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Article Comments - The 10 Best Used Cars for Less Than $5,000

Karen_CMKaren_CM Posts: 5,018
There are three things you need to know about this list. First, as soon as the unit cost of automotive fun starts to look too good to be true, it probably is. You're not going to get a $10,000 car for $5,000. Second, cars this capable of driving goodness with sub-$5,000 price tags have at least 100,000 miles — universally. Get over it. Finally, all of them — with careful shopping and plenty of patience — are still worth it.

The 10 Best Used Cars for Less Than $5,000

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  • tallman1tallman1 Posts: 1,874
    Best is a relative term in this case. Fun, sporty, etc. might be better choices... but "best"?? :confuse:
  • tidestertidester Posts: 10,110
    Fun, sporty, etc. might be better choices... but "best"??

    Perhaps. But the title of the article uses the plural, cars, which provides a fair bit of latitude in defining "best" and the word "best" is far more succinct than including 10 different categories in the title which would cause everyone's eyes to glaze over.

    How about some comments on the cars named in the article instead? :)

    tidester, host
    SUVs and Smart Shopper
  • My former ride was a '97 Prelude (non-SH) and it was a fun car to drive. If I had to pick between it and a same year GS-R for a "fun car" though, I'd go with the GS-R. It weighs less, is faster, and gets better gas mileage. Also, the Prelude required premium, not sure if the GS-R did. I think the Prelude looks much better though (and yes, I know I'm in the minority for thinking the 5G Prelude was a good looking car).

    Anyway, this is a great article. I was thinking to myself a few days ago that a "most fun used car for $X" type article would be a cool idea and low and behind one appears on Edmunds.
  • Keep the used car assessments coming. I think it is particularly useful when you can summarize the model year differences, problem areas, and particular options that are desirable.

    Do a $5-$10k or $10-15k top 10 next!!
  • volvomaxvolvomax Posts: 5,274
    In this case, "Best" seems to be most bang for the buck.

    These cars are going to require more TLC than a Civic DX for example.
  • fezofezo Posts: 9,360
    Yeah, that's certainly so.

    Can you really get a 2000 Miata for $5K? I suppose with enough miles. I was looking for one a year ago and the prices were north of that for anything in the second generation Miata.
  • Absolutely enjoyed this article.

    I spent about 7500 on my 2000 Mustang GT with about 70k miles on it about a year ago, so I think these prices are right on the money. American cars depreciate ridiculously.
  • I bought a 1 year old Mustang LX 5.0 5-speed in 1988, I loved that car. There's a 1991 near me now that might be available, I am very tempted.

    Stay away from the first gen Eclipse/Talon if you're tall, Same thing for the early 90's 240sx (which I sold in 1990-91). I'm 6-4 and my head hit the roof in both models.

    I would bet that less than 5% of the 240sx's out there are unmodified. You ain't kidding that they are popular with the drifter crowd.

    Finally, you can get a pretty good deal on a Porsche 944. I have seen plenty of sub 100k mile cars for $5-6k. If it's just a toy why not a Porsche vs a 240sx.
  • tidestertidester Posts: 10,110
    Stay away from the first gen Eclipse/Talon if you're tall,

    I had one of those '90 Talons and absolutely loved it! :)

    I am of average height and it fit like glove but, yes, a very tall person would be a bit cramped.

    tidester, host
    SUVs and Smart Shopper
  • volvomaxvolvomax Posts: 5,274
    Finally, you can get a pretty good deal on a Porsche 944. I have seen plenty of sub 100k mile cars for $5-6k. If it's just a toy why not a Porsche vs a 240sx.

    Because 944 running costs will eat you out of house and home.
  • volvomaxvolvomax Posts: 5,274
    I had one of those '90 Talons and absolutely loved it!

    I am of average height and it fit like glove but, yes, a very tall person would be a bit cramped.

    I had a 95 Eclipse GST, great car!
  • I'd love to have a first gen or second gen Miata as a "toy". Just simply a wonderful car, meant for the purity of driving a fun car. It will lose a drag race to a minivan or even a modern econobox, but it's not always about speed is it?

