Best Used Cars Under $3,000

Even though $3,000 is an extremely low cost, you’d be surprised what you can find for that price. People tend to assume anything under $3,000 is going to be junk, but it’s important to remember what one person considers junk, another person might consider a beauty.

So you’re limiting your budget to $3,000. Whether this is because of necessity or just to be more economical, we support it. However, there are a few things that we need to get out of the way. First, there are a few things you’ll need to forfeit when you’re looking for a $3,000 car. You wont likely find a car for that price that has low mileage. Even if it’s a newer car, it’s likely to have a lot of miles. This isn’t always a bad thing though, a lot of times cars with high mileage get overlooked, and people don’t take into account the fact that the owner might have taken really good care of the car. It’s always a good idea to check oil and maintenance records to see if it was serviced regularly. If it was, you might have a hidden gem on your hands.

Second, I wouldn’t expect to find a brand new car. The cars in this price range will likely be several years old. However, if it’s well taken care of, the age of the vehicle wont matter. That being said, the style might be a bit out of date, and it might not have all the newest technology, but if you can get past that, you can pick up a really great car for a more than reasonable price.

We’ve attempted to compile a list of vehicles that cover all the bases. We have included some safe family vehicles, commuter vehicles, and even some sporty vehicles for those looking for a secondary car. Have a look, see what you think, and we’ll recap after we run through the list.

Honda Civic

Honda Civics have always been known as a reliable car. Early 2000’s was no exception, and that’s what you should shoot for. Sure, the Civic is a generic car, but it still looks good, it’s well made, and the gas mileage is absolutely outstanding (up to 44 MPG on the highway).

Some Civics will cost more and some will cost less, but we’ve found that on average, it’s possible to find an early 2000’s Honda Civic for $3,000 or less.

In addition to having impeccable gas mileage, the Honda Civic’s generic engineering allows for the repair costs to be incredibly low. When you compare the low cost of purchasing the car and maintaining it with the high cost of purchasing a new car, there are few non-superficial reasons not to purchase a Civic.

Additionally, as long as you take good care of the Civic, you will get several years out of it regardless of if it’s new or used. The Civic is certainly not regarded as the type of car that gives out at a quarter of a million miles. We’ve seen cases of them going far beyond that mile marker, you just have to remember to have it serviced regularly and take good care of it. If you do that, the Civic will take good care of you right back!

Toyota Camry

We think at this point, it’s pretty common knowledge that Toyota Camrys are never a bad choice. They are inexpensive, and they’ll run forever. The thing to note about Camrys is when it comes to older models, the supply can very often exceed the demand. So you can almost always find a good deal on the Camry. However it seems to be limited to, at least at this point, the 2004 and earlier. Since the 2004 is the newest year and technology that you are able to get for the less expensive price, we figured we would review this one!

There are a few different options that you can take with the Camry. We think most people gravitate towards the V6 option. However, we would strongly urge you to buy the four-cylinder option. It wont be as powerful, but if budget and bargain are the name of the game for you, then the four-cylinder option will be much more gentle on your pocket book.

Mazda Miata

The Mazda Miata makes for a fantastic second car. It’s small, light, and fast. Did we mention it also has a convertible option? It’s probably the sportiest car in our list, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t come with great qualities. Mazdas are great cars. They are light and efficient, and they have incredible on gas mileage. You also get the quality of a Mazda. It likely wont break down, and if it does, it won’t be expensive to fix. Additionally, it’s very inexpensive to operate. It takes regular gas, and a small amount goes a long way, especially for the 1.6-liter four-cylinder model, which is considered the first generation Miata.

Also, it’s important to note that this car will last you for years! This is generally best used as a second car for most people. That being said for the small amount it will be driven, matched with how incredibly reliable it is, it’s not out of the realm of possibility to last you 20 + years! Life certainly does not end at the 200,000 mile marker for this gorgeous car.

 This is an inexpensive was to add a really fun car to your fleet. It’s truly the frugal man’s roadster.

Honda CR-V

This is a favorite of ours, actually. The Honda CR-V has so much value it’s insane. It’s pretty amazing that it’s possible to get an 2000’s SUV for under $3,000. What’s even more amazing is the quality of SUV that you get for this price.

