Obviously, car buyers have different needs — but for most, the ultimate constraint is price. Here are a few vehicles to show you your imagination doesn’t have to be limited just because your budget is.
Reliable Fun Car: 2004 Mazda6 s
Let’s be honest, if your budget is limited to $5,000, it’s because you’re just looking for something simple that will work all the time. However, just because you’re on a budget doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have something you actually enjoy. With a reliable and robust V6 good for at least 275,000 miles (that’s from experience), Bose audio and comfortable leather seats, this manual Mazda6 will probably serve you well for longer than you’d expect. Find a 2004 Mazda6 for sale
Fun to Drive: 1997 BMW Z3 2.8
You thought we were going to pick a Miata, didn’t you? Well, you thought wrong. This Z3 has all the grace of a Miata with some glorious Bavarian straight-six grunt — along with red leather seats, all for less than some good NA Miatas are starting to fetch. Find a 1997 BMW Z3 for sale
Off-Roader: 1995 Toyota 4Runner SR5
Ignoring all the pitfalls of buying someone else’s off-road project (inconsistently dipped badges and missing fuel doors aren’t exactly promising), this 4Runner seems like the perfect truck to show your irritating friend with the Raptor that maybe he doesn’t know everything about off-roading. A reliable Toyota V6 and proven chassis make this likely rust-free California truck a solid bet for someone who’d actually use their SUV off-road. And in case you were wondering why we didn’t pick a Wrangler, you can’t get a decent one in this price range — and the Toyota seems to do this kind of thing better, anyway. Find a 1995 Toyota 4Runner for sale
Stylish: 1983 Mercedes-Benz 380 SL
Ever wanted to act like old money without having old money? Or even new money? This 1983 Mercedes-Benz 380 SL even has a color-matched interior to remind you just how cool you are. Just don’t undo all that hard work with a Hawaiian shirt, please. Find a 1983 Mercedes-Benz 380 SL for sale
Being That Internet Car Blogger™: 2000 BMW 528i Wagon Manual
Wagons are getting so popular with internet car enthusiasts that car companies might actually start selling them in America again. Of course, you can’t buy a new car used, so an actual used car like this 528iT will suffice. It’s even beige, which is like brown for the noncommittal. Also, with the best 5 Series platform ever, a solid inline-6 engine and a manual gearbox, you’ll actually enjoy being a stereotype. Find a 2000 BMW 528i wagon for sale
Andrew Murray and Seamus Cassidy are the founders of RedLine, a car blog that administers a daily dose of motoring journalism aimed at the car enthusiast. They can be found at RedLineCarBlog.com.