Used Cars Under $5,000 Recommended By Edmunds, the premier online resource for automotive information, has launched “The Debt-Free Car Project,” which aims to assure car buyers that they can find a reliable used car for under $5,000 without the burden of monthly payments. Last month,’s consumer advice editors purchased a 1996 Lexus ES300 for $3,800, and over the next year they will document the vehicle’s performance as part of the company’s long-term car test fleet.

“Not everyone has the credit or steady income to afford monthly car payments, so it’s important to show consumers that they can find a dependable used car for just a few thousand dollars up front,” says Consumer Advice Editor Ronald Montoya. “We were determined not to buy a beater that would have us visiting a mechanic every month and, like any car buyer, we wanted a car that we would not be ashamed to drive.”

1996 Lexus’s consumer advice editors used online resources to find the Lexus at an independent car dealer in Pasadena, CA. The forest green ES300 had 135,000 miles on the odometer and a vehicle history report showed a clean accident record and multiple service visits to a Lexus dealer. After back-and-forth negotiations, the dealer agreed to sell the vehicle for $3,800 out the door. For the full blow-by-blow of’s shopping and negotiating process for the 1996 Lexus ES300, please visit editors will track the car’s fuel, maintenance and repair costs, as well as their anecdotal experiences while driving the car on a daily basis. They’ll drive to and from work, run errands around town and take long road trips with a goal driving it 15,000 miles in the next year. Readers can track the vehicle’s progress on Edmunds’’s award-winning Long Term Road Tests blog.

“The Debt-Free Car Project” is just the latest example of practicing what it preaches. Editors will use the same strategies advocated in a piece published earlier this year that advises consumers “How to Buy and Maintain a Very Inexpensive Car” at

When buying any used car in any price range, it’s always important to ask the seller all the right questions. provides an outline to make sure you hit all the right points with its Used Car Worksheet at


About, Inc., the premier online resource for automotive information, launched in 1995 as the first automotive information Web site. Its acclaimed mobile site, Android App and five-star Edmunds iPhone and iPad apps make car pricing and other research tools available for car shoppers at dealerships and on the go. Its automotive enthusiast web site,, is the most-read car publication of its kind. Its highly regarded mobile site and iPhone app features the wireless Web’s most comprehensive gallery of automotive photos and videos. Inc. is headquartered in Santa Monica, California, and maintains a satellite office in suburban Detroit. Follow on Twitter@edmunds and fan on Facebook.

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6 Comments on "Used Cars Under $5,000 Recommended By Edmunds"

  1. Robert Owusuagyemanr Agyeman | October 20, 2012 at 11:40 am |

    I want a car between $2500 and $3000. Preferably a 4*4 car, make, Toyota, Nissan, Ford, GMC.

  2. Hi,I would like to get a good used car for around 5000.I am staying away from the 3.8 engines.
    and something that does not cost a fortune to fix
    things.looking for good mpg around town.

    • Luci, the 3.8L engines are actually very well built and don’t have many issues. The 3.1L engines from 96 through the 2000s are garbage.

    • The Ford 3.8 isn’t as good as the GM or Chrysler 3.8, but you do have to consider the car the engine is in. Ford you get a Mustang or Windstar minivan, neither are pinnacles of reliability.

      GM put the 3.8 in all of its large front-drive cars between 1992 and 2008, at least as an option, and those are fantastically reliable. Unfortunately, those cars tend to be plagued with electrical problems of all sorts.

      Chrysler’s 3.8 is even more reliable than GM’s 3.8, but you can only get it in their extended minivans, which are known for wonky transmissions AND electrical problems.

      So if you’re looking to spend less than $3000 and can deal with the odd window not rolling down or non-functional rear window defogger, I recommend GM. I’ve seen Buicks for sale with nearly 300,000 miles!

  3. Why would you buy a 96 Lexus when you could own a 02 Camry for under 5k which is basically the same car?

    • You just said, the 96 Lexus and 02 Camry ar ethe same car, so same parts, same repair costs, and same maintenance schedule, so if maintenance is kept up properly, I’d actually prefer the older car if the miles are the same.

      Also, you have more room to haggle with the older car because you can get the dealer/seller to move more on the price. Up here in Michigan, you actually can’t get any Toyota for less than $5000 if it was made after 2001 if it’s in decent condition.

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