Used Cars That Are Better Than New

A sign that Honda is past its prime?

Buy any new Ford or General Motors vehicle and you’re virtually guaranteed to get a better car than the same model from a previous year.

Compare, for example, the 2002 Ford Taurus with the 2011 model. No contest. How about the 2000 Chevy Malibu up against the more refined, and exponentially more beautiful, current model? It’s almost like the cars were built by two different companies.

While it’s certainly expected that newer cars will be better than their outgoing brethren, there are some new cars that simply don’t stack up against their older versions.

Sometimes the older versions simply look better. Sometimes they get better gas mileage. And sometimes the new cars just seem to be symbols that a carmaker is past its prime. Surprisingly, it’s the foreign automakers that seem to fall into that category…

First, let’s discuss the Honda Accord/Toyota Camry family sedans. I think the 1998-2002 Accords were the best – a perfect combination of leanness, power, price, and comfort. Today’s car, while an excellent automobile, is enormous and expensive, both contrary to what I think an Accord should be. Same goes for the Camry. I’d scour DealFinder for a 1997-2001 model and snatch up the one with the fewest miles!

Honda CRX HF

It goes without saying that the Honda CRX was great, and the new Honda CR-Z is, well, not so much. Granted, the CR-Z is not meant to directly replace the CRX, but by making it a two-seat “sports” car and giving it that name, Honda certainly implied a connection. The trouble in buying a used CRX is the nearly complete lack of quality ones for sale. Given the chance, though, I’d bring home a CRX over a CR-Z any day, especially considering a 1985 CRX HF achieved 52 mpg in the city and 57 on the highway.

Luxury SUV buyers can save thousands of dollars by shopping used. In the case of Lexus, opting for a 2004-2006 RX 330 or a 2007-2009 RX 350 will give you all the luxury of the current RX wrapped in a more attractive package. You might give up 20 or so horsepower, but you’ll easily save 10 grand or more in the process. Consider me sold!

Which used cars do you prefer over their current versions?


Find Used Cars in Your Area at CarGurus

Used Ford Taurus
Used Chevrolet Malibu
Used Honda Accord
Used Toyota Camry
Used Lexus RX 330
Used Lexus RX 350


  1. Tough call. For me a 2001-2004 Avalon is far superior for my taste than the newer bloated whales currently being sold. There are obvious compromises involved based on the focus of your question. 8-10 years difference in age reflects technological compromises difficult to assess. The older cars probably won’t have navigation, the super duper sound systems, or suspension and aerodynamic improvements of the newer ones. I can live without most of these, but I refuse to compromise on safety and handling. So for me, this will involve compromises which I may not be willing to make. Now, back to the Avalon. I see no compromises that need to be made. The comfort, fit and feel of the older models are, to me, far superior to the technologically advanced newer models. So, for me, in this case, I am getting a better car at a far cheaper price than the newer ones.

    The only problem here is that dealers evidently know that too. Using your Dealfinder, I see that 10 year old Avalons are commanding 33% of their original selling price. One dealer here is asking for over 50% of MSRP for an average condition ’04 Avalon because it has only 40,000 miles. So finding an Avalon at a “good” price is not going to be easy. Since swords cut both ways, dealers should note that as well. That ’04 Avalon has been sitting at that dealer’s lot since July and is still sitting there as of today. Go figure!!

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