Looking for cars under $5000 can be a nightmare. With the average price of a new car reaching $40,000, people are holding onto their cars longer. That means higher resale values as used car supplies dwindle. It also means that the quality of the cars under $5000 is not what it used to be. That is why we thought it would be a good idea to put together a list of used cars under $5000 that are often solid options for primary transportation or as a first car for your teenager. We considered every car from every automaker and built our list to include the best options from each. We’ve also limited ourselves to cars, SUVs, and minivans that are less than 15 model years old and should have fewer than 150,000 miles while still meeting our $5000 price limit.
What to Expect From Cars Under $5000
Obviously, you are not going to be able to find a low mileage cream puff if you are searching for used cars under $5000. That doesn’t mean that you have to settle for a rust bucket with a gazillion miles, either. If you search carefully, you should be able to find a car with less than 150,000 miles from a well-known automaker. So, without further ado, let’s have a look at a few of the cars under $5000 that should be reliable transportation. For the sake of convenience, we have lumped automakers together. For instance, all Ford models are together, etc.
1. Acura TL
The Acura TL is a great mid-size luxury sedan that comes with the added bonus of having a powerful engine. Unfortunately, you have to go back more than 10 years to find cars under $5000. While that may sound like a lot of age, the Acura TL is backed by the legendary quality and long-term durability of Honda Motors. The 3.2L powerplant commonly equipped in these cars under $5000 offers up 270 hp and 238 lb-ft of torque as well as 27 mpg on the highway.
2. Acura MDX
The Acura MDX is proof that cars under $5000 can be high-quality luxury SUVs instead of base model economy cars. Choose to drop your five grand on an Acura MDX and you will get 3.5L V6 capable of 265 hp and 253 lb-ft of torque along with a 4,500 lb towing capacity. Additionally, you get seating for seven, 81.5 cubic feet of cargo space, and 4WD in some trim levels. The MDX always offers a modern-feeling design and outstanding interior refinements. You really can’t ask more from an SUV under $5000.
3. Buick Lucerne
Buick has many solid offerings under $5000, but the best may just be the Buick Lucerne. Like all of the cars under $5000 on our list, the Lucerne has a reputation for durability and value. Your 5K will get you a strong 4.6L V8 capable of 275 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque. Surprisingly, such a large engine is able to achieve 23 mpg on the highway. On top of power and Buick luxury, the Lucerne is highly touted for its safety and affordable insurance rates.
4. Cadillac CTS and Cadillac DTS
If you go back 12 model years or more, you can find a Cadillac CTS under $5000. The cars under $5000 are normally going to be powered by a tough 3.6L V6 capable of 255 hp and 252 lb-ft of torque as well as 25 mpg on the highway. A Cadillac DTS that is around 12 model years old is another car for less than 5K. A DTS is significantly larger than the CTS and offers a higher level of luxury. The DTS also offers larger, more powerful engine options with correspondingly lower fuel economy. Both are backed by the quality and prestige of Cadillac.
5. Chevrolet Cobalt
The Chevrolet Cobalt is a compact car that was discontinued after the 2010 model year. The combination of being a compact car and having been discontinued makes it a good addition to our list of cars under $5000. In fact, you will find that a well-appointed 2010 Chevy Cobalt LT frequently retails for less than 5K. That is a great price for a car that can achieve 37 mpg on the highway.
6. Chevrolet TrailBlazer
The Chevrolet TrailBlazer was a strong selling SUV throughout its eight-year production run. Many reviewers think the TrailBlazer suffered from staid styling when in truth it is a well-powered SUV with plenty of room for seven passengers. The standard 4.2L V6 offers up 273 hp and 277 lb-ft of torque. It also offers a 6,100 lb towing capacity. Also on our list of cars under $5000 is the Chevrolet Equinox. Sold side-by-side with the TrailBlazer, the Equinox is powered by a smaller, more fuel-efficient engine and offers more standard amenities. Because of its tech and interior upgrades, you have to look for an Equinox that is older than a similarly priced TrailBlazer.
7. Chevrolet Uplander
Chevrolet has built many minivans that could be on our list of cars under $5000, but the Uplander offers the opportunity to buy the latest model possible. The Uplander was offered in the North American market as recently as the 2009 model year. A 2009 Chevrolet Uplander LT is powered by a durable 3.9L V6 and features seating for up to seven. It can be equipped with a DVD entertainment center and rear climate control. Most importantly, it is highly rated for its safety, ensuring that your family will be protected at all times.
