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Used cars that are better than new?

Buying a used car vs. new is definitely a money-saver, but there's a trade-off: Used cars aren't as reliable. Or are they?

By Stacy Johnson May 4, 2011 2:41PM

This post comes from Brandon Ballenger at partner site Money Talks News.


When it comes to cars, some argue that new is the way to go. After all, that's the way to get the latest safety features, technological advances and mileage improvements. Then there's the main problem with used cars: They're not as reliable.


Others, including Money Talks News founder Stacy Johnson, have never bought a new car because they say the added features and reliability aren't worth the huge added cost. New cars shed a chunk of value instantly. Kelley Blue Book estimates the average new car drops 20% in value the first year and 65% over five years.


Here's a radical thought: What if newer cars aren't more reliable? Consumer Reports recently said that some used cars are more reliable than their much newer cousins. Money Talks News reporter Jim Robinson went to a local CarMax to check it out: 

Of course, there will always be those who will still insist that new is better. This article from our friends at Money Crashers, for example, suggests buying new is a good idea for the latest safety tech, as well as fuel efficiency. But does that extra 20% to 40% upfront hit really pay off when it comes to either mileage or reliability?

Here's a comparison of the models Consumer Reports lists as better in 2008 than 2010, along with their price tags and fuel efficiencies:


Make/model2010 national dealer2008 private seller
Honda Fit$15,151. 31 mpg.$10,650. 31 mpg.
Toyota Prius$21,408. 49 mpg.$17,330. 47 mpg.
Lexus ES$33,242. 23 mpg.$22,335. 23 mpg.
Acura RL$44,235. 19 mpg.$24,735. 20 mpg.
Mazda MX-5 Miata$21,858. 24 mpg.$14,770. 23 mpg.
Toyota Sienna$23,633. 20 mpg.$16,030. 20 mpg.
Honda CR-V$21,015. 24 mpg.$18,870. 23 mpg.
Toyota Highlander$24,851. 21 mpg.$23,670. 21 mpg.
Honda Ridgeline$26,075. 17 mpg.$18,195. 17 mpg.


2010 prices were pulled from, while 2008 prices are based on Kelley Blue Book values for private sellers with cars in fair condition, standard features, and 41,500 miles. Mileage averages come from

What we see are very small changes in fuel efficiency, mostly from rounding off the highway and city mileage average -- except with the Prius, which improved a whopping 2 miles per gallon. The Acura RL actually got slightly worse mileage, which is interesting given the sharp drop in value over two years: 44%.


None of the others dropped that much in price, but it's clear that buying these 2008 models -- which Consumer Reports says have fewer defects on average than the newer versions -- will save thousands.


As Jim mentioned in the video, though, every car is different. These are just averages, and you should ALWAYS check the condition of any car you're considering by getting a professional inspection. 


More on Money Talks News and MSN Money:

May 5, 2011 10:03AM
So the Quality of these "Imports" has fallen, and there are no domestics listed because they continue to get better?
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