For this week’s edition of 5 Under 5, we planted a flag in Phoenix, Arizona. This corner of the country is a pretty good used car market because it is dry and the average rainfall per year is low. There has been only 15 centimeters of rain or more in a year three times in recorded history, and the coldest annual average temperature on record was 67.8 degrees Fahrenheit. That means no ice or snow and no salt, although extreme heat and dust have their own drawbacks. Working air conditioning is a must.
In 2022, the market will be tougher than ever for finding legitimately good vehicles on an affordable budget under $5,000, but we’ve broken down the choices into categories to help different types of people. Included are super-budget, eco-friendly, family-friendly, fun and utilitarian choices.
Please note that this is pure internet shopping and we have not performed VIN checks on these vehicles, so the actual condition and value are undetermined. We’re just basing our opinion on what’s clear in the listing – we haven’t seen any of these vehicles or spoken to any of the owners. If you can afford it, have a mechanic do an inspection before you buy it. With that, let’s throw the hood on the sub-$5K section of Phoenix Craigslist.
The super budget choice: Chevrolet Cobalt 2008
- Price: $2,975
- miles: 189.849
Is a Chevrolet Cobalt a great car? No, but for an extremely tight budget (I narrowed the search down to a maximum of $3,000), this seems like a fairly clean option that could do the job for ultra-basic transportation. It will also break 30 mpg on the highway, as long as it runs well. And with the high gas prices, that’s a big plus.
The NHTSA lists five recalls for the 2008 Cobalt, including for ignition switches, fuel pump modules, and electric power steering, so be sure to ask, or if you buy it, that’s the first thing you want to check.
The Green Choice: 2006 Scion Xa
- Price: $3,800
- miles: 195.400
This Scion Xa would make a great first car for a youngster or just someone looking for great fuel economy at a time of pesky gas prices. With four doors and a hatchback, it’s super practical overall and is EPA rated for 27 mpg city, 34 mph highway and 30 mpg overall.
Although it has about 200,000 miles on it, this engine is known for being reliable, and any repairs shouldn’t be too expensive. There is a subwoofer installed, but don’t let that be a deterrent, it’s quite easy to remove.
Guess what? It’s a stick, for those who keep up, and the listing says it has a new clutch and flywheel.
The Family Pick: 2006 Saturn Vue
- Price: $5,000
- miles: 218,317
Basic economy vehicles aren’t exactly exciting, but the bright orange paint (it looks like the factory color of Fusion Orange?) The odometer reads 218,317 miles, but it has an excellent Honda V6 in it and the car appears to be in very good condition, including the leather interior. It’s almost suspiciously too clean down to the headlights and wheels, so you’ll definitely want to do a VIN check on this, as you should with any of these vehicles.
It also has an aftermarket touchscreen stereo and backup camera, which is a great addition for anyone. The Tred list mentions that there is a warning light on, but in the photos it looks like it is the traction control light, not the engine light.
For what it’s worth, this car looks like it’s in much better shape than the Vue our household just adopted. If two rows aren’t enough for your family, check out this decent look 2001 Chevrolet Suburban for a cheap $2,700.
The nice choice: Hyundai Tiburon GS 2007
- Price: $3,950
- miles: 127,906
The Tiburon and Genesis coupes are often overlooked due to Hyundai’s longstanding reputation for making cheap cars, but at the right price, they can both make great pickups. Personally I think the Tiburon is very stylish, and it looks like it has had some very attentive owners who have looked after it.
These cars aren’t fast at all, especially with the four-cylinder engine, but they’re known for hot handling, so they can still be fun. The 2007 model also had the mid-cycle changes, so it’s the freshest of the bunch.
The 2007 Tiburon only had one minor recall, so don’t worry about that, but according to The ride employee and former Tiburon owner Kevin Williams, the timing belt is a concern so that should be checked.
The Utility Choice: 1995 Nissan XE Truck
- Price: $4,400
- Mileage: 173.713
Nissan used to be a car company, a real car company that made reliable vehicles with personality. This truck is from those good times before the company lost itself.
With the small pickup market reviving in America, this utility truck is smaller than all new models and can now be had for less than $4,400. No waiting or jumping through hoops. Overall it looks like a pretty clean vehicle but it has a missing door panel and the air intake box and hoses seem to be missing so that would be a primary question. However, the graphics on the side of the body are very charming.
If you’re more of an American truck type, check out this absolutely no-nonsense 1984 Ford Ranger with a phenomenal blue interior.
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!