Reliable car under $5k

I have $4,500 from the insurance company, after I wrecked my 2004 Pontiac Grand Prix. I’m in Des Moines, IA looking for a reliable car for $5,000 or under. I have a 2 year old daughter, and drive a lot of miles, mostly highway. I’d like some help with suggestions for vehicles that fit the bill (literally). Thank you!

I’d go visit a Repo Auction…No joke. With the economy being the way it is, repo lots are full of cars, many of them less that 5 years old and in good condition.

A good source of cheap cars is the classified ads. Look for an older car from a retiree who is dowsizing from a double to a single garage house. I’ve bought several 8 year old cars with low mileage over the years and had good luck with them. Make sure the maintenance was done on time.

You won’t find a Honda or Toyota at that price, becaus of their high resale value. A Mazda or Hyundi Sonata or Elantra would be a good bet. Make sure you have a qualified mechanic check it out.

Find the best maintained car in your price range. It is likely to be older than 7 years old, and condition is more important than who made it.

The first question you need to ask someone selling you a used car is as follows: If this used car is good, then why are you selling it?

If I could predict reliability in a $5000 used car, I’d be a prophet and I would be glad to reply with more exacting advice.

These replies may not be helpful but your question is not answerable.

I suggest that you shop for a good used car at a new car dealer in a small town away from a large urban area. Such a dealer can not be a crook and last for long. They, like any new car dealer can send the untrustworthy cars to the auction for the dealers who sell only used cars to buy up and resell.

In that price range, you honestly can’t expect a car to be particularly reliable. Make sure you have some money set aside for repairs. Also make sure you get a pre-purchase inspection from a mechanic.

Ideally you will find a one owner car who has all the records for recommended maintenance. It is foolish, but many owners don’t do the recommended maintenance and it often means some expensive repairs down the line.

Good Luck

I would not recommend an auction unless you (or your mechanic) can inspect the cars THOROUGHLY before purchase.

Look on Craigslist for American models like these–just as good as Toyota/Honda, but not as much in demand. For $4500, expect near 100k miles on a 2001-2004 model.

Buick Century
Chevy Cobalt or Malibu
Ford Taurus/Mercury Sable
Ford Focus
Pontiac Grand Am

There’s a few shops in the town I live in that will do a free inspection on a car you’re considering to buy at an auction or on a used car lot. Actually there’s places all over that do that.

There’s one other source that I find to be good when looking for a cheap reliable vehicle; friends & family. Don’t hold back, let ‘em all know you’re looking. It’s possible that Uncle Bob is tired of his ol’ beast, or cousin Lenny has graduated college and wants to upgrade.

You could look for a Scion xA. Should be in your price range, later model, pretty reliable, room for the kid, good fuel economy, and you’d get to feel like a teen again!

That’s my only idea. Everything else has been covered up there. Maybe look for a 3500 car and save the rest for repairs?

Hey… you aren’t the guy that called and offered me 4500 for my Audi TT are you?