Home / The Best Cars for Every Budget / The Best Used Cars under $5,000


Finding a good used car for $5,000 or less is easier than you might think. There are actually quite a few selections to be had. You will need to be aware that your are going to have to buy a vehicle with more than 100,000 miles on it in most cases. The high mileage doesn’t matter as much as it used to, though. It is pretty common to hear about a car with more than 200,000 miles on it being used as a daily driver. Taking into account the opinions of the editors at Kelley Blue Book and our own research, here is a list of five dependable cars that can be bought for less than 5K.

Pontiac Grand Prix

The Grand Prix offers a comfortable ride, safety, dependability, and decent mileage even with a 6-cylinder engine. The 3.6L engine is known to offer 28-30 mpg on the highway even after 10-12 years of driving. A prime example between the model years 2002 and 2005 will come in under the five grand mark.

Subaru Impreza WRX

The WRX is the most commonly tuned car in the United States. The sporty 2.0L turbocharged engine that was standard offers nice pep and around 27 mpg on the highway. The WRX’s reliability is questionable after it has been modified, so take care to buy one that is in original condition. You will need to find a 2004 or older model to hit our price point.

Ford Focus

The Focus offers a passable combination of fuel economy and engine response. It will top 32 mpg on the highway and the 2.0L engine offers 170 hp, but the engine tends to be sluggish during hard acceleration. If you can get used to that, you will find the Focus is a great car overall. Model years 2002-2005 come in for our price point.

Volkswagen Jetta TDI

Volkswagen diesel engines are well known for their long-term reliability. It is not unheard of for a TDI to see a quarter of a million miles with a smile on its face. The Jetta features a 1.9L turbodiesel that offers up a meager 90 hp, but produces 155 pound-feet of torque. Slap it on a 5-speed manual transmission and you can have some fun. You can see 35 city/45 highway, stretching that into closer to 50 on the highway if you leave your lead foot at home. To met our price point in a sedan, you will need to go back to 2000-2001. If you do not mind a wagon, you can still get a 2002-03.

Honda Civic

It seems as if the Honda Civic comes up at some point every time inexpensive, reliable used cars are mentioned. The Civic hits every point we mentioned in the opening paragraph. There are plenty of them still making daily commutes after 200,000 miles and looking good doing it. Fuel economy for the Civic has been class-leading for decades and its safety has never been questioned. You can find a variety of offerings between 1998 and 2002 for less than 5K. The fairly rare Si trim level offers some additional sporty driving if you can find one. Many have been modified, so avoid those whenever possible.

The key to the longevity of any used car is maintenance. Be sure to ask for a maintenance record before buying any used car. It would also be wise to get a vehicle history report. Spending the $20 for one could save you a lot of headaches down the road.

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