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These are the five best used cars to look out for in 2024 (plus five more!)

(Editor’s note: updated 2/14/2024 with five runner-up choices)

Buying a car is an important milestone in your life and should be a celebration, but don’t think you need to buy a brand-new car with the ridiculous dealer markups that ruin the car community by gatekeeping cool cars. Instead, consider buying used cars that may be just as good or even better than what you can get brand new. By buying a cooler second-hand car, you can get those special features and trim levels at a relative bargain versus new cars, which traded hands for an average price touching $48,000 just last fall. Just think, why buy a cheap, basic new car in a bid to beat inflated prices when you can get a specced-out second-hand diamond in the rough?

Need any ideas? Take a look at these ten different used cars across five categories that you should keep an eye on in 2024. And no. It’s not “Ten Best Used Cars.” It’s Acceleramota’s “Five Used Cars N’ Five More” deal. Get it right.

Best used truck for 2024: Nissan Frontier

What’s hot?

  • Reliable and has great performance figures
  • Trucks (and parts) are readily available as they have been out for so long

What’s not?

  • The interior of the Frontier offers very little in terms of modern amenities or quality
  • The new one is markedly better

It may not be the mighty Ford F-150 or any Ram with a Cummins engine, but if you are in the market for one of the best-used trucks you can spend your money on, look no further than a Nissan Frontier

This is no daisy-picking pavement princess. The Frontier is built for and proven to be durable as it is used in countries where the roads have more potholes than actual roads. Sure, the Frontier may not have the best features, and the interior is relatively sparse (for reference, Nissan was still selling the “old” Frontier generation three years after the heavily modernized 2017 Toyota Tacoma dropped). But if you are looking for something cheap, cheerful, and robust enough to outlast you, the Frontier should be one of the choices on your shopping list. 

The truck comes with either a 2.5-liter inline-four or the correct option of a 4.0-liter V6 that allows you to have a towing capacity of 6,500 pounds. The final year of this generation was offered the updated 3.8-liter V6 found in the current Frontiers. The performance figures, plus the reliability of the truck, put it almost on par with the arguably overpriced Toyota Tacoma of the same era.

Sure, this may not be the first choice for many people, but if you are looking for a reliable truck that can perform the tasks you need, then look no further than a Nissan Frontier. 

Runner-up: Toyota Tundra

Image credit: carpixel.net

What’s hot?

  • For a heavy vehicle, it still has a 0-60 MPH of under seven seconds
  • TRD Pro variants are raucous off-roaders with Fox suspension

What’s not?

  • The second-generation Tundra is an old platform with woefully inefficient powertrains 
  • Older generations’ infotainment pales in comparison to rivals

The Toyota Tundra is an icon for Toyota’s North American market, combining respectable performance and capability for work or play with that classic Toyota reliability. Million-mile commuter? No problem. Off-road racer? Sure, why not? While being a capable pickup that can haul the goods, you can still haul ass with the hellacious 5.7-liter V8 found in nearly all second-gen Tundras. However, if you can snag a newer twin-turbo V6 for a decent price, that wouldn’t be half bad either, although it would come at a higher price tag. The Tundra TRD Pro models come alive on the dirt with the use of the impressive dampers from Fox, which allows the Tundra to race over any bumps or obstacles effortlessly. 

A known issue with the TRD Pro version or any model outfitted with the TRD parts catalog exhaust is the drone, so be wary if you’re not so tolerant of NVH. It does make the pickup sound raw and throaty with its V8, but it does come with the added consequence that the cabin can get that annoying and unpleasant exhaust drone that can often make the driving experience not worth it. Additionally, the best value will likely be the second-gen trucks, which are plentiful but also built on an old, dated chassis, made apparent by woefully inefficient powertrains and infotainment systems that feel more than just a generation old.

Best used sports car for 2024: Mazda MX-5 Miata

What’s hot?

  • It is a Miata, duh! Always. The. Answer.
  • Great handling car that will carve any canyon road or race track with ease. 

What’s not?

