For bad credit customers, car loan payments in the $250 to $300 per month range


Top used cars — $8,000 to $10,000

• 02 Volvo S40. A premium small sedan around $8,500.

• 04 Mitsubishi Endeavor. A midsize crossover made in Normal, Ill. with outstanding reliability ratings. In the same class you can find the 05 Chevy Equinox for around $9,500.

• 04 Kia Sedona. You can find this minivan for around $8,500, depending on mileage and options. Said Cars.com: it "delivers most of the benefits of minivans that cost several thousands of dollars more."

• 03 Dodge Dakota. This pickup truck was an Edmunds Editor's Most Wanted the year it came out. You can currently find one for about $9,600 according to AutoTrader.com.

• 01 Acura Integra. Some trivia here, as its the only Acura with a name (as opposed to a combination of letters and numerals). Oustanding reliability and Acura's largest seller in the U.S. An 01 can run $8,500 to $14,500, depending on luxury touches; a 97 from $5,500 to around $10,000.

• 04 Hyundai Elantra. As about.com put it, 04 was the year Hyundai finally started clicking when it came to well-built, reliable cars. You can find an Elantra for around $8,400.

• 02 Infiniti G20. This is the luxury line's entry-level sedan, and give it a few years and it drops into our price range. Above-average reliability, fairly good gas mileage (21/29) and available for about $9,100.

• 03 Pontiac Vibe. A Toyota (Matrix) at a Pontiac price. Around $9,700.

• 1 Subaru Legacy. A company known more for steadfastness than sexiness, this vehicle, according to MSN Autos, posted terrific reliability scores from 95 to 04 (with the exception of the 99 and 00 models). An 01 will set you back somewhere between $9,500 to $12,000, depending on options.

• 05 Toyota Echo. A discontinued car, this super compact gets 30 mpg in the city and 38 mpg on the highway. You can spend $8,000 on an 03 or $9,700 to $10,300 on an 04.

• 01-03 Ford Escape / Mazda Tribute. Edmunds named this vehicle best in the compact SUV category three years in a row. All years fit within the $8,000 to $10,000 range. "Right combination of performance and features," Edmunds said.

Other Price Ranges:

    Under $4,000
    $4,000 to $6,000
    $6,000 to $8,000
    $10,000 to $12,000

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The bad credit tax.
If your credit score is low, you're going to pay higher rates, but it's probably not as bad as you might think. On an $8,000, three-year loan, the difference between a nine percent rate and 18 percent rate is only $1.14 a day -- and you can spend more than that every morning on coffee at a 7-11.


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