For many Americans some form of automobile is more than just a luxury: it is a necessary part of their daily arsenal of accessories. According to the US Census Bureau, the average American has to face an almost half-hour commute one way to get to their place of work or back home every day, and will spend on average nearly 40 hours stuck in traffic per year. People in San Francisco spent a reported 83 hours sitting in traffic not moving in 2013. Combining that time with trips to the grocery store, recreation, and other obligations, and it becomes obvious that for most Americans their automobile is one of the most important items they own. This article will discuss some of the best used cars under $5000.
We are living in a time when the economy is in less than perfect condition. With around 15 percent of our nation living at or below the poverty line, many Americans simply cannot afford to spend a great deal of money on a brand new automobile. More than that, every automobile comes with a whole slew of associated long-term costs, like fuel, maintenance, and of course, insurance. These costs add significantly to the price of a vehicle, and unfortunately for many the trade-off is usually that better reliability and fuel mileage come with higher prices.
So, what can a budget-conscious (or economically constrained) individual in need of a new automobile do? The answer is, obviously, to delve into the used/pre-owned vehicle market. Yet, even when looking at pre-owned vehicles — or, perhaps, even more so than when looking at new ones — finding a balance between price and reliability is often frustrating. Vehicles that are easily obtainable for cheap are often times cheap for a reason, whether that be poor condition, poor performance, or just general low appeal to secondhand buyers.
For information about cheap insurance try reading this. Should you be offered a car with a salvage title this might interest you. Looking for a car for a younger driver, you might want to read about insurance concerns.
Looking through the thousands of pre-owned cars on the market and trying to find one that both fits your budget in the short term and won’t break the bank in the long run can be a huge hassle, but with a little forethought and planning, finding a reliable, fuel-efficient vehicle for cheap can be done.
Why Used Cars Under $5000?
For the purposes of looking at pre-owned vehicles, five thousand dollars is often considered a great place to start your budget. Five thousand dollars gives you enough ceiling to open up a lot of relatively recent pre-owned vehicles for consideration, which can be important when considering fuel economy and reliability.
While trucks and SUVs are often popular vehicles, the best reliability and fuel economy can often be found in the pre-owned car market. Not only are trucks and SUVs more often than not less fuel efficient than compact cars and sedans, but drivers have a tendency to put them through a lot more adventuresome driving than your average family car will see. This makes pre-owned cars the best place for a shopper to look when trying to find a solid investment in their transportation future.
Eight Cars Under $5000
While it is true that there are literally hundreds if not thousands of cars to choose from, even at the five grand price limit, not every car is made the same. You can visit dozens of sites looking for the best vehicles available in nearly any price range, and every site will give you a different list of recommendations. Despite this, there are a few standbys that nearly every list will include due to their universally accepted excellence for their price point.
In no particular order, here are eight of the most recommended used cars under five thousand dollars:
2005 Chevrolet Aveo Hatchback
Price: between $3500-$4500
Why it is recommended: The Chevy Aveo is the precursor to the Chevy Sonic, and often gets recommended based on its solid fuel efficiency. Like most of the cars on this list, the Aveo is well-rated for safety according to Motortrend. The 2005 model comes more highly recommended than any other year model.
2001 Honda Civic Coupe
Price: between $3750-$5000
Why it is recommended: The Honda Civic has been a very popular model for a long time, and for a lot of very good reasons. Though the cars do little to stand out from competing models in terms of aesthetics or general performance, they have a long history of reliability, and due to how ubiquitous they tend to be can often be grabbed for a cheaper price than competing models from other manufacturers. Though the 2001 model is recommended here, many year models of the Civic can be found under five thousand dollars, most of them sharing the same quality construction and reliability. Unfortunately, Hondas often makes the list of cars most often stolen.
2003 Volvo S40 Sedan
Price: between $4200-$4600
Why it is recommended: The Volvo S40 series is a very solid sedan with a lot of safety features implemented, including side curtain airbags. With one of the best safety ratings in our list, the S40 is a great choice for drivers on a budget who are willing to sacrifice a little MPG and style for a safer, reliable ride.
2000 Ford Crown Victoria Sedan
Price: between $3500-$4000
Why it is recommended: The Ford Crown Victoria has a rather distinguished history as a service vehicle, and is built to last. Was popular with police departments and taxi services across the country, the Crown Victoria — or Crown Vic for short — was known for being a solid, safe choice with a good amount of interior space.
2000 Honda Accord Sedan
Price: between $3500-$5000
Why it is recommended: The Honda Accord, much like the company’s other vehicle on our list, the Civic, has a history of reliability among drivers. In contrast to the Civic, however, many people deem the Accord to have a more attractive aesthetic with its somewhat sleeker lines. With a slightly different target audience, the Accord serves as a somewhat sportier option with more power than the Civic, but at the cost of some fuel efficiency. Like other Hondas, often stolen.
