Looking for a car for $4k or less

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One of my friends is looking for a car for $4k or less. I've told her that I would start with Toyota or Honda. She has also found a 2007 Mazda 3, which reading through posts in the past on this website seems to be a reliable car. So my question is are there any brands/models/years to look for and also to avoid? Seems most cars in that price range are older than 2010.
 
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May want to look elsewhere on that Mazda 3. Everyone I know that bought one of that generation had major problems with it and there are other similar issues reported online. Could also look into Hyundai Elantra or Kia Forte. Skip anything Toyota smaller than the then contemporary Corolla, skip any 5 speed automatic Honda.
 
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4k can get a Mazda 2, Versa, Mirage, or Spark, possibly a Sonic, if newer than 2010 is desirable. There is nothing wrong with being older than 2010. And you are right, Honda and Toyota make the best cars smile Even an Echo from 2000 is a great choice. Toyota quality, simple, easy on the wallet, lots of space, no problems smile There is also the Matrix/Vibe, the Scion XA , XB, and XD
 
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I have a 2007 mazda 3 with the 2.3 and a 5 speed and its been a really good car for the 1.5yrs I've had it.. I paid $3k for mine with 127k miles and a pretty beat up body.
 
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Mazda3, not Mazda 3. The main issue with older Mazda3's is that they don't have the factory rust protection most other cars have of that era. Older Toyota's and Honda's command a premium because of their perceived reliability. Snagglefoot brought up a good suggestion on the older Fusions. They are decent regarding reliability, but a hard sale to the Toyota and Honda only worry worts which makes them a good buy used. If you find an older Focus with the DOHC engine and she can shift her own gears, that is a reliable combo. The older SOHC Focus engine is junk however.
 
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Originally Posted by slacktide_bitog
Even an Echo from 2000 is a great choice. Toyota quality, simple, easy on the wallet, lots of space, no problems smile
You can do better than that for $4k, my Tercel cost me $1500 CAD with 200k km. If you want a reliable car for that price get a MK4 VW with a 2.0 and a 5 spd. Hondas and Toyotas are hard to get for that price in good condition (unless they are old enough to drink in Canada). You can get a really nice MK4 City Golf or Jetta for that price and they would be a lot better than a first gen Mazda3, they are rust buckets. You very rarely see them in the rustbelt compared to other contemporary models.
 
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2007-2013 Ford Crown Vic or Mercury Grand Marquis - senior owned - mileage under 60K. You might also find some Lincoln Town Cars of those same years on the cheap.
 
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Buy a bus ticket to the Southwest and look for that ride there. A 4 grand car in Michigan is most likely in the final death throes of rust.
 

JTK

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Assuming we're talking rust belt life, the most rust free and best condition vehicle $4k will buy. Make and model don't mean as much IMO.
 
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Specific to Mazda 3 that generation suffers from rust prone body at wheel wheels and typically the truck area. There a bunch of rusty ones with holes occasionally running around NH/ME/VT. Guessing it is our salt on roads that does it. Wonderful cars besides....
 
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Thanks for all of the replies. I'm not Toyota or Honda only person and in fact I've always been a Ford person but got the impression over the years Toyota and Honda are at the top of reliability in cars. I'll take a look at the cars everyone mentioned but I think the most important is how well it was maintained, including for rust. Ironically I fixed and sold a Saturn wagon for another friend less than 6 months ago that would have been perfect. I even thought about keeping it for myself as it sold for $1600.
 

Ws6

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Originally Posted by Spktyr
May want to look elsewhere on that Mazda 3. Everyone I know that bought one of that generation had major problems with it and there are other similar issues reported online. Could also look into Hyundai Elantra or Kia Forte. Skip anything Toyota smaller than the then contemporary Corolla, skip any 5 speed automatic Honda.
Agreed. I'd look more at a civic, even if it had higher miles. Maybe an accord or a yoda of some ilk. 1995-2004 were great years for them.
 

Ws6

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Originally Posted by SVTCobra
Thanks for all of the replies. I'm not Toyota or Honda only person and in fact I've always been a Ford person but got the impression over the years Toyota and Honda are at the top of reliability in cars. I'll take a look at the cars everyone mentioned but I think the most important is how well it was maintained, including for rust. Ironically I fixed and sold a Saturn wagon for another friend less than 6 months ago that would have been perfect. I even thought about keeping it for myself as it sold for $1600.
The only vehicle Ford made of the $4k or less era that I'd trust is a Ranger with a 5 speed. Their 4.6 motors die after about 200-250k miles, and will eat several automatic transmissions during that time. Their v6s are worse.
 
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Originally Posted by Ws6
The only vehicle Ford made of the $4k or less era that I'd trust is a Ranger with a 5 speed. Their 4.6 motors die after about 200-250k miles, and will eat several automatic transmissions during that time. Their v6s are worse.
The Ranger never came with the 4.6, and in the Fords that did, it's one of the best engines they built. Plenty of Crown Vic taxis and Town Car limos with 400K or even over 500K miles on the original engines.
 
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Originally Posted by atikovi
Originally Posted by Ws6
The only vehicle Ford made of the $4k or less era that I'd trust is a Ranger with a 5 speed. Their 4.6 motors die after about 200-250k miles, and will eat several automatic transmissions during that time. Their v6s are worse.
The Ranger never came with the 4.6, and in the Fords that did, it's one of the best engines they built. Plenty of Crown Vic taxis and Town Car limos with 400K or even over 500K miles on the original engines.
I don't think Ws6 is saying they did, I think it may have been poorly worded on his part. The 4.6's were in F150's and the much fabled Crown Vic, but while some crank out the miles they aren't immune to issues either. They made about 8 billion of 'em so finding a few that go to crazy miles is not the same as saying they all can--plenty were junked long before high miles. Even if the engine is willing the transmission isn't, or wasn't in many cases--which might be fine if the OP knows that going in, but for many it's the kiss of death. * I'm partial to Toyota's but as others have mentioned, they're rusty and old in this price bracket. Fly south and get rust free, I suspect any money lost on a ticket is well spent starting with something in better shape. But keep an eye on CL. My '99 was from Arizona, I didn't even have to leave the state to pick it up (person moved and then got a new car). Sometimes there are gems out there for the finding (of any make).
 
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