Used Cars: 5 to Avoid (and 5 Better Alternatives)

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Last Updated Jul 19, 2011 12:49 PM EDT

Even though auto manufacturers have greatly boosted quality and reliability, buying a used car can still be a process fraught with anxiety. In addition to worrying about the honesty of the seller, you also want to be sure to avoid vehicles with poor reliability records.

To help with that, MoneyWatch looked at owner surveys to see which cars look like trouble, focusing on five separate categories. We focused on 2008 models -- the year ranked in the latest dependability study from J.D. Power and Associates. Buying a 3-year-old used car also lets you shop after the biggest new-car depreciation already has taken place: Because used car prices have risen so sharply this year, 1- and 2-year-old used models can make worse financial sense than buying new.

To make our list of used-car rejects, a model had to get the minimum two out of five in the J.D. Power "circle ratings" for dependability. It also had to be ranked below average as a used car by Consumer Reports in its annual April car issue and online car rankings.

Here are our recommendations for used cars to avoid -- plus some better ideas in the same categories. Volkswagen has two entries on our avoidance list.

Next up: Small car
  • Jerry Edgerton On Twitter»

    View all articles by Jerry Edgerton on CBS MoneyWatch»
    Jerry Edgerton, author of Car Shopping Made Easy, has been covering the car beat since Detroit companies dominated the U.S. market. The former car columnist for Money magazine and Washington correspondent for Business Week, Edgerton specializes in finding the best deals on wheels and offering advice on making your car last.

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