20 used cars you can buy with the average tax refund

Published: Wednesday, April 15, 2015 @ 1:04 PM
Updated: Wednesday, April 15, 2015 @ 1:04 PM

DOUG DEMURO has a wide range of automotive industry experience, from work at a Ferrari dealership to a manager for Porsche North America. A lifelong car enthusiast, Doug's eclectic vehicle purchases include a Porsche 911 Turbo, an E63 AMG wagon, an old Range Rover and a Mercedes Benz G-wagen.

Tax season is here, and for many Americans, that means tax refund season is here, too. According to the IRS, this year's average tax refund was an impressive $3,120 as of late February. By early April, CNN Money had the number at just over $2,800 and the average return for last year was a little over $3,100.

Either way, it's no small figure. And that got us thinking: What used cars can you buy with the average tax refund? Our crack analytics team went to work and answered this question for us, delivering a list of the 20 cars on Autotrader with the most listings for around $3,000 or less. We're passing that list along to you now to help make your search a little easier if you've decided to spend this year's tax refund on a car.

Depending on your individual situation, you may have to kick in a few hundred dollars, but you'll still be able to get a running car in decent condition.

1. Ford Taurus

With nearly 900 different Taurus models listed for $3,100 or less, Ford's longtime midsize sedan is lonely at the top of our list. Very lonely, in fact: The number two model is nearly 350 listings behind the Taurus's impressive count. What kind of Taurus can you get for around $3,000? Expect it to be an early- to mid-2000s model with 100,000 to 150,000 total miles. Of course, you'll also get the Taurus model's durable design, roomy interior, cavernous trunk and standard V6 power. Look hard and you might even be able to find a Taurus wagon, which combines SUV-like cargo capacity with a carlike driving experience.

Find a Ford Taurus for sale

2. Ford Explorer

There are more than 500 different Ford Explorer models listed for $3,100 or less, making it the second most plentiful car on our list. How much Explorer can you buy for $3,000? Well, you won't get the latest model, that's for sure, and you won't get the previous-generation version, either. Instead, expect a well-equipped 1995-2001 Explorer or a base-level 2002-2007 model, either with well over 125,000 miles on the odometer. You'll also be able to choose between rear- or 4-wheel drive, V6 or V8 power, and 2- or 4-door body styles.

Find a Ford Explorer for sale

3. Honda Accord

The Honda Accord can be considered reliable, simple family transportation, a great first car or just an excellent commuter vehicle with a fuel-efficient powertrain. And with more than 500 different examples available on Autotrader for $3,100 or less, it's also a great way to spend your tax refund money. Of course, you shouldn't expect a perfect car: Many Accord models for around $3,000 have more than 200,000 miles on the odometer, along with fading paint (which can be typical depending the era) and the occasional mismatched wheel or missing hubcap. But parts for these cars are plentiful, and many used Accords will run for years to come with only regular maintenance and the occasional timing belt service. In the end, that makes the Accord a great choice for shoppers who want a good, inexpensive used car. If it were our personal choice, we might look for a good Accord Coupe with a manual transmission.

Find a Honda Accord for sale

4. Ford F-150

Yes, the $3,000 pickup truck exists. In fact, you can get more than 450 of them right now on Autotrader for the amount of the average tax refund or less, which is great news for drivers who want a practical work vehicle without spending a fortune. The only catch? Used F-150 models in the $3,000-or-less price range often have well over 180,000 miles on the odometer, and they don't come equipped with many creature comforts. Take a long test drive to make sure such a pickup is right for you, and be sure to get a thorough mechanical inspection to ensure that the truck is still mechanically sound under the hood.

Find a Ford F-150 for sale

5. Honda Civic

Few compact cars have the Honda Civic's reputation for reliability and long-lasting durability, provided, of course, that it's had regular maintenance, such as oil changes, brakes and timing belts. If you're looking for a compact car for around $3,000 or less, you should check out the Civic, and don't be put off by high mileage figures (expect 150,000 miles and up) or noticeable cosmetic blemishes. Instead, take a thorough test drive and, if you're worried about anything, get a mechanical inspection. Then expect to stay behind the wheel of your Civic for years to come.

Find a Honda Civic for sale

6. Chevrolet Cavalier

The Chevrolet Cavalier is a compact car that came before more modern small Chevys such as the CobaltCruzeSpark and Sonic. With more than 440 different Cavalier models currently available on Autotrader for around $3,000 or less, there are a lot of different examples to choose from. If you're intrigued, you can decide between coupe, sedan or even convertible models (assuming you can find one). Expect a sub-$3,000 Cavalier to be any age, made through 2005, with at least 120,000 miles on the odometer.

