It is usually a bad idea to buy a car for less than $5,000, unless you are buying it to wrench, or unless you’ve had it inspected and are going into it eyes open, or unless that is simply all you can afford, full stop. That’s because cheap cars are unreliable cars, and, if you spend a small amount of money now, you’re probably going to be on the hook for a lot more later when it breaks. And yet.
We asked you all for your best purchases in this vein; the responses were some of what you would expect (lots of Toyotas and Hondas) and a few things that you wouldn’t. By the way, the best (only) car I have ever bought for under $5,000 was a 1991 Chevy S-10 that I bought for $700 in 2003 which simply refused to die, and which I used throughout college and for a good time after.
I don’t really know what happened to it, in the end. I parked it at my mom’s house and moved to New York City and one day I came back and it was gone and I didn’t ask why or how, probably because I didn’t want to know.
A programming note: Most of you answered this question hypothetically, others provided examples of cars that you actually bought or have bought. The answers are a mix.