    There was an unmolested 240SX around me a few months ago. It's a shame that most of them have gone to "rice rocket" land, along with the DSM cars (Don't forget the Plymouth Laser version of the first gen cars) the MR2, Prelude (another one I'd love to have).

    For the pony cars, I've always been a Mustang fan. I never cared for the look, the interior or the driving position of the GM cars.

    Great list, I'd give more props to the 944 suggestion, but the prices for parts,are,uh, Porsche. I recently started looking in the 5k realm for a used car. 5k COULD get you a BMW 750iL. But just researching the parts via Advanced Auto Parts internet site was sobering enough. Combine that with the V12 thirst for premium fuel and you remember why they were rare (where I live) to begin with and why many don't exist now.

    But oh for owning a V12 powered anything! :shades:
  • I just picked up a 1.8L 16V with some minor modifications for $1500. This car is completely tossable and handles like a go-kart. We'll see how reliable it is. There is an abundance of parts and references out there for this car too.
  • Thanks for the article post. I've been searching a long time for the perfect kind of starter car for myself, Stick obviously, and I know there were places to find them cheap but I had no foundation and no one to say "ok, here's a list of good, decent cars and with budget you can't beat ay ANY dealer". I agree Prelude's are the most underrated car I've ever seen but that makes me chase them because I want a car that rarely anyone would see or drive. All I see is Civics, Camrys, Corollas, etc. the normal average cars.
  • I don't think that you should overlook the Ford Contour SVT as a best buy for under 5k. It has as good or better performance as some of the cars listed, plus it has four doors for hauling the kids too. It also sounds awesome and is a ton of fun.
  • fezofezo Posts: 9,360
    Good candidate. That's indeed a fun car and in teh right price range.
  • Another good one would be the 89'-94' Ford Taurus SHO with 3.0 and 3.2 and 5 speed...the v6 throws out 220 hp and 200 lb-ft...I had one and the yamaha built v6 sounded really good it has plenty of interior room and 4 doors definitely cheap too
  • lokkilokki Posts: 1,200
    How are those old SHO's on maintence? I'm not talking about door knobs and that kind of little stuff.... Is that Yamaha still a pretty good engine when it gets old? How about the 5-speed?

    Since they're speciality items, the general rule says that they're either going to be really good.... or really bad.

    I had a friend who had an SHO when they were still new; it was a really nice car. Then he got married, and traded it for a - wait for it - Chrysler mini van to haul the kid around. Sic transit gloria mundi, is it not so?
  • The 89' sho used a cable shifter which wore out after a while and would kink up and cause shifts to be hard but in 90' ford switched to rods which held up good...they make a kit to put a rod shifter in the 89'...the engine is amazing and sounds good...mine had 150,000 miles on it and ran like the day it came out of the can get a low mile sho in really good shape for 2-3 are a little expensive but no more than some imports...maintence is no more than any other car except for a 100,000 mile tune up that was kind of expensive
  • I also think the 5g prelude to be good looking so you're not alone :). The article was talking about getting an SH and I wondering if you can tell by the VIN number if you can't tell from the owner and symbols and I'm guessing you couldn't get ATTS on base models right?
  • I thought that the Prelude SH was an actual model, like LS,SE,etc. I might not be remembering correctly, but I think the Prelude SH had it as maybe a sticker on the back.

    I imagine you could learn from the VIN and I'm sure a Honda specific forum or website could help you. Not sure about ATTS, but again, I don't think that this gen Prelude ever came as a "stripper". Even the base car was pretty well loaded (for a Honda)
  • kyfdxkyfdx Posts: 29,224
    Compared to the other cars listed, finding one for $5K would seem to be a real stretch... Plus, any decent SH is probably going to be twice that...

    For my money, the first one listed... the Acura GS-R would be my choice.. As they say, though... most have gotten the full "treatment" by now...

    Prices Paid, Lease Questions, SUVs

  • Great article.

    I picked up a 99 Miata last year in very very good condition...I definately reccomend one as a fun second car.

