Best Used Cars for 2021

By Julie Blackley

The Safest, Most-Reliable Cars that Retain the Most Value Based on iSeeCars Analysis

There’s a lot to consider when buying a used car. Researching used cars to understand important factors such as reliability, safety, and value retention can help consumers find the right car at the right price. To help navigate the used car buying process, we’ve done the legwork for you, analyzing over 20 million cars, and narrowed down the Best Used Cars across all vehicle types.

The winners are cars that have demonstrated long-term reliability, hold their value the best, and have the highest average safety ratings from the National Highway Transit Safety Administration (NHTSA). 

Best Used Cars

Here are the iSeeCars Best Used Cars and runners up for each category:
iSeeCars Best Used Cars

Safest, most reliable cars retaining the most value

Category Winner Runner-Up
Best Compact SUV Honda CR-V Subaru Outback
Best Luxury Compact SUV Acura RDX --
Best Midsize SUV Toyota Highlander Toyota 4Runner
Best Luxury Midsize SUV Acura MDX Lexus RX 350
Best Full-Size SUV Chevrolet Tahoe Ford Expedition
Best Luxury Full-Size SUV Lincoln Navigator Cadillac Escalade
Best 3rd Row SUV Toyota Highlander  Honda Pilot
Best Luxury 3rd Row SUV Acura MDX Lincoln Navigator
Best Midsize Truck Toyota Tacoma --
Best Full-Size Truck Toyota Tundra Chevrolet Silverado 1500
Best Compact Car Honda Civic Toyota Corolla
Best Luxury Compact Car Lexus IS 250 Lexus IS 350
Best Midsize Sedan Honda Accord Toyota Camry
Best Luxury Midsize Sedan Lexus ES 350 Cadillac CTS
Best Large Sedan Toyota Avalon Chevrolet Impala
Best Luxury Large Sedan Buick LaCrosse Cadillac XTS
Best Sports Car Ford Mustang Chevrolet Camaro
Best Electric Car Tesla Model S Tesla Model 3
Best Hybrid Car Toyota Prius Toyota Camry Hybrid
Best Hybrid SUV Toyota Highlander Hybrid --
Best Minivan Honda Odyssey Toyota Sienna
Best Car Under $5k Mazda MAZDA3 Buick Regal
Best Car Under $10k Toyota Yaris Ford Focus

Best Used SUVs 

The popularity of SUVs and crossovers continues to rise, and the number of SUV models hitting the marketplace grows each year. These are the best used, non-luxury and luxury SUVs across all size categories: 

Best Compact SUV: Honda CR-V

  • Overall Score: 8.7 of 10
  • Ranked #1 Longest-Lasting Compact SUV
  • 54.2% 5-Year Retained Value
  • NHTSA Safety Rating Average: 4.8 of 5.0
The best used compact SUV is the Honda CR-V. The Honda CR-V is among the best-selling vehicles in the country thanks to its demonstrated longevity, efficiency, and above-average passenger and cargo room for its class. It also boasts excellent safety scores and below-average ownership costs.

Best Compact SUV Runner-Up: Subaru Outback

  • Overall Score: 8.1 of 10
  • NHTSA Safety Rating Average: 5.0 of 5.0
Despite its official designation as a crossover wagon, the Subaru Outback is often compared to compact SUVs. The Subaru Outback earns a mention for being a long-lasting and safe vehicle with high value retention and is praised for its car-like driving dynamics, standard all-wheel drive, and class-leading cargo space.

Best Luxury Compact SUV: Acura RDX

  • Overall Score: 7.6 of 10
  • 41.1% 5-Year Retained Value
  • NHTSA Safety Rating Average: 5.0 of 5.0
The best used luxury compact SUV is the Acura RDX, which is the luxury equivalent of the top non-luxury compact SUV, the Honda CR-V. Along with its stellar reliability rating and perfect safety score, the Acura RDX comes with a lower-than-average price tag and ownership costs.