  • It only has two seats with a diminutive trunk
  • The horsepower figure may be kinda low and lackluster for some

I don’t think I even need to explain this. A Mazda MX-5 Miata is always the answer for an affordable sports car. If you want a classic sports car, get a Miata. If you want a sports car that is easy to drive, get a Miata. If you want pop-up headlights, get a Miata. If you want to drift your car, get a Miata. Trust me when I say the best-used sports car you can get is a Miata. Acceleramota founder and editor, Gabe Carey, even had one.

With a design philosophy that has been perfect since 1989, the small Japanese sports car is undoubtedly fun and enjoyable to drive, plus it will always receive a ton of attention. It may not be a Corvette or Mustang, but in my opinion, you can have more fun in a car when you can push the limit of the car without having to worry about the people around you or blitzing way beyond the speed limit.

With four different generations of Miatas, you can easily find the car that suits you. If you want a more refined and comfortable drive, why not look at the third and fourth generations of Miatas? The ND generation (pictured above) can be had in the cushy, luxurious Grand Touring trim or in the wannabe racer Club with an available BBS wheel and Brembo brake performance package. If you want to modify and upgrade your Miata or perhaps have a nice modern classic worthy of a Radwood show, look at the first and second generations of Miatas. With parts and modifications so readily available, you can set up your tiny sports car to your liking. Heck, stick a turbo on it and make a baby supercar killer, or turn it into a drift missile. It’s the perfect blank canvas for an aspiring enthusiast.

Runner-up: Ford Mustang

Image credit: carpixel.net

What’s hot?

  • Classic styling and high levels of power equals one hell of a pony car
  • Near-infinite trims and configurations to choose from

What’s not?

  • Antiquated chassis up until the S550 generation
  • Big fella can never have the agility of a smaller sports cars

The Mustang is one of the best cars to come out in a long time. With a powerful engine and still being affordable, you can easily pick up a good used Mustang. Especially since the “S197” fifth generation came out in 2005, the Mustang has proven to be a well-engineered, highly configurable sports car that corners well, not like the older Mustang models. Antiquated chassis, sure, but it was able to defy stereotypes and even churn out some serious track monsters like the 2011-and-onward Shelby GT500s and the Boss 302. Later S550 generations with independent rear suspension have just as big of an aftermarket and their own crop of in-house specials, like the GT350 and Mach 1.

Just mind the crowd killer stigma.

Drawbacks? Yes, of course there are some. Even at its very best, the big ol’ Mustang may never have the agility to topple smaller sports cars or even some sports sedans, at least not without a bit of aftermarket love (or driver mod). Past generations are also quite dated, not only in terms of chassis but also materials, build quality, and infotainment. And, of course, while they’re not exactly terrible, don’t expect V8 Mustangs to be model citizens in fuel efficiency either.

Best used SUV/crossover for 2024: Mazda CX-5

What’s hot?

  • Spacious interior with premium features and build quality for its price
  • Excellent fuel economy for its size.

What’s not?

  • Reports of Mazda paint easily fading and chipping diminish the brand’s premium reputation 
  • Reported hiccups with electronic parking sensors across Mazda vehicles 

Two Mazdas, one list! One of the best SUVs you can get at the moment is the Mazda CX-5. This Mazda SUV is known for its reliability, build quality, and unexpectedly spunky driving dynamics, with many luxury and quality-of-life features that come standard for the car. This SUV was even a staffer’s pick for one of the best cars they have ever driven

The model I personally suggest you look at for your second-hand SUV is the 2021 model year. You can either get the small standard 187 horsepower four-cylinder, or you can get the turbocharged version that produces 250 horsepower on 93 octane or a still-potent 227 on 91, with the latter powertrain still seeking out a respectable EPA rating of 28 mpg highway.

With an interior that rivals much more expensive SUVs, with every trim model of the current CX-5 coming with a 10.25-inch infotainment system equipped with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, this Japanese SUV will be one of the best purchases you can make in 2024. This is especially true when considering that well-equipped variants with not that much mileage currently trade hands anywhere in the high-teens to mid-twenties range, undercutting many similar examples of the Toyota RAV4.

