Best Used Cars Under $5,000

Spending 5k on a car is a tricky, yet sometimes a cost effective price range to shop in if you know what to look for.

Best Used Cars Under $5,000

Spending $5,000 on a car is a tricky, yet sometimes a cost-effective area to shop in if you know what to look for. By spending $5k, you limit your chances of going into debt concerning a higher priced car, you can shop around almost infinitely for something in that price range (though they will be older or higher-mileage cars), and you can pay in cash making the transaction incredibly easy. However, you could also spend $5k and purchase a dud, essentially throwing away your hard-earned money.

A used car in this price range is probably going to be something you are using for daily wear and tear, giving to a child as their first practical car, commuting to work within a set number of miles daily, possibly for a project car, or you just want something that won’t crush your finances.

As an added safety net with buying any used car or truck, make sure to cross-reference our guide concerning vehicle history reports. With millions of cars out there in this used price bracket, we give you some of the best options money can buy so you can be confident you made the right purchase and won’t have a clunker on your hands.

2013 Smart Fortwo

  • 34/38 City/Highway MPG
  • 70 HP Electric 1-speed Direct Drive

It’s not the coolest car on the list, but the Smart Fortwo’s simplicity, compact size, and great gas mileage make it a wonderful candidate for someone who commutes short distances in a major metropolis.

You’re not going to want to bring the Fortwo on the highway for hundreds of miles, but if you are content with a grocery-getter that you can park straight in instead of parallel parking, then this smart car is an economical choice. It’s also surprisingly fun to toot around in, and as a kicker, the Smart Fortwo is incredibly safe by subcompact car standards.

2002 Nissan Maxima

  • 21/28 City/Highway MPG
  • 255 HP 3.5-liter V6

With a powerful V6 motor, the Maxima from the early 2000s is a spritely automobile with economical capabilities. With an available 6-speed manual transmission, it can be exhilarating to drive as well. While the newer Maximas have grown into somewhat boring 9-5 vehicles, there’s a simplistic charm to the older ones.

With four doors, front-wheel drive, seating for five, and Japanese build quality, the Maxima is a great first car for that first-time driver or the budding college student who needs a reliable ride in between classes.

2002 Acura RSX

  • 27/33 City/Highway MPG
  • 160-200 HP 2.0-liter Inline-four

The Acura RSX was an awesome little compact sports coupe when it arrived in the USA in 2001, garnering tons of enthusiasts with its high-revving four-cylinder motor, 5-speed manual transmission (and available with a 5-speed automatic), and the hot-rodded RSX Type S version with a 6-speed close-ration transmission for gearheads.

Even 14 years later, the RSX’s design has fared well, making it look like a car much younger than it should be. The biggest flaw in the RSX is that it’s a tad on the small side and you won’t be cross shopping this for a family car, but if you’re looking for something fun and sporty, the RSX is a great option.

2005 Buick LaCrosse

  • 20/29 City/Highway MPG
  • 200 HP 3.8-liter V6, 240 HP 3.6-liter V6

While Buick might be considered by some (read: many) to be age appropriate for the older crowd—and they may be right—it’s still a fine automobile with high marks in reliability and comfort. Known for its smooth and quiet ride, the LaCrosse is great for people who have noisy, long or are hampered by frequent stop-and-go traffic during their commute.

With front-wheel drive, if you live in SoCal you will have no problem with using the car daily, but if you’re from a more severe weather prone area, the LaCrosse might be limited in the winter.

2006 Toyota Sienna

  • 19/26 City/Highway MPG
  • 215 HP 3.3-liter V6

Ah yes, the minivan. Loathed by some and sworn by from others. It’s possibly the most underrated segment (by people who don’t understand the minivan) of the automobile around. With seating for seven passengers, cargo space for days if you stow the seats, and utility to rival commercial vans, the Toyota Sienna is a multifaceted-Swiss Army knife that isn’t just for moms.

With decent fuel economy from a relatively powerful V6 and Toyota reliability, the Sienna could be the perfect family hauler for when getting out of the house requires a van that can move a village.

2004 Honda Accord

  • 26/34 City/Highway MPG
  • 160 HP 2.4-liter inline-four, 240 hp 3.0-liter V6

There are certain cars and brands that people swear by. Whether it’s for trouble-free driving, or performance, people swoon when they can relate to a car company that offers them unexpected bliss. The Accord is one of those cars and Honda is one of those companies.

With bulletproof reliability, a multitude of options from manual transmissions to more powerful engines, the Accord is one of the best selling cars for a reason. If you don’t want to have to worry about a car’s maintenance during your time with it, the Accord should be one of your first choices.

2003 Dodge Ram 1500

  • 16/21 City/Highway MPG
  • 235 HP 4.7-liter, 245 HP 5.9-liter, 345 HP 5.7-liter, V8

If you’re looking for something to haul serious grass, the Dodge Ram is the perfect compliment to your working lifestyle. The only vehicle on this list with a V8, the Ram won’t win any environmental awards, but it will take abuse and keep on truckin’.

Whether it’s towing, hauling, gathering the harvest, or collecting wood for the outdoor fireplace, the Ram is a sensible truck in that it will give you back loads and loads of effort for what you put into it. It’s also available with either a 6- or 8-foot bed and equipped with either two- or four-wheel drive.

1992 BMW 325i

  • 16/24 City/Highway MPG
  • 189 HP 2.5-liter Inline-six

An oldie but a goodie. The BMW 325i is one the perfect cars in the sports sedan world, especially an older model like this. Sure, it might need a bit of maintenance, but it’s a great project car that will return so many pleasurable driving experiences that it’s worth its weight in gold.

A 24-year-old car is going to have quirks— most certainly with the electrical systems—but in no way will they be detrimental to the driving experience. Get a good mechanic to look it over and enjoy the cheapest ride of your life.

2000 Toyota Tacoma

  • 22/26 City/Highway MPG
  • 142 HP 2.4-liter, 150 HP 2.7-liter Inline-four, 190 HP 3.4-liter V6

There are quite a few Toyota Tacomas from this generation for sale online with well over 300,000 miles, which gives you a good indication just how stout these light-duty pickups can be. We most recently referenced the Toyota T-100 pickup in our best 4WD vehicles to buy, but you also can’t go wrong with a first generation Tacoma.

They’re so simple inside with no add-ons to distract you, can be had with a few variations of engines, optional 4WD can bring you anywhere, and it’s a perfect vehicle for those winter road trips to the slopes.

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The Instamotor TeamThe Instamotor Team

Not your typical used car salesman. Our team is here to provide honest and transparent advice about car buying and selling.