Spring is the season for renewal and fresh starts, when thoughts turn to gliding along sunny highways in a sweet new ride. Whether the dream involves having a blast cruising the beach, getting new wheels for work or finding the perfect family vacation wagon, taking the plunge just feels right when the weather turns warm.
Why not save some cash and make it a CPO vehicle? Reconditioned late-model CPO rides are practically new and perfectly geared for any lifestyle. And don’t feel limited to just one — lifestyle, that is. After all, the perfect commuter car can also be a blast for playtime; a solid wagon to haul the kids can easily double as a five-star vacation vehicle. And the extra cash on hand will help fuel plenty of extra adventure.
And you can have it all on a budget: we’re talking quality, affordability and extended warranty peace of mind all in one package.
Using the latest Lifestyle Guide on Cars.com as a starting point, let’s look at a handful of top picks in three categories — Play, Work and Family. Three years is a nice window for low-mileage CPO cars, so we’ll focus on 2010 models.
Mazda MX-5 Miata
This is, after all, Southern California, so we’ll lead off with cars made for playtime in the sun, headlined by the sexy, low-slung MX-5 Miata, notorious for its rakish sports-car style in an affordable open-air package. The 2010 MX-5 comes one year after a redesign that positioned the model as a sleeker, more aggressive roadster that retains its traditional sports profile. Handling is exceptionally nimble, and the six-speed transmission comes in manual or auto-manual modes. This lightweight Miata gets up to 28 mpg on highway through a 2-liter 167-horsepower I-4 engine. Available with a soft top or power-retractable hardtop, the MX-5 is guaranteed to raise a smile.
BMW Z4 Roadster
Getting luxury and performance on a budget is a big advantage of CPOs, so we’ll drop in this drop-dead gorgeous European highway star, a pulse-racing mix of speed and sleek lines with a power-retractable hard top. Make playtime into something special with the low-slung, two-seat Z4 Roadster. A twin-turbo 3-liter six-cylinder engine with 300 horses powers the sDrive35i trim through a six-speed manual or seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, both with steering-wheel paddle shifters for deft hands-on piloting. Moreover, standard Dynamic Drive Control allows drivers to custom-tweak steering and acceleration settings to suit their tastes and handling styles. Leather seats have a special reflective quality to keep them cooler in the summer glare, no small perk in sunny SoCal.
Ford Mustang Convertible
The classic pony car is loads of fun to drive, in either regular or topless mode, with iconic lines and tons of personality. But blue skies beckon, so why not look hard at the Mustang convertible? Just try to resist dropping the top while taking a trip up the coast or getting some fresh mountain air. Eminently versatile and functional — ample legroom and trunk space make it a smart vacation ride — the Mustang is an American sports/muscle legend with a timeless cool factor. The 2010 Mustang got a restyled look and upgraded 4.6-liter V-8 engine rated at 315 horsepower.
The F-150 is a true workhorse for any task involving hauling, towing or riding rough terrain. And with 10 trim levels, there’s an F-150 to suit any style. Check out the top-line Platinum, a luxury pickup with no small trace of Lincoln DNA, a stout beauty with powered leather seats and embroidered logos, power-retracting running boards and advanced audio interfaces. Rocking an upscale biker vibe, the four-door SuperCrew F-150 Harley-Davidson has heated captain’s chairs up front and tough leather rear seats designed like a biker jacket. Storage areas have real Harley zippers with engraved button snaps. If rugged power is your thing, the F-150 Raptor packs a 6.2-liter V-8 and off-road ride settings for roughing it at high speeds.
For the boss, clearly, the CLS-550 sedan is a classic statement of style and prestige that boasts the highest level of European performance and engineering. And a CPO model just might be within reach of mid-level managers. Start with the 5.5-liter V-8 engine packing 382 horsepower and a plush interior with four-zone climate control and cooled seats. It rolls on 19-inch alloy wheels and air suspension, loaded with advanced technology such as the Mercedes Pre-Safe system that detects and prepares for potential collisions. Celebrate a promotion by upgrading to the CLS-63 AMG, an exquisite beast with a 6.3-liter V-8 rated at 507 horses and top speed of 186 mph.
A smart choice for any reasonably sized brood, the popular CR-V is functional and fun, with myriad safety features and outstanding fuel efficiency that ranges up to 28 mpg highway. Seating five comfortably, this compact crossover got a makeover for 2010 that included lightly restyled lines and 180 horsepower from its 2.4-liter I-4 engine — an increase of 14 horses. The versatile CR-V is great for family vacations, so why not juice it up with available navigation or a power moonroof? A backup camera comes in handy, and sturdy leather seats can handle the most active offspring. The CR-V features front-wheel or four-wheel drive, with standard stability and traction control and side-impact and side-curtain air bags.
Another attractive and safe family ride, the Elantra — an especially good fit for first-time teen drivers, Cars.com points out — comes in a sport-tuned Touring hatchback model that offers substantial standard features and amenities in an economical package that gets up to 31 mpg. The versatile Elantra seats five amid a surprisingly roomy interior with plenty of cargo space, helped by a split-folding rear seat. Rest assured, the Elantra Touring has solid safety features, from active head restraints to electronic stability system, with impact and curtain air bags everywhere. This Elantra was priced below $15,000 in 2010, so feel free to ante up for the moonroof, roof rails and leather seats. After all, summer vacation is right around the corner.