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It's an inevitable point we all reach. Your hand-me-down car from high school is now older than most Rihanna fans, and you'd love to stop making rent-sized payments to your auto mechanic. Or maybe you fancy yourself a proud urbanite, but the bicycle and bus pass don't exactly cut it when you land that new job in the suburbs.

Either way, it's time to pony up the cash for a new — or less-used — car.

If you're shopping used, check out our top choices for $10,000, then research a few possibilities by make, model and year. Don't know how far your budget will stretch? Try our used-car values calculator. Are you willing to pay extra for a little peace of mind? Read up on certified pre-owned vehicles.

Once you decide on a few candidates, it's time to check out Cars.com's used and CPO listings and contact a few sellers. Eventually you'll have to kick some tires and take a few test drives, but don't worry — we have you covered there, too:

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