Best Midsize SUV: Toyota Highlander

  • Overall Score: 8.9 of 10
  • 52.5% 5-Year Retained Value
  • NHTSA Safety Rating Average: 5.0 of 5.0
The Toyota Highlander earns the honors as the best used midsize SUV for being a long-lasting and safe SUV with high-value retention. A popular family hauler, it’s roomy and has an accessible third row of seating and ample cargo room. It also offers a suite of safety features to add to its solid reputation for reliability.

Best Midsize SUV Runner-Up: Toyota 4Runner

  • Overall Score: 8.6 of 10
  • 61.4% 5-Year Retained Value
The runner-up for the best midsize SUV is the Toyota 4Runner. Built on a truck platform, this durable vehicle offers ample cargo room with an optional third row of seating for those who want a rugged family hauler. Demonstrating Toyota’s strong reputation for reliability, the 4Runner is a mainstay on iSeeCars longest-lasting vehicles list and is among the midsize SUVs with the best value retention after five years of ownership

Best Luxury Midsize SUV: Acura MDX

  • Overall Score: 8.8 of 10
  • 38.9% 5-Year Retained Value
  • NHTSA Safety Rating Average: 5.0 of 5.0
The Acura MDX earns the honors as the best luxury midsize SUV for being a long-lasting and safe SUV with high value retention. Along with being the longest-lasting luxury midsize SUV, it has above-average fuel economy for its class and is among the more affordable vehicles in its class.

Best Luxury Midsize SUV Runner-Up: Lexus RX 350

  • Overall Score: 8.4 of 10
  • NHTSA Safety Rating Average: 4.5 of 5.0
The best luxury midsize SUV runner-up is the Lexus RX 350, which shares a platform with the overall best midsize SUV winner the Toyota Highlander. The Lexus RX 350 earns praise for its elegant interior, drive quality, and below-average ownership costs.

Best Full-Size SUV: Chevrolet Tahoe

  • Overall Score: 7.9 of 10
  • 46.1% 5-Year Retained Value
  • Ranked #1 Full-Size SUV for Value Retention
The Chevrolet Tahoe earns its honors as the best used full-size SUV for being a long-lasting and safe SUV with high value retention. It’s one of the more affordable vehicles in the full-size SUV class, making it a practical family hauler for those who require a great deal of cargo and passenger space. 

Best Full-Size SUV Runner-Up: Ford Expedition

  • Overall Score: 7.8 of 10
  • NHTSA Safety Rating Average: 5.0 of 5.0
The Ford Expedition is the runner-up for the best full-size SUV. Along with its longevity, safety, and value retention, the Ford Expedition is a capable hauler with strong towing capacity and below-average ownership costs.

Best Full-Size Luxury SUV: Lincoln Navigator

  • Overall Score: 8.3 of 10
  • NHTSA Safety Rating Average: 5.0 of 5.0
The Lincoln Navigator gets the top spot as the best luxury full-size SUV and is the luxury equivalent of the best full-size runner-up, the Ford Expedition. Along with its long-term reliability, It offers an upscale cabin with abundant passenger and cargo space.

Best Full-Size Luxury SUV Runner-Up: Cadillac Escalade

  • Overall Score: 8.3 of 10
  • NHTSA Safety Rating Average: 4.0 of 5.0
The Cadillac Escalade is the runner-up for the best luxury full-size SUV. It shares a platform and many of the same materials with the non-luxury full-size SUV winner, the Chevrolet Tahoe. Similar to the Tahoe, it has abundant cargo and passenger space as well as many available safety features.

Best Three-Row SUV: Toyota Highlander

  • Overall Score: 8.9 of 10
  • 52.5% 5-Year Retained Value
  • NHTSA Safety Rating Average: 5.0 of 5.0
For consumers looking for three rows of seats, the Toyota Highlander is the best three-row SUV thanks to its reliability, safety, and value retention. It also offers a more spacious third-row than many of its competitors.

