In order to put together this list of our top choices in the used car market, we prioritized the most important criteria: reliability, safety, value and availability. Eligibility is limited to autos from 2-7 years old for the following reasons: Older vehicles will probably have too many miles on them, and newer ones will not have totally taken the large depreciation hit that typically makes a 2 or 3 year old car the good value. For these reasons, our list is limited to used cars for sale by owner with model years ranging from 2006-11.
The following vehicles are our selections for the best used vehicles of 2013.
This selection includes two generations of the Subaru Outback wagon. The earlier of the two (2005-09) offered a wide variety of trim levels, and engine choices included a 170-hp base four-cylinder, a 243-hp turbocharged four-cylinder and a 245-hp six-cylinder. All-wheel drive was standard on every Outback, which is a real asset for shoppers in the Snowbelt. These Subaru cars (Outbacks) were also known for their solid build quality and well-balanced ride and handling qualities.
In addition to its radically different styling, the later-generation Subaru Outback wagon (2010-'11) has more passenger and cargo room within a similar footprint thanks to its increased height and width.
Ever since its debut back in 2001 as one of the first midsize crossovers, the Used Toyota Highlander has offered pleasant driving dynamics, a comfortable ride and plenty of cargo capacity. Of course, consumers have also been attracted to Toyota's longstanding reputation for reliability and low upkeep costs and, on Highlanders equipped with all-wheel drive, the confidence to handle foul-weather driving conditions.
Either of the two generations represented here (2001-'07 and 2008-'13) are solid picks. The third row became standard for 2008, and for 2011, it gained a more useful 50/50-split folding design. A hybrid Highlander joined the lineup for the 2006 model year and combined a V6 engine with a battery pack and a couple of electric motors to provide both solid acceleration and class-leading fuel economy.
The larger, second-generation Toyota (Highlander) does have a few significant advantages, however, among them a roomier cabin (which is especially noticeable in the third-row seat), a more powerful V6 and some handy new features, including a 40/20/40-split second-row seat with a removable middle section that can be stowed to provide "walk-through" access to the third row.
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