Where can I buy a good cheap car for $200, or $500, or $1000?

Is it possible to buy a car for less than $1000?

cars for less than $1000Buying a good used car for $200, or $500, or even $1000 is not impossible but it requires extra time looking, checking, and driving to find the jewels among the junkers.

Most cars in this price range will be older and have high mileage, and lots of wear and potential problems.

Age and high mileage, however, is not necessarily a reason not to buy. Many cars with high mileage are in great condition and can last many more miles before finally falling apart.

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Many problems with older used cars can be fixed relatively easily and inexpensively. Problems with engines and transmissions are the most expensive to repair. If the only problems are things like hoses, belts, wires, brakes, or electrical equipment, these can be fixed or replaced without great expense.

Sellers of older cars with problems may simply not want to fix the problems themselves but are willing to sell at a large discount to a buyer who will do the repairs. Buyers should make sure that the selling price plus the cost of repairs does not exceed the fair market price of the car in good condition. Market values can be found at kbb.com or nadaguides.com.

Where to buy inexpensive cars?

Buy from Used Car Dealers

Most dealers normally don’t sell older cars with high mileage, especially new-car dealers who have used-car lots. However, smaller independent used-car dealers , especially buy-here-pay-here lots, may specialize in this type of vehicle. They cater to customers who are on limited budgets and credit issues. Do not expect the cars to be well-inspected or repaired, regardless of what the salesman tells you.

Used car dealers do not necessarily know the problems a car might have. We often hear from people whose cars have broken down after a few days and want to sue the dealer for deceiving them. Let’s say it again, used car dealers don’t make much effort to inspect or test their cars to learn what problems the cars might have. When they buy a car at a wholesale car auction, they usually don’t know the detailed condition of the car. The car then is put up for sale on their car lot as it came right from the auction.

Used cars are sold “as-is” without warranties or guarantees. There Is no “cooling off” period or “right of return” laws to protect customers. Lemon laws only apply to brand new cars, not used cars.

Therefore, when buying a used car from a dealer, especially a car that only costs $200, $500, or $1000, you should always have the car inspected by a mechanic or someone very knowledgeable about cars before you buy. A good inspection might cost you $75 or $100, but it might save you from making a terrible and costly mistake.

Many buyers of such cheap cars also get a Carfax or AutoCheck® vehicle history report, but it is generally a waste of money for older cars. What’s more important is the actual condition of the car, right now, not what happened years ago.

Buy from Private Party Individuals

When you are buying a car in the less-than-$1000 price range it is best to buy from an individual rather than a dealer. Dealers must make a profit to stay in business, so when they sell a car for $1000, it’s probably worth only $600.You could probably buy the same car from an individual seller for the actual $600 value.

Much of the same discussion above about buying from a dealer also applies to buying from an individual. An individual seller may or may not be aware of problems his car might have. If the car breaks down a couple of days after the purchase, it is entirely possible the seller was not aware of pending problems. But even if he did know about them, and he purposely didn’t disclose them, there’s little you can do. Unless you can prove he knew, and lied to you, you have no legal recourse.

Again, you should always have a knowledgeable person or mechanic inspect any used car before the purchase. If you discover problems later, it’s too late.


If you want to buy a car in the $200 – $1000 price range, plan to spend a lot of time looking, inspecting, and driving. It is not impossible but it does take time and patience. Your efforts will reward you with a good car that can give you years of inexpensive and reliable service.