Around the country, shoppers have a good idea of the cars and trucks they want.
This past year has been a big one for automotive enthusiasts. Sedans are getting sleeker. SUVS are roomier and more luxurious. Trucks are getting more rugged. Self-driving cars are closer to making their mainstream debut. And not surprisingly, people have been pretty specific when it comes to searching for their favorites.
Looking at five different regions across the country, our data shows which vehicles shoppers are looking for - and where they're searching for them. We’ve compared our sales and customer searches on carmax.com region by region to determine which cars are most popular in your part of the country. For non-statisticians, we call it “indexing” and the most popular cars have “over-indexed,” or shown up more when compared to other regions. We think you’ll find the results pretty interesting.
Northeast | Southeast | Midwest | West Coast | Southwest
Of all the regions, our data shows you guys in the Northeast have the most unusual mix of most popular cars. From luxury to hybrids, hatchbacks to sedans, our customers in the NE want cars of all kinds. Perhaps the best label is “comfortable commuter cars,” as many of the reviews note their comfort and driving ease. We’ve highlighted the top 10 cars that our customers in the NE states were more likely to shop for below.
A small performance SUV? Yes, please! Not quite as fast as the AMG GLA45, but a step up from and more exciting to drive than the CLA-250 Sedan, it’s a great mix of fun and practicality for anyone who wants a sporty-yet-luxurious ride without the speeding temptation (and price!) of the AMG models.
The C300 is a chameleon of sorts. Want a coupe? Get a C300. Want a cabriolet? Get a C300. Want a luxurious and fuel-efficient hybrid? Yup, get a C300. Like its competitors, the Audi A4 and the BMW 3 series, it comes in several models with a myriad of options for any luxury enthusiast.
Sadly discontinued in 2015 by Toyota in the US, the Venza is nonetheless a popular used car among CarMax customers in the NE. Halfway between a wagon and an SUV, the Venza is a true crossover vehicle. Owners wax poetic on the smooth ride and cavernous cargo space, but many professional reviewers made it clear they weren’t excited by its bland styling. Still, it’s a solid used car at a decent price, and our customers in the NE are clearly still excited about it.
The Golf tends to win awards every year, and it’s really no surprise. It’s fun to drive, comes in both manual and automatic, is comfortable to commute in, and gets decent gas mileage. In addition, newer models come standard with a touchscreen that includes Apple CarPlay™ and Android Auto™, so owners are never without entertainment options. And though it’s a compact car, its hatchback makes it easy to stow larger cargo when needed.
The RLX is a roomy, comfortable luxury sedan with plenty of get-up and go. One of Acura’s most popular cars, it’s understated and elegant, with lots of high-tech features like navigation and voice recognition. While many reviewers find its looks unexciting, NHTSA gave it a five-star crash test rating, proving that looks definitely aren’t everything.
For those looking for a comfortable sedan with a rugged edge, the Legacy may be a smart choice. It comes standard with AWD and plenty of power, whether you choose the 175 hp version or the 256 hp version. Early versions weren’t as tech savvy as rivals like the Camry and Accord, but more recent models come beefed up with standard options like Bluetooth® and a rearview camera making it a solid contender in the commuter class.
Honda Accord Hybrid
The Honda Accord could be considered the epitome of sedans. It’s comfortable, easy to drive, and has plenty of cargo space. So how do you improve what’s already pretty great? Easy. Make it a hybrid. The Accord Hybrid gets almost 50 mpg, all while keeping to its roots. As a commuter car, it’d be hard to beat.
The GTI is the slightly wilder version of the Golf. Power is kicked up. Steering and suspension are sharper. Braking is fast. And, it still has plenty of space for four or more people, with the cargo room to stow their stuff. You can find it in both two- and four-door versions, making it great for couples, small families, or really anyone who wants a sports car with lots of room, but in a compact car package.
Want the practicality of a Honda Civic, but a little more luxury? The Acura ILX may be exactly what you’re looking for. It’s an economical luxury car, with new versions starting at just $30,000. Gas mileage is similar to the Civic’s, with as much as 35 mpg highway, but the interior is upgraded with nicer finishing touches. And for those who like to entertain the idea of a sports car (but hate the clutch of a manual), it comes with paddle shifters, to help make driving it a little more exciting.