    There is a ton of aftermarket support on this car too...this summer I am going to turbocharge my car. A reputable company that specializes in Miata upgrades offers a turbo kit for $1800 for a 99-2000 Miata. They claim a minimum of 160WHP which I would say is comparable to about 190HP at the crank. 190HP in a 2200lb convertible??? I can't wait. I won't lose to a minivan ;)
  • stephen987stephen987 Posts: 1,994
    I owned a '90 240SX for several years. It was an amazing car--absolute mountains of torque from the stock SOHC 2.4 ('91 and later had a DOHC version that's even better), with perfectly balanced handling. NO NEED for the SR20DET swap!!!! Even better: it was a superb road car, with fantastic seat comfort and 28-30 mpg at 75-80 mph.

    Potential buyers should watch for the following problems:
    --speedometer sensor in the tail end of the transmission will sometimes fail, leading to erroneous speedo/odo readings, or none at all.
    --rattles, because the first-gen fastback has an awfully huge hatch opening. Mine also had the pop-up sunroof, so that's another source.
    --fuel injector seals. A low-mileage car will have cracks here, leading to the omnipresent but hard to trace aroma of gasoline.
    --body leaks. Mine leaked through, of all places, the rear window washer nozzle, staining the headliner badly.
    --brake and clutch hydraulics, especially if the car is allowed to sit for any length of time.

    I sold mine for $800 at about 130k six years ago, because it would've cost me another $1500 to fix everything that was wrong with it. I've mourned the loss ever since.
  • iron_maniron_man Posts: 1
    I owned a 94 mustang GT which I bought used in 96 for like $10K.

    I installed a catback exhaust, 3.55 gears, underdrive pulleys, K&N.

    I had that through college, first job, grad school, and a little while after I finished grad school.

    When I got rid of it it had 120K+ miles and was 12 yrs old and was still going very strong.

    I beat the heck out of the that car on a regular basis and it never gave me any problems.....that was one tough car. It had tons of torque...esp with the 3.55 gear. Also it sounded great with the exhaust...not too loud just a really good rumble. It was a great car for me at the time considering I was in school most of the time. It was fun to drive, maintenance was cheap, and I never had any costly repairs.
  • igozoomzoomigozoomzoom Waleska, GeorgiaPosts: 791
    If you can find one that hasn't been modified and/or driven into the ground, both the Civic Si and CRX Si are still a blast to drive!
  • I had a 98 2.5 RS coupe, black with gold wheels and trim. It was a blast to drive on road, off road, in the snow, rain, dry, blasting back and forth from Boston to New York, cross country, Montreal, ski trips...that car never let me down. I miss it immensely. I upgraded to a first gen WRX when they arrived here. That was a fun car, but it lacked the spirit and the spunk of the RS. I'll take the 165 hp boxer over the 2.0 turbo any day. I've looked for a replacement, but a low-mileage used is pretty hard to find.
  • dyziodyzio Posts: 9
    great car choice..!..great thread..
    how about next topics: best till; 10, 20 , 30 K $....,

    I love 240sx looks !
    mr2 nice car..
    Miata and prelude are cool..

    but well presercved Mustang Camaro or F-birrd from 80/90-ties would be also nice shot
  • dyziodyzio Posts: 9
    how about first Pontiac Solstice...?IMAGE CAR
    I've seen yesterday it parked next to Porshe 911 previous gen..and I dont need to tell you wchich one looked best ..
    Solstice look 3x better , an d cost 3 x less....
  • igozoomzoomigozoomzoom Waleska, GeorgiaPosts: 791
    The '07-'01 Prelude is probably my favorite car on this list. But finding even a base model in good condition for under $5k is nearly impossible! I searched AutoTrader for '97-'01 Preludes within 300 miles of Atlanta. There were 89 of them, but only two under $5k- a '99 SH with 217k miles, automatic trans and some exterior mods AND a '97 base model with interior and exterior mods and 190k miles (also automatic).

    Most were in the $7k and up range.....
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