Last week, I challenged you to show me the best fuel sipping gas miser for less than $5000 on eBay, and you delivered, albeit a bit slower because I assume hypermiling was involved. Here are the best gas-saving cars on eBay, for less than the price of your average new car's down payment.
Here's a car that takes the reliable and not-at-all unpredictable handling of a Reliant Robin, the impeccable quality control of Chinese manufacturing, the sheer speed of an early all-electric drivetrain, and the timeless good looks of tiger stripes on the exterior and interior. It's the automotive embodiment of the term "quadruple threat". And it's cheap - really, really cheap.
(Suggested by Manwich)
Before Subaru made rally stage destroying, all-wheel-drive powerhouses, it made small, fuel efficient hatchbacks to make ends meet. The Justy was one of these cars. Honest, cheap, dependable, with a party trick - nearly 40 miles per gallon, more than a decade before the Prius came to the party. This one is so far below budget you could buy four of them and have a carbon-neutral fleet.
(Suggested by Jonee)
Saturns, in general, were revolutionary in their day. They had dent-resistant (plastic) side panels, styling that was ahead of its time for a GM product, and gas mileage that gave Japanese cars a hard run for their money. A good friend of mine had an early SL1, with the single overhead cam 1.9 liter four cylinder engine throughout college. Although it was a super-dependable mode of transportation, the manufacturer had the audacity to put a "performance" switch on an 85-horsepower car. At least it was great on gas.
(Suggested by Land_Yacht_225)
Sometimes the most fuel efficient vehicle you can get needs to drop the unnecessary features like a roof, interior and two wheels to do its job to the best of its ability. I'll let BenLikesCars explain:
The most efficient way to travel is in a straight line, A to B directly. The ideal transportation makes this feasible. This is a Cagiva multipurpose motorcycle. You do not need to make turns or even substantially alter your rate of travel. You find your bearing, apply throttle, and you'll get to your destination. Seriously, in terms of any obstacles you are thinking of, what does your little subdivision have that, say, Africa does not? Paris-Dakar, bitches. This bike has it. It's also really cute and the engine sounds like it can make the grade and probably out-mpg a Prius.
(Suggested by BenLikesCars)
This is the car that started a pumpkin-spice-latte-fueled revolution. Although it is somewhat synonymous with the most disconnected driving experience one can have, it has the running costs of a manual pencil sharpener and will run forever if taken care of properly. It can out-mileage nearly any gas-powered car to this day, and for this price, that's no small feat.
(Suggested by Susan)
No dependability/reliability/fuel-mileageability challenge would be complete without at least a nod to the ubiquitous Honda Civic CX. This barebones hatchback is what the Eastern bloc wanted to make during the Cold War but couldn't, because capitalism just does everything better. This particular car is the cleanest example of an unmolested Honda Civic I think I've ever seen. A great buy for anyone looking for a cheap running means of transport.
This turbodiesel Volkswagen is the closest America will come to the diesel-sipping microcars that are so unbelievably popular in Europe. If you ever drive one, you'll understand that this just makes sense and you'll wonder why all cars don't run on small diesel engines. This Jetta looks like it's been murdered out on a budget, with rare non-options such as roll-up windows and cloth interior installed, with the added benefit of nearly 50 mpg. It's easy to work on and actually not much of a slouch in the performance department. A solid deal for anyone that wants to run on used vegetable grease.
This car does not play games, and it doesn't pretend that it's something it's obviously not. There aren't any textured panels simulating carbon fiber or leather. It's nothing but molded plastic, rubber, and cloth on the inside of this car. It can fit 5, but only just. It has a 3 cylinder, 1 liter engine mated to a 5-speed transmission that can get upwards of 50 miles per gallon in even the worst of conditions. It's like a frugal honeybadger - it's cheap and it just doesn't care.
The Honda CRX HF is the car manufacturer's best attempt at making a car that runs on nothing. This car was rated by the EPA at 55 mpg, but with hypermiling techniques and a little homemade aero, you could bump the savings up nearly 100 percent. I'm confident that if you put a big enough fuel tank on the inside, it could make it across the country without refueling once. This example is listed by the seller as the "Greatest car ever made.!", and I don't disagree.
At a price right on budget, this car was made for this challenge. It has aero covers on the rear wheels, has a hybrid gas-electric drivetrain, and despite being 12 years old, it looks futuristic enough to be driven by Tom Cruise in his latest sci-fi flick. How many MPG? Up to 100, with hypermiling techniques. That's absolutely insane, and you still get the same Honda reliability, just for much, much less money. If no one buys this, I just might.
For more awesome eBay challenges, check these out:
Tavarish is the founder of APiDA Online and writes about buying and selling cool cars on the internet. He owns the world's cheapest Mercedes S-Class, a graffiti-bombed Lexus, and he's the only Jalopnik author that has never driven a Miata. He also has a real name that he didn't feel was journalist-y enough so he used a pen name and this was the best he could do.