What's the least I can hope to pay for a decent car?

Really , where you are there must not be ( Buy here-Pay here ) lots.

I work on my own vehicles new or old, the mechanics has not changed, electronics has. Like everything else continual education is needed, you do not need fancy $7000.00 scanners to repair or do routine maintenance. If you can afford to take your vehicle to a dealer for routine maintenance then go for it, I perfer to save the money and do it my self! Buying a newer vehicle and the best way to afford it was what I was trying to tell you,
Look at what you can afford in payments first then go from their!

When I realized that in a year or so, I might be due for a new car, I figured out what I could afford to pay each month for car payments and had that amount deducted each month from my check and deposited into an account at the credit union. The money I deposited grew interest. Meanwhile, I decided to keep running the car I was driving, a 1965 Rambler, as long as possible.
A couple of years later, I found a good used car six years newer than the Rambler and I had more than enough to pay cash for the car
I should also note that the car I bought had an initial price of $2495. I told the dealer I had a car to trade in. The salesman said he would trade for $2200. The sales manager intervened and said I could buy the car straight out for $2000 if I didn’t leave the old Rambler on his lot. I sold the Rambler a week after buying the newer car for $250. This was back in 1973.
When a car gets to be a certain age, the dealer doesn’t want it as a trade-in.

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Unless you’re currently aware of problems with the Saturn your lowest cost bet may be to continue driving it, while keeping up with routine maintenance, fluid changes, etc. No car with that mileage “owes” you anything, but going another 50,000mi. or more with only relatively minor repairs isn’t out of the question.

As for potential used cars, buy newer if you can afford it, but here are the Edmunds Private Party/Dealership prices for several examples of well maintained cars in “excellent” condition owned by my family and neighbors in CA (no rust or hard winters): 2006 Civic LX 4Dr Sedan, 140,000mi.: $2063/$3360. 2005 Toyota Prius, 125,000mi.: $2175/$3819. 2006 Subaru 6cyl. 89,000mi.: $3641/5723. Toyota Camry Hybrid 125,000mi. $3516/$5745. All have required very little expense beyond routine maintenance and can be expected to last well beyond 200,000mi, even to 300,000mi, with routine care (the hybrids might need a ~ $2500-$3000 battery replacement at some point, but then be good for another 100,000-200,000mi and save one a lot on gas). Toyota hybrids especially have proven to be extremely reliable and long lasting. The point being that there are good older cars out there that don’t cost an arm and a leg, though you will need to evaluate them carefully and be prepared to reject many that are questionable.