The Honda CR-V is an incredibly reliable car. It’s so reliable that you can run up the miles as much as you want, and you’ll likely not have a problem. hit 200,000 miles? No problem! The CR-V will keep going effortlessly. While making this list we came to the realization that people generally give up on their cars after 200,000 miles, if not before! This is a waste. Sure, they are more risky to own after that 200,000 mile mark, but with the right TLC, they will give you much more life and ultimately save you money.

If you’re looking for a simple car that requires little maintenance, is durable, good looking, and convenient, We’d strongly recommend checking out the Honda CR-V. There are few choices better for a well-rounded vehicle than the CR-V.

Ford Mustang

Hold your horses! Before you get too excited, we have to hash out the details. To take advantage of the $3,000 price, you’re going to need to be content with the V6 version. But before you get too bummed, it’s important to point out this is a great car. The V6 gives you the sleek, handsome, classic look of a strong mustang, but without the traffic tickets that go with it. Also, you’re going to save a ton in gas compared to the V8.

Not to say either car is better than the other, but for the purpose of this particular article, we’d like to touch on the benefits of the V6. This is definitely for those of you who would like to stay in the $3,000 price range, but also don’t want to drive a beater or a generic car. The mustang is the best of both worlds. We think it’ll be an excellent car to add to your life.

Ford Expedition

This is the monster of the cars we are listing for you in this article. It’s huge, spacious, and it can haul your whole family package. The elephant in the room is obviously the gas mileage. The Expedition sucks up quite a bit of gas, but that’s usually expected from a larger SUV like this. the Expedition can haul up to eight people comfortably. it also comes with an optional tow package that will make towing just about anything a simple and stress-free process.

In the late 1990’s scores of people were abandoning larger vehicles like the Expedition because of outrageous gas prices. Most of them withered away in used car lots for several years. You don’t see them too often anymore due to the unpredictability of the oil market. But if you’re comfortable with fluctuating gas prices, there isn’t likely a better choice for a family sized SUV.

Lastly, you’ll find the Expeditions are loaded! They have tons of features, packages, etc. If you are going to be in an area where four-wheel drive is necessary, then sure, take the package with the four-wheel drive and air suspension. However, if possible, forfeit those packages for chance at an Expedition with better gas mileage and lower repair costs down the road.

Subaru Outback

Here’s a fun fact: nearly all of the Subaru Outback that have ever been sold in the United States and Canada are still in commission today. For a short lived period of time, the Outbacks suffered from a head gasket issue, that has been cleared up, and there probably isn’t a safer, more reliable car on the market. On top of that, they are a dream in the snow and ice. They can go just about anywhere with ease. Additionally, they always on top the charts of the safest vehicles available.

The main downside is the wagon look, most people aren’t fans of it, but if you can get past the homely look, they are just as convenient as any SUV you might find, and they are probably a lot less expensive.

The Outback is also great on gas, it’s great for hauling cargo, and it’s fantastic on road trips. We think it’s very unlikely you will dislike this car. If possible, shoot for an early 2000’s Outback (you might have to settle for a manual). If you can manage that, you’re likely to come in under the $3,000 mark.

Final Thoughts

It’s definitely tricky feat, but as we’ve found, you can definitely pick up a great, reliable car that compliments your lifestyle for under $3,000. However, you’re just going to need to know when and what to make sacrifices to achieve the low budget, high reliability vehicle. You wont find a brand new, sporty, safe,  reliable car for under $3,000, but you might find a newer, safe, reliable car in that price range. We’d just advise you to find what’s important to you, and attempt to sacrifice the rest to stay in your budget.

Additionally, we think it’s important to be reasonable through this process. You’re here for a reason. You have a budget, and you’d like to stick to it. You’re not trying to purchase a $50,000 car that you probably don’t need. So instead of working against your budget, why not try working with it? As we have shown, there are plenty of great cars available for your price range.

Also, there are plenty out there that we haven’t mentioned. This is just a small sample of the many cars we have come across during our research. However, we do think we have put together a comprehensive list of the better, safer budget vehicles on the market. If you’d like to look further, we’d recommend looking at companies like Toyota, Honda, Mazda, Subaru, and Isuzu. They tend to make vehicles that last very long, they’re inexpensive, and they tend to make vehicles that are good on gas mileage.

Lastly, we hope this has helped you through your process! We think you’re trying a great thing by finding a great budget find. If there are any other cars that you can thing of that could be included, let us know! We’d love to hear about them and get them included at our earliest convenience! Happy hunting.