Best Three-Row SUV Runner-Up: Honda Pilot

  • Overall Score: 8.4 of 10
  • NHTSA Safety Rating Average: 4.8 of 5.0
The Honda Pilot is a popular family-friendly midsize SUV that is backed by Honda’s reputation for reliability and is one of the longest-lasting SUVs most likely to reach 200,000 miles. Sharing a platform with the Acura MDX overall luxury midsize SUV winner, it offers three spacious rows of seats and functions as a popular minivan alternative for families who want a safe, functional, and spacious hauler.

Best Luxury Three-Row SUV:  Acura MDX

  • Overall Score: 8.8 of 10
  • 38.9% 5-Year Retained Value
  • NHTSA Safety Rating Average: 5.0 of 5.0
The Acura MDX earns its place as the best luxury three-row SUV for being a long-lasting and safe SUV with high value retention.  It also offers an expansive third row and an abundance of cargo space.

Best Luxury Three-Row SUV Runner Up: Lincoln Navigator

  • Overall Score: 8.3 of 10
  • NHTSA Safety Rating Average: 5.0 of 5.0
The full-size Lincoln Navigator is the runner-up for the best luxury three-row SUV. A popular livery vehicle, the luxurious Navigator offers three spacious full rows of seating.

Best Used Pickup Trucks

Whether they are driven for business or pleasure, pickup truck drivers want a rugged and capable hauler. Beyond performance, the best used pickup trucks are proven to last long and retain their value so drivers can save money for their next pickup truck purchase.

Best Midsize Pickup Truck: Toyota Tacoma

  • Overall Score: 8.2 of 10
  • Ranked #1 Pickup Truck for Value Retention
  • Ranked #2 Longest-Lasting Compact Pickup Truck
  • 66.0% 5-Year Value Retention
The compact Toyota Tacoma earns the distinction as the iSeeCars top pick for the best used compact pickup truck. Toyota has a reputation for building indestructible trucks, which is proven by the performance of the Tacoma. Along with its high reliability and safety ratings, the Tacoma also holds its value better than any other pickup truck.

Best Full-Size Pickup Truck: Toyota Tundra

  • Overall Score: 8.2 of 10
  • Ranked #1 Longest-Lasting Full-Size Pickup Truck
  • 62.0% 5-Year Value Retention
The full-size Toyota Tundra earns the distinction as the iSeeCars top pick for the best full-size pickup truck. Like its compact sibling the Toyota Tacoma, the Tundra is indestructible and earns high reliability and safety ratings.

Best Full-Size Pickup Truck Runner-Up: Chevrolet Silverado 1500

  • Overall Score: 7.9 of 10
  • 53.6% 5-Year Value Retention
The full-size Chevrolet Silverado 1500 is the runner-up for best full-size pickup truck.  Along with above average safety, reliability, and value retention, the Chevy Silverado has high towing and payload capacities and a comfortable interior. It is both a capable work truck and a comfortable daily driver.

Best Used Passenger Cars

Passenger cars such as sedans, coupes, and hatchbacks appeal to drivers who want a more efficient vehicle and don’t require the cargo space of SUVs. Here are the iSeeCars picks for Best Used Passenger Cars. 

Best Compact Car: Honda Civic

  • Overall Score: 9.0 of 10
  • Ranked #1 Longest-Lasting Compact Car
  • 56.0% 5-Year Depreciation
  • NHTSA Safety Rating Average: 4.8 of 5.0
Although the demand for sedans has waned in recent years, the demand for the compact Honda Civic remains strong. The Honda Civic is known for its reliability and longevity, with many original owners passing the vehicle down to their children as they reach driving age. The Civic is the longest-lasting compact car in terms of likelihood to reach 200,000 miles, and its value retention makes it a good value for consumers. It also has among the best MPG estimates in its class.

Best Compact Car Runner-Up: Toyota Corolla

  • Overall Score: 8.8 of 10
  • 51.7% 5-Year Depreciation
The Toyota Corolla is the runner-up in the best compact car category. Known for its reliability, longevity, and value, it is more likely than vehicles in its class to reach 200,000 miles and maintains more of its value than its competition. The Corolla boasts excellent fuel economy to make the small car a practical option as a daily driver, and is also among the top of its class for safety scores.

