If you’ve only got a grand to spend on wheels, you’ll want to look for the best used cars under $1,000 you can find. That may prove difficult, although it isn’t impossible. Consumer Reports, in an article on used car reliability, recommends consumers stick to cars under 5 years old, saying that cars 8-10 years old are more prone to start having significant problems. And, with a budget this tight, you’re looking at the much older cars. The only way to know what you’re getting is to have the car you’re considering thoroughly inspected by a professional mechanic and obtain a vehicle history report. Also look up its reliability on Consumer Reports or other sites.

Consumer Reports also cites the Japanese automakers, specifically Toyota, Honda, and Subaru, as having the most traditionally reliable used cars. Ford and Hyundai have narrowed the reliability gap, and Mercedes-Benz and BMW in recent years have also made great strides – not that you’ll find these for less than $1,000. We searched through Edmunds vehicle reviews and noted True Market Value (TMV) pricing and came up with the following cars you may wish to consider for Used Cars Under $1,000:

  • 1996-1997 Hyundai ElantraThe second-generation Hyundai Elantra (1996-2000) is better than the original 1992-1995 generation, but not by much. Still, Elantra got a power boost with a 130-hp 1.8-liter 4-cylinder engine and airbags were added. Edmunds says, “Overall, the second-gen Elantra represented a decent buy in the economy car segment. It wasn’t as polished as the offerings from Honda, Nissan or Toyota, but it was a well-equipped car that was fun to drive.” Edmunds TMV for 1996 Elantra ranges from $905-$1,024 for sedan and $980-$1,037 for wagon. Only the base model sedan for 1997 comes close to the price bogey, with a TMV of $1,375.
  • 1990-1994 Honda CivicHonda has sold its popular Civic compact car since 1973 and models from the fourth and fifth generation may be among the best choices for a search for a car under $1,000. Edmunds lists Civic TMVs for 1990 from $628-$1,106. If possible, go for the 1993 or 1994 models, with Edmunds TMV ranging from $1,192-$1,874 (1993) and $1,499 (CX coupe) to $2,209 for EX sedan (1994). Consumer Guide, in an overview of Honda Civic-based del Sol (1993-1997) 2-seat “semiconvertible” says: “Any del Sol ranks as cheap and cheerful transportation, and might be worth a close look for that reason alone. Naturally, you also get Honda’s well-deserved reputation for quality and dependability.” Also check trouble spots the publication notes for various years.
  • 1991-1993 Subaru LegacyConsumer reviews praise Legacy’s tank-like durability, even with 125,000 miles plus on the odometer. Maybe one of these older Subaru models is worth a look, since Legacy is the company’s longest-running nameplate. Edmunds TMV on the 1991 Legacy ranges from $929 for FWD L to $1,352 for AWD LSi sedan, while wagons go from $970 for FWD L to $1,374 for the AWD LS. Starting TMVs for 1992 sedan and wagon are $1,028 and $1,188, respectively, while the FWD L sedan and wagon in 1993 begin at $1,276 and $1,393, respectively. Edmunds remarks: “For used-car shoppers, past Legacy models are excellent all-season options.”

Other used cars under $1,000 to check out include the midsize Ford Taurus for model years 1990-1995 (see Consumer Guide listing for used Taurus prices in good, average, and poor classifications), and the 1991-1992 Chevrolet Caprice full-size sedan and wagon (and see link to Consumer Guide price ranges).

See a list of all currently available for sale used cars under $1,000.

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