Skip to main content

For many years, buying a beater has been the last resort for many people. There’s always a use for them, whether it’s a commute, road-tripping, or a project to work on. Sometimes, it’s nice to have a car you don’t need to care for as much. However, in 2022, new and used car prices are the highest they’ve ever been. There’s never been a better time to buy a reliable beater car.

Beater cars can provide transportation for a reasonable price

Junkyard parts surrounding a rusted old car in a scrapyard
Rusted old classic car at a junkyard | Sean Stratton via Unsplash

If you’re someone who just needs to get from point A to point B efficiently, beater cars might be the right choice. New and used cars are expensive, so an older model year car with a number well into six figures on the odometer might be the right choice. Many dealers are even selling specialized, limited-production new cars far over the sticker price. It’s time for you to buy a beater.

When finding the right beater, focus primarily on reliability and long-lasting capability. A low payment is an excellent benefit, but a car that won’t drive isn’t worth a dime. Buyers should also take low maintenance costs into account. For example, even an older BMW model will require expensive parts every time something goes wrong. Contrarily, a Toyota, Honda, or Subaru model will be pretty inexpensive to repair, and they’re ultra-reliable.

Most importantly, forget about cosmetic perfection. We’re not instructing you to buy a car with a missing bumper, and the hood caved in. However, we are saying to ignore the small dent on the door, the dings in the bumper, and the rips in the seat. A cosmetically rough car that operates well should be exactly what you’re looking for, as most people will value the beater less if it looks ugly.

Finding the perfect beater

Front angle view of beige 2005 Nissan Frontier, an unreliable used 2000s pickup truck to avoid
2005 Nissan Frontier | Nissan

According to CW33, you should skip looking at the junkyard for a beater. Overall, these are better for those looking for a project than those looking for a car they can drive home with. However, if you require a specific part for an older model year car, the junkyard is a great place to search.

Next, run a free VIN check with CarFax or Autocheck to find the vehicle’s history. Reports like these show essential information like accident history, salvage or flood-damaged title, number of owners, repairs made, and more. Watch out for red flags like frame damage, engine repairs, or multiple major accidents. All of these can indicate that the car isn’t in as good mechanical condition as it may appear. Like most things in life, if a cheap car seems too good to be true, it probably is.

On top of finding red flags through maintenance, you can confirm whether previous owners performed regular proper maintenance or not. For instance, if there are zero oil changes on the CarFax report, the owners either changed the oil themselves or the engine is about to have a huge problem. Additionally, take the car for a test drive before agreeing to anything. A pre-purchase inspection from a trusted mechanic is also recommended, if possible. Buying from a private seller offers no warranties or returns, so do your due diligence.

Best beater car models to search for

Depending on which size vehicle you’re looking for, reliable models are the best options. For example, the Honda Civic, Nissan Sentra, or Toyota Corolla are excellent cheap, reliable sedans that typically last a long time. Upgrading in size to a Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, or Volkswagen Passat offers the same reliability with more space. Additionally, larger SUVs tend to last a long time and are ultra-popular. iSeeCars reported a study showing the percentage of cars to reach 200,000 miles, which is considered a significant milestone.

VehiclePercent over 200K miles
Toyota Land Cruiser18.2%
Toyota Sequoia14.2%
Chevrolet Suburban6.6%
GMC Yukon XL 5.2%
Toyota 4Runner4.6%

As you can see, even the model that reaches 200,000 miles the most doesn’t do it often. Only 18.2% of Land Cruiser models have reached that number. In the top 15, there are eight Toyota models, two Hondas, two Chevrolets, two GMCs, and a Ford. For SUVs and trucks, other brands don’t offer the same reliability. It’s easy to see that Toyota vehicles uphold their reputation, showing continued performance well into the six-figure mark on the odometer.

It’s a great time to buy a beater car

Buying a beater car can be a challenging process. Not only should you find a suitable model for you, but finding a well-priced, reliable, mechanically sound older model is complex. Aging cars tend to strum up a lot of problems, so be sure to double-check everything you can. Buyers who take their time should be able to get their hands on an excellent deal for driving from point A to point B. They’ll avoid the absurdly overpriced new and used models currently being sold at dealers around the world.


Cheap, Reliable Beater Cars for Under $1,000