Best Luxury Compact Car: Lexus IS  250/350

  • Overall Score: 9.0/8.8 of 10
  • 45.0/44.2% 5-Year Value Retention
  • NHTSA Safety Rating Average: 5.0 of 5.0
The top spot for the best luxury compact car goes to the Lexus IS 250 and 350, which share a platform with the Toyota Corolla. The Lexus IS is known for its reliability and sophisticated interior, and it also has a full suite of safety features.

Best Luxury Compact Car Runner-Up: BMW 3 Series

  • Overall Score: 8.3 of 10
  • NHTSA Safety Rating Average: 5.0 of 5.0
In the runner-up position for the best luxury compact car is the BMW 3 Series. As one of the most popular small luxury cars available, it has above-average reliability for its class and boasts a perfect safety score. It is also fun to drive thanks to its sporty handling and strong engine options.

Best Midsize Sedan: Honda Accord

  • Overall Score: 9.1 of 10
  • Ranked #1 Longest-Lasting Midsize Car
  • 49.7% 5-Year Value Retention
  • NHTSA Safety Rating Average: 5.0 of 5.0
The Honda Accord earns “winner” status on the list in the best midsize sedan category. It is the longest-lasting vehicle in its segment, with above-average value retention and perfect safety scores. It also has a comfortable and roomy interior and excellent fuel economy.

Best Midsize Sedan Runner-Up: Toyota Camry

  • Overall Score: 9.1 of 10
  • NHTSA Safety Rating Average: 5.0 of 5.0
The Toyota Camry earns runner-up position in the best midsize sedan category. It is among the longest-lasting vehicles in its segment, has above-average value retention, and has a perfect safety rating. It also comes with many active safety features and offers a comfortable ride.

Best Luxury Midsize Sedan: Lexus ES 350

  • Overall Score: 8.4 of 10.0
  • 42.7% 5-Year Value Retention
  • NHTSA Safety Rating Average: 5.0 of 5.0
The Lexus ES 350 earns the distinction as the best luxury midsize sedan. Along with its high scores in reliability, value-retention, and safety, it also has below-average ownership costs and a sophisticated high-end interior. 

Best Luxury Midsize Sedan Runner-Up: Cadillac CTS

  • Overall Score: 8.1 of 10.0
  • NHTSA Safety Rating Average: 5.0 of 5.0
The runner-up for the best luxury midsize sedan is the Cadillac CTS. It has a perfect safety score and above-average reliability and value retention. It also has lower than average ownership costs for the luxury car segment and offers a spacious and comfortable interior.  

Best Large Sedan: Toyota Avalon

  • Overall Score: 8.5 of 10
  • #1 Longest-Lasting Full-Size Sedan
  • 42.2% 5-Year Value Retention
  • NHTSA Safety Rating Average: 5.0 of 5.0
The Toyota Avalon is the best full-size sedan. As the longest-lasting sedan most likely to reach 200,000 miles, it is known for its longevity and reliability. It also has a perfect safety score, above-average value retention, and an upscale interior that belies its price point. 

Best Large Sedan Runner-Up: Chevrolet Impala

  • Overall Score: 8.3 of 10
  • NHTSA Safety Rating Average: 5.0 of 5.0
The runner-up for the best full-size sedans is the Chevrolet Impala. It is a reliable vehicle as one of the longest-lasting sedans on the road. It rides comfortably and has plenty of cargo and passenger space.

Best Large Luxury Sedan: Buick LaCrosse

  • Overall Score: 8.6 of 10
  • 36.4% 5-Year Value Retention
  • NHTSA Safety Rating Average: 5.0 of 5.0
The Buick LaCrosse earns the top spot as the best large luxury sedan. Along with earning above average reliability ratings and a perfect safety score, it offers a smooth ride and has excellent fuel economy for a large vehicle.