Find a Chevrolet Cavalier for sale

7. Saturn S-Series

General Motors designed the compact Saturn S-Series to rival Honda, Toyota and other foreign brands. Originally on sale in the early 1990s, the S-Series got better as it aged, so we suggest checking out later models. Plus, that's where you'll find the bulk of the 420 different S-Series listings for $3,000 or less. Interested shoppers will find a fuel-efficient 4-cyinder engine and a choice between coupe, sedan or practical wagon body styles. Just be sure to get a mechanical inspection and to check for rust before signing the papers.

Find a Saturn S-Series for sale

8. Toyota Camry

The Toyota Camry is one of the most popular vehicles on the market, so it makes sense that it would turn up on our list of the most popular cars you can buy in the neighborhood of $3,000. Offered over the years in 4-door sedan, 2-door coupe or 5-door wagon body styles, the Camry provides reliable, fuel-efficient transportation and a roomy interior. If you're looking to spend around $3,000 or less, expect to find Camry models from the mid- to late-1990s with around 200,000 miles on the odometer. That may be a big number, but it's far from the end of a well-maintained Camry's life.

Find a Toyota Camry for sale

9. Ford Focus

The Ford Focus is one of the most popular compact cars on the market. It's also one of the most popular choices on our list of used cars you can buy with the average tax refund, since there are more than 400 different Focus models to choose from within our price limit. What should you expect from a Focus in this price range? You'll be able to choose from sedan, wagon and hatchback (3-door or 5-door) body styles, along with manual or automatic transmissions. Mileage will likely be well over 125,000, so you may want to get your Focus checked out by a mechanic before you sign the papers.

Find a Ford Focus for sale

10. Pontiac Grand Am

With nearly 400 different examples currently on Autotrader, the Pontiac Grand Am rounds out the top ten most popular cars available today for about the same amount as the average tax refund. While the Grand Am is hardly known for standout styling or a cavernous interior, it does offer some benefits, including fewer average miles than many cars on our list, with typical figures in the 100,000- to 150,000-mile range. Used Grand Am models available for around $3,000 or less are also a little newer than most cars on this list, with most examples hailing from the early 2000s.

Find a Pontiac Grand Am for sale

11. Dodge Grand Caravan

If you need to transport your whole family for around $3,000 or less, few cars on our list do it better than the Dodge Grand Caravan. Featuring standard 3-row seating and (for most models made after 1996) dual sliding doors, the Grand Caravan offers the last word in family-toting practicality. Best of all, you should have no trouble finding one within our budget; there are currently more than 370 examples on Autotrader, many of which are early-2000s models with around 150,000 miles on the odometer.

Find a Dodge Grand Caravan for sale

12. Chevrolet Malibu

The Chevrolet Malibu offers solid, durable construction, a roomy interior and surprisingly powerful engines. Styling is bland and there aren't many advanced features, but the Malibu is an excellent point-A to point-B car, especially if your budget is around $3,000 or less. And you should have no trouble finding a used Malibu in that price range, since there are currently more than 350 examples on Autotrader, most of which are early-2000s models with around 150,000 miles on the odometer.

Find a Chevrolet Malibu for sale

13. Ford Windstar

If you're looking for family transport on a budget, few vehicles deliver like the Ford Windstar. We especially like Windstar models made from 1999 and up, since they feature standard dual sliding doors, a big step up from the driver's side-only sliding door of earlier models. We also like the standard V6 and the later models' larger design, which offers more passenger and cargo room than its predecessors. And we like the price; there are more than 340 Windstar models available for around $3,000 or less. If you're looking for a Windstar in that price range, expect it to have around 125,000 miles on the odometer, and be sure to take your kids along for the test drive to ensure your whole family is comfortable inside.

Find a Ford Windstar for sale

14. Jeep Grand Cherokee

The Jeep Grand Cherokee is one of the few SUVs on our list, but it's still a good choice for shoppers on a budget. The Grand Cherokee combines off-road prowess with handsome styling, strong engines and a large, practical design. With a budget of $3,000 or less, expect to find a mid- to late-1990s Grand Cherokee with around 150,000 miles on the odometer. And be sure to get a thorough mechanical inspection before signing the papers, because some models may suffer from transmission failure or other potentially expensive issues.

Find a Jeep Grand Cherokee for sale

15. Chrysler Sebring

The Chrysler Sebring is a popular midsize car offered in sedan, coupe or convertible body styles. We like the convertible in particular, because it seats four people, offers many creature comforts and touts several adequate engine offerings. But we especially like the convertible because there are more than 150 different examples available for around $3,100 or less on Autotrader, making it one of the least expensive popular convertibles on the market. If the Sebring convertible sounds appealing, expect our budget to yield a late-1990s or early-2000s example with around 100,000 or 125,000 miles.

