- Jul 31, 2013
In Honor Of Alfred Morris, Here Are Our Top Picks For Cars Under $5,000
According to Kelley Blue Book, a 1991 Mazda 626 costs less than $1,200. And even though his teammates roll up to practice in Cadillacs, Porsches, Benzes, etc. that come close to or exceed $100,000 and despite his four-year deal worth $2,223,100, that's the car that Washington Redskins rookie running back Alfred Morris drives every day.
"It has some sentimental value to it now," Morris told the Redskins official blog. "It just keeps me grounded, where I came from and all the hard work for me to get to this point. So that's what helps me."
Although he'll likely get a new car in the near future, he says that the Mazda 626 -- which he calls his "Bentley" -- will live on and become the car his kids drive.
Photo Credit: Keith Allison, Flickr
We think that Morris is absolutely correct for hanging on to such a car. After all, even though brand new expensive Bimmers and Benzes come stock full of creature comforts, the savvy car chopper can easily find a great car for under $5,000, just like Morris has done.
Inspired by the running back, the AOL Autos editors have picked out their favorite cars that can be had for under $5,000 and laid them out for you in this gallery. Click on through to see what we love.
Research Used Mazda 626 Listings
It's not a glamorous choice, but at $5,000 or less, you really aren't looking for glamour. You want a shot at driving a car for a few years at the least amount of cost. You want reliability and safety.
For this, I am a fan of the Subaru Outback. My family previously owned one, and it pained me to give it up to a needy friend. But it was a good deed to do so. The Outback is tough, and reliable long term. It is not uncommon at all for owners to drive them beyond 200K miles. Some Subaru enthusiasts might even glibly say that the car is just getting broken in at 200K miles. The all-wheel-drive system, the best in the industry, makes snow-covered roads a thing to laugh off, not fear, as long as you have up-to-date tires with decent tread.
And as I discovered recently, Subaru over-engineers their cars, including the roof structure, which saved my nephew's life after an accident in which his Outback rolled over four times. He walked away without a scratch because the roof did not cave in as it would have with many cars.
I found a used 2000 Outback with 122,000 miles on it for $5,000 at a dealership in Wisconsin. Like with all used cars, it's a good idea to get a CARFAX report to make sure that it is not a flood car, nor a car that was in an accident. Always lean to buy cars with one previous owner if you can. And it is a good idea to have a dealer look up the VIN number to make sure that all recall and technical-bulletin maintenance has been done.
Research Used Subaru Outback Listings
Regrets? As Frank Sinatra crooned, I’ve had a few.
There was a decision to forego a semester abroad in college in favor of keeping a part-time job. I slogged out a few more weeks at a dubious internship instead of joining my family on a now-classic vacation. Most regrettably, I made the mistake of selling my first car.
Three generations of Bigelows had driven the ’82 Oldsmobile Delta 88. It first belonged to my grandfather, and then my dad, who handed it down to me during my senior year of high school in 1994.
Aesthetically speaking, she was rough around the edges. The ceiling fabric drooped. The driver’s-side door wouldn't unlock, so I had to crawl behind the wheel from the passenger’s side. The radio only played AM stations. The bumper may have been, shall we say, slightly damaged in an incident involving a two-story brick building that jumped in front of me at the last moment.
But the V-8 under the hood was in immaculate condition. A thing of beauty. Dependable as a dog. It roared to life with every turn of the ignition throughout its 185,000-mile life. If I would have kept her, there’s no doubt the Olds would have hit the 200K mile marker and kept on going.
It would have taken a certain owner to withstand some of the cosmetic failures of the car, but I should have kept that car instead of opting for something newer less than two years later.
Looking for something similar, I stumbled upon this rust-colored ’82 Delta 88 coupe for sale for $5,000 in the Pittsburgh area. It’s got 84,000 miles on the odometer, according to the dealership.
I’d prefer the four-door sedan and a different color, but this is a rock-solid boat. If the engine behaves as well as the car I remember so fondly from my youth, a prospective buyer could drive another 100,000 miles out of this vehicle. Value-wise, that breaks down to $1,000 for every 20,000 miles traveled.
Beauty or not, there may not be a better bargain out there.
Research Used Oldsmobile Delta 88 Listings
There’s a pretty solid chance I’ll get ridiculed for picking this car as my under-$5,000 choice, but at some point you’ve just got to come clean on your secrets and open yourself up to the world. And here’s mine: I kind of like the Pontiac Aztek.
Yes, the ugly old Aztek. The vehicle held up as a shining example of why General Motors deserved to skid into bankruptcy in 2009. The car “Survivor” contestant Colby Donaldson stuck on eBay shortly after winning it, saying it was “too practical” to drive.
But see, here’s the thing – even though the Aztek is one homely car, it’s comfortable inside. Pontiac jammed it full of high-end options, hoping someone – anyone – would buy it. So it’s pretty common to find an Aztek with four wheel drive, satellite radio, power everything, and a radio in the trunk (meant for tailgating or camping – the back tailgate comes down and has indentations for your butt) for under $5,000.
I owned one, briefly, before I became a car writer. This vehicle is not meant for people with thin skin. Your friends (and even maybe your mother) will tease you. But for $5,000, it’s probably the best SUV you can get for the money.
Research Used Pontiac Aztek Listings
Apparently, we really have a thing for discontinued GM brands here at AOL Autos. That must have something to do with our own personal heritage or our location in the Motor City.
Regardless, there are several good reasons for buying a used 9-3 from now defunct automaker Saab, a former GM brand whose cars were manufactured in and imported from Sweden.
First, there's the styling. Saab has always been known for making some quirky cars, from the 1947 Saab 92 which had an uncanny resemblance to Darth Vader's head all the way up to the 2010 Saab 9-5, the last of the bunch. Saab's distinctive exterior aesthetics are a major part of what make it such an intriguing brand. I know I'd like to have one as a conversation starter.
Secondly, Saabs are safe, fun and pretty darn reliable, evidenced by Peter Gilbert's million-mile 1989 Saab 900 SPG. The first-generation Saab 9-3, which can be found fairly easily for under $5,000 and with relatively low mileage, employed a small-displacement 2.0L turbocharged engine, which made for solid performance and respectable fuel economy. This car nailed the safety tests and can be had in hatchback form, as well, which adds an element of versatility to the vehicle.
Finally, with Saab out of business yet still maintaining a fairly strong cult following, it is likely that Saabs will skyrocket in value in the not too distant future -- making a $5,000 a potentially lucrative investment. As collectors start swooping up some of the last remaining models of these Swedish sedans, your cared-for 9-3 could one day fetch a hefty sum.
Research Used Saab 9-3 Listings
If $5,000 were to magically appear in my wallet--specifically to be spent on a used car--I have little faith that I could make a prudent, responsible decision. After all, I currently drive a reliable, efficient hatchback, so I've already checked the "sensible transportation" box.
With some carbon credits to spare, I'd look to pick up a high-mileage, mid '90s Land Rover Discovery. I've always been charmed by the "Disco's" British heritage and unique utilitarian looks that seem to get better with age, but I could never justify regularly driving an SUV that's lucky to make it out of the single digits in miles per gallon . Pair embarrassing fuel economy with Land Rover's infamous reliability issues, and you'll see why this is more reverie than recommendation.
That said, hopefully my dream Discovery would've seen enough of the repair shop in a former life to resolve the vehicle's noted electrical issues, and could be driven infrequently, without turning into a nightmare.
Research Used Land Rover Discovery Listings