If paying $24,000 for a fully loaded Camry or Accord is out of the question, consider a used midsize, SUV, or large car. The going price for our picks is under 15K, translating into a neat $180/mo. monthly payments or a quick withdrawal of your rainy day money.
2005-2008 Honda CR-V – The 2007 and 2008 CR-Vs are practically the same model as the 2011 version in design. It is a safety performer with 5-Star NHTSA crash test distinction, solid IIHS crash test scores, and a winner of a who's who in reliability awards including a #1 ranking by JD Power and Initial Quality distinctions in 2007 and 2008.
2003-2004 BMW 3-Series - Before a dramatic redesign and engine options post 2007, $10,000 to $12,000 is the asking price for its 2003 and 2004 models with equally as impressive performance. Missing all wheel drive and a softer engine are parried with the choice of the 325Ci and the 330Ci with a standard power moon roof, 18/27 fuel economy, and one of the best interior luxury packages of the day with wood trim dash and 10 speakers.
2006-2007 Toyota RAV-4 - The CR-V's perennial rival, the RAV4 keeps impressive longevity after a size increase in 2006. Size improved with third row seating and a new V6 engine in the choice of three trims: Base, Sport, and Limited. Fuel economy (19/28) is a dip below the RAV-4's 2011 numbers (22/28 mpg). Look post 2004 for significant better crash test scores and the 2001 to 2005 for the smaller version.