My husband starts a new job soon. Good news: better job. Bad news: loses company car from old job. We are looking for a very cheap, reliable used car for him to drive back and forth to work. Very cheap being a primary objective. Any recommendations for best used car under $3000?
Cheap car = Oxymoron
Seriously, in that price range the condition is much more important than the specific make model. I would look for something with less than about 150K miles that has been well maintained. The smaller and simpler, the better. You may find a better deal if the car is cosmetically challenged (ugly) and not a very popular model (that will tend to be overpriced). Consider having the car inspected by a good shop before you make an offer.
The two ways to go are; simple, older, econobox (Toyota Tercel, Mazda 323/protege, Honda Civic) or a fast depreciator, such as a Ford Crown Victoria, Mercury Grand Marquis with less than 150,000 miles. To save money on service & repairs, avoid any Volkswagen, any Daewoo (orphans), early Doge Neons, older For Taurus/Mercury Sable, Chevrolet Cavaliers (except very low mileage).
In all cases, it pays to spend $100 or so to get a mechanic to check it out first.
I would say a Crown Vic/Grand Marquis, Buick, etc. More common, generally easier to get serviced, and any repair parts can usually be had cheaper.
Skip Honda/Toyora as they hold their value and tend to be worn out in your price range and overpriced used anyway.
A recent low mileage Cavalier or Sunfire comes to mind amongst all Buick’s.
All the same. The market decides. If there were one car easily recognized as being the best car under $3000 it would sell for $5000.
Lean towards newer American cars that depreciate quickly rather than an older Japanese car that sells for a premium for most of its usable life.
Finally, understand that the most important thing about a low-priced used car is its condition, not its name. Be sure to have each candidate checked out by a mechanic before you write the check. And expect maybe $500 in recommended repairs and servicing for whatever you settle on. Perfectly normal.
Gee, I have a 98 camry with 29K on it. I need to sell it for my mother. kelly says 5-6K dep on condition but I’ll take 3500. wonder what zip code you’re in???
The latest Consumer Reports 2008 Buying Guide lists cars that they deam reliable in different price categories. One category is the Under $4000. Perhaps some of the models listed might fit your category.
Try your state fleets auction!
Geo Prizm. Best cheap used car I can think of. Don’t be afraid of high mileage, as long as the owner can prove the car was maintained correctly. The Prizm we had in my family was still going strong when we sold it at 185K miles.
Others are Toyota Corolla, Mazda Protege, Ford Escort, and Honda Civic. Gas prices being what they are, the price of these cars may have risen lately.
Used Hyundai Accents can be had for next to nothing. Buy the newest one you can get for the money, but DO NOT scrimp on the maintenance. Timing belt replacement is critical on these cars.
Look for a well-maintained car, not a beauty. I still believe it’s possible to purchase a reliable car for less than $3K, but don’t expect it to run forever. Good luck!
The zip code would start with a 9.
Right now you have two things going for you: 1) you seem to be able to lay your hands on $3000; 2) cars don’t sell well this time of the year. You may want to search for a car sold by a private party. Look for ads not only in the newspaper but on bulletin boards in grocery stores, laudramats, etc.
After an automobile passes a certain age, it doesn’t have loan value. New car dealers almost always wholesale these cars. Used car dealers often pick these up and carry the financing. However, they make a good profit in doing so. The private party who wants to sell a car has to compete with this and this is often where good deals are found. In the summer of 2003 I sold two cars. One was a 1995 Mercury Grand Marquis with about 95,000 miles and wsa in perfect shape that we inherited from my father-in-law. I didn’t get a single response to the ad I placed in the paper. A neighbor saw the car, took it for a drive and decided he liked it better than the Cadillac that they had. I think I sold it for a little over $3000. I also had a 1993 Oldmobile 88 that I had purchased used in 1996 with 14,000 miles. It, too, had been well maintained and looked nice. I finally sold it to a co-worker for $2500. It had about 95,000 miles on the odometer. I would have kept both cars, but I need a minivan and the seats in the Oldmobile were never really comfortable for us–we like to sit up. Back in 2000, I sold a 1989 Mercury Sable that I had inherited from my own father. My son had used the car after us and it had over 120,000 miles but still looked good and ran well. I sold it for around $1500 to another co-worker for his daughter to drive. I know that I sold the cars for less than what they were worth, but dealers didn’t want them on a trade because they had no loan value. If you look around, you will probably find a party that is in the same position I was in and needs to sell a car that still has a lot of service left in it.
As others have pointed out, have a mechanic check the car and set aside some extra money for repairs that may have to be made.
I have that book right here. The list of most reliable vehicles for under $4000 has 98 Chevy Prism, 98 Chevy Tracker, 99 Ford Escort, 97 Geo Prism, 97-98 Mazda Protege (great car! I had one until I upgraded to an 03 MazdaSpeed Protege), 99 Mercury Tracer, 97 Subaru Impreza, 98 Suzuki Sidekick, 97 Toyota Tercel.
How long is the comute?