There are vehicles on the market that sound a lot better than they are. What follows is my list of over-hyped used cars with artificially higher prices.
Basically, over-hyped used cars with artificially higher prices are vehicles that the manufacturer in some way has created false demand for through marketing. Typically, these would include anniversary editions and vehicles with heritage names. For example, GM was fond of slapping an SS badge on any car, whether or not it was a true Super Sport.
2004 Chevrolet Impala SS
Photo © Chevrolet
The SS moniker used to mean something in the automotive world. It denoted a vehicle that was a Super Sport, had been sport tuned and was something special. Then, GM resurrected it for its front-wheel drive Impala. This version is faster than its predecessor from the 90s, but it is a handling nightmare. Point it in a straight line and it is fine but throw it hard into a corner and you might get thrown into the passenger side. It's just not worthy of the SS badge.
2005 Neon SRT4 Commemorative Edition
Photo © Dodge
This little sub-compact is supposedly one of the fastest Dodges ever made. I had a blast driving one around the Pocono Speedway. This car is going to attract a higher premium because it is an affordable tuner. The simple fact remains that you are driving a Neon, though. I own a 2002 Neon. I love the car, but there is no reason to drive one with 250 horsepower under the hood. If you absolutely must have one, buy a non-commemorative edition.
2002 Ford Thunderbird
Photo © Ford
There was an obscene amount of attention lavished on this car when it debuted. Buyers were spending above sticker price to be among the first to own one. While its looks were sharp, its performance and handling were disappointing. It has a cramped interior and lackluster acceleration. Feel free to drive one if you like the looks, but realize it has no connection to its famous predecessor and odds are good the original owner overpaid and is trying to make some money back with a higher price. Don't pay a dime over the Edmunds.com recommended price for a used T-bird from this era.
2004 Mazda Miata
Photo © Mazda
Any Miata before 2006 is overhyped. They are cramped and uncomfortable for the average size adult. Plus, like the Dodge Neon SRT-4, these are popular cars with tuners. Odds are good that this car has been abused in some way. Make sure you get a thorough inspection before buying a Miata. By the way, 2006 model years and newer are entirely different beasts. They are not overhyped.
2006 Pontiac Solstice
Photo © Pontiac
The Solstice was introduced to a lot of hoopla as a great sports car for under $20,000. People irrationally salivated over it and paid well above list price to own one (which kind of defeated the reason for its sub-$20,000 price). The base model is not a sports car. It is a dull little cruiser with a roof that is difficult to operate (make that almost impossible).
2003 VW New Beetle
Photo © VW
Aside from being cute, there is little to recommend this car, besides lots of headroom in the front seat (but not the back). The New Beetle spread like wildfire when it was first introduced. It has no power, its trunk is almost non-existent, and its dashboard is unappealing except for that bud vase. How can anybody hate a bud vase? By the way, I would exclude the turbo and diesel engine New Beetles as over-hyped. I love the turbo New Beetle.
2004 Toyota Matrix
Photo © Toyota
The Toyota Matrix is over-hyped because the Pontiac Vibe is the exact same car. People are going to tell you to always pick a Toyota over a Pontiac, but in this case they would be wrong. There is no reason mechanically to favor one over the other.