April 30, 2017

Finding Reliable Used Cars under $5000 on Craigslist

This entry is part 6 of 8 in the series Internet Sites

Finding a reliable used car under $5000 on Craigslist Cars for Sale is even easier than finding reliable used cars under $2000 on Craigslist. The difference between private sales and trade-ins are larger in dollar terms for cars at a higher price point, inducing more owners to try and sell their cars on Craigslist Cars for Sale. How to Find Used Cars on Craigslist provides a step-by-step guide on how to find such cars. This article will concentrate on cars under $5000.

Whether you’re can’t afford more, or just want one less (or at least a smaller) monthly payment, finding reliable used cars under $5000 on Craigslist is a good choice. However, you need to know what to concentrate on and what pitfalls to avoid, as described below.

What You Should Expect in a Used Car under $5000

For $5000 you should expect to get a car that’s about 10 years old, with over 100,000 miles. If you see a 2 or 3 year old car with 50,000 miles on it at this price point you should avoid it as being too good to be true. With high-mileage cars you need to concentrate on reliable cars and look for the right combination of make, model, year, options, mileage and price. When buying a 10-year-old car most options become fairly inexpensive, so buying higher trim levels, or mid-level trims with options such as automatic transmission, air conditioning, ABS, side-curtain air-bags, power windows and locks, keyless entry, stability control, etc. should all be within reach, possibly at the cost of dropping to a prior year’s model.











This image shows a 1999 Honda Civic Si, an example of a car in the right price range under $5000; The image was posted and released to the public domain by Wikimedia Commons user RadicalBender; A full resolution image is available at http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/bb/Honda_Civic_Si.jpg

Cost of Ownership and what it Implies for Cars under $5000

When buying a car, the initial price is just a part of your total cost of ownership over several years, and often not the biggest one. Depreciation is related to the initial cost. For lower-cost vehicles you should plan to own for the long term, so plan on losing nearly all the money you pay for the car by the time you get rid of it. However, buying a reliable vehicle will provide you more years over which to absorb this cost, and at $5000 this may be limited to less than $1000 a year on average – a fraction of the depreciation rate of a new car.

Taxes and fees will increase your cost by a few hundred dollars, but this will be determined by the price, and not the car’s make, model or year. Similarly, financing does not differentiate between cars as it is determined by how much you borrow, the term of the loan and the interest rate. One thing to consider if you finance a 10-year-old car for 5 or more years is that you may end up making payments even after it dies.

Fuel is another major cost, and expected to rise as gas prices go up. A 25 mpg car will cost you nearly $2300 per year if you drive 15,000 miles at $3.80/gallon. A 30 mpg car will reduce that by nearly $400 per year, so consider fuel efficiency when buying your next car.

Insurance premiums are affected by the type of car you drive, but more so by the type of driver you are. If you’re a 20 year old male, expect to pay much more for insurance than your mother does, especially if you’ve been involved in an accident and/or been caught speeding while she hasn’t. Regardless, for a given driver in a specific location, used cars cost less to insure than similar new ones, and conservative cars less than speedsters.

Maintenance can cost several hundred dollars a year, especially if you pile on the mileage. However, don’t skimp on this, or you’ll pay much more in expensive repairs down the road. However, no matter how well you maintain your car, if it has over 100,000 miles and is about 10 years old, it will have significant repair bills at some point. Budget at least $1000 a year for this expense, and count yourself lucky if you don’t need to spend more. This is where reliable cars shine – unreliable cars will soon force you to junk them or pay more than half the car’s value in a single year. Given the choice between a lower-mileage older car and a high-mileage younger car, especially if the seller is a young driver and/or your area is known for traffic congestion, choose the lower-mileage car.

Choosing the Right Car under $5000

Some of the more reliable makes out there include Honda, Toyota and Subaru, which is why they tend to hold their value better – don’t expect to find a late-model car of this type for $5000. Consumer Reports has an annual car-buying guide (April issue) which you should review carefully to identify which cars you’d like to consider buying based on their reliability. Some cars you should consider at this price point are listed below. Depending on whether the seller is a private party or a dealership you may need to dial back the trim and/or the model year.

