Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

I only have a little over $1,000.00 to buy a used car. What would be the best used car to get?

I was wondering for a little over one thousand dollars what is the best used car to get? Also are Chevy Malibu’s, Audi’s and Volkswagons bad cars? How much maxium should be the most for mileage? What’s the best used car for gas? If I get a car from a person and not a dealership what should I look out for? Need Advice help!

Ashley, you are not going to get much for $1,000.00. If you are lucky a friend or relative has a car they want to get rid of that is in good shape and you can work a deal at this price. A private party or dealer is not selling a reliable car for this kind of money. Audi’s and Volkswagons, anything from Europe, are expensive to fix and at this price there will be tons of work needed to keep them on the road.

None of those are “bad” vehicles, but keep in mind that parts for domestics are going to cost you less than parts for imports, and be more widely available.

Mileage…hmmm…I’d try and stay under 150K, if you can. $1K isn’t going to get you all that much, though. It can be done, but it’s going to take some tough shopping and bargaining.

When it comes to motors and transmissions, there’s nothing quite like a clean, well taken care of (as in maintenance) car. If the maintenance is all kept up, many vehicles can hit the 250K mark without too much difficulty.

In that price range, you’re going to be looking at older cars. You’ll want to find a buddy who knows a thing or several about cars to go shopping with you, who can inspect cars for signs of damage from being ignored and what-not. Either that, or take the car you’re really interested in to a good local mechanic for a good once over to make sure it’s in decent shape before you buy. That’s not going to be free, but it’s your best bet to make sure there’s nothing too obvious lurking under the hood.

Best of luck

Reliability and a purchase price of $1000 are in opposition. You probably have a better chance by running an ad and asking for a free gift car for a person in need. At least then, a person/relative who relates to your financial woes and can empathize and would be more likely to give you a decent car, realizing that you will need to spend much more in repairs at some point. Buying a car for that little almost guarantees a junker.

For that money you basically want to find a Ford Escort. It will be old with high miles, but on the whole these are generally reliable and easy to work on. Have someone who knows what they are doing check the compression. Actually, in general, set a side $100 for a mechanic to check it over - but make sure it includes checking the compression.

In addition, regardless of anything else, a manual transmission is always a better option for the financially challenged. They are less trouble prone and not as much trouble to deal with if there are difficulties.

If all you have for a car is a little over $1000 you absolutely, positively do not buy an Audi or VW even if you found someone offering one. This would rapidly become a disaster for you.

We sold my mother-in-law’s car last fall for $750. It was a 1994 Pontiac Sunbird with only about 42,000 m iles on it, and well maintained. The A/C did not work and the gas gage acted up every now and then. The girl who bought it will have good and cheap transportation for 2-3 years.

In other words, don’t look at any European car or complex North American or Asian car. A low mileage Chevy Cobalt with no options can be had for under $1000. A Ford escort or Mazda Protege would also be a good choice. As others say, be humble and buy a car that is not popular.

I can vouch for the Escort. I own 5 of them 2-1988’s one of which has over 515K miles, 1-1994, 1-1997, 1-2002. Between the 5 of them they have a total of over 850K miles on them and are all still very dependable. The largest repair that’s ever been done to any of them was the '94 which had to have a new head put on the engine several years ago. Even the '88 with 515K+ miles is being driven 20-200 miles per day and all I’m doing to it is keeping it serviced and repairing normal wear parts. If you look around you can find a decent Escort reasonably cheap and as someone else has already said they are easy to work on and replacement parts at a chain parts store such as Advance Auto Parts or Auto Zone are priced reasonable. In the last 3 years I’ve bought 2 of my Escorts the 2002 which had 79K miles on it for $2000. and one of my 1988’s which had 78K miles for $800. Besides being in good mechanical condition the body and interior on both were very good. I always buy the lifetime warranty parts then if it ever goes out again all I have to do is take it back and get another new one FREE. If you look for an Escort I’d recommend a stick shift if you know how to drive one, because automatic transmissions in any car won’t last as long and will give more trouble than a straight shift, plus you’ll get better gas mileage. The main thing is to take your time and find a decent car for your money and don’t jump on the first thing that comes along. There are some good deals out there, you just have to look for them!!

Search the offerings on Craigslist and see what you can come up with…Look for a geezer-mobile, something being sold at an estate sale…A 4 cylinder stick-shift will be the most reliable.

I wish I knew. I can probably get a broken car for free but I can fix them cheaply with used parts and creativity. You need a running one and they’re not so cheap these days.

I can vouch for an old Nissan Sentra. I have a 1998 one with over 228,000 miles on it and it runs like a top. It’s not much to look at but hey, it gets me to where I am going!

Take public transportation, save your money and buy a car when you get at least $3,000 saved.

If you can only afford $1,000 to buy a car, how are you going to spend $400 on tires, or $500 for insurance? Not everyone should own a car.

This is America!! Everyone MUST own a car!! Cars are the tin Gods of our culture…Ashley just needs more money! Hold a fund-raiser Ashley!

Something dime-a-dozen and American from the 1990s will be your best bet. Think Escort, Taurus, Cavalier, LeSabre, etc, but be careful! At least take a mechanically inclined friend or family member with you to look it over.

A bicycle with a good lock.