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$500 car with cheap and easy repair and maintenance

I am wondering what kind of car should I get for $500.

It should be automatic and 4 door, It is not important about the look, and the car should be as basic as possible.

I am thinking about 80’ Toyota or Corolla, but I am open to suggestion.

What do you think?

Take that $500.00 and buy 500 lottery tickets.

You’ll save money in the long run.

Where do you live?

I have a friend with a $500 beater for sale. It’s a black part paint / part primer 1995 Corolla with almost 300,000 miles on it and a small exhaust leak. It’s safe and reliable (although you may want to patch the exhaust leak), nonfunctional AC, uses a quart of oil about every 300 to 500 miles. All the safety systems (lights, brakes, wipers, etc.) are fully in order. A puff of smoke comes out the tailpipe (both visable to the car behind) on the highway when downshifting and it smokes a bit on heavy acceleration, indicating tired valve stem seals and tired rings and cylinders. The body is sound…no rot at all.

In summary, the engine is tired but reliable, the body is totally sound but ugly as sin, and all the safety stuff is in good shape.

What kind of car should you get for $500? I think the question should be “What kind of car can you get for $500?” When you’re at the point where you’re looking at $500 cars, the make and model is irrelevant. Basically you should look for the one with the least amount of problemsand every $500 car you come across will have problems.

Agree, a simple car with an ugly body (rust, dimples, etc) can be bought for $500 or so. As long as you stick to 2 wheel drive, minimal accessories, and don’t mind driving a 12+ year old car.

A basic 10+ Chevy Cavalier with a few dints will cost you about that much. Don’t expect anything beautiful at that price.

$500? Here is your budget:

$350–Mountain Bike
$50 --Helmet and lock
$100–Bus Pass

Don’t worry about the car being basic or not. Just find a domestic or Asian branded car that is running and drives decently.

Just look what is in the price range $500-$1000 that is 4 door and automatic and try them all out. I made it through part of college(2.5yrs) with a $700 excessively rusty 1985 Subaru XT (funky looking coupe) with little repairs. I think in the end it is pure luck more than anything.

I agree with andrew. Luck has a lot to do with it. I have had $500 cars that ran well until the day they died years later. I have had others that died on the way home.

I sometimes listen to a radio show that offers financial advice to listeners. The Guru’s basic premise is sound but lacks specifics without which his good advice might cause more harm than good. There are dozens of vehicles for less than $1,000 in this small town but to purchase one with your last dollar might leave you walking home totally broke. When that guru does mention a specific vehicle that proves him right it is usually the same tale of an old Ford Granada or Fairmont. I am tempted to call and ask where I can find one of those cars still running and for sale.

I go with the mountain bike. But if you have to have a car, get a manual transmission not an automatic cause they are cheeper and easyer to fix when they break down, and they will. If you cant drive a stick, find someone to teach you. It is a skill that you wont forget, like swimming or dare i say it again, riding a bike.

I’m serious about that black '95 Corolla. If you live in the southern NH area, say so and we can make contact.

A P71 Crown Vic, former cop car…For $500, it will be rough looking and pushing 200K miles but with any luck you might be able to get another year or two out of it…For $2500, you can get a pretty nice one…For four grand, you can find a REAL nice one…The powertrain is basically the same as a F-150 so anyone can get parts and fix them…Heavy Duty everything, they are pretty much indestructible…

I don’t think mountainbike is for sale. But if he is I’ll take him for $350. His accumulated car wisdom will save me much more than that over time.

Because I heard someone got a car from a mechanic for $500, I am just wondering.

And I live in Vancouver.

I heard VW Old Beetle are easy to fix, and I want to know what etc are east to fix and reliable.