Runner-up: Lexus RX

Image credit: carpixel.net

What’s hot?

  • The unique styling inside and out
  • Well-built interior with lots of storage space across all generations

What’s not?

  • Touchpad infotainment system from some generations is a pain
  • Does not put the “sport” in sports utility

With a sporty and edgy appearance, you may think this premium SUV will have a harsh and uncomfortable ride. However, the Lexus RX is actually the opposite. Lexus is the pioneer of the luxury SUV market, and the RX model range does not falter from that history, with a supple and cavernous interior across all generations. Powertrains are punchy, if not exactly exciting, and suspension is often compliant, as a luxury car should be. Just don’t expect any sort of BMW M killer from the F Sport models.

If you prefer to be a little understated, however, might I suggest avoiding the later model years with their angular creases and razor-sharp hourglass grille? Additionally, Lexus’ touchpad infotainment system that has plagued some recent generations has quite the learning curve to it.

Best used hatchback for 2024: Volkswagen Golf

What’s hot?

  • Good interior space and build quality for the size of the whole car 
  • While being a fun car, it is still great on gas mileage 

What’s not?

  • Reliability can be a major issue for Volkswagens, particularly with older transmissions
  • No more base models are available after 2021; Mk8 is only the pricier GTI and Golf R 

The Volkswagen Golf is one of the most popular car models on the global market. The spacious and practical hatchback still offers its owners a fun and enjoyable drive. And despite any reservations some may have against German cars, the Golf is generally regarded as a mostly dependable vehicle, with a 2021 J.D. Power Quality & Reliability score of 73 out of 100 and a RepairPal rating of 4.0 out of 5.

The seventh generation of Golf is the model you want. With options such as sunroofs, an excellent infotainment system, and even the sporty and iconic GTI version, the Golf offers everything you need in a car. The seventh generation Golf brought new and improved digital displays and gadgets that still hold up well to this day, elevating the Golf well into a premium sector of the compact car market, so if you enjoy underdogs that punch above their weight, the Golf may be for you. Current-generation Mk8 Golfs further up the ante with a more intriguing exterior and interior design, which may polarize some, especially the capacitive-touch-only interior controls.

As the Golf is a hatchback, you will not get the biggest trunk space when you compare it to an SUV, but the Golf handles better and has better fuel economy. So, for everyday use, the Golf will be an excellent choice to pick. Just be wary of quirks with engine and transmission reliability as you start diving into older and older generations.

Runner-up: Toyota Corolla Hatchback

Image credit: carpixel.net

What’s hot?

  • Easy to drive and handles remarkably well
  • Has that famous Toyota reliability and build quality at a stellar price point 

What’s not?

  • Smaller than some rivals, inhibiting interior and cargo space 
  • Rivals can be seen as a better value

You may hear the words Toyota Corolla and think of the stereotypical idea of a boring and basic car. However, the newer Toyota Corolla Hatchback is an awesome and spirited daily car that offers drivers a great time when driving it with 168 horsepower from the XSE’s 2.0-liter four-cylinder. Did we mention some models can be had in an easy-to-drive, fun-to-row stick shift? Huzzah! Not bad in a cushy, modern, 30-plus-mpg commuter car.

For an everyday and practical hatchback, the Corolla is almost the perfect car, if you’re willing to deal with its few shortcomings. If want more oomph, there’s no turbo powertrain other than the expensive and rarer GR Corolla hot hatch. It’s smaller than some rivals. And being the newer platform here, you may not find one as cheap as older rivals. Maybe a Toyota Matrix counts if you want to go old school.

Best used sedan for 2024: Honda Accord

What’s hot?

  • Has a comfortable cabin with good seats. 
  • Often the sportier choice among front-drive family sedans

What’s not?

  • Some lower-trim model engines are a bit lackluster
  • No available AWD system, which may sway people towards an SUV (or Subaru Legacy) 

The Honda Accord is the pinnacle of reliability and affordability as the car is built to perfection for what it needs to do. It’s currently Car and Driver’s number one pick for family sedans at the time of writing for a reason. A prime rival to the likes of the venerable Camry, but arguably more premium and sporty. This mid-size family sedan will probably outlast you with its reliability and will probably outdrive any Camry at the Circuit de Costco, too.

