Top 9 Best Used Cars Under $20,000 For Beginners

Top 9 Best Used Cars Under $20,000 For Beginners
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If you're in the market for a used car and looking to spend less than $20,000, you're in luck. With a budget that size, your choices are seemingly endless.

That's exactly why extensive research on each make and model on your wishlist is essential before you actually buy, so you know the car you wind up choosing is one that will last for years and tens of thousands of miles – if not more – to come.

To make the process even easier, Shift’s certified mechanics perform extensive 150-point inspections on every car in stock and each vehicle comes with a complete vehicle history report, too, which means you can rest assured that your new used car feels as if it had just left the factory.

Options abound, but here are nine of the best used cars under $20,000 to consider.

Toyota Camry

Toyota Camry

The Camry isn't just the very first Toyota model to nab the crown of best-selling car in the United States, way back in 1997. It also held tight to that title for more than two decades altogether. During its reign, Toyota sold between 300,000 and 400,000 Camrys in the U.S. alone each year. In 2006, it became one of the first cars on the road to come with a hybrid option, allowing the Camry to go for up to 51 mpg in the city and 53 mpg on the freeway. New base model Camrys start at just shy of $25,000, whereas used models average between $13,000 and $15,000 but can go for as low as $7,000.

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Shop Used 2014 Toyota Camry LE
Toyota Camry

The Camry isn't just the very first Toyota model to nab the crown of best-selling car in the United States, way back in 1997. It also held tight to that title for more than two decades altogether. During its reign, Toyota sold between 300,000 and 400,000 Camrys in the U.S. alone each year. In 2006, it became one of the first cars on the road to come with a hybrid option, allowing the Camry to go for up to 51 mpg in the city and 53 mpg on the freeway. New base model Camrys start at just shy of $25,000, whereas used models average between $13,000 and $15,000 but can go for as low as $7,000.

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Shop Used 2014 Toyota Camry LE

BMW 3 Series

BMW 3 Series

The notion that getting behind the wheel of a BMW is only for drivers with big-league budgets is just downright wrong. It may come as a surprise, but the German luxury automaker's entry-level 3 Series sedans and coupes – a classic on the Autobahn and beyond for just shy of half a century now – is actually friendlier on the wallet than most might imagine. Now in its seventh generation, new BMW 3 Series models start at $41,250, which is actually slightly higher than other luxury compact sedans by competitors such as Mercedes-Benz, Audi and Lexus. But used 3 Series models can be found for about a fourth of the new model MSRP, as low as $9,550.

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Shop Used 2015 BMW 328i xDrive
BMW 3 Series

The notion that getting behind the wheel of a BMW is only for drivers with big-league budgets is just downright wrong. It may come as a surprise, but the German luxury automaker's entry-level 3 Series sedans and coupes – a classic on the Autobahn and beyond for just shy of half a century now – is actually friendlier on the wallet than most might imagine. Now in its seventh generation, new BMW 3 Series models start at $41,250, which is actually slightly higher than other luxury compact sedans by competitors such as Mercedes-Benz, Audi and Lexus. But used 3 Series models can be found for about a fourth of the new model MSRP, as low as $9,550.

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No-Contact Test Drives
Shop Used 2015 BMW 328i xDrive

Audi A3

Audi A3

Volkswagen's luxury offshoot, Audi is known for crafting cars with the same practicality and functionality as those vehicles that wear the badge of its parent company such as the Golf, Jetta and Passat, but with a sleeker, more refined look and feel to them. Let's put it this way. Volkswagen is to Audi as is a seat in economy class versus a seat in business class. But opting for an Audi in lieu of a VW needn't break the bank. Case in point: the Audi A3, which is the brand's entry level model for the North American market. Available as a four-door sedan, a two-door convertible coupe and a sporty hatchback with either three or five doors, used late-model A3s can be found for as little as $12,000, which is approximately $20,000 less than they cost new.

