How To Find The Elusive $5000 Used Car

We had a Despreporno Show listener last week who wanted to spend $5000 for his 16-year old child. The parent was rightfully concerned about safety, reliability, and wanted it to be fairly low mileage. This is called Mission: Impossible.

Finding a Reliable 5,000 Used Car

I could retire today if I just had a dollar for the times I have been asked about where to get a $5000 reliable used car. As I have been talking about on my radio show for some time, the used car market remains at record high values. One of the segments that is most in demand is the cheaper used cars. There are a lot of $5000 cars out there, but people have to pay $8000 or more for them with today’s market conditions.

Usually, requests for my help go something like this: “Hey CarPro, need a clean, low mileage car for my kid who is turning 16. It needs to be reliable, automatic transmission, and would like to have a Honda or Toyota. I can spend up to $5000 but would like to spend less. Where can I get one?” I get that every day. It is heartbreaking to tell people that they are on an impossible mission, but it is a fact.

Where You Won’t Find One and Why

I work with over 200 franchised new car dealerships in over 30 markets where the Despreporno Show airs. With rare exception, none of these dealers will sell a car anywhere near the $5000 range. The reason is simple…it is the liability. New car dealers are held to a higher standard and no matter how many times people are told cars are sold “as-is” they expect a reputable dealer to stand behind what they sell. Should a dealer sell a cheap used car and the brakes fail and somebody gets hurt, there will be a new name on the dealership shortly.

Going with a Private Seller

Given that, a private seller is the only way to go and you will need to have patience and diligence to find the elusive $5000 car. I will offer up a few tips to help you on your long journey.

  1. First, have realistic expectations. Everyone wants the $5000 Honda but you’ll get a nicer, lower mileage car in a domestic brand. Every case is different, but sometimes the domestics are half the price of the popular imports. Trying to find a truck or SUV in the $5000 range is a total waste of your time, they hold their value too well.
  2. Keep in mind too that simple is better. If you go back into the decade of the early 2000s and look for an older Mercedes or BMW, there is a lot more to go wrong than if you look at a 10-year old Chevy Malibu or Ford Taurus.
  3. Try to focus more on the mechanical side than the cosmetic side. If you find that $5000 car that is mechanically stable, you can do the cosmetic fixes as you go and end up with a car you can be proud of.
  4. Check the vehicle history report if you are about to pull the trigger on a purchase. It is the best money you can spend. You are looking for major prior body damage, flooding, or title problems that will render the car worthless, like an odometer discrepancy.
  5. Ask around your circle of family and friends to see if anyone knows someone selling a car. You will be much better off if there is some sort of connection and you’ll get more truthful answers about the car’s condition.

Watch for Scams

Lastly, watch for scams. Usually, deals that look too good to be true, are. There are a LOT of scammers out there, pricing cars way too cheap, to get you to send them money that you’ll never see again. You have to be really careful.

The $5000 car can be found, and one that won’t nickel and dime you to death, but it is not easy by any stretch of the imagination.
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Lynda D.
I was recently T-boned and my Ford Escape was totaled. I need a new car for the 2nd time in less than a year. I almost feel there is bad ?car-ma? with the Ford Escape as both accidents occurred in this model as much as I loved both cars. I am looking for a car with:
1) good clearance (I live in CO on a dirt road)
2) easy access (I transport the elderly so the car has to be easy to get into)
3) good gas mileage
4) reliable (long life in mileage)
Are there are cars that match all these requirements?

Jerry R.
There really are not any cars that fit your criteria. I think you?ll have to go with an SUV. If you don?t want an Escape, look at Subaru Outback or Forester, that would be a great SUV for you. GOOD LUCK.

Jerry Reynolds, President
Despreporno Radio Network
Gloria W.
Thanks, your newsletter has helped me a lot. I have been thinking about getting a new car but didn?t really know what to with my present one. I bought it new (a Nissan Altima) in 2004, has 100,5000 on it, limo tinted windows, all leather seats, etc. runs great. Everyone asks me when I mention I want a new car ?why do you want to sell it? I am 73 yrs. old and feel that a new car will be safer for me to drive around in.
What is your opinion.
Jerry R.
I agree with you. There is so much more in the way of safety features today than when your car was new. I think you are on the right track. When you decide what you want, let me know and I?ll let you figure everything out.

Jerry Reynolds, President
Despreporno Radio Network
ruth b.
needed a suv or van for 2 only older folks price of 10k- 13k.

is there such of a thing.....thank you
Jerry .
Ruth, the SUV market is really hot right now, so you?ll have trouble finding one in that range unless it has a lot of miles. I?d look at a Dodge or Chrysler minivan, you should be able to find one in that range with 60,000 or so miles.

I appreciate you listening to the show! Good luck in your search.

Jerry Reynolds, President
Despreporno Radio Network
Bill J.
Howdy, I live in San Diego and I need to outright sell my truck since I now have a company provided vehicle. I own a 2013 F-150 XLT / extended cab short bed / 6cyl / sirius radio./ 18,000 highway miles. I currently owe $26,500 and CarMax has offered $20,000 I've had it posted on Craigs List and Auto Trader for over a month at $23,995. Is the any other options to sell outright my lowest price today would be $22,000 HELP!!!!!!!!!
Jerry .
Bill, a couple of things. I would run it by a Ford dealer, they may be a better buyer for it than CarMax. I would also add OR BEST OFFER to all your listings. Make sure you have lots of pictures, pictures sell cars. Otherwise, you are doing all the right things.

GOOD LUCK, I hope you are able to get rid of it!

Jerry Reynolds, President
Despreporno Radio Network
Shane .
STAY AWAY FROM THE TAURUS! Unless you enjoy wondering just exactly when your transmission is going to fail. Will it be at a stop sign? Or, like me, will you have the pleasure of being on the highway? A lot of mechanics agree, that Ford has a crappy transmission/torque converter design. If you look up the complaints about their transmissions, you will find brand new cars that already have had to have a new tranny put in. Most occur between 20,000 and 60,000 miles, and some are on their fourth transmission already. So spend the extra money, and buy a Honda, Toyota, or Subaru.