News Column

Rising Gas Prices Have Buyers Thinking 'Small is Beautiful'

July 21, 2012

Ira Kantor, Boston Herald

As gas prices slowly creep back up after more than two months of decreases, size is no longer everything when it comes to purchasing used cars in a sluggish economy.

"If you were once considering getting a large SUV, a midsize SUV can do the same. That large pickup truck I thought I would need to carry my surfboard -- a Toyota Tacoma can do the same thing," said senior analyst Richard Arca. "Consumers are being smart in that respect."

The automotive online resource has unleashed its "2012 Used Car Best Bets," covering a wide variety of models -- many of which Arca supported. Here's a look at a baker's dozen of the hottest used cars to seek out this summer, along with base prices (without options) consumers can expect to pay:

Small sedan:

While Edmunds proclaimed the 2005-2010 Hyundai Elantra the victor thanks to its "solid built quality, reliability and operating economy," Arca opted for the 2009 Mazda Mazda3. "The styling is great," Arca said. "It offers excellent fuel economy that competes with 2011 and 2012 models on the market." (Price: $14,000)

Midsize sedan:

The 2005-2010 Nissan Altima. Great looking and reliable, the Altima's V6 option is excellent, Arca said, adding, "I'd get the V6 and have confidence in knowing that vehicle would last me 150,000 miles no problem." (Price: $9,000 to $18,300)

Large sedan:

While Edmunds preferred the 2006-2010 Hyundai Azera, Arca picked the 2010 Ford Taurus. "The interior is a quantum leap from what the (Toyota) Avalon was. It has more horsepower. The fuel economy is great," Arca said. (Price: $19,800)


The 2005-2010 BMW 3 Series. A 3-year-old 3 Series could be priced the same as a four-door counterpart and manages to hold its value better, according to Arca. "It transcends between luxury and sports car," he said. "It has a 335 engine in there that performs like any sports car you'll find on the road." (Price: $12,000 to $29,000)


The 2005-2010 Mazda Miata. The "quintessential roadster," this model offers communicative steering, an "exuberant" engine and an easy clutch, according to Edmunds. "It's top down. It's quick. It's agile. They hold their values pretty well," Arca added. "There are very few vehicles that can compete head to head with it on the market." (Price: $9,900 to $20,000)


The 2005-2010 Pontiac Vibe. Similar to the Toyota Matrix, this model is a good value that boasts "impressive space efficiency, compact dimensions and a smooth, reliable powertrain, courtesy of Toyota," according to Edmunds. With a 2.4-liter engine, this model can also get 29 miles per gallon on the highway, Arca added. (Price: $8,900 to $14,900)

Small SUV:

The 2005-2010 Honda CR-V. When it comes to overall popularity, the CR-V's main competition is the Toyota Rav4 and Ford Escape. It lacks a V6 engine option, but packs style and space. "In sitting in all three vehicles, I thought the CR-V was roomier," Arca said. (Price: $11,500 to $21,500)

Midsize SUV:

Edmunds opted for the 2005-2010 Ford Explorer for its abundance of interior space and family-friendly features. Arca, however, chose the 2008 Nissan Pathfinder. "It's still the same body style as the 2012. The six-cylinder (engine) was as strong or nearly as strong as the Toyota Sequoia in terms of horsepower." (Price: $17,900 with a V6 option, $19,500 with a V8 option)

Large SUV:

The 2005-2010 Chevrolet Tahoe. A roomy cabin seats up to nine and it has "fairly nimble handling" for such a large vehicle, according to Edmunds. (Price: $13,900 to $30,000)

Another prime choice is the 2009 Ford Flex, Arca said. "That's a vehicle that has so much room. It has so much utility and it doesn't ride like a large SUV. It rides like a vehicle smaller than it is," he said. "It's more car-like than anything." (Price: $20,200)


The 2005-2010 Honda Odyssey. With good horsepower and exterior styling, great gas mileage and ample family room, this model puts you "in the in-crowd with minivans," Arca said, adding, "Car dealers love to get their hands on it in terms of resale value." (Price: $12,900 to $24,900)

Small truck:

The 2005-2010 Toyota Tacoma. With 18 different trim levels to choose from and a "pretty rock solid engine," this model rules the frontier. "The four-cylinder engine's reputation is such that it can go well over 100,000 miles with no problem," Arca said. (Price: $11,500 to $18,900)

Large truck:

The 2005-2010 Ford F-150. With a more appealing look compared to Chevrolet's large truck options, and 48 different styles to choose from, this model is always a hot seller, Arca said. "It's got a lot of nice electronic buttons to it. It's not typical of what a full-size truck should look like." (Price: $11,900 to $24,900)

Source: (c) 2012 the Boston Herald. Distributed by MCT Information Services

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