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Shop Used 2015 Audi A3 1.8T
Audi A3

Volkswagen's luxury offshoot, Audi is known for crafting cars with the same practicality and functionality as those vehicles that wear the badge of its parent company such as the Golf, Jetta and Passat, but with a sleeker, more refined look and feel to them. Let's put it this way. Volkswagen is to Audi as is a seat in economy class versus a seat in business class. But opting for an Audi in lieu of a VW needn't break the bank. Case in point: the Audi A3, which is the brand's entry level model for the North American market. Available as a four-door sedan, a two-door convertible coupe and a sporty hatchback with either three or five doors, used late-model A3s can be found for as little as $12,000, which is approximately $20,000 less than they cost new.

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Shop Used 2015 Audi A3 1.8T

Honda Accord

Honda Accord

Shortly after the early hatchback models arrived in 1976, the Honda Accord, which transitioned to a sedan body style in 1989, became one of the first vehicles by a Japanese automaker to make a splash in the North American car market. A name that's now 45 years in the making, these days the Honda Accord is a solid staple of the global auto industry, to say the very least. New Accords continue to rank as one of the top midsize sedan options thanks to a fuel efficiency of 30 mpg in the city and 38 mpg on the freeways, a hybrid option that banks 48 mpg, a ever roomy interior and their attractive base price, which is just shy of $25,000. Used Accords, however, average between $13,000 and $14,000 but can go for as little as $8,400.

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Shop Used 2014 Honda Accord EX-L
Honda Accord

Shortly after the early hatchback models arrived in 1976, the Honda Accord, which transitioned to a sedan body style in 1989, became one of the first vehicles by a Japanese automaker to make a splash in the North American car market. A name that's now 45 years in the making, these days the Honda Accord is a solid staple of the global auto industry, to say the very least. New Accords continue to rank as one of the top midsize sedan options thanks to a fuel efficiency of 30 mpg in the city and 38 mpg on the freeways, a hybrid option that banks 48 mpg, a ever roomy interior and their attractive base price, which is just shy of $25,000. Used Accords, however, average between $13,000 and $14,000 but can go for as little as $8,400.

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Shop Used 2014 Honda Accord EX-L

Nissan Altima

Nissan Altima

Ever since its release in 1993, the Altima has been one of Nissan's best-selling sedans in North America, thanks to its price, practicality and reliability. For the majority of its years on the road – up until 2011, specifically – it was manufactured entirely in the United States, too. And fittingly so, as the Altima is a car that Nissan envisioned, designed and crafted for the American market first and foremost. Now six generations in the making, the Altima is one of the few midsize sedans on the road today with an all-wheel drive option, allowing for better handling and improved safety ratings, too. New Altimas start at just under $25,000 for the base model, while used Altimas tend to range from $10,000 to $15,000.

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Shop Used 2015 Nissan Altima 2.5 SV
Nissan Altima

Ever since its release in 1993, the Altima has been one of Nissan's best-selling sedans in North America, thanks to its price, practicality and reliability. For the majority of its years on the road – up until 2011, specifically – it was manufactured entirely in the United States, too. And fittingly so, as the Altima is a car that Nissan envisioned, designed and crafted for the American market first and foremost. Now six generations in the making, the Altima is one of the few midsize sedans on the road today with an all-wheel drive option, allowing for better handling and improved safety ratings, too. New Altimas start at just under $25,000 for the base model, while used Altimas tend to range from $10,000 to $15,000.

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Shop Used 2015 Nissan Altima 2.5 SV

Volkswagen Jetta

Volkswagen Jetta

In the world of compact sedans, the Volkswagen Jetta, now with 40 years on the roads of the world, is hands down a classic economy car that continues to keep up with the times. As usual, the Volkswagen Jetta – which first debuted in 1979 – combines stellar crash safety ratings, an impressive fuel economy of 30 mpg on city streets and 40 mpg on the freeway and a driving experience that is surprisingly enjoyable overall, thanks to Volkswagen's knack for balancing functionality with fun. Now in its seventh generation, new Volkswagen Jetta base models start at just shy of $20,000, but used sixth and seventh premium editions like the SE and GLI can be found for as little as $8,450.

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Shop Used 2017 Volkswagen Jetta 1.4T S
Volkswagen Jetta

In the world of compact sedans, the Volkswagen Jetta, now with 40 years on the roads of the world, is hands down a classic economy car that continues to keep up with the times. As usual, the Volkswagen Jetta – which first debuted in 1979 – combines stellar crash safety ratings, an impressive fuel economy of 30 mpg on city streets and 40 mpg on the freeway and a driving experience that is surprisingly enjoyable overall, thanks to Volkswagen's knack for balancing functionality with fun. Now in its seventh generation, new Volkswagen Jetta base models start at just shy of $20,000, but used sixth and seventh premium editions like the SE and GLI can be found for as little as $8,450.

