Purchasing a first car is a wonderful rite of passage, and it can provide you with your first taste of true independence. However, buying a car also brings with it much responsibility and cost, including expenses related to registration, tags and insurance. The most significant expense is the purchase price, but with careful research, affordable used cars with a decent array of feature content are within the reach for first-time buyers.
Below are seven used vehicles that you can purchase for about $5,000 each. Our list includes a diverse range of body styles, from a subcompact hatchback to a large sedan.
2010 Nissan Cube
The Nissan Cube defies easy categorization, and it blurs the lines between a wagon and a small crossover. This boxy hauler supplies a roomy interior for passengers and cargo alike.
Offered from 2009 to 2014, the 2010 Cube has a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine paired with a six-speed manual or a continuously variable transmission (CVT). Standard equipment includes air conditioning, power windows and door locks, a four-speaker stereo, a CD player and a 60-/40-split second-row bench seat that folds and slides. Regularly customized by owners, the 2010 Cube you end up finding may have special wheels and interior upgrades.
2009 Honda Fit
Honda introduced its subcompact Fit hatchback in 2007, slotting this vehicle below the wildly popular Civic. Like the Civic, the Fit’s reputation precedes it, and it’s received accolades from numerous automative publications for its strong versatility and high level of overall competence.
The Fit benefited from a 2009 redesign that left it with a surprisingly roomy interior, agile handling and a peppy 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine. This four-door hatchback comes in base and Sport trims. Base models come with air conditioning, power windows and door locks and a tilt-and-telescoping steering column. A five-speed manual transmission is standard, and a five-speed automatic is optional.
2009 Scion tC
The Scion tC is a small coupe that’s powered by 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine. Two transmissions are offered: a five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic. The generous standard equipment list is a real attention-getter, and it includes keyless entry, air conditioning, alloy wheels, a sunroof, cruise control, full power accessories and a six-speaker Pioneer audio system.
2008 Pontiac Vibe
Don’t let the Pontiac name scare you. Although Pontiac models were last produced in 2010, similar cars from other brands ensure that parts remain available.
Unlike other Pontiac models, this compact wagon has no GM brand twin. Instead, the Vibe shares its platform with the Toyota Matrix, and both were derived from the Toyota Corolla. While finding an affordable Corolla may be a challenge, a Vibe powered by a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine should cost you about $5,000. Standard features include air conditioning, tilt steering and a CD player.
2008 Chevrolet Malibu
Midsize sedans priced at $5,000 and under are difficult to find, as most vehicles in this competitive segment do a good job of retaining their value. However, for this price, you can get a roomy and affordable Chevrolet Malibu with roughly 100,000 miles on the odometer.
The Malibu was redesigned in 2008, and the upgrade brought fresh sheet metal and a longer wheelbase. The base 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine makes 169 horsepower and comes paired with a four-speed automatic transmission. Both a V6 and a six-speed automatic transmission are available. This family sedan rides on 16-inch wheels and features keyless entry, air conditioning and power accessories, and OnStar is on board to furnish turn-by-turn directions.
2008 Mercury Grand Marquis
Like Pontiac, the Mercury brand is no more, and the last model was produced for the 2011 model year. The good news here is that late-model Mercury vehicles have corresponding Ford twins, and this makes it easy to get your hands on parts if you need them. For this reason and many others, the 2008 Mercury Grand Marquis is a full-size sedan that’s worth considering.
The rear-wheel-drive 2008 Grand Marquis is a behemoth, but its size may be its best attribute for safety reasons, especially for first-time drivers. It comes powered by a 4.6-liter V8 engine, and base models are equipped with bench seats in both rows, automatic headlamps and full power accessories. This Mercury has one of the largest trunks in the segment, with 20.6 cubic feet of cargo capacity on tap. You have to go back nearly 10 years to find a Grand Marquis priced at about $5,000, but the sedan’s spaciousness and strong feature content make it worth the journey back in time.
2007 Subaru Legacy
The Subaru Legacy is not your ordinary midsize sedan. This model has standard all-wheel drive, which is an unusual feature in this segment. It is also the oldest model in our group, so expect a used one to have far more than 100,000 miles on it. The good news is that a Legacy is within reach for about $4,500. A wagon version is available, but it likely will cost you more.
The 2017 Legacy comes with 17-inch aluminum alloy wheels, full power accessories, air conditioning and a six-speaker audio system. The handling advantage of all-wheel drive may be this model’s greatest asset.