Ask the Best and Brightest: What 2nd Car for $5K?

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago

Sent to us by ivyinvestor:

My wife and I currently have a 2006 Acura TSX, auto. We need another car, but our budget is $5000, tops, as we don’t want a payment. We’ve never considered a used car for any purchase, and although I know the various means we could use to go about checking it out, I develop neverending lists of queries about every aspect of the car in question to the point that some sellers stop answering. After all, the depreciation’s been factored in, but what about maintenance, treatment, and care? I know not all the questions can be answered, but we still want something bred from reliable, if not “amazing to drive”, roots. In the Boston area, it seems our best options are 1998-2002 Civics, maybe some older Accords, and a few Mazdas, all with 125,000+ miles. Does this appear to be in the right ballpark? Reliability is important, as is fun, though we realize the latter might need to be sacrificed in this price range. (Recent example: 2000 Civic EX coupe, standard, 155k miles, timing belt at 100k, brakes at 130k, probably needs rear tires, original clutch: $3800, local.)

Robert Farago
Robert Farago

More by Robert Farago

Join the conversation
4 of 71 comments
  • Paris-dakar Paris-dakar on Jul 03, 2009
    Late 80’s Porsche 944, but maintenance cost will be an issue. That's an understatement. Buick Roadmaster. Those can be fun, if you’re into that sort of thing. I would proabaly buy a Roadmaster Wagon for that price if I was looking for a second car and could find an attractive deal on one.
  • Jwolfe Jwolfe on Jul 03, 2009

    I'd get a older chevy 454 4x4 dually with a save the planet sticker on the rear glass, and some greatful dead dancing bears around that message

  • Escapenguin Escapenguin on Jul 04, 2009

    Just the parts for any Saab are very expensive. In my experience, only specialists will work on them so you can imagine how much that adds up. I owned a 900S for a few years. I loved the car to death, and wish I'd kept it, but I'd never recommend it as a cheap second car. When that old tank did break, however rarely, it was always a big bill. Yeah, it's not the most soulful car, but that's not the point here-- get the Civic with the manual. You can't go wrong as long as it hasn't been thrashed to death. Nearly anything else will be a money-pit. ... and I can't believe people are suggesting older Audis, and Bimmers! No offense, but that blows my friggin' mind!

  • Autoarcheologist Autoarcheologist on Jul 16, 2009

    "I donno, if all the Civics you find are that worn out for that price, get a first generation Focus. Just as fun, almost as durable and a bit cheaper. Hell, I’ve seen decent SVT Foci sell for $5000." I'll second this. When we were in the same boat 2 years ago I was looking for a cheap communter. All the Hondas in my price range ($6k) were seriously high mile, or thrashed. Foci were not only cheaper, but were more fun to drive. Found a 2001 ZX3 5-spd for $5700, and it's been fun and reliable for over 2 years now, needing nothing but basic maintenance. The one repair it needed (self inflicted) was cheap thanks to cheap Ford parts.