The car market, deeply damaged by the COVID-19 pandemic, has begun to watch sales return to pre-March 2020 levels. Some models posted sales declines of over a third as people avoided dealerships. Even today, more people shop online and do not enter dealerships until they take possession of their vehicles.
One of the unexpected trends as car buyers returned to the market was the run-up in used car sales. The trend has been based on two factors. The first is the high prices of new cars. The other is that cars are much more dependable than they were a decade ago. The demand has even pushed used car prices higher than they have been in recent memory.
As is the case with new cars, not all used cars are created, or driven, equally.
To create its list of best-used cars for 2021, iSeeCars looked at data on 24 million vehicles from its earlier 2020 studies on the longest-lasting cars and cars that hold their value. They also considered safety data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration from 2011 to 2020. This agency performs crash tests on dozens of vehicles.
iSeeCars divided the used car market into 23 categories that covered several types of sport utility vehicles, pickups, sedans and others. It also chose the highest-rated used cars for under $5,000 and under $10,000.
It comes as no surprise that Japanese brands did particularly well. They have led car quality surveys for decades. Toyota and Honda had several vehicles in the rankings, and their luxury brands, Acura and Lexus, did well also. Pickups have become Detroit’s strength in the past several years. The best-selling new vehicles in America are the Ford F-150, Chevy Silverado and the Ram brand. However, a Japanese brand beat them out, as the Toyota Tundra took first place in the used full-sized truck category.
For the genuinely frugal buyers, the best car under $10,000 was the Toyota Yaris. The best for under $5,000 was the Mazda3.
These are the iSeeCars highest quality used brands for 2021:
Best Compact SUV: Honda CR-V
Best Luxury Compact SUV: Acura RDX
Best Midsize SUV: Toyota Highlander
Best Luxury Midsize SUV: Acura MDX
Best Full-Size SUV: Chevrolet Tahoe
Best Luxury Full-Size SUV: Lincoln Navigator
Best Third Row SUV: Toyota Highlander
Best Luxury Third Row SUV: Acura MDX
Best Midsize Truck: Toyota Tacoma
Best Full-Size Truck: Toyota Tundra
Best Compact Car: Honda Civic
Best Luxury Compact Car: Lexus IS 250
Best Midsize Sedan: Honda Accord
Best Luxury Midsize Sedan: Lexus ES 350
Best Large Sedan: Toyota Avalon
Best Luxury Large Sedan: Buick LaCrosse
Best Sports Car: Ford Mustang
Best Electric Car: Tesla Model S
Best Hybrid Car: Toyota Prius
Best Hybrid SUV: Toyota Highlander Hybrid
Best Minivan: Honda Odyssey
Best Car Under $5K: Mazda MAZDA3
Best Car Under $10K: Toyota Yaris