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Smart Used Cars: Top 10 Used Compacts

Our picks for the 10 best used economy cars with gas mileage gifts

AS
by Autobytel Staff
August 15, 2008
4 min. Reading Time
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With gas prices at an all-time high, fuel economy is foremost in many buyer's minds. Yet not everyone can afford a new car, so the used-car market has heated up significantly. But where are the best values with high gas mileage? To help used-car shoppers out, we've compiled a list of the 10 Smartest Used Gas Savers, looking at price, fuel economy, availability and reliability. Let's start from the bottom.

By Keith Buglewicz

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Engine: 2.0-liter inline-4 Fuel Type: Regular EPA fuel economy (city/highway): 25/32 (5-speed manual) Price range: $7,750-10,250 JD Power Dependability: 3 out of 5

The Dodge Neon may not get much love in car reviews, and it's the least reliable used car in this group. However, it has three things going for it: Availability, price and good gas mileage. With a low price average less than $8,000 and a high of only $10,250, used-car shoppers with tight budgets may be glad that the little Dodge wasn't a media darling.

Photo credit: Dodge

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Engine: 1.9-liter inline-4 Fuel Type: Regular EPA fuel economy (city/highway): 25/36 (5-speed manual) Price range: $6,250-$6,750 JD Power Dependability: 3.5 out of 5

The Saturn SL preceded the Saturn Ion, which preceded the current Astra. While the SL was derided as being out of date by the time it reached the end of its run in 2002, the little sedan still boasted a roomy interior, a decent if undistinguished shape, and decent fuel economy and reliability. It's a good used-car value.

Photo credit: Saturn

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Engine: 1.5-liter inline-4 Fuel Type: Regular EPA fuel economy (city/highway): 27/35 (4-speed automatic) Price range: $12,250-12,750 JD Power Dependability: 3.5 out of 5

In a world of small cars, the Scion xA is one of the smallest. With its diminutive dimensions, funky looks and more-expressive big brother (the Scion xB), the little xA didn't capture the imagination. However, as a used car, the Scion xA gets good fuel economy, boasts better than decent reliability, and has room for five...theoretically.

Photo credit: Scion

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Engine: 1.5-liter inline-4 Fuel Type: Regular EPA fuel economy (city/highway): 27/35 (5-speed manual) Price range: $5,250-6,250 JD Power Dependability: 3.5 out of 5

Supplanted by the Mitsubishi Lancer in 2003, the Mirage used to be Mitsubishi's name for its small car in the U.S. Like many turn-of-the-millennia compacts, it wasn't designed to set the world on fire with performance. Today, however, the Lancer is a nicely designed little used car, with a snarky looking coupe model that still looks good today, and gets very good gas mileage.  

Photo credit: Mitsubishi

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Engine: 1.7-liter inline-4 Fuel Type: Regular EPA fuel economy (city/highway): 28/35 (5-speed manual) Price range: $8,500-$15,250 JD Power Dependability: 4.5 out of 5

Previous-generation Honda Civic used cars are still thick on the roads, thanks to a combination of good power, a roomy interior and very good fuel economy. Honda reliability needs little introduction, and the Civic's virtues are well known. The only knock against the car is that it was a little bland compared to its successor.

Photo credit: Honda

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Engine: 1.8-liter inline-4 Fuel Type: Regular EPA fuel economy (city/highway): 28/37 (5-speed manual) Price range: $7,250-14,250 JD Power Dependability: 5 out of 5

You knew this car was going to be here, right? The Toyota Corolla is tough to beat in any compact-car competition, new or used, and even slightly beaten-up versions are likely to be as reliable as dirt. Our selection spans two generations, but both get excellent fuel economy and still look good today.

Photo credit: Toyota

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Engine: 1.8-liter inline-4 Fuel Type: Regular EPA fuel economy (city/highway): 27/37 (5-speed manual) Price range: $6,250-7,250 JD Power Dependability: 5 out of 5

A Chevy used car ranked higher than a Toyota? Have we lost our minds? No. The reality is that this Chevy is a Toyota, a Corolla specifically, and boasts all of the same goodness as its Toyota platform-mate. The Prizm ranks higher here for one simple reason: Because of that Chevy badge, the resale value on it is significantly lower, and thus it's a better used-car bargain.

Photo credit: Chevrolet

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Engine: 1.5-liter inline-4 Fuel Type: Regular EPA fuel economy (city/highway): 29/37 (5-speed manual) Price range: $7,750-12,750 JD Power Dependability: 4 out of 5

When it was introduced, the Toyota Echo had two knocks against it. First, it was funny looking, and frankly, as a used car, it still is. Second, it came out at a time when thrifty compacts weren't particularly vital. Today, however, many will overlook the Echo's peculiar styling for its excellent gas mileage and Toyota dependability.

Photo credit: Toyota

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Engine: 1.3-liter inline-4 Fuel Type: Regular EPA fuel economy (city/highway): 37/45 (5-speed manual) Price range: $14,570-17,750 JD Power Dependability: 4.5 out of 5

Runner-up in our list is the Honda Civic Hybrid. It loses first place because of two things. First, another car – also a hybrid – gets better gas mileage. Second, the price of gas has made anything with "hybrid" in the name exceptionally valuable, so this Honda Civic's price has gone up considerably, even as a used car. Regardless, it's a good value.

Photo credit: Honda

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Engine: 1.5-liter inline-4 Fuel Type: Regular EPA fuel economy (city/highway): 42/41 (continuously variable transmission) Price range: $12,750-17,250 JD Power Dependability: 4.5 out of 5

Really, are you surprised? The previous-generation Toyota Prius may not have achieved the cult status of the current Prius, but it was still a milestone in automotive fuel-saving technology. Besides, it was also a pretty decent compact sedan and makes a smart used car, with good passenger and cargo room. Throw in that outstanding gas mileage, and you have a winner.

Photo credit: Toyota

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