The reliability and drive quality are so good you can comfortably get to any place you want with ease, and you do not need to stress about space as there is ample room for all your needs with its large trunk space and generous interior. Recent generations have greatly amplified Honda’s strides for a premium feel on a budget, with chic, modern interior designs, although the smoothed-out exterior of the latest generation and the deletion of the hot 252-horsepower turbo-four has aroused some ire among auto journos. But thankfully, the frugal Hybrid remains, earning up to 51 mpg city and 48 highway in its most efficient trim, thanks to a 204-horsepower, 247-pound-foot powertrain aided by a measly 1.3-kWh battery.

Runner-up: Hyundai Sonata

Image credit: carpixel.net

What’s hot?

  • Sonata has a spacious interior and trunk 
  • Long list of features and available technology

What’s not?

  • Base models can feel underpowered
  • Less rear legroom compared to other cars in its class 

Korea’s answer to the Honda Accord and the Toyota Camry comes in the form of the Hyundai Sonata. The features that come standard even in the base model, such as blind-spot detection, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, and even lane-keeping assist, make the Sonata an excellent daily driver for you and your family. 

The power delivery of the Sonata does not feel sporty or extreme but can be seen as spirited if you have the 2.0-liter turbo in the top trim spec. The car will not feel like anything new or innovative to drive, but for an everyday family car, it’s more than enough. You can also say that storage space and trunk size are a plus for this car, even if rear legroom lags a bit behind competitors. 

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VW Golf GTI (top left), Mazda CX-5 (top right), Corvette C8 (bottom left), Mercedes Sprinter van (bottom right)
Best CarsFeaturesHot Takes

These are the best cars we’ve driven

What qualifies a vehicle as being among the best? Is the best car the one with the ferocious powertrain, that zips from zero to sixty miles per hour in the shortest amount of time? Or is the best car the one that lasts the longest with the least amount of maintenance required? For some people, the best car is the one with the most luxurious interior, the highest towing capacity, or the roomiest cabin for the price. Because everyone has different criteria, rather than embarrass ourselves attempting to narrow a car recommendation for every type of person down to a tidy list of 10, we’ve chosen instead to please no one by telling you about the cars we feel are the best, based on our own experiences.

Sure, we’ve driven faster, more expensive, and more technologically advanced cars. But this is a consensus rooted in pure subjectiveness. It’s not about what cars we’ve driven were the most innovative or groundbreaking, and it certainly isn’t about the cars we found to be the most practical. This group show-and-tell by the Acceleramota team is all about which cars are nearest and dearest to our hearts after some time behind the wheel, no matter the length of the stint or the circumstance in which we drove them.

What’s the best car you’ve ever driven? Let us know in the comments.

Jeric Jaleco: Ford Mustang Shelby GT350

Image credit: Ford

The market has seen its fair share of spectacular driver’s cars, but only once in a blue moon does one really scratch that itch. Or at least my itch for something catering to my mixed tastes, having coveted cars like the E92 BMW M3 and Shelby GT500. The Shelby GT350 is among that elite bunch and the perfect combination of their philosophies in my headcanon. And listen, I’m not one to incessantly bemoan the loss of purist machines from years past, but this glorified rental car proves they just don’t build sports cars like they used to and probably never will ever again.

The GT350 launched to widespread acclaim for pretty much being the second coming of Car Jesus. It snatched top spots in numerous comparisons, even placing second in Motor Trend’s Best Driver’s Car for two years, bested only by McLaren’s 570S and a 911 Carrera S. It’s far from the fastest muscle car at Woodward Avenue, but it’s certainly one of the most beloved sports cars of recent memory, and my time behind the wheel of a 2017 example from Turo of all places taught me why.
An all-natural V8 screaming to an 8,250-rpm redline, six-speed stick, and track-ready suspension? Yes, please! The precise, well-weighted steering and MagneRide suspension enable rapid direction changes evocative of cars hundreds of pounds lighter. The shifter delivers that just-right notchiness that’s snickety-snick-snick sensational, and the 526-horsepower 5.2-liter Voodoo will go down as one of the best engines of all time, oiling issues be damned! My time with the GT350 was limited to only a few days, but it easily proved its worth as one of the most intoxicatingly soulful modern cars on this side of a Ferrari and at a fraction of the price.

