When someone talks about buying a car, we usually envision a budget of somewhere around $20,000 to over $100,000. If it’s a used car, we’ll cut it down to about $5,000 to $50,000 if it’s really what the buyer wants. But we rarely consider buying a car for less than a thousand dollars. Imagine buying a stuffy ride for the same price as a new iPhone 13 Pro. Given the super low price, the ride might not be that damp, but with some work to it, you can get a pretty good bargain on a cool little everyday driver without breaking your bank.
Students or those on minimum wage know full well that $3,000 to $5,000 is the best place to buy reliable used vehicles. But what if we find some really cool underrated cars or maybe even pickup trucks for a fee? In our price range, you can find all-day, non-drivable, beat-up cars from the last century that can be used as project cars, but there are only a few vehicles that can be bought at that price and run perfectly. North America is a big place, and depending on where you live you can find a great sleeper or an underrated car for little money in your area, but we tried to stay as universal as possible, and here’s what we found.
10 1998-2008 Ford Taurus
Ford made a lot of them, and many of them are still running. Surely you must have known that the abundance of a vehicle and its spare parts play a big part in its low price, and the Taurus is no exception.
The Taurus is not an exceptional vehicle, but it is a decent full-size sedan. Try to avoid the 2003 Taurus or any model older than 1998, but even they deliver a good bargain at such a low price† That said, the 2001, 05, 07 and 08 models would be the ones to look for.
9 1992-2005 Toyota Camry
The most popular car should be on this list. Camry’s have been here forever, and they seem to be around forever. The Camry models of the early ’00s were the ones that impressed the masses, proving their quality and reliability and making the Camry the best selling.
They offer sufficient power, comfort and ease of use. They find under $1,000 is not difficult, just be sure to avoid the 2007 iteration, which is widely regarded as the worst (in this case, the least decent) model of them all.
8 7th-8th generation Honda Civic
Like the Camry, the Honda Civic is another popular choice in both new and used car markets. These things are reliable, adaptable, cheap to own and great to drive. However, in some cities, the components of the Civics or the cars themselves are often stolen, so you may want to check that before jumping on craigslist.
Either way, once you find a Civic under $1,000, you can rest assured that it won’t take you much time or money to keep it running. There is a Civic for everyone, but considering our budget, the 7th or 8th generation Civics will be the best.
7 2004-09 Mazda 6
You are probably thinking, “Another list of cheap, good cars; Another Japanese car from the 00s.” What can we say other than they are just so good? thousand dollars Mazda6 i Sport can be found easily.
It was more fun to drive than most other family cars, the manual transmission was slick, the power delivery was smooth and appropriate, and the car looks good on its own! Mazda is a well-known and trusted brand, so most reliability issues are resolved and cost of ownership is kept to a minimum. Easy choice when you find one.
6 1998-2012 Ford Crown Vic
The Crown Victoria is the epitome of longevity in the automotive industry. Leaving many Japanese cars in the dust, the Crown Vic can last a long time as long as 500,000 miles(!) if properly cared for. There is a reason it was used by the government for so long.
It debuted in 1992 and was sold until 2012, but we think any model after 1998 will serve you well, such as: this 2005 LX Sport with just over 100,000 miles on the odometer. The only downside is that people around might think you’re an undercover cop. But then again, you can easily customize these things with Mustang parts and they are widely available.
5 2001-02 Dodge/Plymouth Neon
The name may put you off, but the Neon is low-key fun to drive, especially if you get one with a manual transmission. The chassis of this compact car makes it agile and engaging, even with front-wheel drive. Plus, there’s plenty of room for mods and tweaks, so it makes for a good cheap project car too.
4 1997-2008 Nissan Altima
Today, the number of cars sold with a manual gearbox is less than 5%. But for those of us who still prefer the gearshift, the Nissan Altima is one of the few family sedans offered in a six-speed manual transmission.
You may even find one with a working sunroof! Nissan knows how to make a good reliable car, and the Altima may be a bit lackluster compared to the brand’s other offerings, but for $1,000 this is almost as good as it gets. For example, the 2007 Altima has a good and powerful V6 engine, a decent CVT, a pleasant interior and a spacious cabin. What more can you ask for?
3 1994-2003 Ford Ranger
Who said you can only have sedans and hatchbacks for under a thousand dollars? If you’re looking for a good pickup for little money, the Ranger might be the one for you. They are reliable workhorses built to last many people’s careers.
The 1994-2003 Rangers will be more easily available, they have large V6 or V8 engines that offer a lot of power, look very good on the outside and function well inside. Although for our budget you may have an adequate but relatively less powerful one 6-cylinder 2 wheel drive trim instead of an AWD V8.
2 1999-2004 Chrysler Concorde
The Chrysler Concorde is a large car with a lot of space. If your need for a more practical vehicle dominates its ability to put on a smile while driving on twisty roads, the Concorde will get the job done.
Large truck space, very spacious cab, drives surprisingly well for a large car and is not very expensive to maintain. These Chryslers are over ten years old so there won’t be any pristine elements, but they seem to be going on longer than we expect.
1 1997 Geo Prizm
You may remember the Chevy Prizm, it sells for over $1,000. But just like in movies, there are twins that not enough people know about. Enter the Geo Prizm, a dull-looking sedan. But the reason it’s here is because it’s the result of a joint venture between GM and Toyota. We can see the Geo branding on the outside, but it’s all Toyota Sprinter on the inside.
We all know that late 90s Toyotas are pretty much bulletproof when it comes to reliability, which is why Toyotas hold their value and can’t be bought as cheaply as this one. Sure, the Geo fits like a chameleon in the road, it’s not eye candy, but this is one of the most reliable cars you can have for under $1,000 with low fuel consumption, low maintenance costs and hassle-free ownership.
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