The Best Used Trucks & Cars under $10,000

June 22, 2015

You’re sick of bugging buddies to help you move. And hauling your trailer with that Geo Metro is embarrassing – and dangerous. It’s time to look for a used truck, and preferably one that costs under $10,000. Finding quality used trucks for under $10,000 is doable with the right research and knowing what you want. Fortunately, we’ve helped out a bit with the research.

Used Trucks & Cars Under $10,000

When you’re working with a budget of $10,000, finding the right used truck is tricky but certainly possible. That’s because used trucks have an incredibly high resale value. While sports cars see their value diminish as soon as they’re driven off the lot, pickups maintain their value, depreciating at a much slower rate. That’s good news if you’re selling a pick-up. But it makes finding used trucks for under $10,000 a bit more challenging. We’ve done a bit of the dirty work to get you started, making our recommendations for the best small truck under $10,000, best domestic truck under $10,000, best import/foreign truck under $10,000, most fuel efficient truck under $10,000, and most powerful truck under $10,000.

The Best Used Small Truck under $10,000

The Best Used Small Truck under $10,000 2002 Toyota Tacoma2002 Toyota Tacoma

It’s a good thing that the Toyota Tacoma has developed a reputation for being a durable and reliable compact pick-up. That’s because you need to travel back in time to find a model that you can likely find under $10,000. A 2002 Tacoma regular cab model will get you there. And once you’re behind the wheel, you’ll likely discover why owners don’t want to part with this truck for mere chump change. highly rates its off-road capabilities, as well as its multitude of available body style options. As a compact pick-up, the 150HP and 2.7L inline 4-cylinder engine is about what you can expect for this 5-speed manual ride. You won’t be towing barges or double-decker buses, but you’ll be able to handle most any job deftly – and for years to come.

The Best Domestic Used Truck Under $10,000

The Best Domestic Used Truck Under $10,000 2011 Dodge / Ram Dakota2011 Dodge / Ram Dakota

The Ram Dakota, formerly the Dodge Dakota, is a ‘tweener truck; while it’s officially considered a mid-size pick-up, it approaches full-size capabilities on a few fronts, namely, power and size. Maybe because of this, it’s a bit of a gas guzzler, getting 15 city / 20 highway mpg. But you’ll easily be able to fit a spare gas can in the 6.5-foot cargo bed. To get below $10,000, you’ll likely want to pursue a model with the 3.7L V6 engine. This is the last Dakota model in Ram’s third generation, which creates some value for those who don’t need the next model’s new features or frills. With Ram vehicles being named Motor Trend magazine’s Truck of the Year five times, the pedigree has certainly been established for the Dakota.

Best Import Used Truck Under $10,000

Best Import Used Truck Under $10,000 2009 Mitsubishi Raider LS2009 Mitsubishi Raider LS

Buying a used truck under $10,000 is about give and take. And if you want to take more contemporary amenities and lower mileage, you may have to give up power and hauling capacity. The 2009 Mitsubishi Raider LS is the embodiment of this idea. While it’s only six years old and gets high marks from for its spacious interior, intuitive control layout and smooth ride, it gets dinged for acceleration, its lack of an extended bed option and brake responsiveness. The 3.6-liter, V6 engine packs a so-so 210HP, but the Raider’s superb suspension and astute four-wheel-drive-system help overcome this lack of giddy-up. Expect 16 city / 20 highway mpg, which is about average for entry-level trucks. The Mitsubishi Raider is not a monster truck, but it’s a rugged, under-the-radar import that may be your most reliable option for a lower mileage used truck under $10,000.

The Most Fuel Efficient Used Truck Under $10,000

The Best Used Small Truck under $10,000 2002 Toyota Tacoma2008 Chevy Colorado LS

The Chevy Colorado is all about value. While its sticker price is paltry compared to some of its more powerful competitors from Dodge and Toyota, the Colorado’s long-term value is in its fuel efficiency. Boasting above average fuel economy, 18 city / 24 highway mpg, the Colorado pays you back over the long haul. The lightweight, compact pick-up truck performs better than its frame may suggest, earning high crash test scores and showing off impressive off-road handling. Available for under $8,000 on and other used car sites, the Colorado’s appeal may be driven by value and fuel economy, but its surprising performance packs a handsome payoff.

The Most Powerful Used Truck Under $10,000

The Most Powerful Used Truck Under $10,000 Ford 2004 F-150Ford 2004 F-150

A champion hauler that packs plenty of options, the 2004 Ford F-150 might actually be best at quenching the thirst of its drivers. That’s because there are seven – yes, seven – cup holders within reach of the driver’s seat. The F-150 thrives on excess thanks to its super-sized features and amenities. It wants and needs to haul something – boats, trailers, trees or campers. But what do you expect from a 4.6L, 8-cylider engine? Some quibble about the extra weight it carries or its glaring lack of side airbags, but a 4.5 out of 5 aggregate consumer rating on – based on more than 660 reviews – is a stunning affirmation of the F-150’s awesomeness. Oh, and if you need one more perk, there is this: because it’s a popular commercial fleet vehicle, the truck’s parts are produced in such high volume that maintenance and repairs costs are a fraction what they are for other trucks.