8. Chevrolet Impala
The Chevrolet Malibu is a more affordable option as far as cars under $5000 go, but the Chevrolet Impala is a better vehicle overall. The most common engine in this model is a 3.5L FlexFuel V6 that is able to offer 29 mpg on the highway. The Impala received the highest ratings from both the IIHS and the NHTSA and is highly recommended by current and previous owners. Overall, the Chevrolet Impala may be one of the best American cars under $5000 that you can buy.
9. Dodge Avenger
Dodge offers several cars under $5000, but the Avenger is the best of the bunch. It is more comfortable than the Caliber and you can buy a newer car than if you want a Charger. The Avenger is generally powered by a durable 2.4L I4 that is capable of 175 hp and up to 30 mpg on the highway. With the Avenger, you are able to opt for the SXT package which gives you a rear spoiler, fog lights, audio controls on the steering wheel, a power driver seat, and a six-disc CD changer.
10. Dodge Durango
If you have your heart set on cars under $5000 and you want a Dodge SUV, you have to buy a Dodge Durango. You will have to search back at least 14 model years to find one for that price point, though. What you get from a Dodge Durango is a powerful engine and a tough transmission. You’ll also be getting an SUV that was deemed one of the safest on the road in its prime.
11. Dodge Grand Caravan
The Dodge Grand Caravan has been one of the most popular minivans in the North American market for nearly 25 years. It has always been equipped with tough engines and durable transmissions. While the Grand Caravan has never been on the cutting edge of styling, it has always been well-appointed and roomy enough for seven passengers and plenty of cargo. As far as cars under $5000 go, the Dodge Grand Caravan offers everything you could ask for.
12. Ford Fusion
We could build an entire list of Ford cars under $5000, but the best of them is arguably the Ford Fusion. The Fusion offers a more comfortable and quiet ride than the Fiesta or Focus and is roomier than a Ford Mustang. Under the hood, you will normally find a tough and efficient 2.3L four-cylinder engine capable of 29 mpg on the highway. You also get a stylish car that can easily seat five and is fairly inexpensive to insure.
13. Ford Escape
Ford built the Escape to be an every man’s compact SUV, which is something we’d say it does pretty darn well. The cars under $5000 are usually powered by a 3.0L V6 that doesn’t have an ounce of quit in it. The engine is capable of 200 hp and 21 mpg on the highway. There is plenty of space for up to five passengers and 66.3 cu.ft. of cargo space. If you buy an Escape with the XLT package, you will have access to the best technology for the model year you buy.
14. Honda Civic
The Honda Civic is on every list of fun or practical cars. So, you really can’t be surprised to find it on our list of cars under $5000. The standard powerplant in units that are less than five grand is a 1.8L VTEC four banger that is well known for its durability and long life. It is fairly common to find a Honda Civic with this engine with more than 250,000 miles on it and still running like a champ!
We would also recommend the Honda Accord, Odyssey, and CR-V; however, the cars under $5000 normally have more than the 150,000 mile limit we set. That doesn’t mean they aren’t solid cars, and in fact, you’ll probably be able to coax out another 150k, but they don’t necessarily meet the criteria for our list today.
15. Hyundai Elantra
When Hyundai first came to the North American market, it offered nothing more than cheap fuel-sippers. The cars have evolved since then, and the Elantra personifies Hyundai’s commitment to offering comfortable cars that are affordable, stylish, and fuel efficient. The cars under $5000 are powered by a surprisingly peppy 2.0L I4(in the GLS trim level). The powerplant offers 33 mpg on the highway and frequently lasts well beyond the 250,000-mile mark.
16. Hyundai Tuscon
The Tuscon is the best SUV the Korean manufacturer makes. Surprisingly, it also falls into the category of cars under $5000. You can find the base model units well under our $5000 cap, but we would encourage you to step up to the Limited or SE trim levels. Both offer a 2.7L V6 that is both powerful and durable while still featuring the best tech and comfort options available from the manufacturer at the time.
17. Jeep Grand Cherokee
Jeep has many dependable new SUVs to offer, but only one stands out when you are searching for cars under $5000: the Grand Cherokee. It outshines the Liberty, Patriot, etc because of its durable engine and spacious interior. To get the best deal, you should look for a Grand Cherokee with the Limited trim. The Limited packages include a 4.7L V8 that is capable of 235 hp and also feature the Jeep Memory System for the driver seat, radio, and driver-side mirror.
