Every year, we see lots of buyer’s guides introducing the best new cars of the year. Shift’s resident car aficionados (hey, we’re not all gearheads) pore through the reports, but for most of us who aren’t likely to buy a brand new car, those yearly reviews just aren’t very relevant.
In fact, if the numbers are any indication, new car guides aren’t very relevant for most people in general. New car sales represented less than one-third of all total sales in 2015, with 17.5 million new cars sold, compared to a whopping 38.3 million used cars sold.
So that got us thinking—since America will buy more than twice as many used cars in 2017 than new cars, why not open up our vehicle data to helpfully inform your search for a great used car this year?
The best used cars of 2017 are…
Even though there were many ways we could have sliced this, we wanted to find the best overall vehicles that would be no-regret purchases. To do that, we started with 134 different make/models, then evaluated them based on ten differently weighted categories.
- The weights were subjectively determined and put more emphasis on the past performance of these cars in Shift’s marketplace.
- For categories that weren’t specific to Shift, we used data from Edmunds, NHTSA, and IIHS, using 2012 as an anchor year for comparison. The logic behind 2012? We see some of the best balance between price and remaining lifespan at around the four year mark.
We then ranked every car in each of the following categories and assigned 100-1 points for the first 100 cars and 0 points for every car after that:
10. Ford F-150
This ain’t your grandpa’s pickup—the lone truck in our top-10 used cars for 2017 is hard to characterize. With a dizzying array of trim levels, engine types, cabin formats, and bed lengths, there is no one F-150. But the twelfth generation F-150 updated the styling and interior in a way that makes it stand out from the crowd.
The used market for F-150s is alive and well, contributing greatly to its ability to hold its value. In fact, demand is so high for the F-150 that it’s the only car on Shift with a 100% test drive conversion. Buyers who shop for an F-150 either know they want an F-150 or are very quickly convinced that they do.
It gets low marks in the mpg category, and while the optional EcoBoost engine improves that figure slightly, mileage is still pretty poor. If you’re in the market for a truck, you’re probably already mentally prepared to spend time at the pump anyway, so if you’re looking for a great all-around pickup that packs comfort and power, consider the F-150.
9. Scion FR-S
Big heavy muscle cars are fine, but sometimes smaller cars are just more fun. If you ascribe to the driving-small-cars-hard school of automotive thought, it’s likely that the FR-S is already on your radar. Built and designed jointly by Toyota and Subaru, the FR-S (called the BRZ in Subaru-land) was a bold push into the territory of affordable sport coupe once dominated by the Miata.
It’s a step that seems to have paid off for Toyota, Scion’s parent company. Driving performance gets a boost from the car’s low center of gravity, thanks to the flat 4 boxer engine developed in collaboration with Subaru. The FRS’ stellar looks, legit driving cred, and wallet-friendly price tag make it one of the most viewed cars on Shift and popular among enthusiasts young and old.
8. Hyundai Santa Fe
When new, Hyundais are some of the best values on the road, so used they’re even better. Even in a crowded mid-size SUV segment, the Santa Fe manages to stand out. It’s the beneficiary of a sleek Korean design and capable feature set that helped make the Santa Fe the best selling Hyundai in America.
It earns high marks for safety, with both 5-star crash test ratings and an IIHS top safety pick, and offers ample room for passengers and cargo. While we used 2012 as a baseline model year, for our money we’d recommend the 2013, when the Santa Fe received a redesign in its third (and most current) incarnation.
7. Toyota Prius C
The Prius is renowned for its impressive mileage, and for good reason. The C does stop-and-go driving so efficiently that it actually gets higher city mpg (53) than it does on the highway (46), making every other car look like a thirsty gas guzzler by comparison. This helps explain why it historically scores so highly in terms of buyer interest and satisfaction at Shift.
If you can get over the first few months of mild initial panic from not being able to see out the rear window, you’ll come to love the C’s improved utility (and better looks, we think) of a hatchback and fold down rear seats. All of that combines with four trim levels and legendary mileage to be a superior daily commuter.
6. Kia Optima
The Kia Optima is a strong all around family sedan that does pretty darn well in most of the categories we measured. Recent Optimas have overcome Kia’s once-dodgy track record of quality and pairs it with one of the lowest costs of maintenance in the car universe. This is thanks in part to a focus on build quality in the past decade and Kia’s (and Hyundai’s, since they are part of the same Korean conglomerate) generous 10 year/100,000 mile warranties.