Craigslist is the way to go for something like this. As far as a P71 Crown Vic, for $500 it will likely be very rusty and have around 300k miles on it. I recently saw one with some rust for sale 25 miles from where I live, with 300k miles on it, for $1200. For your price range, I suggest an early to mid '90s GM FWD car. They are fairly easy to find in reasonable shape and tend to be quite reliable, bulletproof (within reason), and very cheap and easy to repair. Exception: avoid Quad fours that make valvetrain/timing system noise and/or have obviously not received regular maintenance. They will become a headache and a money pit. Older Asian cars can be reliable, but will require more maintenance to keep them on the road than a comparable domestic. I am a fan of GMs of this vintage because they have always done me right.

When shopping for a $500 car, there are questions to ask and questions not to ask.

Do not ask "Has this car been in an accident?"
Do ask: “How bad was the accident the car was in?”

Do not ask "Does this car burn oil?"
Do ask “How much oil does this car burn?”

Don’t look for a particular make. Don’t concern yourself with what Consumer Reports says about the car.

Instead, check to be sure that the floorboards haven’t rusted through, the steering gear is tight, the transmission shifts properly and the engine isn’t excessively noisy or belches a lot of smoke out the exhaust pipe.

Non working air conditioning, radios, etc. are to be expected. You need the brakes to work, the lights to work, the car to steer correctly, and the exhaust system to not have holes.

I paid $75 for my first car back in 1961. It was a 1947 Pontiac. The engine used some oil, the transmission howled in first gear due to a worn cluster gear, the radio antenna was broken, a couple of the tires were shot and the car was filthy inside and out. I bought a couple of recapped tires, replaced the radio antenna, changed the oil, and put on turn signals (turn signals weren’t standard equipment back in 1947). I went to work on the exterior of the car with rubbing compound and then polish and then wax. I thoroughly vacuumed the interior. The interior was actually in really good shape. I used the car for a year, sold it, and it was still on the streets two years later.
Be prepared to spend a little money on your $500 car to make it safe and use some elbow grease to clean it up. You may just have a transportation bargain.

I have an 87 Corolla with 136,000 miles. It was given to me. It gets about 34 miles to the gallon, and is very easy to work on, which is basic repair so far. For $500 if that is what you can afford, a Corolla is maybe your only bet. But my Toyota was well maintained, and has low mileage for it’s age. Look for low mileage and adherence to scheduled maintenance (timing chain replacement is pretty big). By low mileage I mean under 150k for a Corolla. I had an 84 that didn’t die but started falling apart at about 374,000 miles.

I doubt the OP will find any Hondas or Toyotas for $500. In my area, any Honda or Toyota that still runs and hasn’t completely rusted through is automatically a $3000 car. Why? Because it’s a Honda or Toyota. That’s why I recommend an older domestic in this case. They have no resale value, but are still good cars.

$500. is awfully close to “salvage value”. In my area there is a junkyard that will pay you $300 for any complete vehicle you can drag onto their doorstep. The ones they deem “too good” to throw in the crusher get parked out front and you can buy them as-is for $500 - $2000. Although I don’t know who would pay $2000 for something sitting in front of a junkyard.

I have seen cars sell for $400 - $800 (+auctioneers fee) at auto auctions. The kind of auctions you can attend for free. Seems like the “serious” auctions require you to put up a (maybe) refundable cash deposit in order to attend. Kinda weeds out the gawkers (like me!). But you just know those cars were traded in because they are old, worn out, and have multiple issues that need repair.

Another issue to consider: you may find a vehicle this cheap that seems to run just fine, but needs expensive work to pass state safety and / or emissions / smog inspection. I have learned on these boards that not all states / municipalities require these inspections; probably a factor in why so many used cars are transported to different states.

Other than that, its probably just, yeah, luck. Stumbling across someone who just wants that car off their driveway for whatever reason. It can take a long time to find that, so it works best if you have something else to drive while you’re looking.

Look for something at least 12 years old with some rust or light collision damage. Or an auction as someone else suggested. An auction near me will at least let you inspect the vehicles including under the hood and inside the day before the auction. Or possibly a private owner or Craigslist.

Good luck. You will likely get what you pay for. (a P.O.S.)