5 for $5K: The Best Cheap Cars for Sale in Baltimore

5 for $5K: The Best Cheap Cars for Sale in Baltimore

For this week’s Five Under $5,000, we’re in Baltimore city. And we’re talking about Balti specifically – the DMV area (DC, Maryland, Virginia) is its own thing and its own vibe. Let’s take a look at what the cheap car market looks like in Maryland’s largest city in this corner of the East Coast.

As a reminder, these posts are meant to reflect the realities of the current market and provide context, while offering what appears to be some decent car options. Our suggestions are purely based on what we see in the list. We didn’t do VIN checks, we didn’t see the cars in person and we didn’t speak to the sellers, so buy at your own risk. At the very least, we recommend that you check the VINs and have these cars inspected before making any serious purchase decisions.

As usual we have a varied selection of vehicles and have tried to find the most interesting things at this increasingly difficult price.

The Budget Job: 2000 Toyota Solara V6 Manual

  • Price: $1,300
  • miles: 223,000
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Based on the 1997-2001 Camry, the Toyota Solara is essentially the same car with a coupe body, and this era is almost ineradicable. The 2.2-litre 5FSE engine survives anything, and it’s typically neglect or rust that takes it off the road, not a bad design.

However, this one is very special and very rare. This Solara has a V6 and a manual, the dream of every enthusiast. I’ve ridden a few manual Camry’s from this era and the shifter is a little long, but pleasant and easy to use. The 3.0 produced a healthy 200 horsepower, all sent to the front wheels.

The leather is a bit torn and the clear coat is peeling, but the seller says the car doesn’t have a check engine light and suggests it’s “driving strong”. Even with 223,000 miles, any car that looks this good, for so little money, is a good buy. If this car was near me it wouldn’t be on this list, I would have bought it and it would be in my driveway.

A true mechanic’s dream: 2004 Lexus RX330

  • Price: $3,500
  • miles: 225,000
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I am a realist. I try to recommend cars that are usable, repairable and flexible for those on a budget. Sure, a nice BMW or Audi can be fun to drive, but the level of OEM-only specialized tools or replacement parts often means budget BMWs and Audis just aren’t good ideas. However, repairing Lexuses is not much different than repairing regular Toyotas. The Lexus RX is mechanically similar to the ubiquitous Toyota Highlander crossover, so maintenance and repair is not that difficult.

This 2004 RX330 appears to be in excellent physical condition for an almost 20 year old car with 225,000 miles. It’s not all peaches and cream here. The seller says there is a check engine light on and the code “reflects emissions or repair from catalytic converters”. Without the ability to run a diagnosis, I’m assuming the code is P0420 – Catalyst System Low Efficiency. At 225,000 miles and two decades of use, the catalytic converters are probably worn out. A cheap set of aftermarket exhaust manifolds with integrated converters costs about $300, according to eBay. I’d say maybe $1,000 including labor, and this RX330 would be back on the road for not that much money.

The enthusiast’s choice: 2006 Lexus IS250

  • Price: $5,000
  • miles: 176.500
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The Lexus IS250 is cool. Well, this generation is arguably not as interesting as the model before it or even compared to its contemporaries like the E90 BMW 3 Series or Infiniti G35. But in the end it is still a six-cylinder sports sedan with rear-wheel drive.

At $5,000, this example has seen better days. The body panels look straight and the external damage appears to be mainly cosmetic, apart from the peeling front bumper which has probably been replaced and poorly color matched after a previous accident. The assembly looks good so I wouldn’t worry too much about any sort of heavy structural damage underneath. Inside, some trim parts look a little worse for wear.

If the engine and transmission are in good shape, I think this buyer can probably negotiate down for a better deal.

The family carrier: 2006 Toyota Sienna XLE AWD

  • Price: $4,600
  • miles: 173,000
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The four-wheel drive minivan phenomenon was such a hit-or-miss thing when you step back and think about it. In the 1980s, Chrysler added it to the Voyager and Dodge Caravan, but it fell off the options list when the folding flat seats came into play. Ford and Chevy offered AWD on the Aerostar and Astro vans respectively, but when the two automakers decided to make their front-wheel drive minivans, they left AWD on the floor of the cutting plant. However, Toyota has consistently offered an AWD Sienna for every generation except the first. Usually, the Toyota Sienna has been the only choice for drivers looking for an all-wheel-drive people mover that isn’t an SUV or van.

This 2004 Sienna has done 173,000 miles and appears to be in excellent condition. The headlights are outdated and faded, and the seat belts look dirty from the use of children’s ferries. But those seem like minor complaints for what appears to be a van in very good condition. I’d try to lose a few bucks because of the headlights, but at $4,600, it’s a good price for a solid van.

Cheap nostalgic ticket: Dodge Dynasty 1993

  • Price: $2,200
  • miles: 106.229
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This car is not for the everyday driver or budget transport seeker, although I have no doubt the Dynasty would be capable of that. This car is for the people who participate in Radwood or any other exceptionally crazy car collector.

The Dodge Dynasty is not a good car in the least. Below that is another K-car (Dodge Aries) variant, this one with a 3.3-liter V6 and four-speed automatic. It could be worse, the Dynasty came with a 2.5-litre four-cylinder and three-speed automatic transmission, so this upgraded powertrain is a space age by comparison.

Still, this dynasty has good bones. The tires are good, the body panels in the photos fit well and there are no major dents or stains. This car is a paint job and deep interior detail away from a potential Radwood best-in-show contender.

Previous regions featured on ‘5 Under 5’

Note: The Garage’s “five under five” highlights five cars worth less than $5,000 within a specific geographic region. The idea is to keep a finger on the pulse of the low-end auto market and provide some context on the current state of what’s on Craigslist. Please note that we do not know these sellers and have not personally seen any of these cars. We’re only sharing them based on what’s clear in the ad, so break your wallet at your own risk!