If you want basic transportation or just a cheap second car, chances are you’re looking for the best used cars under $5,000. Do such cars really exist? Actually, they do, but you have to do a bit of legwork: first to find which cars fall into that price range, and second, to have them thoroughly inspected by a mechanic and to obtain a vehicle history.

We’ve scoured various sources in search of the best used cars under $5,000, including Edmunds, Kiplinger, Consumer Reports, MSN Autos and AOL Autos. We’ve also checked out what auto review experts have to say and included Edmunds True Market Value (TMV) pricing for the models and years listed. Here, then, is a sampling of the Best Used Cars Under $5,000:

  • 2003-2004 Hyundai ElantraEdmunds, in its “2010 Used Car Best Bets,” lists the Hyundai Elantra as a winner in the compact sedan category. Editors remark: “In addition to peppy performance and a smooth ride, the Elantra offers solid build quality, reliability and operating economy…Impressive crash test scores are another feather in Elantra’s cap.” While the Edmunds list covers 2003-2008, only the 2003 and 2004 models meet the $5,000 price cap. Edmunds TMV for the 2003 Elantra starts at $4,451, while the low end of 2004 models begins at $5,054.
  • 2001 Volkswagen Jetta TDIConsumer Reports (“Best Used Vehicles Under $20,000”) highlights the 2001 Volkswagen Jetta TDI sedan in the $4,000-$6,000 price range. Edmunds TMV for this year shows a GLS (with the 1.8-liter turbodiesel engine and manual transmission) starting at $5,479 – so, about in the ballpark. Edmunds comments: “The fourth generation [1999-2005]…was the most popular Jetta yet, and arguably the best looking…Although reliability has been spotty, a fourth-gen [1999-2005] Volkswagen Jetta is still a good buy on the used market if its service history checks out clean.”
  • 2001 Acura IntegraEdmunds named the 2001 Acura Integra to its Editor’s Most Wanted List for Best Sports Coupe under $30,000 (new). In 2010, the 2001 Integra makes the grade in Consumer Reports “Best Used Vehicles Under $20,000” as well. Edmunds says: “Today, these third-generation Integras are still highly regarded as used vehicles. Though certainly reliable, they have become quite popular with young enthusiasts wanting to modify their cars with aftermarket parts.” Starting Edmunds TMV for the 2001 Acura Integra is $5,460.
  • 1990-2000 Mazda MX-5 Miata – Edmunds Inside Line, in “The 10 Best Used Cars For Less Than $5,000,” touts the 1990-2000 Mazda MX-5 Miata, calling it “the best handling, most communicative and most engaging car on the list…This little roadster proves that the right sports car formula has real staying power.” Reviewers say the car really shines for its chassis, but it’s no match for the likes of Camaros and Mustangs. And, the older the car, the more likely would-be owners will need to replace the convertible top. Edmunds TMV shows prices ranging from $1,126 for a 1990 MX-5 Miata to $4,981 (at the low end) for a 2000 model.
  • 2000 Infiniti G20 – Also making Consumer Reports list is the 2000 Infiniti G20 entry-level compact sedan. The G20 received numerous safety improvements for 2000, as well as mechanical, exterior and interior enhancements. Edmunds called the 2000 Infiniti G20 “A Sentra masquerading at the Infiniti ball” and praised its “sharp handling, Infiniti customer service, attractive styling.” Edmunds TMV for the 2000 G20 is $4,048 (Base) to $4,309 (Touring).

See all currently available for sale used cars under $5,000.

Search used cars for sale and find the best deals near you at iSeeCars.com.
To get a FREE iSeeCars VIN Report for a car, click here.