Seeking solid used hybrid for $5K or less


#1

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!


#2

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.

https://stlouis.craigslist.org/cto/d/2010-toyota-matrix/6731002035.html

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.


#3

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.
https://stlouis.craigslist.org/cto/d/1998-toyota-camry-green/6732677995.html

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.


#4

+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.


#5

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.