I feel for people who are not mechanically inclined and are left to rely on the “reliability” of “good cars” in their search for a new vehicle. This sort of thing can actually work when you are talking about a brand new vehicle off the showroom floor (sometimes not), but it really does not work when we are discussing a vehicle that is 9-14 yrs old. Any and all reliability could have been properly used up by those years gone by and former owners who did nothing more than rely on their vehicles “reliability” to carry them through as many trouble free miles as they could squeeze out of it…as soon as it started to become Un-Trouble free, they sold it… For someone else to buy it, hoping for reliability.
As a mechanic a budget of 4K for a used car can get you an unbelievable list of vehicles to buy, trust me I know first hand. But if you dont do your own work then you really cannot play the same (mechanic buying a used car) game since most owners have already used up a vehicles reliability that was built into it to give it a good reputation, so it is near impossible for any of us to recommend a “reliable” vehicle that fits into your price and year range.
Also, Cheap Parts are for cheap cars that break down because of poor quality components, Expensive Parts are what keep reliable cars reliable…so the “Cheap Parts, Reliable Car” theory is an extremely flawed idea especially when trying to select a good, reliable, used vehicle.