2008 subaru impreza ・ Photo by Subaru
If you’re looking to get back and forth to work every day, these 10 best used commuter cars will serve very well in that regard. For a commuter car, the first consideration needs to be reliability. It needs to start every day—no matter what. Which brings us to operating costs—those you want to keep as low as possible. And finally, fuel economy is also a strong consideration, Happily, these days one can get good fuel economy without giving up a lot of creature comforts. If your commute involves a lot of stop and go traffic, you’ll want to consider one of the hybrid models we’ve listed.
These are all base models of cars from 2010 with approximately 62,000 miles on them. The price ceiling is $15,000. Reliability is a huge factor, so we focused on vehicles you could find on a dealer’s lot offered as certified pre-owned. This has the advantage of getting you into a thoroughly inspected car with warranty protection. We also focused on cars capable of comfortably seating at least three adults in order to qualify for carpool lanes. For values, we’re quoting our friends at Kelley Blue Book’s Fair Market Range Pricing for each car. We also considered safety ratings—each car scored four stars or better in NHTSA’s crash testing.
We were big fans of the new Malibu when it debuted in 2007. In part this was because the handsome exterior appearance was mirrored by a pleasant interior experience. Malibu does give up a bit in rear seat legroom to its competitors, but if your commute is only moderately long, your carpool mates won’t mind too much. Power for the base model (and the best fuel economy; 22-city/30-hwy/25-combined) comes from a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine with 169 horsepower and 158 ft-lbs of torque. A 252-horsepower 3.6-liter V6 was also offered. Standard equipment included automatic headlights, keyless entry, cruise control, and air conditioning. KBB Fair Market pricing ranges from $11,365 to $12,684.
For the 2010 model year, Ford treated Fusion to a significant styling refresh, which helped clean up the car’s aerodynamics and improved its fuel economy. Soft touch materials were added to make the interior more comfortable, as well as imbue it with a more luxurious feel. You’ll find Ford’s SYNC infotainment system as well. The best pricing and the best fuel economy will come with the 2.5-liter inline four-cylinder engine rated at 175 horsepower and 172 ft-lbs of torque. Ford offered six-speed manual- and six-speed automatic transmissions with this engine and claimed 33 miles per gallon. Kelley says to expect to pay between $11,079 and $12,298 for a certified pre-owned 2010 Ford Fusion.
Back in 2010, Honda introduced its second-generation Insight model, named for the first mass-market hybrid model offered. This time though, rather than doing a two-seat runabout, Honda came back with a four-door hatchback. Intended as a straight on shot at Toyota’s Prius, the Insight looked a lot like its rival—but was priced considerably lower. Honda’s hybrid powertrain was good for a total system output of 98 horsepower and 123 ft-lbs of torque. The EPA rated the Insight at 41 mpg combined, 40 in the city, and 43 on the highway. Amenities included automatic climate control, full power accessories, and a four-speaker audio system with a CD player. Kelley says you’ll find certified 2010 Honda Insights priced between $11,777 and $13,096.
Any Honda Civic is a good choice for a commuter car, and a Honda Civic Hybrid is an even better one. A top pick on nearly every list of the best cars in this category, Honda’s Civic has a very strong reputation. The interior treatment is a bit quirky, but you can just consider it personality. On the equipment front, the 2010 Civic Hybrid was hooked up nice. You’ll find automatic climate control, keyless entry, cruise control, full power accessories, a sunroof, and steering wheel mounted audio controls. Power came from a 110-horsepower hybrid system featuring an electric motor teamed with a 1.3-liter inline four and a continuously variable transmission. Kelley says to expect to pay between $11,752 and $13,105.
Mazda redid Mazda6 for the 2009 model year, so the 2010 version of the car represented the best it could do in the mid-size sedan category at the time. Mazda’s then-flagship, the Mazda6 was spacious and placed a great deal of emphasis on driver involvement. Power for the base model came from a 170-horsepower, 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine with 167 ft-lbs of torque. A six-speed manual transmission was standard; a five-speed automatic was optional. Also offered was a 3.7-liter V6 with 272 horsepower and 269 ft-lbs of torque. Standard features included full power accessories, keyless entry, air conditioning, and a six-speaker audio system. Kelley says expect certified base models of the 2010 Mazda6 to be priced between $10,621 and $11,834.
Photo by Mazda
Nobody said commuter cars had to be boring. Mazda’s RX-8 would fit all of our parameters if it returned better fuel economy. However, if you’re looking for something unique, and still want to run in the carpool lane, the underappreciated Mazda RX-8 will let you do it all and be fun to drive too. Power came from a 1.3-liter rotary engine with 232 horsepower (with the manual transmission) and 152 ft-lbs of torque. Standard features included air conditioning, cruise control, full power accessories, and a six-speaker stereo with a CD player. Here’s where the underappreciated part comes in big time—Kelley says you can expect to find the base model RX-8 priced between $12,727 and $14,072.
Photo by Mazda
The beauty of this choice is it can take you to work all week, and then back off into the woods with pretty much anything you’d want to carry on the weekend. Subaru’s Impreza is also the ride you want if you’re living in areas with lots of inclement weather. The all-wheel drive system makes short work of snowy roads and the like. Power for the base model came from a 2.5-liter horizontally opposed four-cylinder engine with 170 horsepower and 170 ft-lbs of torque. A five-speed manual was the standard, while a four-speed automatic was optional. Other standard equipment included full power accessories, keyless entry, air conditioning, cruise control, and a four-speaker audio system with a CD player. Kelley says you can expect to see the base model priced between $13,070 and $14,583.
While many people were surprised by the look of the 2010 Subaru Legacy at its introduction, everybody agreed the car underneath was a solid piece of work. A good all-around choice—regardless of your environment—if you live in an area with heavy snowfall or lots of rain you’re going to love the Subaru’s all-wheel drive powertrain. The base model was powered by a 170-horsepower 2.5-liter horizontally opposed four-cylinder with 170 ft-lbs of torque. Subaru also offered a 265-horsepower turbocharged version of this engine, as well as a 3.6-liter horizontally opposed six with 256 horsepower. Both will push the price above the $15,000 ceiling though. Kelley says you’ll find the base model 2010 Legacy priced between $13,321 and $14,876.
Boasting Toyota’s legendary reliability, a spacious interior, and good fuel economy, the Camry is tough to beat. No, you won’t be inspired by the driving experience, but it will start every time you get into it. Camry’s also quiet, smooth riding and nicely equipped. Power for the base model came from a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine with 169 horsepower. You’ll likely run into six-speed automatic transmissions—but a six-speed manual was offered too. There was also a 3.5-liter V6 good for 268 horsepower, which likely will be priced above the $15,000 ceiling. Air conditioning, cruise control, and keyless entry should all be available within our price range though. Kelley says you’ll find the base model 2010 Camry for between $12,747 and $14,122.