we all get it: this isn't the best time to buy a car. according to j.d. power, the average new-vehicle transaction price this month is expected to be $44,832, not far off of the record high of $45,247 we saw in december 2021. but sometimes you just have to buy one anyway, and maybe the idea of spending $45,000 for a new car is simply unrealistic. given that memorial day is traditionally a time when car dealers offer decent sales, we wanted to help people shopping this weekend with a more limited budget. the good news is that if you're looking for a low-price certified pre-owned (cpo) model, there are some deals to be found, especially if you are looking for small sedans or hatchbacks.
as we've repeatedly written in the past, buying a cpo vehicle offers a number of benefits, including the certification itself, as well as a manufacturer-backed warranty. cpo vehicles are likely to be newer, lower-mileage examples that recently came off their lease, which until recently meant that they were usually a fair amount cheaper than similar new models. but, given the price of new cars these days and our lost threshold of $10,000, the reality is that you'll have to do some digging and probably accept a few trade-offs in order to find some new-to-you wheels.
to answer the question in the headline, we were able to find a handful of mostly ford focus and fiesta models for under $10,000 (before taxes and any fees, of course) listed on edmunds.com. it's not only ford cpo vehicles available at this price point—we spotted a 2012 subaru impreza for $9000—but results were similar over at autotrader. it didn't take long to learn that, in a world of large suvs and pickups, cpo deals in 2022 take the form of small hatchbacks and sedans. which brings us to our first trade-off: limited selection, both in make and model. if you're okay with that, read on.
over at cars.com, the lowest price filter option you can set is $12,000, so we're moving up a bit in price now. a nationwide search using that price limit returned around a dozen results as we were researching leads for this article late last week. as with edmunds, these were mostly smaller cars, including more focus and fiesta options, but now there were more used honda fits and nissan models. a 2013 ford escape with 113,000 miles on it was listed for $11,000, so suvs are not completely out of the question here, but you're still talking about some of the more "used" used cars. which brings up our second trade-off: the lower your purchase price, the higher the mileage is likely to be. this is true with most every used car, but it's worth remembering that the value of a cpo warranty is likely higher for these high-mileage options.
maybe somewhere around $15,000 is a more reasonable target for a “low-cost cpo used vehicle” here in 2022. in fact, if you adjust the cars.com filter to find anything under $16,000 (the website operates in $2000 increments), there are hundreds of results, including plenty of 2019 and 2020 models. the third trade-off, then, will be tech features. unsurprisingly, these often get better in more recent model years thanks to upgraded technologies, especially safety features. to cite just one example, every vehicle sold in the u.s. after may 1, 2018, was required by federal law to have a backup camera. while most automakers phased these cameras in before the deadline, it's worth double-checking to see if the cpo vehicle you've got your eye on has a camera or other safety features that might be standard on newer versions of that particular model.
finding a cpo used vehicle is entirely possible even in 2022. they're not exactly easy to find, and your options will obviously be limited by your location, but they're out there. good luck.