Top 9 Best Used Cars Under $2000
Being on a budget doesn’t mean you should pick the first cheap car that comes along!
Updated October 3, 2018
Finding used cars under $2000 can be a bit of a minefield because, let’s be honest, their best years are going to be behind them now. That doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to get burned the moment you hand over your cash though, and there are definitely some hidden gems out there.
A number of vehicle purchases are nothing more than turning up, kicking the tires and saying “Yep, that’ll do”, but when you’re looking at the lower end of the market, you need to be a little more circumspect.
We should also remember that buying a car that’s ten years old today is nothing like buying a car from two or three decades ago … manufacturing and engineering processes are so much better in today’s world that a regular car should easily surpass the quarter-million-mile mark without too much fuss.
What to Look for When Buying Used Cars Under $2000
The simplest way to buy used cars in this budget is to ignore aesthetics and go for as low miles or age as possible. On the other hand, you don’t want to be driving around in something that will make you the joke of the neighborhood, either.
As hard as it may be, we’d also say that while we love America, $2,000 is better spent on something Japanese (not even European). Yep, we said it. We think that it’s a more than common perception as well … generally speaking, Japanese cars are more reliable and you get more for your money.
With that said, who doesn’t like a bit of home-grown motoring?
We thought about listing live adverts just to prove that there are some great deals out there, but by the time you read this, they could be out of date. Instead, we’ve just based our choices on current adverts … all of these cars can be had for under $2,000.
2005 Nissan Maxima SL
The Nissan Maxima SL is four-door sedan with a V6 3.5-liter motor, priced at just under $2000.
The downside is that mileage tends to be pretty high … the example we found had done nearly a quarter-million miles. We’ll give credit where it’s due though, and you wouldn’t be able to tell it had high miles from just looking at it – we’re even pretty sure that it’ll drive just fine.
Sure, it isn’t going to get you your neighbors all excited, nor will it set any land-speed records, but it’s stylish enough, practical, and has a silky-smooth V6 under the hood.
2001 Honda Civic Coupe
It’s a Honda: it’s going to be reliable and it looks OK.
These little two-door coupes are a popular choice, though if you’re looking to fit people in the back, you may want to opt for the sedan to make life easier.
An inline four-cylinder motor powers it and while it may not tear up the highway, it returns pretty decent gas mileage … up to 34 mpg.
$1,500 is a relatively average asking price which you’ll probably even be able to haggle down if you want to, so there will still be enough money in the budget to fill it up with gas and even fund the first couple thousand miles.
The Subaru Outback is a widely praised vehicle and continues to bring in excellent sales for Subaru to this day. The Outback was introduced for the 1995 model year as a spinoff from the already popular Subaru Legacy. While time and age will have most likely dwindled the performance of a cheap example, the world-famous Subaru Symmetrical AWD system will likely still be champing through, and naturally aspirated Subaru engines are widely regarded to be damn-near bulletproof.
In the Outback, you’ll also enjoy a higher and smoother ride than most sedans and hatchbacks on the road, and if the suspension is in good shape, you should be able to handle a little bit of off-roading with few to no issues. While the average price point is around $3,000 for these crazy cheap cars, we’ve had no problems finding examples for much less than that.
No matter what you pay, know that Subaru is one of the most reliable brands out there, so you should be able to rest easy knowing you probably won’t have to deal with any major repairs.
2002 Audi A4
An Audi Quattro all-wheel drive 3.0-liter for $1,700? Sign us up.
Forget about the fact it’s almost legally old enough to drive itself; Audis are powerful and luxurious machines which should offer decent dependability.
As you may expect from one of Germany’s finest, this Audi has pretty much everything that you could get back then, including an AM/FM radio & cassette player, traction and stability control, a limited slip differential, smog sensor … it even has an original factory toolkit in the spare wheel well.
The only thing to know about owning a used luxury car is that repairs can be expensive, as well as regular service. This is a car for the do-it-yourselfer, most definitely.
