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 in Seattle that suit a variety of needs, ranging from super budget to project car, family-friendly, fun, and utilitarian choices.
Seattle is full of excellent hardware. Sometimes searching for cars in different parts of the country can be difficult, but finding a selection of cars here was more a matter of cleaning than searching for scraps. The five we have lined up here are very decent vehicles.
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 Seattle Craigslist.
The King of Minivans: Honda Odyssey Touring 2007
- miles: 144.000
- Price: $5,000
For the family hauler, this 2007 Honda Odyssey should fit beautifully. This generation of Odyssey minibus predates the famous on-board vacuum cleaner, but the top-of-the-line Touring model is a van I really put a lot of miles on. It’s fantastically comfortable, quiet, roomy and reasonable on fuel.
This example has some maintenance history, with recent parts such as the shock absorbers, tailgate struts, belts and pulleys, and a new AC system. The two caveats are that the AC system was never charged after repair and it has a serious paint flaw over the windshield. If the seller is to believe the functionality of the AC (which…maybe), a top-up isn’t too expensive. At $5,000, this is possibly the most luxurious vehicle for a large family you can buy without wasting another $5,000 on gas in a year.
A nice gas saver: 1998 Honda Civic HX manual
- miles: 180,000
- Price: $4,000
Fuel efficiency is highly valued, especially as gas prices are creeping back up. But fuel economy doesn’t have to come at the expense of fun, because this 1998 Honda Civic HX has to be fun and at the same time absurdly efficient, especially since it’s a instructions.
These Civics are well built, reliable, lightweight and with the right mods incredibly handling. It has a long service list in 2021 and 2022, including a new gearbox, clutch and general tuning. At 180,000 miles it barely gets going and should be mechanically ready for a while.
The only thing that goes against it is the cosmetic situation. It looks neat, but has some flaws, with the interior being the nicest part of the car.
A manual SUV bargain: 2002 Nissan Pathfinder 4×4 Manual
- miles: 198,000
- Price: $4,000
Preaching the good word of the less-loved Japanese SUVs becomes something of a theme in these Five Under Five posts. While the Toyota 4Runner and Tacoma stole the thunder from everything else (with good reason), we’d be remiss to rule out the lesser-known Nissan Pathfinder. Mainly because they are extremely reasonably priced and the Toyotas are absurdly bloated.
This particular one is a facelift 2002 model with 4×4 and a manual transmission, which I didn’t even know existed for this truck until I saw it. These old trucks have big budget 4Runner vibes, but they do have one major drawback: unibody construction rather than a body-on-frame truck (some other Pathfinder genes are frame-based). It loses the edge by being robust, but it will still be plenty capable and fun, especially at a third the price of a 4Runner.
A collectible shark nose: 1985 BMW 535i
- miles: 298,000
- Price: $4,000
Old BMWs are always worth a look, especially something from the 80’s vintage. This 1985 BMW 535i is one of the great shark nosed BMWs, with great driving dynamics, nice handling and quiet refinement while having a touch of excellence.
Unfortunately, this one is automatic. But it looks extremely clean for its age, with the usual signs of wear and tear. Most importantly, the car has records dating back to 1988, making it an instant cheap collector’s item. It also has an atmosphere and experience that you can’t get in any modern car.
Rally ready: 1995 BMW 325i E36
- miles: 178,000
- Price: $4,000
For our last entry, an enthusiastic special seemed to fit best. The E36 BMW has experienced the most obvious of the “uncool and cheap” to “cool and expensive” curve of any semi-modern BMW, as evidenced by the ridiculous prices of E36 M3s right now. A cheap E36 is still a great project car for enthusiasts, but only if you don’t spend a lot of money on it.
This example is cheap, looks pretty well maintained, and has some interesting mods. It’s clearly track-ready with bucket seats, half-cage, brakes and suspension. While the parts used seem to be in the budget range rather than expensive stuff, it still does its job as a cheap fun project race car. This is definitely worth the $4,000 the seller is asking.
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!