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More for your money: The 10 best value vehicles

By Brian Champagne for KSL Cars | Posted - Oct. 23, 2020 at 7:00 p.m.

Features. Power. Comfort. These are the things that give a vehicle value. It's not the relative importance of a certain hood ornament or an expensive MSRP, but rather what you get for the money. Many of the selections on this list may be cheap, but they are an excellent value.

Photo: KSL Cars

2002 Lincoln Continental

This was the last model year before Matthew McConaughey led the 2017 return of the big Lincoln. Around the time of the 2002 Salt Lake Olympics, it was making 275 horsepower, getting 18 mpg and spoiling its drivers. The majority of Kelly Blue Book raters — 79% to be precise — give it five stars. One rating included this comment: "This is an underrated car, great ride ... I'm averaging 23 mpg." Another started commuting in it and now prefers it over his BMW, adding: "Such a great car, wish I bought one new in 2002 and kept it."

Our favorite listings

Note: There are no 2002s on KSL Cars right now, but you can set up a notification so you can jump one of these comfy-cruisers pops up.

  • This 2001 that needs a little mechanical work, but at two grand it should be worth it: View the listing.
  • Another 2001 — this one is twice the price, but you should be able to cruise it home from Twin Falls, ID: View the listing.

View all Lincoln Continentals on KSL Cars.

Photo: KSL Cars

2005 Buick Park Avenue Ultra

Buick saved the best for the last year of production of this six-seater. It came loaded with extras and rivaled the ride of the Continental above. The Ultra was built to cruise with a 240-horsepower supercharged engine. The trunk puts SUV hauling capacity to shame. What's not to love? A web search for "I love my Buick Park Avenue" yields pages of results. A similar query for "I hate my Buick Park Avenue" came up with one quasi-hate video, but it was from a guy who also created a love video who was simply pointing out a shortcoming or two.

Our favorite listings

  • The last generation of Park Avenue lasted from 1997 to 2005. Here's a 2002 with about 200K miles, at just under $1,200: View the listing.
  • Here's a 1999 listed for $2,300, with fewer than 7,000 miles a year on it: View the listing.
  • Another 1999, listed for $2,250 with some recent maintenance including new tires: View the listing.

View all 1997–2005 Buick Park Avenues on KSL Cars.

Photo: KSL Cars

2020 Ford Fusion

The Fusion was built to compete against Camrys and Accords, but they stole the spotlight and the sales with their iron-clad reliability. Still, a whopping 75% of KBB raters gave the Fusion 5 stars. There is a lot of value for the money here, despite slightly disappointing gas mileage.

Our favorite listings

  • The body style went from 2013-2020, and there are more than 500 Fusions listed for those years. Here's a 2016 that a 6 ½-foot driver is letting go for about eight grand, but you have to be able to find Orangeville on a Utah map: View the listing here.
  • A 2016 Hybrid Fusion for $9,500 in Park City: View the listing here.
  • Go all-wheel drive in this 2015 Fusion listed for $8,900: View the listing here.
  • This Energi model makes up for its spelling by being a plug-in hybrid — charge at work and you hardly ever have to pay for gas: View the listing here.

View all 2013–2020 Ford Fusions on KSL Cars.

Photo: KSL Cars

2003 Toyota Corolla

The Corolla's reputation has been solid since day one, with the exception of the 2002 and 2009 models. In more than 1,400 reviews, 75% of KBB raters gave it 5 stars. That tells you it's pretty reliable, and more than 1,000 drivers are passionate enough about a commuter car to take the time to post.

Our favorite listings

  • 268,000 miles on this one but apparently it's still going strong — it would be fun to see how many more miles you could get out of this Corolla after you pick it up for $2K: View the listing here.
  • $2,500 for this one, but it claims dealer service for all of its 198,000 miles: View the listing here.
  • Here's the cheapest 2003 listed on KSL Cars right now; at $1,600 it looks as good as most of the other listings: View the listing here.

View all 2003 Toyota Corollas on KSL Cars.

2002 Buick Century

If you're looking for driving excitement and you want to turn some heads, keep looking. Most Buicks are pretty tame and the Century is no exception. This mid-size sedan shared a lot of its undersides with Chevrolets and Oldsmobiles. But being the brand right below Cadillac you can find nicer features, including some peppier engine options. Remember, one of those heads you don't turn might belong to a traffic cop.

Our favorite listings

View all Buick Centurys on KSL Cars.