Find a Chrysler Sebring for sale

16. Chevrolet Impala

The Chevrolet Impala is a popular full-size sedan that offers a comfortable ride, a relaxed driving experience and standard V6 power. Its design might not set the world on fire, and neither will its powertrain. But armed with the average tax refund, you should have no trouble finding an early-2000s Impala with 125,000 to 150,000 miles on the odometer, especially since there are more than 300 different Impala models within our price range on Autotrader. One tip: Look for 2000 and up Impalas rather than earlier models, which offer poor fuel economy and dismal repair records.

Find a Chevrolet Impala for sale

17. Chevrolet Blazer

The Chevy Blazer was a popular midsize SUV for years, and its long-term popularity helps explain why there are currently nearly 300 different examples on Autotrader for around $3,100 or less. Available in 2- or 4-door and 2- or 4-wheel drive, the Blazers you'll find in our price range will be late-1990s models with around 200,000 miles on the odometer. Given their age and mileage, be sure to get a mechanical inspection before signing the papers. You'll also want to ensure that the Blazer can fit your whole family, plus accessories, since its smaller size is more similar to one of today's compact crossovers than to a midsize SUV.

Find a Chevrolet Blazer for sale

18. Chevrolet Silverado

The Chevy Silverado is a full-size pickup that constantly battles it out with the Ford F-150 for the title of America's most popular pickup. Officially called Silverado since 1999 and C1500 or K1500 (for 2-wheel drive or 4-wheel drive, respectively) before that, the full-size Chevy should be easy to find for about $3,000, especially since there are nearly 200 different models currently listed on Autotrader. Just be sure to narrow your search to the model you want, since the Silverado offers a wide selection of cab lengths, bed sizes, drivetrains and engine configurations.

Find a Chevrolet Silverado for sale

19. Ford Ranger

The Ford Ranger is a compact pickup with frugal 4-cylinder or muscular V6 power. Sold in its most recent design from 1993 to 2011, the latest Ranger went its entire life with only one substantial update: a big face-lift in 1998. Otherwise, just about every Ranger is mostly the same: a simple, honest, durable pickup, offered in 2- or 4-wheel drive, with as much capability as most truck shoppers will ever need. For your three grand or less, expect to find well-worn examples, with 200,000 miles or more, from the mid- to late-1990s with few frills and almost no modern gadgets.

Find a Ford Ranger for sale

20. Pontiac Grand Prix

The Pontiac Grand Prix is a full-size sedan with standard V6 power, eye-catching styling and a roomy interior. Although a $3,100 budget will eliminate most 2003-2008 models, the 1997-2002 Grand Prix is still an excellent car, especially in high-performance supercharged GTP form. Plus, you can choose from practical sedan or handsome coupe body styles. And you should have no trouble finding a used Grand Prix on Autotrader; there are more than 270 different 1997-2002 models currently listed within our average-tax-rebate price range.

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Recall alert: strollers, bikes, and phone chargers

Published: Friday, May 25, 2018 @ 11:44 AM

Contributed Photo
Contributed Photo

Strollers sold at Toys R US and other retailers that could strangle your child are among the new recalls announced by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

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Jane Muum strollers have a large opening between the armrest and the seat bottom which your child could slip through, potentially trapping your child’s head or neck. No injuries have been reported.  

The recalled strollers have the code 5399US/S85, 5399US/S47, or 5399US/S46, printed on the label found on the leg of the stroller. 

Contact Jane at 844-200-7971 to receive a free replacement armrest. Until you receive the replacement, you may continue to use the stroller if you remove the armrest and harness your child properly in the seat. 

source: CPSC.gov

My First Porsche wooden cars are under recall because they pose a choking hazard. 

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The wheels and axles can detach from the blue cars with tan wheels with the lot numbers 011215, 020916, 031017, 031114, 031116, 040116, 040416, 040516, 041217, 051015, 061117, 090915. No injuries have been reported. 

Don’t let your child play with the car and contact Porsche at 800-767-7243, or return the car to a Porsche dealer to receive a full refund.  

source: CPSC.gov

Bicycles sold at IKEA are being recalled because the belt drives can break and cause you to fall.

The recall involves SLADDA bicycles 26” with the article number 303.267.28 and 28” with the article number 603.267.36.

No injuries have been reported, but don’t ride the recalled bikes and contact IKEA at 888-966-4532 or return it to an IKEA store for a full refund.  

source: CPSC.gov

Wireless charges by Bluefin are under recall because they may overheat and burn you. 

There are three reports of overheating chargers with the model number AC16B printed on the bottom.

Don’t use the recalled charges which were given away as free promotional items at the FICO World tradeshow and other events, and the ad specialty channel in April of this year. 

Contact Bluefin at 877-211-7220  ext. 145 to receive a refund. 

source: CPSC.gov

John Deere is recalling 120R compact utility tractor loaders due to missing information in the operator’s manual which could cause injuries.

