Used cars under $5,000

In today's day and age, everyone seems to be on the lookout for a car. Whether it is to satisfy their need for comfort and safety, or simply to fulfill their wish to own a particular car, for no reason of practicality; whatever your reason, it doesn't always lead you to a car showroom and to a new model. Most of us have limitations when it comes to budget and not everyone can afford a brand new car. At the same time, we still need a vehicle that will meet our requirements and not be too difficult on our pockets either. Some vehicles are not just expensive to obtain, their even expensive to maintain, and that seems to be a price to high to pay for just enthusiasm, unless of course, you can easily afford it.

For those on a strict budget, for instance, $5,000, you will be surprised to find what sort of cars you can have for what may not be too much money. There are several good, yet inexpensive options around. All you need to do is look for them, and knowing some specific models and ages can help. So, whether it's a compact hatchback, a family sedan, an SUV or even a sportscar, chances are if you look in the right places, you can find the right ones. And serendipity has a funny way of making an entrance too.


Looking Around
When you go looking for a used car, there are more than a few you will come across that fit the bill. Quite a few automotive companies have wrapped up operations after the recession, and that has dropped the value of some of their car models. You can have a 2003 Saturn VUE for instance. There are also quite a few cars with less than 100,000 miles on the clock available for the same sort of money, particularly some less popular dated Japanese models like the Suzuki Forenza, or even the Korean Daewoo Leganza. The trouble with these is, they will be fine as long as they run properly, and even if you have to replace some minor parts. But, if you encounter a failure of a major component, things will start looking more expensive than they should.

The list just doesn't stop at hatchbacks and sedans, for the same money, you can find several pickup trucks like a Ford F-150, Dodge Ram 1500 or a GMC Sierra from 2001. You may find late 90s' SUVs like a Jeep Cherokee or even the odd Nissan Pathfinder or Xterra, which can be great value if the owner had properly maintained the vehicle.

Should you decide to go for more reliable cars, you need to look at some mid to late 90s' model Ford, Volkswagen or any Japanese models. Cars like a Honda Accord or Toyota Camry will be harder to find as they get takers soon, but something like a Mitsubishi Galant, VW Jetta or even a late 90s' model Volvo sedan can be had for a great price. You can also find a few Chevy models from the early 2000s, but ensure you have a service center nearby.

If speed is on your mind, there are some great fast cars that you will find with a low price tag if you dig a little deeper for information. You can find cars like late 80s' or early 90s' Chevy Camaro or Pontiac Firebird. You can even land a Chevy Corvette C4, but most enthusiasts will advise you otherwise. However, if you're lucky, you may even find a post year 2000 model Ford Mustang. But if American muscle is not what you want on your menu, and you prefer some quick, rather than fast cars, with their fair share of flair, there's nothing better to look for than a late 90s' Mazda MX-5 Miata, or even a Nissan 240SX. These sportscars may not have issues with their mechanicals anytime soon, but in the rare event that they do, you have several inexpensive options to choose from, as these are among the classic tuner car variety. And parts availability issues are not a part of a tuner's vocabulary.

If however you want something that is fast, reliable as well as fun to drive, one of the best models you can have at that price range is a low mileage Ford Escort or Honda Civic. These cars make great value offerings and involve fewer hassles with service as almost all parts are stocked by various parts shops and hence, this not a reason for concern. 


Looking Out
Whichever way you go, you need to realize that depending on the make, model, and the use it was subjected to, the health of the vehicle may have deteriorated in varying quantities, so you need to be on the lookout for various aspects of the vehicle:

  • Verify the number of owners. Check who it was that used the car. If it was a professional like a doctor, the usage would be a pretty straight forward commute from home to work and back, with the occasional drive out of town. If however, the vehicle was owned by a student or a youngster, you can be almost certain that the car has had its share of competitive driving.
  • Look for any modifications or clues for an accident job. Take a friend who knows cars along, and if you notice any welds or alterations to the bodywork at critical points on the chassis or frame, or if a car has been lowered, walk away.
  • If the car isn't quite as suspicious as described in the above points, ask for the service history. Check and see if the maintenance was performed anywhere near the required periodic schedule. Also look for hints that genuine parts and oils of the recommended grade were used as those can help you interpret more accurately the life expectancy and reliability of the car in the near future, if not reasonably long term.
  • Take a test drive; nothing can help you figure out better if the engine is running stressed or if the suspension needs some work.  Make it a quick drive over a route that covers some straights and corners alike. If the engine doesn't rev freely on the straights, or if you can clearly hear creaks or thuds from the suspension while cornering, it may be an indication of a hefty bill in the not too distant future.

That being said, above all else, do your research, ask questions and then decide. An informed decision will lead to the best choice!