Jeep Grand Cherokee
Jeeps are, perhaps, the original off-road vehicle. The Grand Cherokee is no exception to that rule, and it adds luxury and space. Options include xenon headlights, leather seating, eight-way power seats, and more. Commuters looking for a vehicle that can comfortably handle weather of all types (and maybe even the occasional off-road adventure) while driving in style will find many reasons to buy a Grand Cherokee.
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Perhaps unsurprisingly, y'all know, CarMax data shows that drivers in the SE disproportionally prefer SUVs. Maybe because they’re great for tailgating, many have useful AWD and 4WD options, and most have some form of towing capacity. It’s also interesting that three of the 10 in our list are luxury SUVs. College football, anyone?
Previously called the G37, the comfortable, four-door midsize sedan is back and ready to show off. It sports a plush interior, standard features, and a powerful V6 engine, though some experts say it lags behind similar sedans in features and technology. Nevertheless, its quality is something to take note of.
If the Volvo XC90 had a middle name, it would certainly be lux. With an impressively rich interior and sleek exterior, the midsized sedan goes the distance in its class. But the Volvo isn’t just a pretty face—it has spacious second and third-row seating, along with ample cargo space and standout safety technology features.
Lexus LX 570
Looking for comfort, convenience, and class? Look no further than the Lexus LX 570. A comfortable ride with space for as many as eight, the full-sized SUV is one of the poshest in its class and even has advanced off-road capabilities for those looking for adventure.
While the Kia is reliable and smooth, its value is what turns heads. The spacious interior and powerful engine would be more expensive in similar sedans in its class, but with the Kai, buyers get the most bang for their buck, making budget-savvy shoppers sing praises.
Lexus ES 350
The Lexus ES 350 is the king of comfort for a midsized cruiser. Its V6 engine is tomb-quiet—but is still quick—and the polished interior makes every ride feel like a regal affair. What’s more, the smooth sedan holds its value over time and drivers are quick to point out its overall steadfastness.
Toyota Land Cruiser
Want to take your ride off-road but still feel luxurious? The Toyota Land Cruiser is your SUV. It’s durable, well-known, and has a max towing capacity of a hefty 8,100 pounds and a 5.7-liter V8 engine. Let’s just say it’s not afraid to get dirty. The generous ground clearance and suspension system ensures you can take on anything off-road while still feeling comfortable.
This midsized luxury sedan has high-quality features that are both comfortable and inviting. Thanks to its 3.7-liter V6, there’s also plenty of power to get you down the road. While some experts think the suspension system is less forgiving than its rivals, users still say they’re impressed by its drivability.
Ford Transit 250
After one ride in the Ford Transit, you’ll never a look at commercial vans the same again. Both well-designed and easy to maneuver, this big player has notable towing and payload capacities. On top of that, drivers regularly comment on impressive fuel efficiency for a van of this class. All in all, the Transit is a pleasant ride that provides flexibility and power.
While there are many notable used midsized sedans on the market, you won’t want to overlook the Sonata. This sensible sedan’s whisper-quiet, quick engine, and tasteful interior make an impression, though some drivers and experts say the interior is conservative at best. But when it comes to engine power, drivers have the option to choose a turbocharged. Sensibly priced and quick? What’s not to love?
The British know a thing or two about traditional luxury—and the Jaguar XF is no exception. With its sleek design, the XF’s interior is as lavish as it is inimitable, outfitted with soft leather and a rich trim. Even more, drivers agree it’s fun to drive with its supercharged 3.0-liter V6 engine.
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It should come as no surprise that folks in the Midwest favor American-made cars, don'tcha know. With Michigan being the home to iconic brands that include Chevrolet, Ford, and Chrysler, and factories and plants for those same brands scattered all across the region, American-made is the rule, not the exception, and their popularity is obvious. CarMax data shows most of the cars in our top 10 are searched almost 200% more often in the great Midwest than anywhere else in the US!
A large sedan with tons of interior space for a comfortable ride, the MKS, even discontinued in its present form in 2015, is a popular luxury sedan. With its focus on comfort over performance (though it’s no slouch in a straight line), the MKS embodies the American luxury ideal of big, comfortable cars. The rear seats have plenty of space, even for tall adults, and it’s covered in leather and wood. Options like Bluetooth®, push button start, satellite radio, and a review camera were standard in the MKS when other companies were offering them only as add-ons.
