If you’re in Mesa, Arizona, or the East Valley, you might be wondering if you can find a used car under $5,000 that will get you to work and back every day and that can handle all of your errands with breaking down. You’re going to have to be patient and sift through a lot of ancient and/or troublesome vehicles in this price range, but you can find a dependable vehicle if you look hard enough.
In this article, we’re going to tell you what kind of car to look for if you have $5,000 or less to spend, including how to refine your search. Additionally, we’re also going to offer some food for thought on looking at newer, higher-end vehicles that lie a little outside of your current price range.
What Kind of Vehicle You Can Expect for $5,000
If you have $5,000 to spend on a vehicle, you’re likely looking at something with 100,000 to 150,000 miles on it. With $5,000, you shouldn’t have to settle for a car with 200,000 miles or more.
How old? Expect vehicles in this price range to be about 10 years old or older.
The type of vehicle? You’re probably looking at a sedan, coupe or possibly a compact SUV or truck. You can pretty much forget about a full-size SUV or pickup unless it has a ton of miles on it and was made in the ‘90s (or earlier).
Vehicles such as Toyota and Honda (and Lexus and Acura, for that matter) are going to be harder to find in this price range unless they are much older and have a lot of miles on them. Therefore, your best bet might be a domestic vehicle, such as one by Ford, Chrysler or Chevrolet. For foreign makes, Mazda, Nissan, Kia and Hyundai are typically more affordable than their competitors.
Where Can I Find a $5,000 or Less Vehicle?
In your price range, you can look to private sellers, major new-car dealerships that also sell used cars, and independent car lots that feature used vehicles exclusively. Keep in mind that while looking for cars at this low of a price, you’re not going to be able to haggle the price down by $1,000 or more.
Your wiggle room here, if the price of the car is already near true market value, is about $500, at most. The only exception would be if you’re talking to a private seller who’s not a very good negotiator.
Get the Vehicle Inspected and Do Your Own Research
With any vehicle you’re seriously considering, you should look up what kind of history it has, and you should have a professional inspect its current state.
Start by running a free vehicle history report by entering the VIN of the vehicle into either CARFAX or AutoCheck. The report will tell you if the car has been in a serious accident or if it’s had major problems in the past; some reports even show the car’s service records.
Now, don’t necessarily cross off every vehicle you see that has been in an accident. An accident may not be that bad if:
- It was minor.
- It happened years ago.
- The vehicle has been driven many thousands of miles since then.
Yes, ideally you’re going to want something with a squeaky clean record. But, with this price range and the miles that these cars will have, you’re going to come across several that have had at least a minor accident. We’re just saying, if you really like a certain vehicle but it was in an accident years ago, don’t write it off until you dig deeper.
Also, yes, most cars in this price range are going to have little dings, chips and scrapes. It comes with their experience. But, so long as it doesn’t have major, unfixed body damage, what you should really be worrying about is how the vehicle runs. That brings us to our next point.
Get a Prepurchase Inspection
Before buying any used car, you should submit it for a prepurchase inspection. If you’re buying from a dealer, they should be able to do this on site or through a trusted partner nearby. Many mechanics around town offer this service, as well, which is especially helpful if you’re looking to buy from a private seller. If you already have a trusted mechanic for your current vehicle, you can try to see if they will inspect the vehicle you’re considering buying.
Keep in mind this service will likely run between $100 and $200, whether you have the dealer or an independent mechanic do it. The prepurchase inspection should be a 100-point (or more) check of the vehicle, with a detailed report to follow.
This service should not only unearth any problems under the hood, but also any damage to the body or interior of the vehicle. This includes problems that go undetected by the average consumer, such as flood damage, hidden rust and poor previous repair work.
Best Used Cars Under $5000
Just for reference in your search, we would like to point out some of the top vehicles of 2018 according to two authoritative sources.
Kelley Blue Book released a list earlier this year of the top 10 used vehicles that run about $5,000. In order, here are the 10 vehicles that made the list (along with their average price in Mesa, AZ in parentheses):
- 2003 Toyota Avalon ($4,266)
- 2003 Toyota Camry ($4,276)
- 2004 Honda Accord ($4,477)
- 2004 Toyota Corolla ($4,339)
- 2005 Honda Civic ($3,854)
- 2004 Subaru Forester ($4,084)
- 2004 Toyota Matrix ($5,015)
- 2003 Acura TL ($4,060)
- 2004 Subaru Outback ($4,023)
- 2006 Mazda M3 ($4,629)
15 Additional Used Vehicles Worth Mentioning
Also, U.S. News and World Report published a list in June of the 15 best used vehicles under $5,000, in no particular order. For reasons unexplained, all vehicles listed were from 2009. Here are the 15 vehicles that made the list (along with their average nationwide price in parentheses):
- 2009 Chrysler PT Cruiser ($4,358)
- 2009 Volkswagen Rabbit ($3,123)
- 2009 Mitsubishi Galant ($4,373)
- 2009 Scion xD ($4,459)
- 2009 Pontiac Vibe ($4,548)
- 2009 Toyota Yaris ($3,913)
- 2009 Chevrolet Malibu ($4,786)
- 2009 Mercury Milan ($4,698)
- 2009 Hyundai Elantra ($3,325)
- 2009 Saturn VUE ($4,641)
- 2009 Scion tC ($4,405)
- 2009 Scion xB ($4,874)
- 2009 Saturn Aura ($3,455)
- 2009 Ford Fusion ($4,637)
- 2009 Honda Fit ($4,834)
We realize it may be hard to find one of these exact vehicles from either list. But, these lists should help steer your search, as far as make and models go. You may not be able to find a vehicle with the exact same year of production, but if you find the same make and model around the same year that is listed above, then you’re on the right track.
A Loan Can Help You Get a Better Vehicle
Consider applying for a loan for a used vehicle, even if your credit score is less than appealing at the moment. Red Mountain Funding helps East Valley residents secure financing for a used vehicle, even when they’ve been turned down at another dealership. At Red Mountain Funding, we are our own financing institution, and we report to all three major credit agencies.
If you’re approved for a loan, you may be able to get a newer or higher-end vehicle, such as in the $8,000 to $10,000 range. Even if you stick around $5,000 and get a loan for a vehicle in this range, you now have the chance to make payments and build up your credit. This helps you get an even better vehicle when you go to look for your next car a few years down the road.
At Red Mountain Funding, we encourage you to apply for a loan to see if you can get financing for a vehicle around (or perhaps higher than) $5,000.
I’m a kid at heart disguised as an auto researcher and business owner. I’ve always enjoyed providing insight in the form of reviews (anime, video games, autos, etc.) When I’m not researching, I’m spending time with my family, driving my Dodge Challenger, riding my motorcycle, and finding new entrepreneurial pursuits.