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10 Best Beaters Under $5,000

Shopping on a budget? These 10 beater cars will get you far.

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carThanikaThaiPhotoStock/Shutterstock

Toyota Camry, 2002-2006

“As of July 2010, 90% of all Toyota Camrys sold since 1995 were still on the road. This remarkable statistic shows the car’s durability and reliability,” says Trusted Choice. Hop onto Kelly Blue Book and read reviews of the beater car, and you’ll find hundreds of reviews that prove purchasing this vehicle for under $5,000 is well worth it!

One Camry owner says, “I love love love my Camry! I would have no problem driving it anywhere in the US. It’s close to hitting the 200k mark, but you certainly would not be able to tell. It gets great gas mileage for a 2002, but it has plenty of pep to get up and go. I never get below 30 MPG. The JBL premium sound system is AWESOME! I cannot believe it came from the factory like that. Overall, this is the BEST car I have ever owned in my life, and I don’t ever plan on getting rid of it. It’s just an awesome car.”

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FordPaul Stringer/Shutterstock

Ford Focus, 2008-2011


The Ford Focus is a compact car first released in the U.S. in 1999. It has remained a leader in the small car segment, with the second generation of the vehicle proving a solid purchase for your beater car dreams. “Thanks to its popularity and mechanical simplicity, parts are widely available and maintenance is relatively inexpensive,” says Autotrader. “As we speak, there are over 500 2008-2011 Ford Focuses listed on Autotrader for around $5,000.” Get your vehicle looking like new with these simple interior and exterior car detailing tips that you can do yourself.

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Toyota via Wikimedia Commons

Toyota Sienna, 2004 to 2010


The Toyota Sienna is a great vehicle to purchase if you’re starting a family and want a safe and reliable car for a super inexpensive price. Kelly Blue Book reviewers love this beater car. Of the 2004 to 2010 models, one Toyota Sienna owner says, “I’ve owned this Sienna for 5 years and it has been extremely reliable. The only thing I’ve done to her is regular maintenance stuff like alternator, battery, starter and brakes. Other than that this has been a solid vehicle. They don’t make them like this anymore!!!”

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Scion tC, 2005-2010


The Scion tC is a great option for those who enjoy personalizing their vehicles. Having started production in 2004, you can get the first generation of the sport coupe on a $5,000 budget. “As the Scion brand was owned by Toyota, you can count on great quality and reliability,” says Autotrader. “Among the tC’s respectable list of available features were a 1600-watt Pioneer sound system and a panoramic sunroof. There are many 2005-2010 tCs on Autotrader at or near the $5,000 price point.” Here’s how to repair minor tears in leather.

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FiatTupungato/Shutterstock

Fiat 500, 2008-2015


If you’d like your beater car for under $5,000 to be on the newer side, the Fiat 500 is a great option. Launched as the Nuova (new) 500 in July 1957, it was designed to be an inexpensive and practical little car. The compact Italian car has continued to prove great for city driving and parking.

“Available in coupe, cabriolet or high-performance Abarth form, the Fiat 500 is more affordable than a Mini Cooper and more gregarious than a Toyota Yaris. Simply put, the 2012 Fiat 500 offers a new mix of economy and style,” says Kelly Blue Book’s review of the 2012 Fiat. The following 13 handy hints will help you complete automotive maintenance and small fixes with ease.

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SUVvia Wikimedia Commons

Ford Escape, 2001-2007


Ford’s first crossover SUV, the first generation of the Escape can be found for $5,00 or less. It was an immediate success, so you’ll find many pre-owned examples today. “Like all Ford models, parts are standard, easy to come by, and inexpensive,” says Trusted Choice. “The cargo area is large and you get your money’s worth with an SUV at this price point.” Plus: Learn how to fix a leaking sunroof here.

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Nissanvia Wikimedia Commons

Nissan Versa, 2007-2011


If you’re looking to give up the big SUV for something more practical and fuel efficient, the Nissan Versa is a great choice. The first of generation of this beater car was introduced in the U.S. with an MSRP of just $9,990, making it the least expensive new car available at the time.

According to Kelly Blue Book: “The 2011 Nissan Versa leads the small-car pack in spaciousness, which is worth considering if you carry passengers in the back seat. Standing tall in both dimensions and refinement, it may also tempt those who appreciate the smoothness of a CVT, which promises 34 miles per gallon on the highway (according to EPA fuel-economy estimates).”

If your goal is to keep your car in great shape, don’t even consider doing any of these things or you’ll regret it.

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Subaruvia RL GNZLZ/Flickr

Subaru Outback, 2005-2009


The Subaru Outback is your go-to beater car for anyone with an active lifestyle. Subaru first developed the Outback in 1995, taking inspiration from the AMC Eagle, a four-wheel drive offering the convenience of passenger and cargo space in an economical all-season vehicle. The car was named for the Australian desert. “While any Outback at this price point will likely be older and come with higher mileage, it’s but a small price to pay considering the added benefits of this vehicle for anyone with an active lifestyle,” says Autotrader. “Currently, there are around 150 2005-2009 Outbacks listed on Autotrader at or near the $5,000 price point.” In the market for new truck or SUV tires? Check out our truck and SUV tire buying guide.

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Xterra via Wikimedia Commons

Nissan Xterra, 1999-2004


This truck-like SUV is a capable off-roader. Thanks to its body-on-frame, the beater car allows you to traverse tough terrain while also ensuring you still have the cargo space and utility needed during your daily commute. The car ceased production in 2015, but remains an affordable four-wheel drive option for your $5,000 budget.

“While no longer available as a new vehicle, the used Nissan Xterra represents excellent value to the off-road enthusiast,” says Carfax. “It offers much of the Jeep Wrangler’s capability, but in a more livable daily driver. Shoppers looking for Nissan’s quality and packaging in a competent, but less off-road friendly, midsize SUV will want to investigate the Nissan Murano.”

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HondaPaul Stringer/Shutterstock

Honda Civic, 2006 to 2010


The Honda Civic undoubtedly has a long and successful history. Prior to its production, Honda had been considering pulling out of vehicle manufacturing. However, when the first generation Honda Civic hit the market back in 1972, Honda became a popular competitor in the automotive industry.

“Honda sells hundreds of thousands of Civics in the US every year. This means that there are thousands of Civics across the country for under $5,000, too,” says Trusted Choice. “The best part about Civics is that there are a range of models, all of which are affordable. In fact, you’ve got the coupe, sedan and even a hybrid to pick from. There are always a lot of Civics for sale, and in this model year range, you can get one well within your $5,000 budget.”

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Alexa Erickson
Alexa is an experienced lifestyle and news writer, currently working with Reader's Digest, Shape Magazine and various other publications. She loves writing about her travels, health, wellness, home decor, food and drink, fashion, beauty and scientific news. Follow her traveling adventures on Instagram: @living_by_lex, send her a message: [email protected] and check out her website: livingbylex.com