Gabe Carey: Chevrolet Corvette C8

Image credit: Gabe Carey (Acceleramota)

Those familiar with me, whether from the Acceleramota Discord server or beyond, probably wouldn’t expect the Corvette to be among my top 50 cars, let alone my favorite. In part, that has to do with my affinity for European cars – not to mention my high tolerance for frequent trips to and from the shop in my 2018 Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio. I’m also not 65 years old. 

But this isn’t about my favorite car. It’s a list of the best cars we’ve driven, and I’ll tell you straight up, the Quadrifoglio is far from perfection. That’s not the case for the 2024 Corvette C8 I cruised around in with our Editor-in-Chief, Jeric Jaleco, during the LA Auto Show. The first night I took it back to my hotel after a long day of travel, despite suffering from a horrific hunger migraine, I felt so alive that I even went out of my way to take a detour. “Fun at any speed” is a basic principle I feel every sports car should abide by, and most don’t. At least not anymore.

The first generation of Chevy’s mid-engine Corvette, however, is an exception. What it lacks in a manual transmission, it more than makes up for in good ol’ fashioned fun factor. The paddle shifters are responsive, it hugs corners like a dream, and the two pedals it does have are harmonious with the input of the driver. 

Given the intimate arrangement of the Android Automotive-powered infotainment system, video game-like drive mode controls, and the rest of the center stack, it’s like sitting in the cockpit of a luxurious racecar that’s just as comfy to drive on the road. It’s a grand tourer that out-grand tours the McLaren GT. Add to that the thunderous roar of a naturally aspirated V8 breathing down my shoulder, and you’ve got yourself a near-perfect sports car. Jeric will disagree, as he did on the podcast, but he’ll understand when he’s older.

Nathan Meyer: Volkswagen Golf GTI (Mk5)

VW Golf GTI Mk5 on a track
Image credit: VW

Fast, fun, and fantastic. Any VW fan will tell you that the Mk5 (pronounced mark-five) Golf GTI revived the nameplate and ushered in a new era of hot hatch. 

As of 2023, it is an 18-year-old car, so it is not the fastest hatch. You’re bound to be disappointed if you compare it to a modern hot hatch. One thing this car has that even the Mk8 Golf GTI does not is fun in bucket-loads. Pulling away from a stoplight will give you the widest smile. You feel connected to the car through corners. Somehow, it does this while still providing insane practicality, so much practicality that even you can entrust your husband’s best friend to bring it back in one piece.

Sure, you will drive faster cars and experience more fun cars. But no car plays the Golf GTI’s role better than the Mk5 GTI. You can summon its power at any moment and take your daughter to ballet the next. It’s the duality of the Mk5 GTI that makes it one of the best cars to drive.

Sheilah Villari: Chevrolet Camaro (Gen 3)

1992 Chevy Camaro RS parked in front of mountainscape
Image credit: Chevrolet

It might be a bit nostalgic, but my favorite car will always be my first. It was so beautiful, and being handed down to me by my mom added an extra layer of specialness. My high school and most of my college car was a teal 1992 Chevrolet Camaro Rally Sport. My mom was a Camaro and Chevy enthusiast, and this was the sixth one she had owned. Growing up in a beach town, this was the perfect car to park near the waves, pile your friend into, and pull out all your gear. Even if the two-door and hatchback were a pain, she was a shiny gem in the hot southern sun.

The fact that I never got pulled over in this car was a miracle as well. Going around 100 on 95 was not hard. I barely did anything, and this glorious green missile would just glide. And while I did find it hard to see sometimes (being so low to the ground), it handled beautifully. The nights cruising with the windows down, the salty ocean air forced in, and seagulls serenading you on a coastal drive were absolute perfection.