The manual is missing information about the proper ballast when attaching the loader to a John Deere model 2025R tractor. 

No one has been hurt, but don’t use the recalled loaders and contact Deere & Company at 800-537-8233 to receive a free corrected operator’s manual.

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source: CPSC.gov

Kohler 100-amp service-entrance automatic transfer switches can overheat and cause a fire. 

The recalled switches have the model number RXT-JFNC 100ASE  printed on a nameplate inside the cover. 

No injuries or incidents have been reported but consumers should contact Kohler immediately at 800-892-7709 to schedule a free repair. 

For more information on these products and past recalls visit www.cpsc.gov

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Avoid the biggest mistake in estate planning 

Published: Thursday, May 17, 2018 @ 10:16 AM
Updated: Thursday, May 17, 2018 @ 7:00 PM

When it comes to finalizing your plans for what happens to your assets after you die, there is one simple mistake many people make - which could put your plans in jeopardy, according to a Centerville C.P.A. A will is the key first step, but only about half of adults between the ages of 50 and 64 have one, according to Mark Bradstreet, C.P.A. with Bradstreet and Co. 

For those that do have their wishes planned out, the biggest mistake they make is not communicating those wishes to family members. “To not let anyone know where your will and documents are - if you don’t do that, then for all intents and purposes, you never had a will,” said Bradstreet. “If you die without one, the state uses their own rules to effectively come up with a will for you.”

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Having a will is clearing the first hurdle, but what comes next is what really helps your heirs after you're gone, according to News Center 7's Rachel Murray. A will lays out who gets what when you're gone - your home, cash, vehicle, and heirlooms - and not having one can be a disaster. "There was a lot of legal difficulties associated with the estate - one lost her home and you can't access bank accounts, things like that," said Don Cook from Mechanicsburg who has many children and grandchildren. 

To avoid any confusion after you're gone, Bradstreet recommends writing a letter to hand-out to trusted family members that include, "where your will is at, who has got it, who is your attorney, safe deposit keys - a lot of people will go ahead and list out their different assets, and their different account numbers."

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Sharing your wishes with family can be tough. "Most people, including my wife, doesn't like to talk about it and I don't like to talk about it either mortality, but I want to make sure that my kids are taken care of," said John Noyen of West Chester. 

There are many online forms to create a will yourself, but Bradstreet recommends consulting with an attorney who will help you make sure your wishes are carried out when the time comes.

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This app may stop robocalls for good 

Published: Wednesday, May 16, 2018 @ 12:19 PM

At home, at work, on your smartphone- robocalls are targeting people at all hours of the day and night.

Michael McCann is fed up with all the robocalls especially the sneaky ones with “spoofed” phone numbers. 

“The local ones make you feel like it’s somebody you know within the area,” said McCann in an interview with our sister station WPXI. 

Now, there’s a way to fight back. 

An app called RoboKiller claims to stop the scammers in their tracks and even allows you to exact some revenge. 

RELATED: Who’s behind robocalls? 

The app won a contest sponsored by the F.T.C. and is billed as a highly intelligent and constantly-growing database which blocks hundreds of thousands of phony numbers. 

If a scammer calls you from a new phone number RoboKiller remembers the scammers voice and can add that new number to their blocked calls list, according to RoboKiller V.P. Ethan Garr.

You can also have a little fun with the scammers with a feature called Answerbot.

You choose from a list of sarcastic, interactive recordings which answer the call and have long conversations with scammers to waste their time.

“They think they are talking to a human and it drives them insane,” said Garr.

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Some Answerbot conversations have lasted 40 minutes, Garr said, and that’s 40 fewer minutes for the scammer to try to steal other people’s money. 

McCann tested RoboKiller for a week and he was impressed.

“So far so good. I’ve had no robocalls,” said McCann, “I think it’s very important to have something like this if you want to make sure your privacy is protected.” 

The RoboKiller app costs $24.99 a year. 

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Millennials bypass starter homes, new studies show

Published: Thursday, May 10, 2018 @ 11:42 AM
Updated: Thursday, May 10, 2018 @ 6:12 PM

Millennials bypass starter homes, new studies show

A growing trend among millennials is expected to have a wider impact on the real estate market.

Studies and stats show that millennials are putting off buying a home. In fact, many are skipping a starter house altogether and saving up for a home they will live in into retirement, according to USA Today.  

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Seventy-five percent of first-time home buyers would rather skip a starter home, according to a 2016 survey by Bank of America. 

Millennials lived longer at home or rented for a longer period of time, allowing them to save a larger down payment to purchase the home of their dreams, analysts said. They also purchased more homes last year than any other generation, according to the National Association of Realtors. 

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