Family cars are a basic necessity for millions of Americans. But they don’t have to be stodgy, boring boxes on wheels. Automakers have stepped up their game in recent years by offering stylish, comfortable and technologically advanced vehicles that appeal to every demographic. Looking for a new, used family car to suit your family’s needs?

We’ve compiled a list of the Top 5 Best Used Family Cars, based on the research from Consumer Reports in their annual tracking study of best used vehicles by segment. The magazine doesn’t list specific years for each of the top 5, but does consider models from the last 10 years in terms of reliability and customer satisfaction.

Although you can certainly find others, and should consider others on your shopping list, start with these for a leg-up on your new set of family wheels.

  • Honda Accord (2003-2008) – Editors of Consumer Reports give the Honda Accord midsize coupe and sedan great marks for its track record of reliability, and put it at the top of the used-car choices for family cars. Its 7th generation redesign in 2003 (which lasted until 2007) resulted in standard anti-lock brakes (ABS), and a much more quiet and agile vehicle. Powertrains included a 160-hp 2.4-liter inline 4-cylinder engine and a 240-hp 3.0 liter V-6 engine. Three trim levels were offered: base DX, more contented LX and luxury EX. Traction control was optional on V-6 models. The Honda Accord Hybrid sedan debuted in 2005 with a 255-hp gasoline/electric V-6 powertrain. In 2006, Accord V-6 models received standard electronic stability control (ESC). The 2008 redesign included standard ESC on all models. Editors at Edmunds.com say that the 6th generation (1998-2002) is very popular on the used car market (with used car prices ranging from about $3,589-$9,242), while budget-minded consumers can find good picks among the 1994-1997 crop ($2,200-$3,418). Edmunds lists used car prices for 2003-2007 Accords at $8,122-$22,482, while the used 2008 models range from $17,314-$25,626. Consumer Guide, another pricing source, lists price ranges for 2003-2007 Accords at $6,800-$20.900.
  • Toyota Prius – First appearing in the U.S. in 2000 as a 2001 model (some seven months behind the Honda Insight), the Toyota Prius hybrid may have been second to market, but it soon made up ground. In 2003, the 2nd generation Prius hatchback (lasting from 2004 to 2009 model years) featured a more powerful engine, still in 4-door hatchback design, but more carrying versatility. By 2005, sales had climbed to nearly 108,000 in the U.S. The all-new 3rd generation design bows in the 2010 model. Buyers looking for good used Prius models can find reasonable prices in the 2002-2003 versions, when Toyota added navigation system, side airbags and cruise control as options. Edmunds.com says that 1st generation Prius owners have been very happy with the car’s overall quality and reliability. Look for prices ranging from about $9,335 for a used 2001 Prius to about $21,337 for a 2008 model, per Edmunds.
  • Ford Fusion (2006-2009) – For good reliability and affordability, you can’t go wrong with a Ford Fusion. Originally introduced for the 2006 model year as front-wheel drive (FWD), with S, SE and SEL trim, Fusion was powered by a standard 160-hp 2.3-liter 4-cylinder engine and manual transmission (or optional automatic). For more power, you could get an optional 231-hp 3.0-liter V-6 and 6-speed automatic on the SE and SEL. In 2007, changes included standard front seat airbags, side curtain airbags and auxiliary audio jack. Options included navigation system, satellite radio, all-wheel drive (AWD) and more standard equipment on SE and SEL. Ford’s Sync system was added in 2008, along with standard ABS. In 2009, traction control was made standard, and ESC was optional. Edmunds lists used Fusion prices ranging from $10,302 for the 2006 model to $22,660 for the 2009.
  • Mercury Milan (2006-2009) – Corporate twin to the Ford Fusion, with the same I-4 and V-6 powertrains, the midsize Mercury Milan featured more refined interior and additional appointments. The base 2006 model included keyless entry, 6-way power driver’s seat, and premium 6-speaker stereo with MP3 capability, cruise control, full power accessories, and split-folding rear seat. ABS, front seat-mounted side airbags and curtain airbags were optional in 2006 and standard in 2007. AWD was available on V-6 Fusions in 2007. Navigation system was optional in 2007 and Microsoft Sync (in collaboration with Ford) was optional in 2008. Edmunds lists used vehicle prices for the 2006-2009 Fusion ranging from $10,778 to $24,010.
  • Toyota Camry (except 2008 V-6) – Always high on the list of reliable used vehicles, Toyota Camry for 2002-2006 (all-new in 2002) is a comfortable, roomy sedan with choice of 154-hp 2.4-liter inline 4-cylinder or 190-hp 3.0-liter V-6 engine. Depending on model and trim level, ESC and side-curtain airbags were available. ABS was not standard in base Camry models prior to 2005. The 6th generation redesign occurred in 2007, with a modest horsepower boost to 159 in the 4-cylinder engine and a potent 268-hp 3.5-liter V-6 engine mated to a new 6-speed automatic transmission. LE, SE and XLE trims are available. Seven airbags, ESC, ABS and tire pressure monitor are standard across all models. Edmunds lists prices for used Toyota Camrys ranging from $3,366 for a 1997 model, to $7,389-$16,973 (2002-2006), and $13,638-$22,400 (2007-2008). An all-new Camry bows for the 2010 model year.

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