There have never been more reliably-made cars across the board than in the last decade. It's one reason (besides the recession) why Americans are keeping their cars longer. Still that doesn't mean every used car on the road with 100, 000 miles is created equally. (Unfortunately, when excitement goes up, reliability often ebbs. You can't get a Ferrari to be as trouble-free as a Civic. Sorry, that's life.)
So to find the most reliable oldies, we did some internal polling of our staff experts and surveyed a fistful of mechanics, like Derick Karabec, who owns Beek's Auto in Gardiner, N.Y., to see what they would buy for themselves or their family members. No matter the buyer, here's our list, complete with warnings for what to have your own mechanics check before purchase. (Any seller or reseller who refuses to let you have your own mechanic check out a car is hiding something.)
Note: As for what to buy for your kid, multiple mechanics agree: don't. "Don't ever buy a car for your kid, " says Scott Wands, who owns Champagne Service in Seattle. "You want them to have some skin in the game"—that way they'll take better care of what they drive. Karabec agrees. While it's hard to convince a kid to drive cheap, reliable, sexless transportation, it's easer to coax them into such a ride if they're the ones paying for the maintenance.