Safe, roomy, and comfortable, the Optima turned heads when it landed on the scene in 2011 and it continues to be a must-consider option for anyone in search of a four-door sedan. If our customers are any indication, if you do end up buying one, you’re likely to love it.
5. Hyundai Sonata
The second of three Hyundais on this list, the Sonata is another family sedan that’s likely to please those looking for a touch of luxury at a wallet-friendly price. Similar to the Optima, the Sonata sports sharp looks with solid quality and warranties in a versatile, design-forward package.
The Sonata is offered in a hybrid version, which garners particularly high buyer interest on Shift. Not only that, our customers who buy Sonatas love them as much as Optima buyers, giving the Sonata some of the lowest historical return rates we’ve seen.
If you can get over the hard, plasticky interiors common to Hyundais, Sonatas offer a balanced overall package of performance, mileage, and low depreciation. Bonus: with a badonkin’ trunk, you’ll enjoy ample storage perfect for roadtrips and grocery runs.
4. Honda CR-V
There’s a reason why the CR-V has been America’s best selling SUV for eight of the past nine years. It’s just a pretty darn good car overall. Except for safety, where its 5-star and Top Safety Pick ratings make it a heavyweight, it didn’t dominate any of our categories but did respectably well in nearly all of them.
It’s got space for family, friends, dogs, furniture, and whatever else requires hauling in your life. It’s safe, cheap to own, and drives like a Civic with a view, all of which mean America’s darling SUV isn’t going anywhere soon.
3. Hyundai Genesis Coupe
The Genesis Coupe is so dissimilar from its sedan sibling that they’re almost completely different cars. While the sedan takes a step in the direction of luxury and comfort, the coupe takes a giant, aggressive leap down the road of low-slung RWD sport coupes.
It’s strong notes of badassery help make it one of the most popular cars on Shift, flying off our shelves before the wash-n-rinse even has a chance to dry. If its popularity is any indication, depreciation will remain low for years to come.
Graceful sports lines accompany a variety of sport trims and engine options, the 3.8L version of which produces menacing growls from the car’s dual exhaust, while the turbo 4 is a favorite among the tuner crowd. The end result is a surprising Korean muscle car that’s sure to please any enthusiast with an affinity for corners.
2. Honda Insight
Surprised? At first, we were too.
When Honda first came out with the Insight hybrid, it was best known for its goofy looking exterior, stemming largely from its rear wheel aerodynamic covers. The updated 2012 version benefits from a much-needed facelift that cleans up its lines while maintaining a sleek, futuristic look. It’s a car that is standing the test of time well and receives praise from its owners even several years in.
What’s to love? The awesome mpg rating is the primary draw. The Insight’s low drag coefficient pairs with a CVT transmission and 40+ mpg (reviewers say real life mpg is closer to 50) that make this unique hybrid hatch perennially popular on Shift. With its low cost of ownership and high safety ratings, the Insight earns impressive overall marks. If you’re in the market for a hybrid and looking for a smaller, often cheaper alternative to the Prius, the Insight is a car that’s likely to please.
Nabbing the number 1 spot on our list is the uniquely stylish, athletic, and practical Mazda3.
The Mazda3 may not exactly be the new kid on the block, but year after year it continues to make a distinctive splash amongst its venerable compact car competitors. Now in its third generation, the Mazda3 has aged well, improving with each incarnation in the areas of style, efficiency, and technology offerings in a sedan or hatchback package.
The Mazda3 wins high praise for its fuel efficiency and post-2012 models in particular benefit from Mazda’s SKYACTIV fuel efficiency technology that helps achieve 28/37mpg. Meanwhile, distinctive styling and a driving experience more closely resembling a German sports sedan than a Japanese economy car mean that in the end, you get a lot of bang for your buck with the Mazda3.
Sure, some of the Mazda3’s competitors may offer more power and more grip (on paper, the 3’s specs don’t exactly light the road on fire). But do us a favor and get behind the wheel of one of these terrifically engaging yet practical automobiles. You’ll soon understand what we mean when we say this car amounts to more than the sum of its parts.
The Mazda3 raises the bar in the world of affordable compact sedans and hatchbacks. It is an entertaining, well-designed, and notably efficient car that brings joy to every drive.