I consistently have friends and family looking for advice on car purchases. The question that comes up the most is the best budget car for the lowest price. Specifically, what are the best dirt cheap cars under $5k, because nobody has money to spend anymore.

The one advantage to obsessing about cars is you can occasionally talk about them and give some useful advice. So to make it easier for myself I decided to write down a list of what I think is the best value in cars these days.

We’re talking strictly appliances with wheels here, so interesting and exciting aren’t the priority here.

Got a little more to spend? Check out the list of best-used EVs to buy.


It isn’t a surprise that when you think of a reliable car that the Japanese make dominate. They’ve been cranking out reliability for 30+ years at this point. But we’re looking for the cheapest reliability here; sub $5k reliability. So what’s the best you can get?

  • Toyota Corolla- Pretty Much any mark will do but the newer you can get the better it is. No turbos, no frills, no nonsense. Just turn the key and go. These things will go on basically forever because Toyota markets this car all over the world. It’s designed to survive a variety of climates and terrains so 300k plus mileage cars are not uncommon. 30+ mpg and basic maintenance anyone can do in their driveway. Seems like a winner.


Crossovers are hot these days. Many people like the higher seating position and the feeling of security ( I guess). So I think this list wouldn’t be complete without finding the ultimate budget crossover.

  • Ford Escape Hybrid– This is probably my favorite pick on this list. Why? Because this car is tough as nails. It can go over 500k miles with regular maintenance, and for proof just look at how many are used as taxis in NYC. With availability of 4WD, 30+mpg and fairly modern looks it’ll let you blend in the crossover parking lot easily without breaking the budget.

People Movers

What if you have a big family and just need to move a lot of people? Or maybe you have a business that moves a lot of stuff. A budget minivan is your best bet. I know, I know, people hate minivans. The fact is though, they offer far more versatility than pretty much any other type of vehicle.

  • Honda Odyssey- Dodge may have invented the minivan but Honda made it reliable. Early 2000 versions can be had all day long for under $5k with relatively low miles. Comfortable, decent power, gobs of space to swallow up people and things, what more do you need? Maintenance is a breeze, and mpg isn’t bad either because of its car underpinnings. It is the most practical vehicle if you need space.

This list is short but I think it hits the types of vehicles most commuters need. It’s a great time to be a car buyer.

Cars in the last 15 years have been built better, more efficient, and more reliable than ever before. So buying used can get you not just a bargain but value.

As with everything do your due diligence before any purchase. Carfax is your friend and can tell a lot about a used car’s life.

That’s the best cars for under $5k. What’s your budget daily mover? Can you think of any other sub $5k cars worth the money?

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