2000 Honda Odyssey LX
Generally, the mileage is going to be high for this sort of money, but if you’re in need of a minivan, the Odyssey should definitely be on your list.
The Odyssey is one of the most well-known people movers around, and arguably the most reliable, to boot. It has generally been on the leading edge of innovation and safety technology, so even used examples are plenty safe and can be trusted with precious cargo.
The factory V6 makes 210 hp and a surprisingly capable 229 lb-ft of torque, which means you should have exactly as much power as you need from a minivan. Couple that with extreme affordability and you’ve got yourself a kid-hauler.
Mazda has long been synonymous with reliability, affordability, fuel economy, and surprisingly crisp handling in even their most basic offerings. The Protegé5 hatchback was introduced in 2001 during the eighth generation of the Mazda Familia line, also known by the name 323.
This precursor to the Mazda3 was sold with a 130 hp 2.0L engine but was also available as a turbocharged Mazdaspeed variant good for 170 hp and 160 lb-ft of torque. It’s possible to find one of these unicorns, but it’ll probably run you more and could cause problems in the long run, so it’s better to stick to the N/A version.
The Protegé5 is a 5-door hatchback, which means there’s plenty of room for both passengers and gear. TrueDelta searches reveal that this car is praised by owners for being incredibly reliable, with very few repairs needed throughout ownership.
2005 Honda CR-V
For those looking for something a little more SUV-like, the Honda CR-V could fit the bill, but be warned, most will have galactic mileage … anywhere from 150,000 to 300,000+.
The older models do tend to be a little more basic, but can still feature a decent level of equipment fitted if you find the right one. While we’d always say that picking the lower mileage one is the best choice, trim levels can vary hugely and it may be worth sacrificing some miles for a better specification.
The choice of the models we found had a few toys fitted as standard, such as full-automatic lighting, a built-in garage door opener, and a panic alarm. These SUVs are surprisingly rugged and durable, and have even been converted to off-roaders in older AWD versions.
2007 Hyundai Sonata
Another top-contender on the list of used cars under $2000.
It’s not very exciting – either to drive or look at – but it serves a purpose and does it well. The Hyundai brand has an excellent reputation for both reliability and for doing exactly what it’s meant to do. You just know that this car will keep on going long after you want it to.
The Sonata should be just big enough for someone looking for a mid-size sedan and has been known to return some legendary fuel economy figures. It’s incredibly efficient, but with its fragile nature, a crash is something to seriously avoid in a car like this.
Ford Crown Victoria
For those wanting something home-grown, the Ford Crown Victoria just has to be the choice when looking for used cars under $2000.
Prices vary hugely, mainly because these models are available from both private owners or were ex-Police cars (and Taxis). If you’re not too bothered about a few dings or markings, then we found an ex-Interceptor for less than $1,900 and only 120,000 miles from new and of course, it will have been mechanically well-looked after, albeit a bit thrashed here and there.
A 4.6-liter V8 sits under the hood giving you all the power you need, and it should still return around 23 mpg on the highway. It’s not pretty, but this would definitely have to qualify as one of the best used cars under $2,000.
Check, Check and Double Check
Shopping for used cars under $2000 doesn’t have to be stressful and a few simple checks can at least give you an understanding of how the car has been treated and whether it’s likely to have issues.
A quick dip of the stick should tell you whether it at least has oil in it and whether there could be an underlying problem … a brown sludgy mess could be signs of a head gasket failure.
Most cars of this age & mileage won’t be clean and clear so expect to see dirty brown water – at least make sure it’s full.
Condition is everything; make sure the sidewalls aren’t cracking and that there is some tread left and that they’re inflated.
Sounds basic, but check that everything electrical is working as it should. This means the stereo, wipers, lights and brights, turn signals, power windows, mirrors, and locks, and anything else you can think of.
- Panel Gaps
A little more involved, but checking panel gaps is a great way of seeing whether the car has had a cheap repair.
- General Condition
Any seller that can’t work up the enthusiasm to clean a car before trying to sell it probably didn’t look after or take care of it well in the first place. The condition of a car is only as good as its owner’s habits.
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