Finding a Good Used Car to Buy Under $5,000

Buying a car is exciting––even if it’s used. In fact, sometimes buying a used car is especially exciting. That’s because when we are shopping at this price point it’s often for our first car. While most won’t necessarily end up in their dream car for $5 grand, it’s certainly possible to find a good used car to buy for under $5,000

a row of 2002 Toyota Camry models at a dealership
2002 Toyota Camry models | Photo by Tim Boyle/Getty Images

One way to start researching when buyers are shopping for a used car is to take a peek at some YouTube videos. We found a particularly informative video done by Ryan Scribner that gives up some helpful hints for used car buyers. He advises looking in various places (to learn about different used car models––here are some used car models that he recommends 

Toyota Camry

There is hardly a “good used car” list out there that’s missing the Toyota Camry. This is one of the most reliable cars with one of the most solid reputations. Toyota has done things right with the Camry over and over. Plus, there are tons of them out there so parts are easily sourced and mechanics who work on them are easy to find. 

Scribner says an older used Toyota Camry gets about 34 MPG. It’s inexpensive to maintain and should see the odometer tick past 200,000 miles––at least. In fact, Scribner and virtually every other auto critic or information source out there agree that used car buyers pretty much can’t go wrong with a used Toyota Camry.

Toyota Corolla

a silver used Toyota Corolla from the 2011 model year
20011 Toyota Corolla | NHTSA

A used Toyota Corolla is not hard to find. There are plenty of them out there, and many older models on the road are still going strong. In fact, the Toyota Corolla is the most sold car on earth

In his YouTube video, Ryan Scribner suggests the Camry. However, he says that the only reason he chose to put the Camry in the video instead of a used Toyota Corolla is that the Toyota Corolla is so much smaller. For those who don’t mind a little less cabin and cargo room, a used Toyota Corolla is a good used car to buy under $5,000 and gets up to 41 MPG. 

Subaru Outback 

side view press photo of the 2009 Subaru Outback against a white backdrop
2009 Subaru Outback | NADA Guide

If you find a good used Subaru Outback, it’s almost like finding a new best friend. There’s just something about the character of a reliable wagon, isn’t there? Not every used Subaru Outback is going to prove itself in terms of longevity, but the ones that do outlast many other models on the road. 

Scribner suggest taking extra care combing forums for information about any used Subaru Outback buyers might be considering. That said, these are great little wagons with all-wheel drive and a little more personality than the average used car under $5 grand. An older Outback generally gets up to 28 MPG and can last over 300,000 miles if it’s maintained properly. 

Good used cars under $5,000


Scribner says that it’s a good idea to dive into some forums or other places like Reddit. These are places where actual consumers share their experiences with certain makes and models. There’s no way of knowing for sure that a used car purchase is going to end with a good reliable car. 

However, doing diligent research can mitigate some of the risks. For this kind of budget, buyers can expect any model they buy to generally be about 10 years old, or older. So be sure to test drive and thoroughly inspect any used car you are considering for purchase.

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