There is something romantic about our fond memories in vehicles like this. They say you never forget your first, and I certainly won’t. I often think about trying to get that sparkly wonder back into my life, broadness and all. 

Joe Tilleli: Mazda CX-5

Red Mazda CX-5 interior shot
Image credit: Mazda

I’m a simple man. My first new car I leased was a 2015 Mazda CX-5. Comfortable, roomy enough for my needs, handling is great. It’s the perfect crossover vehicle.

When the lease was up after three years, I couldn’t be bothered to go shopping around. So what’d I do? I leased another Mazda CX-5 — the 2018 model this time. And what do you know, another three years blinked away like nothing. I can see the cycle I’m about to be in, so I broke free. I bought out the 2018 model. In hindsight, it would have been better to just finance it from the start but I didn’t account for my laziness to hop around from dealer to dealer in future years. I’m gonna be driving this Mazda CX-5 until it doesn’t drive anymore. Then I’ll probably get another Mazda CX-5.

Ural Garrett: Mazda RX-8

Mazda RX-8 parked by mountainside
Image credit: Mazda

I wouldn’t get my driver’s license and first whip until my last semester at Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, but there hasn’t been a car that’s imprinted itself on me throughout my lifetime as the Mazda RX-8. As a kid growing up in Los Angeles who was a fan of both the Fast & Furious series and Need For Speed: Most Wanted, the best car I’ve ever driven will be my first car, which I dubbed “05Wankel.” The car fits my personality in so many ways: uniquely built, slightly problematic, but pure, unadulterated fun. 

In 2009, there wasn’t a cooler feeling than blasting Teriyaki Boy’s “Tokyo Drift” as I shifted the six-speed manual and sped down the I-10. I can even vividly remember the first time I did burn out and parking lot donuts.

For a solid six years, the amount of money I spent on replacement tires and cans of motor oil could have definitely gone to the private student loan used to buy the car in the first place. The 255 horsepower allowed me to hit 60 mph in around six seconds, but the way that 9,000-rpm rev limit made my car scream was the real treat. Driving it years later around LA made me appreciate it even more.

Roger Feeley-Lussier: Mercedes Sprinter

Mercedes Sprinter van going off-road
Image credit: Mercedes-Benz

In my past life as an unpopular indie pop musician, I spent a lot of time in vans. My first band had a modified Dodge shuttle bus that kind of always felt like it was on the verge of exploding but looked good in our music video. It didn’t have air conditioning, and I’m sure it smelled strange, but it was home for a few years. By that, I mean we literally slept it in 90% of the nights we were on tour (hence the smell.) My next band toured with a Ford cargo van that we think had a past life as a Stanley Steemer fleet vehicle. The quarters were a little tighter, but fortunately, we didn’t sleep in it (unless absolutely necessary.)

On one of Pretty & Nice’s tours, I got a chance to drive a Sprinter van. It belonged to Bobby Burg, a member of the midwestern indie outfit Joan of Arc, as well as dozens of other projects. I can’t remember how it happened, but one day, Bobby, who was touring solo, invited a couple of us to ride with him for the drive across Indiana. He let each of us take a shift, and I don’t even know how to describe the sensation of driving a Sprinter for the first time. 

You feel like you’re on a cloud. You’re very high up but also somehow very close to the road. It corners and accelerates like a much smaller vehicle. The entire time you’re driving a Sprinter, you forget how massive the vehicle you’re piloting is – but it never feels unwieldy (like a box truck.) It’s almost a miracle of engineering.

In my post-touring life, I briefly worked as a rebalancer for Hubway, the Boston bikeshare program. There were (I think) 8 Sprinters in the fleet, and even the “bad one” was so much better than my band’s van that it felt like a dream every time I turned the key. And I haven’t even touched on the most important thing about Sprinters: they can be whatever you need them to be. I’ve seen them modded into campers, offroad vehicles, mobile disaster response vehicles, and more. 

Sure, it’s not a Maybach, but you can’t put very many drumsets into a Maybach. 

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