18. Kia Optima
Kia has a reputation for building economical cars that have plenty of tech equipped. The Optima, Kia’s mid-size offering, is generally equipped with as much tech, safety, and comfort features as you could possibly want. On top of having earned top ratings from the safety agencies in every market where it is sold, the Optima features a surprisingly responsive engine. The 2.4L powerhouse found in the upgraded Optima EX boasts 165 hp, all of which seem immediately available when you press the accelerator. The EX trim level adds automatic climate control, leather upholstery, a power driver seat, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, and Kia’s HomeLink service.
19. Kia Sedona
There are few minivans under $5000 that are as reliable as the Kia Sedona. Unfortunately, the Sedona is often overshadowed by its competitors from Honda and Toyota. If you take a hard look at the Sedona, you will find a well-equipped, practical, and extremely affordable minivan. As an added bonus, to find the cars under $5000, you do not have to go back as nearly as many models years as you will with a Honda Odyssey or Toyota Sienna. You are better off looking for the long wheelbase version because it features a fold-flat third-row seat, but the short wheelbase version is just as mechanically reliable. There are only two trim levels, and both provide plenty of comfort and tech. But, the higher EX-level trim adds a roof rack, fog lights, power front seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, optional power sliding rear doors, heated leather upholstery, and automatic climate control.
Mazda offers nine vehicles in the North American market. Of those nine, only one makes for a solid option as far as cars under $5000 go: the Mazda6. The Mazda6 sedan is roomy enough for up to five passengers and the 2.3L engine is both powerful and frugal. The engine is capable of 160 hp and 28 mpg on the highway. When you add in its small parking footprint, you have a great urban transportation option that is both exceedingly reliable and fun to drive.
21. Mitsubishi Outlander
Older Mitsubishi offerings are notorious for their weak transmissions with the exception of the Outlander. In addition to being equipped with a proven tough transmission and a 3.0L V6, the higher trim levels of the Mitsubishi Outlander offer optional AWD. All trim levels of the Outlander can be found for under $5000, but opting for units with the middle trim level will allow you to get fairly new SUV with a respectable number of features.
22. Nissan Quest
The Nissan Quest features unique styling, plenty of cargo space, and seating for up to seven passengers. It is also the only Nissan offering that makes our list of cars under $5000. To find a Nissan Quest that is under $5000, you only have to go back 10 model years. The Quest offers potential owners sharp steering and ample power courtesy of a responsive 3.5L V6. We recommend that you look for the S trim or higher. The S trim gets you a backup sensor, a power sliding door, and a power liftgate. The list of amenities available in the higher trim levels is impressive, but they make the cost of a ten-year-old Quest rise beyond $5000.
23. Subaru Outback
There is something about the quirky styling of the Subaru Outback that attracts a loyal following. On top of its quirky styling, the AWD Outback is the most reliable offering Subaru has to offer. Some may point to the Subaru WRX, but good luck finding a WRX that meets the guidelines for our list of cars under $5000 that hasn’t been wrecked or had the engine tampered with for added performance.
The Outback offers plenty of room for up to five passengers, an award-winning AWD system, and one of the toughest powertrains available no matter what price you pay.
24. Toyota Camry
The Toyota Camry and legendary reliability are synonymous. Toyota has always equipped its mid-size family offering with tough, durable engines that have been known to last well past 300,000 miles. Add to that the highest safety ratings possible and you have one of the best cars under $5000 imaginable. To find a Camry under $5000, you do not have to stretch to the 300,000 mile mark, either. You should be able to find Camry that is less than 12 model years old and has fewer than 130,000 miles on it for the $5000 mark we have set.
25. Volvo S80
The first thing that comes to mind when you hear Volvo is safety. The second is usually dull styling. Fortunately, that second thought is no longer true. Volvo put a concentrated effort into shedding its image for drab styling around the turn of the century, but the company’s efforts really come to fruition in the S80s starting with the 2007 model. Coincidentally, that is where you begin to see cars under $5000.
The S80, being Volvo’s flagship luxury car until 2016, is equipped with the best tech and comfort features Volvo has to offer. The tech and luxury of the S80 is easily comparable to a same-year Cadillac or Lincoln offering, but it is much more affordable!