Five Best Used Cars for Single Parents

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Five Best Used Cars for Single Parents

A used Honda Fit is an economical way to get from point A to B and a good solution for single parents. Photo © Honda

Single parents are in a unique place when it comes to their used cars. They want a used car that serves their needs as parents and single people.

Believe it or not, there are used cars on the road that are going to meet the needs of single parents and it might surprise you to find out they are affordable, fun to drive, and can seat a couple of children in the back with little fuss or muss.

Let's get some things out of the way. This article is built on advice for the parent who has and does not have custody of the children. It does not take into consideration cost (i.e. only used cars under $10,000) but instead points to particular makes and models. Also, all cars on this list have been given good marks by Consumer Reports (subscription required).

Another presumption is going to be that the hypothetical children are (at least) in booster seats that don't use the LATCH system. Also, we're going with the nuclear family of two kids just to keep things simple. So, this advice suits single parents with two children not in child safety seats who need a used car.

Also, while I am not a single parent, I have driven every vehicle on this list in my role as a new car reviewer. When possible, I am going to link to reviews and previews by fellow writers Aaron Gold who writes about new cars and the always outstanding Jason Fogelson who writes about SUVs and minivans. For reasons too mundane to go into, I won't explain why SUVs and minivans are lumped together on

The fuel economy numbers are also based on 2009 models from Fuel if the used cars were still in production. Otherwise ,​the numbers come from the last year of production.

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Honda Fit a Best Used Car for Single Parents

Buying a used car, questions to ask a dealer, finding a used car
The 2007 Honda Fit is a great used car for a single parent. Photo © Honda

The Honda Fit could actually be the poster child for used cars for single parents. It is a master of adaptability. It has an abundance of room and seating configuration that can let you carry a three-year old and a tall plant.

The Honda Fit is great for a single parent with two kids because:

  • It has amazing cargo capacity. It also seats four adults comfortably.
  • It is highly fuel efficient at 27-mpg city and 33-mpg highway.
  • It's not powerful but it is fun to drive, especially with the five-speed manual transmission.
  • It's not a looker but it is right-sized for children. They won't find it overwhelming.

Consumer Reports has given the Honda Fit its highest ratings from 2007 on.

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Toyota Camry a Best Used Car for Single Parents

2007 Toyota Camry is one of America's most popular cars. Get beyond its blandness and it's a great used car for a single parent. Photo © Toyota

OK, so maybe it is among the most yawn-inducing vehicles in the United States. Nothing says practical like a Camry; yet that's what makes it so appealing as a used car for a single parent.

By the way, you may have heard the Toyota Camry is among the 10 most stolen used cars in the United States. It is but that's the 1991 Toyota Camry. You shouldn't be driving your kids around in a car from 1991.

The Toyota Camry is great for a single parent with two kids because:

  • It is available in a four-cylinder model, which is more than enough power for hauling you and the kids.
  • It is fairly fuel efficient at 21-mpg city and 31-mpg highway.
  • It offers a lot of trunk space for tucking away all you need to carry when the kids come to visit.
  • The bland styling is not going to turn off a date like some more souped up models might.

Consumer Reports gives the Toyota Camry good ratings from 2001 on.

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Nissan Altima a Best Used Car for Single Parents

The used Nissan Altima has always been a bit of a sleeper that is overshadowed by the Accord and the Camry. Don't get hung up on those name plates. It's a great used car alternative for single parents. Photo © Nissan

Much like the non-custodial parent who makes child support payments on time, the Nissan Altima is one of the most underappreciated used cars on the road and that makes it perfect for single parents in search of a used car.

Ever wonder why you see so many used Nissan Altimas on the road? It's because they are very functional.

The Nissan Altima is great for a single parent with two kids because:

  • It is available in a four-cylinder model that produces good horsepower and will never let you down performance wise. It makes no sense to get the V-6 version.
  • It is fuel efficient at 23-mpg city and 31-mpg highway. Anything approaching 25-mpg city is great in a big sedan.
  • It offers a lot of trunk space (with a wide opening) for tucking away all you need to carry when the kids come to visit.
  • The styling has not changed much since 2002 so you can buy an older model and not look dated.

Consumer Reports gives the Nissan Altima good ratings from 2002 on. The only year you might want to stay clear of is 2005, where there appears ​to be problems with the electrical and fuel systems.

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Ford Five Hundred a Great Used Car for Single Parents

The 2006 Limited Ford Five Hundred four-door sedan with all-wheel drive has a gold ranking (the highest) from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, which helps make it a great car for single parents. Photo © Ford

Between the classic Ford Taurus and the new Ford Taurus is this oddly named sedan, the Ford Five Hundred. Single parents in cold weather climes are going to want to pick up the used model with all-wheel drive.

Also, the Ford Five Hundred is largely ignored by the buying public who got hung up on its name and perceived lack of power. There's no problem with performance at 203 horsepower.

The Ford Five Hundred is great for a single parent with two kids because:

  • It has a HUGE trunk. When it was first introduced, Ford said it could hold up to eight sets of golf clubs. Sure, kids travel with lots of stuff, but not eight golf clubs worth - at least one would hope not.
  • It is barely fuel efficient around town at 19-mpg city but respectable at 26 mpg on the highway. That's because it only comes in a V-6 version.
  • This is an amazingly comfortable car to drive. Some call it underpowered but that's not tight. It has the oomph to move a family of four down the road.
  • The styling was bland but nothing offensive. It's so anonymous that it has proven popular with police department supervisors for blending in.

Consumer Reports gives the Ford Five Hundred good ratings for 2005 to 2007, the years it was produced. It's a CR recommended used car.

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Acura TL SH-AWD a Great Used Car for Single Parents

The 2006 Acura TL is a prime example of a great deal in used sport sedans, especially for single parents. Photo © Acura

A single parent doesn't always have to deny themselves life's simpler pleasures and the Acura TL is one of life's simple pleasures. Performance is spot on. Handling is great and there is no shortage of space kids and their goods.

The one concern about the Acura TL that some single parents might be concerned about is its design. It may not age well and your're left with a vehicle that could look dated.

The Acura TL SH-AWD is great for a single parent with two kids because:

  • Its name is its strong attribute: SH-AWD stands for super handing, all-wheel drive. You're not going to find much better sedans outside of the performance lineup.
  • It is not that fuel efficient around town at 17-mpg city because of the all-wheel drive. The highway numbers at 25 mpg don't hurt as much from the V-6 engine that is 3.7 liters.
  • This is fun car to drive. Nothing says a single parent can't smile once in a while with or without the kids in tow.
  • This is a beautiful car inside as well with a great sound system suitable for playing The Wiggles in absolute clarity.

Consumer Reports has recommended the Acura TL since 2001 with high marks. It is a dependable, fun sedan to drive.