Like its sibling the MKS, the MKZ focuses on comfort and plush interiors. American-made luxury cars have occasionally been described as “driving a couch” and the MKZ fits that bill well. It comfortably seats four to five adults, and its trunk is one of the largest in its class, with plenty of room for luggage. The cabin is quiet in almost all driving conditions, and leather-wrapped power front seats guarantee the comfort of the drive and passenger, no matter their size.
In a sea of clone-like sedans, the 300 stands out. You’ll never squint and ask “is that a…” when it drives by; there is just no mistaking that assertive body style as anything else. When it arrived on the scene in 2004, it was positioned as a throwback to the era when Detroit produced the height of automotive fashion. Overall, the 300 is a capable sedan in most respects, with few standouts in terms of acceleration, handling, or comfort. For many, the look and nostalgia are enough.
Lincoln MKZ Hybrid
The hybrid version of the MKZ pairs the comfort and luxury of the base model with almost 41 mpg and decent acceleration. Its direct competitor, the Lexus ES 300h, may be a bit faster, but it can’t beat the fuel economy of the MKZ Hybrid.
One of the two non-American vehicles in the top 10 for the Midwest, the Ridgeline may have gotten a pass because it’s assembled in Alabama. Or, maybe it was because it can seat four to five adults more comfortably than most of its competitors. Or even because it gets some pretty decent fuel mileage for a truck, at 18 mpg city and 25 mpg highway even for the AWD version. And, of course, there’s its quick acceleration and Honda reliability legacy. Whatever it is, it’s made the Ridgeline a popular car in the traditionally American-leaning Midwest, and that is quite a feat.
Ford Transit Connect
The Transit Connect is a compact version of the larger and more versatile Transit 250, offering a comfortable ride to families and businesses without the bulkiness of a full-size van. The first-generation the Transit Connect was often seen as a small business vehicle in Europe, but has gradually made its way to the US as an economical and comfortable option for moving people or cargo.
Ford C-MAX Energi
The C-MAX Energi is a plug-in hybrid that is the only wagon in a sea of plug-in vehicles. It has decent acceleration, decent gas mileage, and is, by most accounts, pretty fun to drive. While there are other hybrids that get better gas mileage, few approach the C-MAX Energi’s “ordinariness.” Many reviewers note surprise at how much it feels like driving a regular, gas-only sedan. Pickier consumers might find the smaller cargo area a problem (due to the electric battery), but overall, it receives positive reviews from all sides.
Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid
Like the regular Prius, the Plug-In version is comfortable and easy to drive with a decent amount of cargo space. It gets over 50 mpg in regular driving, but as an added bonus, can drive over 10 miles on electric power alone, for an mpg-equivalent of an astounding 95 mpg. You’ll pay more if you choose the Plug-In Hybrid than for a regular Prius, but for the eco-conscious, the extra cost is worth it.
Spacious and comfortable, the GMC Terrain is exactly what you’d expect from an American compact SUV. It’s more subdued and refined than the usual offering from GMC, and brings a welcome change to the company’s lineup. Most reviewers recommend going with the six-cylinder engine instead of the base four-cylinder to get the most out of the vehicle, but for urban exploring, the base model should be just fine. The interior is arguably one of the best in its class, and offers a fantastic space for families on the go.
At first glance, you might mistake the Traverse for a type of minivan. And you wouldn’t exactly be wrong. It drives like a minivan, has cargo space like a large SUV, and seats lots of passengers. But, it’s classified as a midsized SUV. Fuel economy isn’t stellar and falls behind many similar vehicles, but when you have the option of a 4GLTE connection to keep the kids happy, who cares about mpg?
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In the Southwest it doesn’t seem to be the car itself that’s important, but the price. Our data shows that Southwestern shoppers searched more often than others for cars that were, on average, lower-priced than elsewhere. So it’s not just beautiful sunsets and painted rocks you’ll find there in Arizona, it’s bargain hunters.
