Good news for used-car buyers: Thanks to more vehicles entering the market, prices are finally edging down after hitting record highs during the past two years. The bump in leasing in 2010 will bring a slew of returns come fall, and because new car sales keep heading up, more trade-ins are in the works. So if you wait until 2014, you'll see even better deals.

We picked ten three- and four-year-old vehicles that not only were tops in Kiplinger's rankings for performance, value and safety when they were new, but also got good marks for reliability. (See our story for strategies on how to get the best deal).

Vehicles have automatic transmissions, unless noted otherwise, and all have standard stability control and front, front side and head-protecting airbags. Dealer, private-party and certified prices are averages based on actual transactions reported by Edmunds.com for previously owned vehicles.

2010 Kia Soul

Price when new: $15,890 (Soul +, manual)

Dealer used price: $16,856

Private-party price: $15,455

Certified used price: $17,729

MPG (city/hwy): 18/26

When it rolled onto the scene in 2010, the Kia Soul was a breath of fresh air in the compact segment. Its funky looks, along with serious legroom for rear passengers, loads of cargo space and features such as USB and Bluetooth — at the time standard only on pricier models — helped it stand out from the pack. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety rated it a Top Safety Pick as well.


2010 Ford Mustang convertible

Price when new: $30,245 (V6 Premium, manual)

Dealer used price: $16,856

Private-party price: $15,455

Certified used price: $17,729

MPG (city/hwy): 18/26

Ford's classic pony car got an aggressive new mug for the 2010 model year, with new sheet metal wrapped tautly around its muscular body. Bigger wheels and better handling make it more fun to drive. Standard features include Ford's SYNC system, which has Bluetooth (for hands-free calling and operation of media devices) and USB connections.


2010 Mazda3

Price when new: $18,675 (i Touring, manual)

Dealer used price: $13,217

Private-party price: $12,142

Certified used price: $14,919

MPG (city/hwy): 25/33

The Mazda3's sporty design and drivability make it a pearl among its more prosaic compact-car peers. The second-generation Mazda3 offers improved steering and suspension, redesigned driver controls, and seats sculpted for support. The Mazda3 was named a Top Safety Pick by the IIHS, and Bluetooth is standard.


2009 BMW 3 Series

Price when new: $36,425 (328i xDrive, manual)

Dealer used price: $19,623

Private-party price: $18,252

Certified used price: $21,454

MPG (city/hwy): 17/25

BMW's compact sedan combines elegant design, superior driving dynamics and a potent powertrain. The all-wheel-drive system sends the majority of power rearward in normal conditions to preserve the sporty feel, but it adjusts continuously to changing conditions. The IIHS rated the 2009 3 Series a Top Safety Pick.


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