2000 Mazda MX-5 Miata Convertible
Price: between $3500-$5000
Why it is recommended: The Mazda MX-5 Miata is a much different vehicle than most of what fills out our list. Being the only coupe, little lone the only convertible, the Miata nevertheless takes a place among its peers because of its solid fuel mileage and reliability. Despite being ostensibly a sports car as opposed to the family- or efficiency-oriented models in the rest of the list, Miatas can be picked up for relatively little even in good condition, making them a good alternative for drivers looking for something a bit more visual.
2002 Toyota Corolla Sedan
Price: between $4200-$4800
Why it is recommended: The Toyota Corolla has one of the lower safety ratings on our list (right behind the Miata,) but still manages to make itself a worthy choice through excellent fuel economy. The Corolla offers an excellent balance of space and efficiency for drivers, and like the other vehicles featured here is known for good reliability.
2002 Chevrolet Prizm Sedan
Price: between $3000-$3500
Why it is recommended: The Prizm is, for the most part, a Toyota Corolla re-branded with the Chevrolet logo. As such, many of the concerns — and advantages — associated with the Corolla also apply to the Prizm. The Prizm is considered to be somewhat less common to find, but was also less popular than the Corolla, helping to keep its price low.
Beyond The Car
Our list above is a great place to start for buyers looking for a good price on a reliable vehicle, but a smart consumer will always take the time to look beyond a vehicle’s make, model, and year to make sure they are getting the best deal possible. Whether shopping on a budget or picking up a long-time dream, keeping an eye on every aspect of any car you purchase can be vital to getting the best deal possible.
There is more to purchasing a pre-owned car than simply finding the right car at the right budget. Not all used cars are created equal, and the more time that has passed between a car’s release and when you purchase it the more opportunities other drivers have had to abuse or mistreat it. Often times simple wear and tear can lead to an otherwise well-kept car being problematic within months of being purchased at no fault to either the original owner or the person who took it of their hands.
For savvy buyers, there are a few features you can look for when purchasing a pre-owned car that can help to not only protect you against problems, but sometimes can even help to keep your insurance rates on the car as low as possible.
The first item that can help the most is also one of the most problematic: checking to see if the vehicle has been manufacturer re-certified. When a manufacturer recertifies a used vehicle, that means that they believe the vehicle to be up to their standards of quality in terms of part life and expected vehicle lifespan as a whole. Manufacturer recertified vehicles will often offer manufacturer’s warranties despite being pre-owned, a feature that many insurance companies appreciate and will take into account when considering your insurance premiums.
The problem with manufacturer recertification is twofold. First of all, though not a bad thing, manufacturer recertification is not a simple process of calling up the vehicle’s manufacturer and having them approve it. Manufacturer recertification takes time and some investment on the seller or retailer’s part, and as such will usually only be found on vehicles purchased from either certified retailers or high-capacity resellers. When dealing with either smaller lots or individuals looking to sell their personal vehicle, manufacturer recertification is virtually off the table.
The second problem with manufacturer recertification is vehicle age. Many manufacturers will only offer recertification on vehicles within the last four to six model years of production, meaning that older vehicles — including all of those on our list — are typically no longer able to receive manufacturer recertification regardless of quality.
All hope is not lost when it comes to used cars without recertification, though. Beyond manufacturer recertification there is also dealer certification or recertification, by which the dealer who sells the vehicle gives their own assurance to the vehicle’s quality and reliability. While dealer certification does not carry the same weight as manufacturer recertification when it comes to many considerations, it has the distinct advantage of being easier to obtain, and when it comes to consumer experience can often offer most, if not all, of the same advantages dealer recertification conveys.
Beyond recertification, the next major important feature a buyer should look into when purchasing a pre-owned vehicle is accident records. Checking a vehicle’s VIN against accident databases such as Carfax can give a prospective buyer a great deal of information on the history of a vehicle, much of which will reflect on the vehicle’s reliability and safety. If a vehicle has been in a major accident, even if it has been rebuilt, overall reliability is likely to suffer, and in some cases an accident history can raise insurance rates on the vehicle even if the driver who owned the vehicle at the time of the accident is no longer in ownership.
3, 2, 1, Go
Just because you are shopping for a vehicle on a tight budget does not mean you have to sacrifice either safety or efficiency when doing so. The economy may be tight at the moment, but with a little time and effort, and foreknowledge on your side, even the most cash-strapped of car buyers can find a vehicle that fits their budget and their needs. If you’re selling rather than buying, be sure your ad is truthful so buyers know what to expect. The vehicles we have included in our list are all great examples of reliable cars that can be purchased on a budget, but they are only a drop in the bucket when it comes to all the makes and models available on the market. Take the time to do your research on any vehicle you find, and look for those with strong safety records as a model and clean bills of health as individual units, and you can save yourself a lot of time and money at the dealer, at the pump, at the insurance company, and beyond.
Once you’ve narrowed your search, call your insurance agent for a quote for particular makes and models to get exact insurance pricing.
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