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Used car under $3000

I’m in need of a car under $3000, but safe and reliable. I know it’ll have a bunch of miles on it but as long as it continues to run or requires cheap maintenance I’ll be ok. Any ideas about specific cars I should be looking for? Also, anyone know any reputable used car dealers in the DC metro area?

If that is all the money you can afford to spend, your best bets will probably be a ten or so year old domestic car, like a Buick LeSabre/Park Avenue/Century, Pontiac Bonneville/Sunfire/Grand Am/Grand Prix, or Chevy Malibu/Cavalier. Ford Escort/Focus/Taurus/Crown Victoria as well as Mercury counterparts are also good bets. Asian cars from Honda, Toyota, and Hyundai/Kia are also highly recommended but may need a timing belt and water pump right off the bat to ensure their continued reliability (usually a $400-1000 job, depending on the vehicle). Of the domestics listed, the Escort and Focus use a timing belt. Pretty much any Asian car in your price range will use a timing belt. You will also get a nicer, newer, lower mileage example of a domestic car than you will for a comparable Asian car due to the high demand and high resale value of the Asian makes, especially Honda and Toyota vehicles. The domestics will serve you as well or better than the Asian cars as long as you don’t get an abused and neglected example.

Looking For A Safe, Reliable Car For Under $3000 ? I Always Say, “Let Me Know If You Find 2 And I’ll Take The Other One !”

Purchasing such a car for slightly more than scrap metal value is a tall order, but it’s possible. I’ve done it (Well, . . . $4000) I Got A Dandy (2001 Impala, 4 years ago).

The three most important things to look for are condition, condition, and condition. Don’t get hung up on make, model, etcetera. If you aren’t a good judge of condition then be sure to get the help of somebody who is.

Mark9207 gave some good advice. Reread that and give it some thought.

Here’s something else to think about. I like to try and buy a car like this that is currently licensed, insured, and being driven daily (That’s what you’ll want to do with it). This makes the search a little tougher, but when a car is just sitting with no plate, insurance, etcetera, with weeds growing up under it, I always wonder why it was abandoned (don’t take the owner’s word).

Look at many, many cars first and buy just one. By looking at many, you’ll learn what a good deal looks like when it comes along.


You don’t have a lot of choices with only $3,000 to spend. It does not matter as much what it is (US, Asian, etc.) as how it has been driven and maintained. A big old American land yacht (i.e. Ford Crown Victoria, Chrysler minivan, etc.) driven to church and well maintained by the little old lady would be a better choice over the 200,000 Honda Civic driven hard by a college kid. Last year’s $3.000 cheap Asian car is this year’s $5,000 used car, thanks to the economy. Keep looking on craigslist until something comes up.

I think you will do better looking at private sales than used car dealers. Check the Washington Post, Washington Times, and Baltimore Sun for ads. Craigslist is a good option, too. It’s a tall order, but if you can find a one owner car with all the repair and maintenance records and in good shape, you will have a winner. Older owners selling a car are often good bets since they usually have learned to take care of their cars. Of course, that often means you have to buy Your Father’s Oldsmobile.

Safe and reliable at $3k ? I agree you can’t think of make, model or color. You need to be in the right place at he right time. For $3k, I believe your best bet is private sale and not dealer. Bang for the buck will be cheapest compacts, Focus and Prisms, and odd ball models like 4 cyl compact pick ups like Rangers and S10s and older big v8 s that no one one wants along with lots of Chrysler products.

If you need safety and a couple of years, you will need to eliminate rust buckets too. Don’t think that a car that appears to be well taken care of mechanically but is low price because of severe body rust is a safe buy; it isn’t.

ford escort/mercury tracer are very good cheap cars as are honda civics toyota corollas toyota camrys honda accords nissan sentra not i got a ford escort hatchback sedan with only 123,300 miles on it for 1,100 and it has only needed a aligment and inner tie rods since febuary

Look at Consumer Reports car issues to get an idea of what cars are reliable and which ones to avoid. You can find them at most libraries and you may have to find at an issue several years old to find info on cars in your price range. That’s how we bought our 3 kids cars in the $2-3K price range.

I don’t think consumer report is going to be much help for a $3000 car. There was a time that you could get a decent sedan for $2K and budget the other $1K to bring it up to date with the stuff it needed. Now I will just look for a well maintained car that is not rusty. Chances are you would find more domestic cars in that price range.