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TheStreet Open House

10 Used Cars to Check Out Before Buying New

9. Nissan Altima
Trim: 2.5 S sedan
Original MSRP: $19,389
KBB private party value: $4,715
Retained value: 24.3%
So begins the Japanese dominance of used car offerings.

Of the 20 reliable used vehicles on KBB's list, Toyota, Honda and Nissan (NSANY) made 14 of them. Domestic, Korean and German manufacturers have since caught up, but the Japanese automakers were well ahead of the pack by the time the 2008 fuel crisis hit and everyone else began focusing on efficiency and durability.

"Ten years ago the Japanese Three produced the most reliable vehicles in nearly every segment they competed," KBB's Gutierrez says. "They dominated the market when it came to fuel economy, reliability and value, while the domestic manufacturers were more focused on building fuel-thirsty sport utility vehicles."

The midsized Altima is a prime example of that forward-thinking approach. Even the 2.5-liter four-cylinder version generates 175 horsepower while getting a combined 24 miles per gallon. That justified the three-pod, sports-car instrument layout, but belied features that were ample even for a midsize flagship.

This Altima is loaded with a tilt and telescopic steering wheel, a power point inside the center console (at the time, a novel alternative to the cigarette lighter for cell phone charging) and steering wheel-mounted controls for the stereo and a trip computer. The big selling points, though, include leather seating, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, HomeLink universal transmitter, an in-dash six-disc CD changer (still waiting for that CD revival), high-intensity headlights and a power sunroof.

If the Altima's a little big for buyers still considering a used Nissan, the Maxima SE sedan still fetches 22.4% of its original MSRP and can withstand a whole lot of wear and tear.

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