My car got impounded (for being a piece of junk) and isn’t worth the cost of springing it. I need a new one, I’m broke, and I want a car that is safer on the road, better for the environment, and that my mechanic won’t hate me for. also under $5,000. I could probably swing 5,000. Hopefully. Ha ha.
This question comes up frequently, in slightly different ways.
Take a look at the following thread, as it will likely answer most of the questions that you may have:
Look for an old car that has been well maintained with low mileage. A ten year old car with less than 100,000 miles would work. The price will be lower if it is not popular. Leave Toyotas and Hondas off the list; think Chevrolet, Oldsmobile, Buick, Mercury or Ford. Toyotas and Hondas are fine cars, but they retain value too well. Ideally, you will find one with all the maintenance and repair records. Reliability ratings don’t mean as much in an older car since most of what might have gone wrong whould have already. A retired person selling their car is a good bet. Since you don’t have much money, a couple hundred dollars for a mechanic’s evaluation might be too expensive. If you have a friend that knows about cars, take her along to look at the car with you.
Put Toyota back on the list with a pre to 02 Chevy Prism…best bang for the buck if condition is reasonable. I bought an 02 in 04 for $7500 with 22k miles. A similar model 4 to 5 years later and near 100k with lots of life still left, should be had for less than $5000. Our older ones our kids drove were good for well over 200K with minimal maintenance and repair. Rust inspection will be a concern. Body integrity will in my opinion be at least as important as mechanical maintenance. Consider a not as old Hyundai as well. If you can’t afford more than $5k, you can’t afford frequent repairs, so avoid the temptation of cheap Chrysler products.
Domestically, I’d lean towards older Fords (Taurus example). Little old lady owned low mileage older cars are not necessarily good bets as they may fast become rust buckets while higher mileaqe, well maintained newer cars are safer to drive I feel.
Good luck in your search.
By the way, why would your mechanic “hate” a poor choice if it needs frequent repair ? $$$$ in his/her pocket. Be careful of their recommendations. Unless, he/she a relative who really cares.