Last week, I posed a question that would challenge the very pinchiest of penny pinching bargain hunters - can you find a dependable beater for less than $3,000 on eBay? The answer was a resounding YES. This may have been my favorite challenge yet.
Up until recently, I didn't even know that this Mazda 323 GTX was available in the US. Its all-wheel-drive, turbocharged four-cylinder engine was a mini-powerhouse but also considered fragile as glass by people that are experts with the cars. As a beater, I'm not sure that parts would come quickly or cheaply, but what a supremely fun daily driver it would make. As it is, it's a collector's item to anyone that appreciates quirky Japanese turbocharged nostalgia.
(Suggested by mikewballou)
Although this M35A2 would likely outlast you and the next three generations of potential offspring, the fuel costs would make it prohibitive pretty quickly. The good thing is that it would make one hell of a fort, so it could potentially double as low-cost housing. I mean, honestly, when was the last time you took your apartment down the highway at 60 miles per hour?
(Suggested by get-nick)
This Toyota Pickup is the similar to the truck that was literally unkillable in Top Gear, proving its worth by outliving the show itself. This un-crashed example is no different. Simple mechanicals, cheap repair parts, and a no-frills driving experience are anything any beater could ever hope to provide you. Load it up with way too much weight and drive it until the wheels fall off. Spoiler alert: they won't.
(Suggested by AntiLag)
All roads lead to the Mazda Miata, don't they? There's a good reason for that. The Miata doesn't have much of anything in the way of creature comforts, and it's all about corner chuck-ability, power-to-weight ratio, and ability to take year after year of abuse. It's not the most practical due to its diminutive size, but if you pack light, it's the ultimate cheap daily driver.
(Suggested by SirPoopyPants)
This Ford Crown Victoria is the automotive equivalent of a stray dog. It doesn't really bother you, looks sad when left outside unattended, and is ridiculously cheap to take home with you, showing you untold amounts of gratitude for saving it from a rough and undoubtedly short life. Cue the Sarah McLachlan tunes and get into one of these, it won't disappoint you, because it just doesn't know how.
(Suggested by Thunderface)
This Toyota Celica GT Liftback is almost too nice, meaning that for the price, it's crazy how near pristine the car is. Though some weird carb and catalytic converter issues prohibit it from being sold in California, anyone in the other sane 49 states can pick up this immaculate-looking vintage Toyota for next to freaking nothing. Beware when bidding, I may snipe at the last second. Maybe. Probably. Definitely.
(Suggested by NeilR)
The Mazda Protege, for all its practical uses, never really sold all that well. The market for the cars seemed to have fallen through the floor when people bought turds like the Ford Focus and Chevy Aveo. Shows how much they know, right? The good news is that you can buy this slightly over budget example for less than the down payment on a new Ford Focus, and there's a good chance it will outlast the new one. Every good car deserves a second chance, or three.
(Suggested by Shiftless)
This BMW 7-series is the generation that did battle with the German tank that was the Mercedes W140 S-Class , and the technological masterpiece that was the W220 S-class. Somehow, BMW kept all its teeth during the altercation, mainly because they made one hell of a car. Barring a cylinder lining issue with some of the early cars, this is a great way to get some reliable and cheap — and do I mean cheap — luxury. A mostly-sorted example for $3,000? Don't mind if I do.
(Suggested by Land_Yacht_225)
There's something great about this Volkswagen Baja Bug, a car that you can dismantle almost completely on the side of the road with hand tools. It's so ridiculously simple that customization isn't an option, it's a mandatory part of ownership. There are so many solutions to different problems that the car may have in its life that you can't help but make it yours. It's an adventure on four wheels that leaves your wallet full. Who can ask for more?
(Suggested by Nrstanley9)
This Lexus LS400 is a generation removed from the car I drove across the country, but it's close enough to that car that I'd have a strong opinion of it. Here goes: This car will never, ever, die. It may have minor issues with leaking lines, but these simply detract from the real discovery - the engineers at Lexus in the early '90s discovered the formula for a perpetual motion machine, and somehow transplanted the same technology into their 1UZ-FE V8 to make it run forever without any actual wear on mechanical parts. 900,000 miles don't lie, and the odometer on this example is just getting started. Buy one today and never worry about car issues again.
(Suggested by NeilR)
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.