Best Used Sports Cars

For many, sports cars are often dream cars for their owners. Whether they are used as daily drivers or reserved for weekend drives in nice weather, these are the best used sports cars.

Best Used Sports Car: Ford Mustang

  • Overall Score: 8.8 of 10
  • 57.6% 5-Year Value Retention
  • NHTSA Safety Rating Average: 5.0 of 5.0
The American classic Ford Mustang tops the list as the Best Used Sports Car. It is among the longest-lasting sports cars and commonly accrues high mileage for the segment due to its popularity as a daily driver.  Praised for its smooth ride and agile handling, the Mustang also retains more of its value after five years when compared to other sports cars. 

Best Used Sports Car Runner-Up: Chevrolet Camaro

  • Overall Score: 8.7 of 10
  • NHTSA Safety Rating Average: 5.0 of 5.0
The runner-up for the best used sports car is the Chevrolet Camaro. The Camaro has four engine choices ranging from 4-cylinder to V8, making it a suitable choice for a daily driver or a performance car. The Camaro also earns a perfect 5-star safety rating from NHTSA and an above-average reliability rating.

Best Used Electric Vehicles

For drivers who want a low- or zero-emission vehicle, electric vehicles suit their needs. These are the Best Used Electric Vehicles.

Best Used Electric Vehicle: Tesla Model S

  • Overall Score: 9.6 of 10
  • Ranked #1 Longest-Lasting EV
  • 63.1% 3-Year Value Retention
  • NHTSA Safety Rating Average: 5.0 of 5.0
The Tesla Model S revolutionized the EV segment since its introduction in 2012 with its long list of innovative features including over-the-air software updates and autopilot technology. It also raised the bar with its all-electric range that far surpasses rivals. Along with being the longest-lasting EV, it scores well above average for value retention and has a perfect 5-Star NHTSA safety rating.

Best Used Electric Vehicle Runner-Up: Tesla Model 3

  • Overall Score: 8.2 of 10
  • NHTSA Safety Rating Average: 5.0 of 5.0
The Tesla Model 3 is the runner-up for the Best Used Electric Vehicle.  The Tesla Model 3 has many of the same attributes as the top-ranked Model S, but at a more affordable price. It also has the best three-year resale value of all electric vehicles.

Best Used Hybrid Cars

For more eco-minded drivers who want a fuel efficient vehicle, hybrid cars are a wise choice. Here are iSeeCars’ picks for the Best Used Hybrid Cars.

Best Used Hybrid Car: Toyota Prius

  • Overall Score: 8.9 of 10
  • 49.2% 5-Year Value Retention
  • NHTSA Safety Rating Average: 4.8 of 5.0
As the most popular hybrid car, the success of the Toyota Prius paved the way for automakers to introduce hybrid vehicles into their lineups. The Prius is among the longest-lasting passenger cars and is a top hybrid model for value retention. It also boasts stellar safety ratings and abundant cargo space to make it a practical option for a family vehicle or a comfortable car for commuting.

Best Used Hybrid Car Runner-Up: Toyota Camry Hybrid

  • Overall Score: 8.9 of 10
  • 45.3% 5-Year Value Retention
The Toyota Camry Hybrid is the runner-up for the best used hybrid car and is the hybrid version of the popular sedan. Proven to be safe and reliable, the Toyota Camry Hybrid is one of the longest-lasting passenger cars and is one of the top hybrid models for value retention.

Best Used Hybrid SUV: Toyota Highlander Hybrid

  • Overall Score: 9.1 of 10
  • Ranked #1 Longest-Lasting Midsize SUV
  • 47.0% 5-Year Value Retention
  • NHTSA Safety Rating Average: 5.0 of 5.0
The Toyota Highlander Hybrid earns the title of the best used hybrid SUV. The hybrid version of the popular Toyota Highlander is the longest-lasting midsize SUV and has high value retention and perfect safety scores.  