Best Used Cars Under $10,000

What makes these used cars “the best”?

To make our list of the best used cars under $10,000, we’ll be looking at a couple factors including fuel economy, reliability, maintenance costs, and safety. The combination of any three factors out of the four would make for a good used car. Obviously, it is difficult to get everything you need or want in a used vehicle, especially for under $10,000. However, our goal here was to provide you with the best used cars that can comfortably get you through the next eight to ten years with as little trouble (and expense) as possible – all while spending under $10,000.

Kia Optima

The Kia Optima is our first pick because of its high reliability and safety scores. It also doesn’t hurt that if you’re shopping for the best used cars under $10,000, this car easily fits within that goal. Kia Optima model years 2005 through 2009 receive high marks for reliability and safety from, a top car resource site. In fact, the Optima managed a perfect 5 star rating for reliability. The National Highway Safety and Transportation Administration (NHTSA) gives the Kia Optima very high marks for safety. The Optima received 5 out of 5 stars for all standard crash tests except the rollover test, for which it received 4 out of 5 stars. You can expect a 2007 Kia Optima to set you back between $6500 and $7400. For that price, plus the cost of auto insurance, this car will fit comfortably into your budget. The only downside is that manual transmission models don’t offer ABS brakes, which means you’ll miss out on the auto insurance savings for that feature. But at this price, how much will that matter?

Toyota Corolla

This is one of a couple of what we would consider to be obvious choices. Toyota has a reputation for reliability and economy for a reason and the Toyota Corolla is no exception. That being said, we want to point out that according to’s reports, your best bets are either 2004 or 2008 models. These reports show that there were some moderate mechanical issues for model years 2005, 2006, and 2007. Despite that, the Corolla is still a highly trusted vehicle and it has one of the best fuel economies on our list. At 28 MPG in the city to 37MPG on the highway, you can expect to save a good deal of money on your fuel costs. As a matter of fact, based on driving 15,000 miles per year with an average fuel cost of $3.38 per gallon, you can expect your annual fuel costs to be around $1500.

Honda Civic

At an average resale value between $7,000 and $9,000, the Honda Civic Si is another car renowned for its reliability and fuel economy that fits in our stated price range; but unlike previously stated makes and models, this trim package comes with a lot of extras. We thought it’d be a good fit for the person who wants is on a budget, but can’t live without the extras that come with a top-level trim package. While Honda is known for great fuel economy, the SI model averages 21 MPG in the city and 28 MPG on the highway, which is noticeably less than other Civic trim levels. Ah, the price we pay for convenience and luxury. Still, both trim levels make our list of the best used cars under $10,000. You could potentially save a bit more by stepping down from the SI model if you’d like to spend a little less. Lower trim packages for the Honda Civic start around $6,000 and go to the mid 7,000’s. The standard Honda Civic models are rated for 27 city/ 34 highway, so for those concerned about fuel economy they may be the better option. The Civic received high marks for reliability with the 2005-2007 model years being one of the most reliable model years according to

Mazda – Mazda3

The Mazda3 easily makes our list of the best used cars under $10,000. At an average resale price between $9,200 and $6,600, the Mazda3 gets high marks for reliability and fuel economy (24 city/ 34 highway). The only downside is that it did not do as well in safety tests as our other entrants. Keep in mind that all of these cars have a minimum “Good” rating for overall safety, but the Mazda3 received low marks for side impact crash tests and it does not come with any safety features to help negate its low rating, such as side impact airbags. The sporty, modern styling of this vehicle is also an attractive feature as many of the cars on this list have more of a family or commuter car feel. The Mazda3 is a great option for families too, due to its roomy interior and ample trunk storage.

Volkswagen Rabbit

This one barely made the list of best used cars under $10,000. While it meets many of our standards, its fuel economy was one of the lowest on the list (19 city/ 28 highway). That being said, what you give up in fuel economy you gain in style, luxury, and a sportier driving experience. The Volkswagen Rabbit makes the list as the best budget option for drivers who love to drive. The safety of the Volkswagen Rabbit isn’t well documented. It has not been rated by the NHTSA, but it was rated by the IIHS (the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety), who gave it top ratings for Offset Front Impact crashes and Side Impact crashes. It received an “Acceptable” rating for Rear-Impact crash tests. In light of those facts, the Volkswagen Rabbit comes with the most safety features of any vehicle in this list as well as the most advanced, such as electronic brake force distribution and traction control. If styling, comfort, and exciting driving are absolute requirements for you, then the Volkswagen Rabbit is the best used car for you. It’ll even make your under $10,000 budget, coming in at an average resale value of $9,200. Do keep in mind that maintenance costs for Volkswagens are higher as they have unique mechanical systems that require specially trained technicians, so you’ll need to budget for that expense as well.

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