You’re probably thinking: $2000 buys a pair of fancy shoes or a designer watch, but not a car, right? Wrong. If you’re savvy enough—and willing to settle for barebones transportation—you can easily score a used vehicle for $2,000 or less. And some of these cheap rides are also fairly reliable.
Maybe you’re looking for an inexpensive car to use as a winter beater or transportation for a teenage driver. Or perhaps you’re just sick and tired of how crazy expensive newer models have become.
Whatever your reason for looking for an ultra-low-cost car, you’ll find the seven vehicles below to be some of the best options available on the used car market.
7 Reliable Cars That You Can Score for Less Than $2,000
Name-brand dealerships rarely carry super-cheap vehicles, but you’ll find plenty available from private sellers and independent car lots. Websites like Craigslist are a goldmine because sellers can post there for free—and that leads to a lot of budget-friendly offerings.
With that in mind, let’s talk about the most reliable cars under $2,000 that you can buy pre-owned. You’ll notice all of the suggestions on our list are either Hondas or Toyotas because they’re so dependable.
Sixth-Generation Honda Civic (1996 – 2000)
The Honda Civic is the epitome of cheap transportation. Because these cars are inexpensive and bulletproof, instead of ending up in the junkyard, they often get handed down through the family tree.
Pre-owned sixth-generation (1996 – 2000) Civics are readily available for under $2,000. Plus, unlike earlier models, these cars have modern onboard diagnostics (OBD) for additional dependability.
Eighth-Generation Toyota Corolla (1998 – 2002)
Despite looking like a jelly bean on wheels, the Toyota Corolla is a fantastic car. The little Toyota will provide reliable point A to point B transportation for decades—and that’s why it’s the best-selling car of all time.
If you shop around, you can score a used eighth-generation (1998 -2002) Corolla for less than $2,000.
Not a bad investment, considering the car could actually outlive you.
Fourth-Generation Toyota Camry (1997 – 2001)
The Corolla’s big brother, the Camry, is also a great choice. Although used fourth-generation models (1997 – 2001) are neither fun nor sporty, they are extremely reliable. Plus, since the Camry is considered a midsize sedan, it has plenty of interior space.
Four-cylinder models (stay away from the V6) get excellent fuel economy, as well.
Fifth-Generation Honda Accord (1994 – 1997)
If you’re looking to turn heads, an older Honda Accord isn’t for you. But if you want to get a cheap, reliable ride, a fifth-generation model might fit the bill.
While some newer Accords are known for having automatic transmission problems, the fifth-generation (1994 – 2001) cars are nearly indestructible.
The sweet spot includes pre-owned models built from 1996 forward, which have modern OBD technology for improved reliability.
First-Generation Toyota RAV4 (1996 – 2001)
So far, the vehicles on this list have all been cars. We’re going to shake things up a bit by throwing a sport utility vehicle into the mix.
The Toyota RAV4, which debuted in 1996, was one of the first compact crossover SUVs. First-generation (1996 – 2001) models are built on the same platform as the Toyota Corolla and are equally as reliable.
Finding a used all-wheel drive RAV4 for under $2,000 can be difficult, but front-wheel drive versions are readily available.
First-Generation Honda CR-V (1997 – 2001)
The CR-V—Honda’s answer to the RAV4—is a bulletproof, compact crossover SUV. First-generation (1997 – 2001) models share a platform with the Civic and are just as dependable.
Much like the RAV4, a pre-owned CR-V is hard to find with all-wheel drive for under $2,000. Plenty of low-cost front-wheel drive models are available, though.
Older Cars (Even Hondas and Toyotas) Often Need TLC
After reading about the sweet rides above, you might be ready to take the plunge and buy a cheap, 20-plus-year-old car. Before you do, however, keep in mind that nearly all older vehicles (even the most reliable) usually need some type of TLC.
Another thing to remember about the cars listed above is that most of them have a timing belt that requires periodic replacement. Failing to service the belt on time can cause it to break, resulting in major engine damage.
If the seller of the car you’re buying is unsure when the timing belt was last replaced, you’ll want to plan on servicing it right away.
Certainly, buying (and owning) a super-cheap car isn’t for everyone. But if you decide to go for it, you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing you didn’t drain your bank account (or take out a huge loan) to get decent transportation.