Finding a good car for under $5,000 might seem like an impossible task, but there’s value to be found almost anywhere, including at the lower price points of the pre-owned market. A used vehicle at the $5,000 price point will likely be a bit older, or high-mileage, or both, but that’s OK. Just remember that while high mileage can be your friend, poor maintenance is not, and can result in the need for costly repairs that will set your wallet even further back than the purchase price of the vehicle. Given this, it’s important to focus on vehicles with a track record for reliability. We always recommend having a mechanic inspect a potential used car purchase whenever it’s possible.
With that, here are 10 great vehicles for a budget of under $5,000
2008-2011 Ford Focus
Since its debut, the Ford Focus has been a leader in the small car segment, and the 2008-2011 model is no different. Thanks to its popularity and mechanical simplicity, parts are widely available and maintenance is relatively inexpensive. As we speak, there are over 500 2008-2011 Ford Focuses listed on Autotrader for around $5,000.
2005-2010 Scion tC
A favorite among those looking to personalize their vehicles, the first-generation Scion tC is a great sport coupe alternative for a $5,000 budget. As the Scion brand was owned by Toyota, you can count on great quality and reliability. Among the tC’s respectable list of available features were a 1600-watt Pioneer sound system and a panoramic sunroof. There are many 2005-2010 tCs on Autotrader at or near the $5,000 price point.
2001-2007 Ford Escape
Ford’s first crossover SUV, the Escape was a hot seller out of the gate, meaning you’ll find many pre-owned examples. Widespread parts availability will also keep costs down when it comes time for maintenance, and the fact that it was a bit larger than many of its competitors means it comes with a relatively large cargo area. Additionally, Mazda sold its own version of the Escape, dubbed the Tribute, from 2001-2006. Currently, there’s an abundance of 2001-2007 Ford Escapes and 2001-2006 Mazda Tributes for sale on Autotrader for under $5,000.
2008-2015 Fiat 500
One of the more modern vehicles on this list, if you’re looking for character and live in the city, a Fiat 500 may be the car for you. Classified as a "City Car," the 500 measures only 11.5 feet in length, making it great for parking on urban streets. Thanks to its small size, it also achieves great fuel economy, and buyers should see figures in the low-30 miles per gallon range in the city and in the high-30 mpg range on the highway. There are currently only around 100 Fiat 500s near the $5,000 price point on Autotrader, but if newness is a priority, the 500 is a great option.
2007-2011 Nissan Versa
The Versa is a great, cheap used car and can fit a number of needs thanks to its availability as a hatchback. The Versa is an extremely affordable new car, meaning a pre-owned example can be had without sacrificing much when it comes to age and mileage. Nissan reliability is pretty good, and thanks to its small engine, the Versa achieves fuel economy in the 30-mpg range, meaning buyers will save on maintenance and at the pump. Currently, over 200 2007-2011 Versa Notes are for sale on Autotrader for $5,000 or less.
2002-2006 Toyota Camry
The longtime best-selling passenger car in America, the Toyota Camry has been a consumer favorite now for almost three decades. With four doors, ample trunk space and Toyota reliability, a Camry will get you from point A to point B with little to no commotion but a decent amout of space and some comfort. There’s rarely a shortage of 2002-2006 Camrys available on Autotrader at prices under $5,000.
2004-2010 Toyota Sienna
Heralded as one of the safest vehicles on the road at the time of its debut, a 2004-2010 Sienna makes for a responsible and practical family hauler. A number of standard features, room for up to eight people and available all-wheel drive make the Sienna perhaps the best pre-owned minivan on the market today. There are over 100 2004-2010 examples currently offered at under $5,000 on Autotrader.
2006-2010 Honda Civic
Any Honda is a safe bet, and the Civic is no exception. With an average of over 300,000 Civics sold every year in the U.S. for the past decade, the Civic is a staple on American roads. Buyers have their choice of coupe and sedan forms, not to mention a hybrid model and the high-performance Civic Si, any of which offer a great balance of efficiency, fun and dependability. We expect there will be plenty of 2006-2010 sub-$5,000 Civics for sale on Autotrader for years to come.
2005-2009 Subaru Outback
Combining car-like refinement and fuel economy with the practicality of an SUV, the Subaru Outback features Subaru’s tried-and-true all-wheel-drive system, great for getting out of a snowy parking space and for added confidence when venturing beyond the paved road. While any Outback at this price point will likely be older and come with higher mileage, it’s but a small price to pay considering the added benefits of this vehicle for anyone with an active lifestyle. Currently, there are around 150 2005-2009 Outbacks listed on Autotrader at or near the $5,000 price point.
1999-2004 Nissan Xterra
Need something rugged? The Nissan Xterra is underappreciated when compared to other truck-like SUVs, but it’s just as capable, tough and practical as anything else out there. The first-generation XTerra was sold from the 1999 to 2004 model years, while the second generation lasted from 2005 to 2015. Any first-generation example should fit the bill, with around 175 currently on Autotrader selling for below $5,000. Both 2- and 4-wheel-drive versions were offered, with 4-wheel-drive examples carrying a slight premium.