  • Honda Civic 2000 or 2001 LX, EX or Si if you prefer sportier handling
  • Honda Accord 1998 – 2002 EX or SE, with V6 if you want peppier acceleration and are willing to settle for an older model
  • Toyota Camry 1999 – 2001  XLE or LE with whatever options you want, but get the V6 engine or you may feel it’s under-powered
  • Subaru Outback 2000 or 2001, most likely the base 4-door model
  • Subaru Impreza 1999 – 2001 RS or Outback Sport, depending on your preference, though the latter will force you to an older model year

If you’re not familiar with a model you’re considering, visit a local dealership for a test drive before spending a great deal of time looking for the best deal on that car. You may find your head scrapes the roof, your legs don’t fit under the steering wheel, the rear seat leg-room cramps your teen’s legs and/or your camping gear won’t fit in the trunk.

Signs of Scams on Craigslist when Looking for Used Cars

While most Craigslist users, sellers or buyers, are honest people looking for a good deal, there are many scammers on the site so heed the warning signs pointed out by the site. If a vehicle needs to be shipped to you, forget it. If the seller asks you to use an escrow service or wire money to them, run, do not walk, away from this deal. If a link takes you to another site, that’s another warning sign.

Finally, if the deal seems too good to be true, it most likely is. Distressed sellers may discount their car by 10% or even 20% to make a quick sale, but legitimate sellers will very rarely sell a $10,000 car for $5000. If you find such a deal, it may be a car that sat underwater in New Orleans for a few days after Katrina, the odometer may have been rolled back significantly, there may be massive accident damage hidden under cosmetic repairs and a fresh coat of paint, it may be stolen, or most likely it simply does not exist. Make a deal for such a car and you’ll likely lose your purchase price or have to pay thousands in repair bills in short order.

Finding Reliable Used Cars under $5000 on Craigslist

Visit craigslist.org and look at the “for sale” area. There, click on “cars+trucks”, and enter e.g. $4500 and $5500 in the “price” boxes. This should locate the best cars in your budget range (you should be able to negotiate sellers down somewhat in many cases, which is why you should search up to 10% above your budget). In most regions you should find hundreds, if not thousands of vehicles with this search. Next, enter the makes and models you’re looking for, one at a time to narrow the results to only those cars.

Before making any calls, winnow your list to the 5 or 10 most promising but still legitimate-seeming ads. Set up meetings with sellers at a public location to see the cars, review their maintenance records and take short test drives (these should include highway, local roads, and preferably some rougher surface roads and tight turns to check for unusual knocking). If the car still seems a good bet, write down the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) and promise to call back. Order a Carfax report for your 5 best bets ($44.99 for all 5 as of this writing). Carfax reports may identify the following potential issues.

  • Salvage cars
  • Total loss accidents
  • “Lemon” vehicles
  • Flood-damaged cars
  • Especially high mileage (helps identify odometer tampering)
  • Cars with many owners (more likely to be in poor condition)
  • Fleet or rental cars (more likely to have been driven hard)
  • Airbag replacements (may indicate a significant collision)
  • Accident frame damage
  • Maintenance and service records

Prioritize the cars that pass the Carfax test, and starting from your favorite, meet with the owner and the car at a mechanic shop you trust, for a thorough inspection. This will cost you a bit, but may save you a lot. When you find a car your mechanic likes, negotiate the price and close the deal.

Some Edmunds.com Links to Explore

The following provide a range of prices, some of which are higher than $5000 if buying from a dealership, so look for private party sellers. Others are lower price in case you only want to buy from a dealer.

Honda Civic

Honda Accord

Toyota Camry

Subaru Outback

Subaru Impreza

Further Reading

1.      http://autos.aol.com/gallery/cheap-used-cars-under-5000/

2.      http://articles.moneycentral.msn.com/SavingandDebt/SaveonaCar/the-joys-of-a-5000-dollar-used-car.aspx

3.      http://www.insideline.com/acura/integra/2001/the-10-best-used-cars-for-less-than-5000.html

4.      http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/1540627/top_5_best_used_cars_under_5000.html?cat=27

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  1. brocks says:

    http://www.summitautoraleigh.com has so many used cars for sale in Raleigh, NC. I bought mine there.

  2. If you are looking around for cars, http://www.bobsteelemelbourne.com is a top used car dealership in Brevard Country.

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