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Shop Used 2017 Volkswagen Jetta 1.4T S

Kia Optima

Kia Optima

Now rebranded as the K5 in honor of the arrival of the car's fifth and most current generation, the car formerly known as the Kia Optima has undergone great improvements across the board since it first entered the market in 2000. Most noteworthy are the Optima's five-star safety ratings for third-generation models manufactured after 2010, an incredible improvement from the one-star reviews that first-generation models received just a decade earlier. Combine that with a polished look both inside and out and a price that outbids most of its competitors like Honda, Nissan and Toyota and the result is a Kia sedan that's tough to bypass. New K5s start at $23,500, while used Optimas range from $10,000 to $13,000.

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Shop Used 2015 Kia Optima LX
Kia Optima

Now rebranded as the K5 in honor of the arrival of the car's fifth and most current generation, the car formerly known as the Kia Optima has undergone great improvements across the board since it first entered the market in 2000. Most noteworthy are the Optima's five-star safety ratings for third-generation models manufactured after 2010, an incredible improvement from the one-star reviews that first-generation models received just a decade earlier. Combine that with a polished look both inside and out and a price that outbids most of its competitors like Honda, Nissan and Toyota and the result is a Kia sedan that's tough to bypass. New K5s start at $23,500, while used Optimas range from $10,000 to $13,000.

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Shop Used 2015 Kia Optima LX

Toyota Corolla

Toyota Corolla

With more than 55 years in production, the Corolla is the oldest of Toyota's roster of autos that's still being made today. Now in its 12th generation, some 50 million Toyota Corollas have been sold since its release in 1966, making it one of the best-selling cars on the planet. Corollas are known for being unproblematic under the hood and a downright joy at the gas pump, with a fuel efficiency of 31/40 mpg for the fully gas-powered version and 53/52 mpg for the hybrid model. They're also accessible as far as pricing goes and trustworthy compact sedans all around. New models start at just over $20,000, while used Corollas can be found for as little as $10,000.

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Shop Used 2014 Toyota Corolla LE
Toyota Corolla

With more than 55 years in production, the Corolla is the oldest of Toyota's roster of autos that's still being made today. Now in its 12th generation, some 50 million Toyota Corollas have been sold since its release in 1966, making it one of the best-selling cars on the planet. Corollas are known for being unproblematic under the hood and a downright joy at the gas pump, with a fuel efficiency of 31/40 mpg for the fully gas-powered version and 53/52 mpg for the hybrid model. They're also accessible as far as pricing goes and trustworthy compact sedans all around. New models start at just over $20,000, while used Corollas can be found for as little as $10,000.

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No-Contact Test Drives
Shop Used 2014 Toyota Corolla LE

Hyundai Elantra

Hyundai Elantra

With the release of the Elantra, which has been in production for more than 30 years now, Hyundai became the first automaker to offer a midsize sedan with a hybrid option. Now with seven generations of the ever-affordable Elantra under its wing, Hyundai has seemingly perfected the art of taking note from competitors like Honda and Toyota and offering the same quality, practicality, efficiency and style at a lower price. New base model Elantras start at just under $20,000 but cost no more than $25,500 for the highest-priced trim level. Used models, however, tend to cost between $10,000 and $13,000.

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Shop Used 2013 Hyundai Elantra Limited
Hyundai Elantra

With the release of the Elantra, which has been in production for more than 30 years now, Hyundai became the first automaker to offer a midsize sedan with a hybrid option. Now with seven generations of the ever-affordable Elantra under its wing, Hyundai has seemingly perfected the art of taking note from competitors like Honda and Toyota and offering the same quality, practicality, efficiency and style at a lower price. New base model Elantras start at just under $20,000 but cost no more than $25,500 for the highest-priced trim level. Used models, however, tend to cost between $10,000 and $13,000.

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No-Contact Test Drives
Shop Used 2013 Hyundai Elantra Limited

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Author
Shift Editorial Team