Best Used Minivans

The consummate family hauler, minivans are beloved by families who require extra passenger and cargo room in a vehicle that’s easy to transport children in or out of. 

Best Used Minivan: Honda Odyssey

  • Overall Score: 9.0 of 10.0
  • Ranked #1 Longest-Lasting Minivan
  • 54.0% 5-Year Value Retention
  • NHTSA Safety Rating Average: 5.0 of 5.0
Earning the designation as the Best Used Minivan is the Honda Odyssey. As the longest-lasting minivan, the Odyssey proves Honda’s reputation for reliability. It also boasts a perfect 5-star NHTSA safety rating and is among the top passenger cars for five-year value retention. The Odyssey is praised for its agile handling and convenient family-friendly features.

Best Used Minivan Runner Up: Toyota Sienna

  • Overall Score: 8.9 of 10.0
  • NHTSA Safety Rating Average: 5.0 of 5.0
The Toyota Sienna is the runner-up for the best used minivan. As the only minivan to offer all-wheel drive, the Sienna is a popular choice among families who want a reliable, safe, and functional family hauler. The Sienna is among the longest-lasting vehicles to reach 200,000 miles, which means it will stand the test of time for family hauling and road trips. It tops the minivan segment for five-year value retention. 

Best Affordable Used Cars

iSeeCars determined the best used cars under $5,000 and $10,000 by examining the average price of cars older than 10 years and five-year-old cars respectively.

Best Used Car Under $5,000: Mazda MAZDA3

  • Overall Score: 8.5 of 10
  • 48.0% 5-Year Value Retention
  • NHTSA Safety Rating Average: 5.0 of 5.0
The best used car under $5,000 is the  Mazda MAZDA3, with 10-year-old or older versions having an average price of $4,970. The fun-to-drive Mazda MAZDA3 has above-average value retention and longevity as well as perfect safety scores.  

Best Used Car Under $5,000 Runner-Up: Buick Regal

  • Overall Score: 8.1 of 10
  • NHTSA Safety Rating Average: 5.0 of 5.0
The runner-up for the best used car under $5,000 is the Buick Regal, with cars older than 10 years having an average price of $3,219. The midsize sedan has above average reliability and longevity as well as strong fuel economy.

Best Used Car Under $10,000: Toyota Yaris

  • Overall Score: 8.0 of 10
  • 48.8% 5-Year Value Retention
  • NHTSA Safety Rating Average: 4.0
The best used car under $10,000 is the subcompact Toyota Yaris, with 5-year-old versions costing an average of $9,431. The Toyota Yaris ranks above the segment average for reliability and value retention and has excellent fuel economy. 

Best Used Car Under $10,000 Runner-Up: Ford Focus

  • Overall Score: 7.6 of 10
  • NHTSA Safety Rating Average: 5.0
The runner-up for the best used car under $10,000 is the Ford Focus. This affordable compact car ranks above average for long-term reliability and value retention. It also has lower than average ownership costs.  

If you’re in the market for a used car, consider a used car from the above list. These cars are proven to be reliable and safe while maintaining their value for their owners.

Methodology

iSeeCars.com analyzed over 24 million cars from their 2020 studies on Longest-Lasting Cars and Cars that Hold their Value and combined the results with crash test ratings from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) from 2011-2020. Only vehicles which were included in both studies and had at least one overall crash test rating from NHTSA between 2011-2020 were eligible for inclusion in this study. They were scored with respect to their segment averages for reliability and value retention, and these component scores were aggregated with their NHTSA average safety ratings for an overall final score out of 10 points. Within each category considered in this study, the vehicles with the highest scores were awarded “best car” and “runner-up” status. 

About iSeeCars.com

iSeeCars.com is a car search engine that helps shoppers find the best car deals by providing key insights and valuable resources, like the iSeeCars VIN check reports. iSeeCars.com has saved users over $261 million so far by applying big data analytics powered by over 25 billion (and growing) data points and using proprietary algorithms to objectively analyze, score and rank millions of new cars and used cars.