mpg, the Corolla is an economical sedan that also sports some decent style. Newer Corollas are even sportier and boast heated seats, Bluetooth options, navigation, and a sunroof. There’s no wonder why this vehicle is one of the most popular in the world.
The bigger, more full-size sibling of the Civic, the Honda Accord boasts greater power and room. Early model Accords are solidly reliable vehicles, but newer models boast sportier designs. Buyers will have the option of its economical 2.4L 4-cylinder engine (185 horsepower), or its beefier 278 horsepower, V6 counterpart. No matter the choice, you’ll have a spacious car with plenty of oomph for those needing a nice vehicle for their daily commute or cross-country driving.
Japanese for “crown”, the Camry sits among the top of the pack for mid-size economy sedans. Though plainer and not as exciting as other choices on the list, the Camry gets high regards for its quiet comfortable ride and emphasis on safety. Your teen may not be thanking you at first, but the Camry will certainly keep them safe.
Buyers can choose from the 178 horsepower 2.5L model, or the 268 horsepower, 3.5L V6. Though, with its 28 mpg fuel economy, your teen may be better suited for the 4-cylinder.
The Mazda 3 has become a common sight on college campuses and high school parking lots for quite some time. The reason is its affordable price, easy handling, and solid gas mileage. This car won’t be winning any high-performance awards anytime soon, but critics can’t argue with its reliability and simplicity. Repairs on the Mazda 3 are especially low, with annual maintenance costs coming out to $433. Couple that with its 30 mpg and you have a decent and affordable car for your child.
The 2008 model seems to be an especially affordable and well-liked year.
Simply put, the Ford Ranger is just a fun truck to drive. From its economic inline 4 engine to its more robust 4.0 V6 (the engine as the Ford Mustang), the Ranger can serve multiple roles as a simple commuter or a decent light pick up. Though the Ranger is a gas guzzler compared to others on this list, its all-wheel-drive makes this truck safe in the snow or other terrain. For those who need something with a bit more heft than a compact sedan, the Ford Ranger is a great option. Early 2000s models can be had for $5,000 or less, mileage pending.
If you’re needing a bigger pickup or maybe you’re not a Ford fan, the Toyota Tacoma is an affordable alternative to the Ranger. The Tacoma offers rugged off-road performance coupled with Toyota’s proven reliability. In fact, the 2005 and 2010 to 2015 years of Tacoma have perfect reliability ratings and are highly regarded by drivers. Between Tacoma’s all-wheel-drive as well as its inline 4 and V6 engine options, this truck is a formidable pick.
An alternative to the alternative, the Altima is a great substitute to both the Accord or Corolla. Reliable, sporty, and frugal you really can’t go wrong with this vehicle when offered a decent price. Though its plain-jane interior may be lacking compared to other brands, first-time buyers will appreciate the relaxed handling. Used Altimas can be purchased at an affordable price, though newer models offer a host of new amenities.
You may be wondering what the Acura TL is doing on this list, but surprisingly, with its discontinuation, the sport-luxury TL is now approaching the affordable territory. If you are looking to upgrade from the economy-class sedans and into something a bit more executive then the TL is certainly for you. The Acura TL offers plenty of attractive, high-class styling coupled with the proven dependability of Honda’s VTec engine. Available in a V6, the TL produces a hefty 280-305 horsepower. Many consider the 2008 TL to be the best year thanks to its stylish exterior, grill design, and improved handling.