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buying used

We want a mid-sized car for less than $27,000. Should we consider new?

Buying used is usually less expensive, but you may not save as much as you'd expect

We had a Honda Odyssey but we'd like something a lot smaller (for me, my husband and a beagle). We're looking at the Honda HR-V and the Chevrolet Trax. We'd like all-wheel drive – we're birdwatchers and we often end up on back roads. We'd like to pay less than $27,000, which is why we're considering the Trax. We're paying cash, and I believe we can get more for that budget if we buy used. But should we be looking at new, too? – Joanna, Peterborough, Ont.

Even with rebates on brand new cars, you'll usually save money buying used – but it might not be as much as you'd expect.

"It is almost always going to be cheaper to buy a used car that has some kilometres on it already," said Andrew Tai, chief executive of Unhaggle, a new car-buying service, in an e-mail. "That said, customers should weigh the difference in price vs. the benefits of buying new, as in some cases the savings may be negligible."

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Since you're not financing, we'll focus on cash sales. Honda offers a $1,500 after-tax cash rebate on its cheapest 2017 AWD HR-V ($26,600, including freight and fees).

If you purchase used, the 2016 – the HR-V's first year – is selling for $23,800, on average.

Once you factor in taxes, you'll save about $1,700 if you buy the Honda used.

With your budget, used is likely your best bet. And even though the HR-V costs more than the Trax, it's a better vehicle.

If you stick with used, there are other entry-level AWD crossovers that would be a good fit, including the 2016 Mazda CX-3 ($21,875) and, if your warbler-chasing is regularly taking you along back roads, the 2016 Jeep Renegade ($22,975).

2016 Chevrolet Trax LS AWD

2016 Chevrolet Trax.

  • First generation: 2013-present (2017 facelift)
  • Average price for base: $20,947 (Canadian Black Book)
  • Engine: 1.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder
  • Transmission: Six-speed automatic
  • Trims: LS, LT, LTZ
  • Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 9.7 city, 7.6 highway

Considering a Trax? Backtrack on this runabout and get one of its rivals instead, reviewers said.

"The Mazda [CX-3] has the best on-road dynamics, the Jeep [Renegade] supplies the most credible all-road capability and the [Honda HRV's] interior provides the best balance between seating comfort and storage space," review site Edmunds said. "Over all, we'd recommend going with one of these models before finding new roads with a Chevrolet Trax."

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Edmunds said the Trax had "relatively roomy seating, a healthy complement of standard features and impressive crash test ratings." But its drawbacks include sluggish performance, a cheap, plastic-filled interior and less cargo room than rivals like the Renegade and Kia Soul.

Consumer Reports didn't have reliability data, but it still said to "skip" the Trax.

"In creating its cute-ute, Chevy's strategy appears to have been to produce a mere placeholder beneath its compact Equinox crossover using a model cheaply cobbled from the underwhelming, built-to-price Sonic hatchback," it said.

There were three recalls, including one for a software glitch which could prevent the airbags from deploying in a crash.

2016 Honda HR-V LX AWD

2016 Honda HR-V.

  • First generation: 2016-present
  • Average price for base: $23,800 (Canadian Black Book)
  • Engine: 1.8-litre four-cylinder
  • Transmission: Continuously-variable
  • Trims: LX, EX, EX-L
  • Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 8.8 city, 7.2 highway

Think of the HR-V as a sexier Honda Fit – that can fit more.

"If Honda's Pilot is 'papa' and its CR-V is 'mama,' then the HR-V should fit perfectly within the family as the 'baby,'" Edmunds said. "If interior versatility and space are priorities, Honda's 'baby' crossover could very well be the ideal pick."

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Edmunds also liked the fuel economy and excellent visibility. But it said the acceleration was underwhelming and the touchscreen was frustrating to use.

Honda calls it the "Swiss Army Knife" of crossovers for a reason.

"The second-row seat, ambitiously dubbed the 'Magic Seat,' can be folded, flipped and finagled to manage all types of bulky items, from 2x4s to potted plants," Globe Drive said. "Honda reports that the 1,665 litres of cargo space will rival that of some compact SUVs."

It's "sporty, peppy and never felt underpowered," Globe Drive said. We weren't fans of the six-speed manual – but it's not available on the AWD.

Consumer Reports gave it a four out of five for reliability.

"The HR-V is not ideal if you require refinement and civility," the magazine said. "But it is competitively priced, offers a ton of practicality, and has wallet-friendly fuel economy."

There were no recalls.

Trying to decide on a used car? Send your questions to globedrive@globeandmail.com.

Shopping for a new car? Check out the new Globe Drive Build and Price Tool to see the latest discounts, rebates and rates on new cars, trucks and SUVs. Click here to get your price

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