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2012 Nissan Versa SV.

How to Find a Reliable Used Car for Under $5,000

The used-car market has tremendous opportunities, even for those who are working with the tightest of budgets. If you’re looking for reliable transportation, you don’t have to cough up mountains of cash to get the vehicle you need. You can find reliable used cars for less than $5,000, provided you tackle the task from an informed perspective.

Below are some tips to help you buy a car you can depend on without spending more than $5,000 on your purchase:

1. Consider Dependability Ratings

Dependability ratings paint a picture of a vehicle’s reliability. J.D Power is a well-known ratings and research company that does a yearly study aimed at ascertaining the most reliable vehicles in each segment. This study gauges dependability by polling car owners on problems they’ve faced over the past 12 months of ownership. Various areas are covered, and the study looks at everything from a vehicle’s engine and transmission to its infotainment system.

Vehicles that lead the pack in the most recent study include the Buick Verano, Nissan Versa, Hyundai Accent, Nissan Murano and Buick LaCrosse.

2. Pick a Used Car That Was Economically Priced When It Was New

2012 Nissan Versa SV
(Nissan)

Depreciation stings if you’re purchasing a new car, since it can work very quickly to diminish the value of your investment. Most of the pain occurs very early on, and on average, cars lose 19 percent of their value after just a year of ownership.

The good news is that if you’re shopping for a used car, depreciation changes sides, morphing from foe to friend. Used cars lose a lot of their value to depreciation, and this fact will help you find an affordable purchase.

If reliability is a concern, it suits you to purchase a car that’s as new and low-mileage as possible, since these cars will likely need less repairs down the road than models that are more aged and worn. If a vehicle has a steep new-car price, you will likely have to make some big compromises when it comes to age and mileage if you want to find one for less than $5,000.

One solution is to shop for a used vehicle that was an affordably priced new car. There are models on the market that cost between $10,000 and $20,000 when purchased new. These models are your best bets if you want to purchase inexpensively on the used market.

The Nissan Versa, for example, has a new-car base price of $12,825, including destination fees. This low price marks it as a prime candidate if you’re on the hunt for a low-cost used car, and the fact that the Versa did well in the current J.D. Power dependability study is another plus. Here on CARFAX, you’ll find listings for used 2007-to-2012 Nissan Versas with less than 100,000 miles for under $4,000. The Versa is a subcompact model, but it’s got a spacious cabin, a roomy backset and a large trunk, and these qualities give it the flexibility to tackle the needs of various types of car shoppers.

Don’t let the idea of purchasing a vehicle with a low new-car price discourage you. Many models in this price range offer tremendous value and come with generous feature content.

3. Get a Vehicle History Report

Mileage and age aren’t the only things that impact a vehicle’s future performance, and there are other factors to consider when evaluating used cars.

Cars that have been in accidents are more likely to have problems later on. Also, it can also be helpful to know how many owners a car has had and how it was used. For example, a single-owner vehicle that was employed for personal use may have less wear and tear than one that was heavily used as a rental car. Finally, it’s wise to try and access a vehicle’s service history, as this will let you know if regular maintenance work has been performed.

To uncover all this essential information, you’ll need to view a car’s vehicle history report. On our site, we offer access to a free CARFAX Vehicle History Report with each used-car listing. This report lets you know how many owners a car has had, and whether the car has been in an accident or suffered damage. It tells you which parts of the country the owners lived in, and this can be useful, since certain climates are harder on cars than others. Each report also provides a detailed history of maintenance work done on each car, including the date, service location and the nature of the work performed.

You don’t need to contact the seller to take a look at this report. It’s available on our site at no charge, and you can view the report while evaluating a listing.

4. Hire a Mechanic for an Independent Inspection

You may have found a car that has a clean history and a great price, but you’re still not out of the woods. The final step in your used-car purchase involves hiring a mechanic to give the vehicle a thorough once-over. A mechanic will be able to identify hidden problems, and taking this step will help you avoid making a purchase that could cost you dearly in repairs.

You’ll have to budget some money to pay for this service. Expect to pay about $100 for a pre-purchase inspection, but know that this is cash well spent.

You Can Score a Bargain

It’s easy to uncover amazing bargains when shopping for a used car.

With the right tools and the right information, you can purchase a vehicle that satisfies your needs without decimating your finances.

One thought on “How to Find a Reliable Used Car for Under $5,000”

  1. I look for a car endprice 5500 not over 50.000 miles, one owner from arizona , no accident , clean not older then2010 maybe honda , hyundai nissan , sedan ,from old people !! maybe green valley ? [ Smile!] I leave in Tucson

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