The average price paid for a new car in the United States is around $40,000, with the average price paid for a used car falling to a little under $25,000. It doesn't matter who you are, that's a lot of money, and if you're struggling from paycheck to paycheck and buying your first car, it's likely much more than you can afford.
The good news is that you don't need to break the bank just to afford a used car. There are a lot of great used cars available for less than $5,000. You may have to make a few sacrifices and you can probably say goodbye to the car of your dreams, but you can definitely get a reliable and efficient vehicle for that price.
The Best Used Cars Under $5,000
Whether you're looking through online auction sites and auto-trader sites or buying from the local classified ads, if you want to find used cars under $5,000, look for the following models:
Honda Fit 2009
For great reliability, handling, and affordability, look no further than the Honda Fit. The 2009 model is available for between $4,000 and $5,000 and is a great option for growing families on a tight budget.
This agile little car has a 1.5-liter engine and a surprisingly large cargo area.
The Honda Civic is highly rated on Kelley Blue Book and you'll find it included on all lists of the best used cars. We have included it on this list of used cars under $5,000 because many of the older models are available for just a few grand and provide great reliability and fuel economy, as well as some decent resale value.
2009 Toyota Scion tC
2009 was a good year for the Honda Fit and it was also a great year for the Scion, a Toyota car that is perfect for first-time buyers. It has coupe styling, lots of seating space, and plenty of cargo room. More importantly, you can get change on $4,000, making it an incredibly cost-effective option.
2011 Nissan Versa
The 2011 Nissan Versa is only just scraping into this list of top used cars under $5,000 as you likely won't get much change on your $5k. Still, you can find these used cars for less than $5k on many trading sites.
The cargo space is good, it has great reliability, and it should be on the list of all used car shoppers.
Pre-2012 Ford Focus
The third generation of Ford Focus has had a number of issues with the transmission, so it's not great for used car buyers.
Pre-2012 models are very affordable though and they're also widely available, whether you're buying through classifieds or car dealerships. If you stick with the 2008 and 2009 models, you could find yourself spending less than $3,500.
The Ford Focus is one of our personal favorite used cars under $5,000 as you always know what you're getting and there are so many available that you have plenty of options to choose from.
2007 Suzuki Grand Vitara
You have to go back a few years for this one but if you shop smartly you can pick up a 2007 Grand Vitara for around $2,500.
The Grand Vitara is a compact SUV with a V6 engine, five seats, and some surprising off-road potential. If you like big cars but you only have a small budget, add this used car to your list.
The Mazda5 is like an SUV crossed with a small minivan. It's a family car with great transportation options, as there is enough room for all family members and for whatever toys and luggage you need to take with you.
2011 Mazda Mazda2
The Mazda2 is a very small hatchback that offers an agile and nimble ride, along with a price tag of around $4,500 to $5,000.
It's deserving of its place on any list of used cars under $5,000, but that really only applies if you're a city dweller without a big family or a lot of luggage to transport.
If you're looking for advanced safety features, this is not the vehicle for you. If you need something small, quick, easy-to-handle, and with great fuel economy, take a look!
Summary: Best Cars Under $5,000
Just because you're shopping at the lower end of the market doesn't mean that you need to settle for a car that you don't like. As this guide shows, you can still find high-quality and reliable cars for under $5,000 and you should still spend a lot of time shopping, comparing, contrasting, and negotiating.
Think about the fuel economy, pay attention to the mileage, and make sure you have the necessary insurance before you hit the road.