Photo: KSL Cars

Dodge Charger Hellcat

A peppy commuter car makes about 200 horsepower. Can a car with 707 horsepower that was an insane idea to begin with be a good value? In the power-to-money ratio, a new one costs $100 per horsepower. You would have a very hard time finding a car that delivers more power for the money than the Hellcat, also available as a Challenger. And it's not just an engine and a seat — there are fun power-management, handling and timing toys on board, too. Now if you could just find a good deal on a monthly set of tires for when you start smoking them…

Our favorite listings

  • The cheapest Challenger Hellcat on KSL Cars right now is also the best-looking. This 2016 has 40K miles on it: View the listing here.
  • This 2017 Charger Hellcat gets you two more doors for $54,500: View the listing here.
  • This 2017 Charger Hellcat promises it has had a decent life and is good shape. Seller says it needs new rear tires though. View the listing here.

2006–2008 Nissan Altima 3.5L Coupe

This is not just a two-door commuter. The 3.5-liter engine shares most of its parts with the 350Z and Maxima. It's fast, fun and forgotten. You get a nimble, sporty car that shouldn't get your insurance agent's attention as a Z would.

Our favorite listings

2015–2019 Chevrolet Cruze

World Touring Car racing isn't popular in the United States, so we missed the seasons where the Cruze was the car to beat. We're recommending the smaller-engined Eco models. The 2016 model is rated at 40 mpg on the highway, two more miles than a Honda Civic of the same year. If you can find a rare diesel you can look for 48 mpg highway. Those numbers get into hybrid-mpg territory, but they don't have batteries that may be nearing the end of their usable life.

Our favorite listings

  • This 2015 ECO version has all the options: View the listing here.
  • This 2015 is the one of the cheaper Cruzes on KSL Cars right now. It's not the ECO, but it has the Ecotec engine: View the listing here.
  • The Toole dealer selling this 2012 ECO points out several times in the ad that it's being sold "as-is" but what could've possibly gone wrong in its 224,000-mile life? Find out for $1,788: View the listing here.
  • Here's a 2013 with 114,000 miles on it. We're suckers for aluminum wheels and satellite radio: View the listing here.

View all 2015–2019 Chevrolet Cruzes on KSL Cars.

Photo: KSL Cars

2014–2020 Chevrolet Suburban

At 21 mpg on the highway, this fullest-of-the-full-sized SUV gets better mileage than several smaller competitors, so you may as well get all the space along with it. The previous generation (up to 2007) still gets 20 mpg on the highway. The 5.3-liter engine is so popular that if you roll your Suburban you'll probably have people at the crash site bidding on it (after they make sure you're OK, of course).

Our favorite listings

  • Here's a 2015 that's hard to distinguish from a newer model. It's black so you can look like you're shuttling tourists to ski resorts: View the listing here.
  • Another black 2015 Suburban that would be hard to keep clean in winter and cool in summer, but at under 23 grand, you'd have money left over for car washes: View the listing here.
  • This 2016 LT model shows two DVD players, because nothing goes better with heated leather rear seats for $34K. We should mention it's in Paul, Idaho, just minutes from downtown Burley: View the listing here.
  • Here's white 2017 LT with two screens. It looks to be in great shape unless you look at the passenger-side mirror housing: View the listing here.

View all 2014–2020 Chevrolet Suburbans on KSL Cars.

2010–2020 Dodge Journey

The Journey debuted in 2009 with uncanny and inventive storage in places like under the flip-forward seat cushions. It also debuted with an uncanny list of mechanical problems. The list of troubles got much shorter starting in 2011, but the reputation was already damaged. All of those handy features will help in your daily life. 2020 is the last year for the Journey, so get 'em now while you can. Starting MSRP is $23,675.

Our favorite listings

  • This 2012 Journey has the American Value Package. This option was used on mini-vans, too; it's where they put in the basic treats most families want without paying for the froufrou stuff. It's priced to just fit in your search for cars under $10,000: View the listing here.
  • This 2016 with all-wheel drive looks like a good deal at $11,498, and we hear Richfield is lovely this time of year: View the listing here.
  • This 2016 is cheap at under $7K, and its red paint gives it the R/T look, though it has the smaller engine: View the listing here.
  • On the newer and higher ends of things, here's a 2019 Journey Crossroad model, which is the higher trim level. DVD and rear seat A/C should keep people quiet back there for $18,901: View the listing here.

View all 2010–2020 Dodge Journeys on KSL Cars.

Brian Champagne for KSL Cars

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