The Best Used Cars for Gas Mileage Under $8000

Are you ready to move to a fuel-efficient used car that is reliable, affordable and relatively new? These dozen used cars range from 1996 to 2005 and represent the best of what domestic and foreign manufacturers have to offer. This class of cars includes an absolute sleeper: the 2002 Chevy Prism. Pricing info courtesy of Reliability info comes from and fuel economy stats come from Here are the abbreviations used with these listings:

  • CR = Consumer Reports
  • EPA = Environmental Protection Agency
  • 22/29 = city mpg/highway mpg
  • AFC = Annual Fuel Costs
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2005 Chevrolet Aveo $6785

Denver Gingerich/Flickr

This Aveo is a little car, smallest in the Chevy fleet, that has been hurt by poor sales but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad car – if you buy the right year. CR marks 2005 average model reliability – but beware of 2004 and 2006 models that are rated poor reliability Fuel economy is good at 23-city/32-highway, but could frankly be higher for a car this size. AFC-$2065

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2002 Chevy Prizm $6700

2002 Chevrolet Prizm. Photo © Chevrolet

The Chevy Prizm is an absolute sleeper of a car. It’s basically a Toyota Corolla sold as a Chevy. That’s a fact very few people know, which works to your advantage because you’re buying a used Toyota at Chevy prices. CR marks 2002 above average model reliability. Fuel economy is 27/37 AFC-$1802

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2003 Chrysler PT Cruiser $7690

2003 Chrysler PT Cruiser. Photo © Chrysler

If you’re in the market for a little station wagon, the Chrysler PT Cruiser is a fun option. It’s slightly underpowered but it’s going to get you to the grocery store comfortably. Also, it’s a good highway cruiser that is comfortable to drive long distances. CR marks 2003 average model reliability. Fuel economy is a bit low around town. 19/26 AFC-$2539

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2004 Ford Focus $6640

2004 Ford Focus. Photo © Ford

People in the know about small cars consistently praise the Ford Focus. (Most long for the European version to be sold here, but the domestic version is still a good car.) CR marks 2004 average model reliability. Good fuel economy at 24/32 AFC-$2065

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2003 Ford ZX2 $6830

2003 Ford ZX2 Escort. Photo © Ford

Most people would consider sporty Escort an oxymoron, but that’s what the Ford ZX2 was. This little coupe was a fun ride. CR marks 2002 average model reliability but didn’t rate 2003 model year when it was discontinued. Fuel economy is fair at 23/30 AFC-$2232

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2000 Honda Accord $7400

2000 Honda Accord. Photo © Honda

No list of fuel-efficient cars would be possible without at least one Accord on the list. CR marks 2000 excellent model reliability. This is a mid-size sedan which helps explain why fuel economy isn’t better at 22/29 AFC-$2327. (It’s still respectable for a car this size.)

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1996 Honda Prelude $7065

1997 Honda Prelude. Photo © Honda

In a few more years, Preludes could start showing up as collector cars because of their sportiness. Not all Hondas are designed blandly after all. No CR info available before 1998 21/26 AFC-$2427

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1996 Lexus ES 300 $7550

1997 Lexus ES300. Photo © Lexus

It’s an older sedan, but it’s just tough to go wrong with a Lexus that has been well maintained. No CR info available before 1998, but from 1998-2005, each model year was marked excellent model reliability. Just like the Accord, fuel numbers aren’t great because it’s a sedan. 18/26 AFC-$2656

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1997 Mercedes C-class $7015

1997 Mercedes C Class. Photo © Mercedes

In the late ‘90s, Mercedes was building sedans that were known for their reliability. That slipped a bit as the company got embroiled in the Chrysler merger, but no worries with the 1997 C-class, its entry-level sedan. No CR info available before 1998, but 1998 model rated average reliability. Fuel economy, again, is only fair because it is a sedan that can seat four adults. 20/28 AFC-$2571

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2001 Nissan Altima $7600

2001 Nissan Altima. Photo © Nissan

Talk about a car that gets no respect: the Nissan Altima. It’s been good, solid transportation since first being introduced in 1993. Some people may be turned off by the fact that it’s an American built car, but CR rated the 2001 model average reliability. For a mid-size sedan, fuel economy is good at 20/28 AFC-$2427

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2004 Suzuki Aerio $7780

2004 Suzuki Aerio. Photo © Suzuki

A good little sedan that’s almost fun to drive when mated to a manual transmission. It was inspired by the Japanese market Honda Fit. No CR info available, but 2003 was marked less than average reliability so be safe and get a thorough inspection before purchase. Fuel economy numbers are good but could be a tad better for a car this size. 22/28 AFC-$2327

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1997 Toyota Celica $7090

1997 Toyota Celica. Photo © Toyota

The Celica is the most Mazda-like vehicle in the Toyota stable. It had a lot of zoom-zoom to it and was a bit of a head turner in its day. No CR info available before 1998, but from 1998-2007, each model year was marked excellent model reliability 25/32 AFC-$1932