It’s never been as popular as its competitors, but that’s a good thing for bargain hunters. A step up from its Sonata sibling, the Azera is an under-rated entry-level luxury sedan with leather seats, heated front and rear seats, Bluetooth® and iPod connectivity, and a touchscreen. Used Azeras can be found for very reasonable prices, which may explain why they are at the top of this list!
Either you’re a fan of the Cube and its funky styling, or you’re not. It’s never been quite as popular as the Scion XB or its other competitors, and was discontinued in the US in 2014. But for those who love it, that means bargains abound. Aside from polarizing looks, the Cube is a surprisingly good car. It gets great gas mileage and has a comfortable cabin. Sure, other cars might be more fun in the actual driving department, but they aren’t as distinctive. So, if you’re a fan of its unique silhouette, you’ll have an easy time finding one for a reasonable price.
Chevrolet Impala Limited
Love the Impala, but not its price tag? Then the Impala Limited might be the car for you. Produced as a fleet vehicle, the Limited was not generally available to the public. However, finding used Impala Limiteds is relatively easy. They may not be as fancy as Impalas sold in dealerships to the public, but they’ll have the same comfortable ride and legendary history, all at a bargain price.
The Titan is a great truck in almost every regard. It’s more comfortable than many large trucks, and it’s easy to drive. It’s got a 390 hp V8 that you’d expect would be plenty of power for just about anything. However, some reviewers claim that the Titan does not boast sufficient towing capacity to justify its price tag. If you’re not going to be using it for towing larger trailers, you may find that’s not a concern (and get it at a bargain price), but those who need a heavy-duty towing machine may need to look elsewhere.
Cadillac has long been held up as the epitome of American luxury, and by most accounts, the XTS is a great example of the genre. The interior is vast, roomy, and plush. It’s quiet on the road. If offers high-tech features not often found on the base models of its competitors. Crash test ratings are very good. Gas mileage is about what you’d expect for a large sedan, topping out around 18 city and 22 highway mpg. However, it’s never been as popular as some Cadillac models, making it easy to find good deals.
Mitsubishi Outlander Sport
The Outlander Sport is a comfortable, easy-to-drive crossover with a low starting price. It’s on the smaller side for crossovers, but it boasts a lot of interior space for both passengers and luggage. Expert reviewers report that it can be loud on the road, especially when accelerating, but it gets high marks for gas mileage and value. Add in the extra-long Mitsubishi warranty, and it’s a great choice for the more budget-minded consumer looking for utility and comfort.
The Avenger was discontinued in the spring of 2014, but that doesn’t mean it’s gone. Fans of the car appreciated its looks and ease of driving, but performance kudos have generally been reserved for the R/T version. The Avenger is a capable car, but those willing to spend a little more on its rivals outnumbered its fans, leaving those who love it great deals on those Avengers still out there.
The Q70 is a bit of an enigma among driving enthusiasts. Everyone agrees that it’s a unique car with lots of space. Most appreciate its sleek appearance and ease of handling. But in a sea of competitive luxury sedans, it doesn’t stand out in any one way to any one reviewer. Perhaps that’s why it can often be found as a great deal for those who love luxury and bargains.
The Malibu is a good car for a good price. It lacks some of the higher-end features that some of its rivals have standard, but that means those shopping for one will find a better price without all the frills. In addition, it has lots of options (like a turbocharged engine!), making it easier to customize and get the features you want, and not the options you don’t. It’s safe, has plenty of room for a growing family, and comfortable. And for the prices you can find them for, it’s hard to beat.
Nissan MaximaThe Maxima has long been a popular choice for Nissan shoppers, and it’s really no surprise. It’s comfortable, quick, and the interior is elegant. In fact, it’s about as close to a cheap luxury car as you can get. Not quite a basic sedan. Not quite an expensive luxury sedan. Instead, it’s somewhere in the middle. Add in a powerful engine and decent gas mileage (but only use premium fuel!) and you’ve got a great car at a great price.
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When you think West Coast, what comes to mind? Beautiful movie stars driving luxury cars? Health-conscious yoga practitioners driving electric vehicles? According to our study, you’d be pretty close to right! Our data shows that drivers along the West Coast are a lot more likely to choose either an expensive car, an environmentally friendly car, or a combination of the two, than anywhere else in the country. Take a look at our top cars and features on the West Coast.
