QOTD: What Fun Car Under Five Thousand Dollars Would You Buy?

Chris Tonn
by Chris Tonn

I’m of the opinion that a true auto enthusiast is never content with the status of their fleet. A wandering eye is constantly looking for the next toy, the next project, the next opportunity to flip for a profit. I’m no different — I’m figuratively digging in the couch cushions every time a funky car pops up on eBay or Craigslist.

But those cushions are bare. Two kids tend to consume every spare penny. I’m trying to put away cash for a potential cheap toy, but the classics I really want have ballooned in value well beyond a reasonable figure. I’m thinking I can scrape together about five thousand dollars to buy a new toy for the garage.

So, that’s my challenge to our fine and frugal readers: go shopping. Trawl the usual websites — eBay, Craigslist, Cars.com, or Autotrader — and post what you find for under $5,000. For eBay, make sure you post cars that have a Buy It Now price, as the starting bid may show $1 — though it’ll never sell for a buck.

I’ve picked a couple of my favorites — there are all kinds of weird ones on eBay, from a topless four-door Chevy Tahoe to the “art car” 1997 Honda Accord shown atop the page — but this selection seems to have potential:

1991 Buick Reatta

I always loved these as a kid. My dad nearly bought one — not sure why he didn’t, it’s not like he’d have kept it long — but I did prefer the 1990 Nissan 300ZX he bought instead. Still, even though this has a few flaws, it’s a beauty for $4,995.

1991 Ford Taurus SHO

That engine. Look at those sexy long intake runners. It’s not perfect — after all, it’s an old Taurus, with all that comes with that — but it looks like a solid, quick car that shouldn’t be too difficult to keep running for cheap. It’s only $4,000.

1989 Ford Bronco Eddie Bauer

It’s a 28-year-old, two-door, full-size SUV with faded paint and an odometer that has surely rolled over. No matter — the Bronco is back, to the delight of enthusiasts like our managing editor (or slow-driving murderers everywhere). This one needs some work, but anything in this price range will have needs, and nothing is as cool as an Eddie Bauer Bronco, especially for $3,950.

1981 Porsche 924 Turbo

This is my choice — I can finally go all Joey-from-Friends and legitimately wear all the Porsche swag I want without looking like a total fool.

Thank goodness no one could see my face when I wrote that.

Still, a $3,300 Porsche Turbo is appealing. There are plenty of caveats on this one: it’s across the country, it has failed California inspections, there are only three photos, and there is no title. All of these faults can be overcome with varying levels of money and effort, however, and this vehicle simply looks like fun.

So, go forth and find me a $5,000 car. Please, because links can appear funky in our comments, also list the year, make, and model of car you are posting so we can discuss without clicking back and forth too much.

Who knows — maybe I’ll open up my checkbook and actually buy something.

Chris Tonn
Chris Tonn

Some enthusiasts say they were born with gasoline in their veins. Chris Tonn, on the other hand, had rust flakes in his eyes nearly since birth. Living in salty Ohio and being hopelessly addicted to vintage British and Japanese steel will do that to you. His work has appeared in eBay Motors, Hagerty, The Truth About Cars, Reader's Digest, AutoGuide, Family Handyman, and Jalopnik. He is a member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, and he's currently looking for the safety glasses he just set down somewhere.

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2 of 133 comments
  • BigOldChryslers BigOldChryslers on Jan 20, 2017

    Ooh, I found another one! 78 NYER 2-door. Nice colour combo, great condition, 440, asking $4900. http://knoxville.craigslist.org/cto/5927377093.html

  • Dieter Dieter on Jan 20, 2017

    I purchased a 87 BMW e30 325is as my $5k fun car. Its been about 5years and 4Ok miles later and it still makes me happy. I have had to do basic maintenance of course, but all in all, incredibly reliable and fun to own. Here in the PNW there is a strong following and a great e30 picnic to attend every summer to boot.

  • EBFlex No they shouldn’t. It would be signing their death warrant. The UAW is steadfast in moving as much production out of this country as possible
  • Groza George The South is one of the few places in the U.S. where we still build cars. Unionizing Southern factories will speed up the move to Mexico.
  • FreedMike I'd say that question is up to the southern auto workers. If I were in their shoes, I probably wouldn't if the wages/benefits were at at some kind of parity with unionized shops. But let's be clear here: the only thing keeping those wages/benefits at par IS the threat of unionization.
  • 1995 SC So if they vote it down, the UAW gets to keep trying. Is there a means for a UAW factory to decide they no longer wish to be represented and vote the union out?
  • Lorenzo The Longshoreman/philosopher Eri Hoffer postulated "Every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and ends up as a racket." That pretty much describes the progression of the United Auto Workers since World War II, so if THEY are the union, the answer is 'no'.