There are no jobs where you live and everything (interviews, temp work, unemployment office) requires transportation. You not only need a car, you need one that won't break down every week or shame you on a job interview. Inspired by a reader suddenly short on cash, here's what fellow Jalopnik readers suggested as the ten best cars for poor people.
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10.) 1990s Honda Accord Wagon
Suggested By: Les Spiegerable
Why it works: 1990s Accords score high marks in nearly every rubric for a perfect ‘get me to work this whole week and don't die on me' car. Low entry costs are coupled with long-lasting parts that are cheap to replace. They're almost too good at what they do, reliably raking high on the list of most stolen cars in America. The car will drive fine, it's just that it will be a cold, quiet commute after that perp smashes your window and steals your radio.
9.) Buick Regal
Suggested By: mckelly
Why it works: Old GM midsizers are everywhere these days, and have a huge support base for mechanical help and parts. Style is cheap; head over to your local Rent-A-Tire and it's just a set of chrome spinners away. On top of that, there must be some reason why grandmas are still running errands in them, decades after they rolled out of the factory.
8.) A Motorcycle
Suggested By: hoon_n_friends
Why it works: If you find yourself in Burkina Faso, don't expect to find very much but old motorcycles on the roads. America is probably the cheapest place in the world to own a car, but the developing world points out pretty clearly that when you need to get someplace far away and you can't afford a car, a motorcycle is the way to go.
7.) 1990s Ford Crown Victoria
Suggested By: USER zerobandwidth
Why it works: If you're Crown Vic, old school, take a note from zerobandwidth, who gives a remarkable direct summary of these old cruisers.
"Replacement parts number in the billions and are bought for beans. Used car dealerships sell them for around $4k in good condition, which puts it within reach of all but the most desperate. Best of all, if you can hide all your junk in its cavernous trunk, you can show up at an interview in it, and impress your future boss with its luxurious looks. It won't just tide you over until your next job - it might get you your next job."
6.) Geo Prizm
Suggested By: Whitetrashsteve
Why it works: Plenty of commenters voted for 1990s Toyota Camrys as the best choice for a low-cost, low-maintenance midsize sedan. However, after much consideration, we're going for the Geo Prizm, as it scores just as highly as the Camry in reliability and practicality, and significantly lower on desirability. Same great taste, it's just that Geos will be all the more easy to buy on a budget.
5.) Ford Escort
Suggested By: PotbellyJoe
Why it works: Several Fords from the late 1990s / early 2000s were suggested by the commentariat, from Thunderbirds and Mustangs to ZX2s and Focuses. Everyone seemed to agree that Ford has turned out some very straightforward a-to-b automobiles that depreciation has made into solid bargain buys.
4.) Kia Rio
Suggested By: JCwhitless
Why it works: Cheap to buy with cheap parts, recent Kias and Hyundais are affordable and available. They don't exactly turn heads or spark lust in the gearhead hivemind, but they'll take you to your job, help you move, and basically do all the things you can't do with a bus or a bike.
3.) A Truck
Suggested By: brisbrd
Why it works: Like many of the automobiles on this list, old trucks score well on low purchase price, mechanical simplicity, and practicality. Rangers, Toyotas, and B-series are everywhere. Chairman Kaga said this of the segment:
"Basically indestructible, cheap and easy to fix when something does go wrong, and even when it does die you can sell it on Craigslist for what you originally paid for it, turn around and get another. You can also live in the back if you lose your home."
2.) Buick LeSabre
Suggested By: ranwhenparked
Why it works: Across America, LeSabres, Park Avenues, Grand Ams perform the driving duties of the working class. Looks are not their strong point, but being boring is almost a plus for a cheap car. They might not be interesting, but they keep the country moving, and if you find one in the local listings, don't be afraid to snatch one up.
1.) Nissan Sentra
Suggested By: Everyone
Why it works: They're everywhere and they're the bread and butter of the low-cost car segment. Jack Baruth summed up the pros of the fairly anonymous, high quality Japanese compacts of the 1990s with these words."When I was a kid, the phrase "UJM" - Universal Japanese Motorcycle - was popular. A UJM was any four-cylinder, water-cooled, standard-style Honda, Suzuki, Kawasaki, or Yamaha. Think Honda CB550 as an example. They were all well-made, durable, a bit bland, and difficult to identify at a distance.
I think of the Colt, Civic, Corolla, and Sentra of the early Nineties as Universal Japanese Cars. They were all under 2500 pounds. They could be had with vinyl floors and, usually, four-speed transmissions. Nothing went wrong with them, but there wasn't any gingerbread to be had either. Only rust could take them out of circulation, really. They were good cars."