Tiny, fast, and 122/108 MPGe. For long drives along the coast, the Fiat 500E is just about perfect. Which is a good thing, since you can only get it in California and Oregon. The LA Times calls it “perky and fun,” which, from the reviews that abound, seems like the perfect description. You will have to compromise a bit because it only has an 87-mile range before it needs to recharge, but if you only need to drive a few miles a day, it just might be the perfect vehicle.
This might be the perfect mix of luxury and eco-consciousness. It might even be considered a kind of sleeper car, as it doesn’t stand out all that much from the pack until you notice the Mercedes badging. In fact, a quick glance might even mistake it for a Mazda3. However, inside, it doesn’t skimp on the standard, understated luxury Mercedes-Benz is known for, and the only complaint mentioned by drivers and reviewers alike seems to be related to the charger itself, which is, by all accounts, rather confusing. Like the Fiat 500E, it’s got a limited range of about 85 miles from a charge, but if you don’t need to drive very far every day, it may be a great West Coast choice.
The BMW I3 is another of those cars whose looks you either love or hate. With a unique fascia and body style that looks similar to a smoothed-over baby Pontiac Aztek, it’s definitely a distinctive car. Another all-electric car, it can go a reported 81 miles on a single charge. It’s slightly larger than many e-cars, and boasts plenty for room for a family, and its hatchback will make it easier to load and unload unwieldy cargo, like strollers. It doesn’t have the same fun handling as the Fiat or the Mercedes, but if you need more space and want an electric vehicle, the I3 is a good option.
Chevrolet Spark EV
The Spark EV is another car whose availability is limited by state. You can find them in California, Oregon, and Maryland. If you’re lucky enough to live somewhere you can buy one, you’re in for a treat. It’s got about the same range as other electric vehicles—82 miles reported—but it’s fun to drive, seats four people in spite of its small size, and has some great tech features, including built-in WiFi. And since a new Spark EV can be had for under $14,000, it’s a great choice for those on a budget.
The 911. It’s an icon in the automotive world, and a classic for driving up and down West Coast highways. If you’re looking for prestige and fun, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better vehicle than the 911. But, you’d better be prepared to pay up—new 911 prices start at $89K, and only go up from there. It’s no wonder that we have so many people searching for them, because if you can find a bargain on one, you’re in for some amazing drives.
Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG
Road and Track calls the C63 a “Supercar for the Real World.” That should tell you a lot about this Mercedes. Twin turbos. 469 hp. Zero to 62 mph in 3.9 seconds. This is not a car for the faint of heart (or lightness of wallet). It's a compact sports car that calls for its owners to have deep pockets (it starts at $66k), but for those who can afford it, the drive is reward enough.
The BMW M3 is another of those almost legendary sports cars that people dream about but rarely own. You’ll often see old M3s being souped up by the younger generations, but the newer, more powerful versions are almost always reserved for those with lots of disposable income. Like the C63 AMG, prices for new M3s start in the mid $60,000s, and the mpg is pretty moderate (17 city/26 highway). But if you can afford the M3, who cares about mileage?
Lexus CT 200H
The CT 200 is an affordable luxury hybrid. In many ways, it’s a fancier Prius, with a nicer interior and sleeker style. It’s true that it only makes about 124 hp, so you won’t win any races, but it’s 40-plus mpg and high-quality finishes should make up for lack of zip. Those needing cargo space might find it a bit cramped, but if you’re just looking for a fuel-efficient small luxury car, the CT 200H is a great option.
Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG
Another one of stylishly pumped-up AMG versions, the CLA45 AMG is relatively affordable when compared to some of the other cars on this list. Starting around $50K new, it offers a unique four-cylinder engine that puts out 375 hp, sharp handling, and sleek lines. Professional reviewers have some complaints about what they feel is a cheap interior finish in some areas, but owners seem to love their almost-budget-friendly CLA45 AMGs.
The M4 is a car that makes people stop and turn their heads. With the looks of a sports coupe crossed with a sports car, it almost oozes power and elegance. True to its M roots, it’s fast—the twin-turbo, 425-hp base engine will get you from zero to 60 in 3.8 seconds—and its handling is sharp and precise. It’s the perfect juxtaposition of daily driving and weekend track star, as long as you can afford the price tag.
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