Searching for cheap used cars these days is really difficult. It’s harder than ever to find decent vehicles at an affordable price, especially if you only have to spend $5,000. But they’re still around, and we’ve found five to suit a variety of needs, ranging from super budget to project car, family-friendly, fun, and utilitarian choices.
I’ll be honest, I’m used to the feed from my home Los Angeles Craigslist. This quest was a little more difficult, but you guys in Texas still have some interesting options. There are some cars I would buy, but I wouldn’t recommend buying them, so I left those out in favor of much more practical choices. Instead of a sweet $3,000 Volkswagen Touareg, I took a much more reasonable Japanese SUV. Only for you.
Please note that this is just a harmless perusal – no VIN checks or back and forth emailing with the seller have taken place so actual condition is taken at face value. If any of them look attractive and you can afford a pre-purchase inspection, we highly recommend it. With that, let’s take a look at under $5,000 hardware from the San Antonio Craigslist.
Cheap to buy, cheap to own: 2000 Toyota Corolla
- miles: 140,000
- Price: $2,800
The budget slot was originally reserved for an interesting 1991 manual transmission Dodge Colt, but it was sold within a day of finding it. Instead, this 2000 Toyota Corolla takes its place. A Corolla might be a boring choice, but that’s exactly what you want on a budget. It should be cheap to own and maintain, and it says the heating and air conditioning both work.
The listing says it has an automatic transmission, but the photos clearly show a gearshift, so potential buyers will need to confirm that detail. The big chrome wheels may not be for everyone, but if that’s your thing then this is a great option with supposedly new tires.
If you’re on a budget, but still want a V8 and don’t care about fuel economy, how about one? 2003 Mercury Grand Prix for $2,600 instead?
A family dumper: 2005 Toyota Sienna
- miles: 190,000
- Price: $5,000
If there’s one truth we’re all dealing with, it’s that the minivan is the vehicle most families really need. Many people get SUVs and crossovers instead, but minivans have more interior space, cargo space, have a smaller footprint, have better fuel economy and do everything people want. They just have the unfortunate stigma of being a minivan.
This 2005 Toyota Sienna is a perfect example of a minivan. It will be dead reliable, spacious and cheap. It’s a boring option, but there are a lot of people looking for a clue to something cheap and good.
Still an SUV bargain: 2002 Nissan Xterra
- miles: 201,000
- Price: $4,000
The Nissan Xterra is a poorly kept SUV secret. Not quite sure why they are still so cheap, even in more densely populated areas. They have good body-on-frame truck construction and have decent off-road hardware. Enough to be a rugged trail truck.
This particular Xterra is almost moon miles, but it has the immortal KA24DE engine and a manual transmission. Unfortunately, it’s two-wheel drive, so there’s no ultimate trail capability. But with two rear-drive wheels you can go a long way with the right driving style and attitude.
I’m also not quite sure why the car is face down in the photos, but it could be parked on a grassy hill. It looks fairly clean inside and out and has a freshly serviced AC system, just in time for winter. All for $4,000 clams.
A drivable collector’s item: 1989 Mitsubishi Galant
- miles: 228,000
- Price: $4,000
Apparently Texas loves its obscure old Mitsubishis. This 1989 Galant still looks like new, even with 228,000 miles on the dash. Damn, it doesn’t look mint, it’s mint. My mind is blown to smithereens by this ad. The seller has included a Gran-Turismo-esque walkaround video for the car, where he goes into absurd detail about this otherwise cheap car. Watch the video. I love the scrolling text box.
According to the seller, he does need an AC compressor. Otherwise, it reportedly needs nothing. And yes, even with the miles, I think the state makes this a collector’s item. Not many of these Galants survived the 2010s, let alone the 2020s. This is a time capsule you can drive daily for just $4,000.
A Sweet Firebird: 2000 Pontiac Firebird
- miles: 50.370
- Price: $5,000
I’ll be honest, I had to rephrase my idea of a nice car for this list. I like lightweight sports cars because I live near mountain roads. In Texas, a land speed missile is the best choice. Enter this 2000 Pontiac Firebird, with T-tops.
Right off the bat, there are a few drawbacks. The car needs AC and has a cracked dashboard, a stubborn check engine light and a broken pop-up headlight motor. Also, the title apparently shows more miles than the counter, and it is not registered. Unfortunately, it’s just about the only interesting car I could find in San Antonio that wasn’t outrageously expensive.
At $5,000, this is a tough bargain, but I think some negotiation would unlock a very cheap project car. If the mileage is really low, it could be a pretty decent proposition. And as the seller mentioned in the ad as one of the pros: “Cool ass car.”
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!