In our quest to eliminate debt, my wife and I are selling our new-ish vehicles and we’re in the market for a reliable used hybrid vehicle in the ballpark of $5K. We are in the St. Louis, MO, area. Any help would be much appreciated!
Hi there. It’s a great idea to eliminate car payments if you can. And we should be able to help you find something pretty nice for $5000.
One quick question, does it have to be a hybrid? I ask because, generally speaking, hybrids carry a slight cost premium; plus it’s usually best to widen your search criteria as much as possible when shopping for a car in this range. That way you focus on the most important thing, which is, I think, finding a car that’s been very well cared for throughout its life. This is key to keeping the ongoing operating costs down during your ownership.
For instance, HERE is a very nicely kept Toyota Matrix in the area for $5200. It has just a single owner, a full history of dealer service, no accident history, and gets reasonable fuel economy, too.
My suggestion would be to keep an eye out for well-kept gems like this and pounce when you find something too good to pass up.
I concur with Mark; open up your search and look for the finest examples of cars that have strong reputations for reliability and low running costs. Here’s a '98 Camry with only a claimed 67k miles. Yes, it’s 20 years old, but given the seemingly great condition of the driver’s seat, the mileage looks to be believable.
Still, given that there are plenty of scam artists out there and that these are older cars that are selling for short money, I would also strongly suggest you purchase a Carfax report package (you get 6 for $100) to help verify low mileage and “never in an accident” claims.
+1 on using Carfax to vet any cars that you are seriously considering.
And as a final step, definitely hire a local mechanic who knows the brand to do a pre-purchase inspection (PPI) before you finalize the deal. That will run you about $150 but is more than worth it because 1) you can use the findings to help negotiate the price (e.g. if the tires need replacing, you can ask for a few hundred dollars off the asking price) and 2) it prevents you from buying a car with serious problems which may not otherwise be apparent.
If the car checks out and you buy it, an added bonus of the PPI is that it gives you a clear idea of what service costs you may have coming up (such as a new timing belt) so that you can budget accordingly.
Old hybrids will sometimes need replacement batteries which can run anywhere from $1200 to 2k plus installation. If a hybrid is a must, try to find one with service records showing a recent battery replacement.
That being said, the 8th gen Civic 06-11 year hybrids are pretty cheap. You can find a decent one for 5 grand.
The CVT automatic might be iffy in these cars, that you should look into because they’re failure prone on the previous generation 03-05 year cars. The older ones can be had cheap as well, and you can get a manual trans to avoid failures, but they’re old and hard to find in clean shape. Both generations are 40+ mpg city cars.