Budget Cars

What Car Can You Get For Under $2,500?

For those of you on a strict budget or to get your hands on a future collectable classic that’s in need of some TLC, I set myself the challenge of tracking down ten of the best finds online. The car maybe an older model, a design throwback or something cool with higher mileage, but anyone of these cars that’s been well looked after can be just as good. Where possible in the search categories, I have selected ‘No Accidents’, however there may still be the odd dent (which may not be much to repair) from the results that came back. There’s something for everyone, so let’s take a look at what I found. Please note – Images featured here are not of the specific car I found, only to show you what the model looks like.

2003 Ford Mustang Coupe

Ford Mustang

With a V6 3.8liter engine under the bonnet, I found a silver automatic two-door classic has 138,000 miles on the clock, but many more to come with a larger engine and a full service history. It’s traveled mostly highway miles, so not as much wear on stopping and starting. The A/C is ice cold, has a new set of custom wheels and tires, seats like new, never seen snow, and a non-smoker owner. It has a rear trunk spoiler, no body damage, and he says it’s in ‘excellent condition and drives great’. The only thing I noticed in the photos was that the dull hazy headlights could do with a polish – not much cost and you can do it yourself. Otherwise it’s ready to go for an amazing $1,700. That leaves you $800 to spruce it up and make it your own.

1992 Buick Regal Gran Sport Sedan

Buick Regal

With an original new price sticker of $19,300 (or $37,375 if you bought it new in 2021) for the base model, this 4-speed automatic Buick Regal Gran Sport sedan has plenty to offer including the well-built 3800 V6 engine, electric windows, adjustable steering wheel, ABS brakes, power steering, near-new tires, leather seats, and immaculate interior carpets. With absolutely no accidents, no rust, and no cracks on the dashboard, this one-owner car has been well looked after for a 29 year old. Always garaged and exceptionally clean and tidy under the bonnet after 208,352 miles driven, it looks like there are a few new parts under there including the alternator and various hoses. It even has an updated Six CD changer replacing the original am/fm radio. You just know the service history will be ready to read when you turn up to test drive it, and that all its manuals and extra keys will be included in the sale. There are even great-condition sheepskin covers on the front seats protecting the leather underneath. $2,495 is the asking price, but listen to his stories, ask questions about what’s been updated in the engine bay, and have a good old yarn with the guy and you may get a few dollars off and a full tank of gas thrown in.   

1992 Chrysler LeBaron Convertible

Chrysler LeBaron

Mint condition in red with fully working white soft-top, no rust, no damage, convertible roof has glass (so no worry of weather hazing), with new tires, new alternator, new starter motor, and a new battery. Everything works as it should, and all fluids have been recently changed. Aircon blows icy cold and there are NO cracks in the dashboard or door panels, plus the seats are in immaculate condition. This model also features retro pop-up lights which protect against sun damaged hazing of the headlights. So, what’s the mileage, and what’s it worth? An eye-watering 98,207 miles over 29 years for just $2,075. Sold!!! What a bargain.

2006 Mini Cooper ‘S’ Hatchback

Mini Cooper

A great retro-look and zippy feel keeps me turning to Mini, and here is a fantastic value model. Super-charged in silver with double black racing stripes and rear spoiler, this well-looked after Mini needs nothing doing to it. No rust and no accident history, this economical little beauty has a big sunroof, leather interior, 6-speed automatic gear shift, awesome paintwork, and only 96,536 miles on the clock for just $2,400. There are tons of used Mini’s out there, so variety and getting parts in the future would be no problem.

2003 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 LT Pick-Up Truck

Chevrolet Silverado

This burgundy red 5.3 liter V8 has 231,021 original miles, however it has been looked after and all the extra packages that comes with this model include the ‘Off-Road’ Package (QGD Tires, all-terrain, white outlined-letter, QGC and QBX tires also available, fog lamps, 6-lug polished aluminum), ’Suspension’ Package (shocks, off-road jounce bumpers, stabilizer bars, air cleaner, high capacity & Z71 decals on the rear quarter), and the ‘Skid-Plate’ Package (aluminum front under-body shield, oil pan, differential case & transfer case, frame-mounted shields). It is rust-free, has a new 4-speed automatic transmission put in last year with less than 5,000 miles of use, brand new brakes (front and rear), calipers, brake lines, and four all-new tires installed this year. In fact, the guy selling this has spent more than $3,000 over the last two years as he believes it still has plenty of life left in it. I’m sure he could tell me even more if I contacted him, so this is an absolute bargain at $2,000 total cost.

2007 Chrysler PT Cruiser Limited Edition Wagon

Chrysler PT Cruiser

If you’re a lover of this modern take on a vintage classic, then loosen up that credit card. I can’t believe I found a limited edition (featuring chrome accents throughout) burnt-orange accident and rust FREE 2.4 liter turbo model with awesome body and interior. You’ll be impressed with only 70,267 miles traveled, six Boston Acoustics speakers with subwoofer, and a tan interior with burnt-orange highlights in excellent condition. For an amazingly low $2,290, you have money left over to do a proper pre-purchase check. It would be worth it with nothing more to do.

1996 Thomas School Bus

Thomas School Bus

Looking for an adventure home? This is perfect to transform into a mobile tiny home on wheels. It runs good, no rust, no accident history, no broken or cracked windows or doors, plenty of rear-view mirrors, with 151256 miles onboard, and a solidly built engine. I counted 12 windows going down the side, so there are another 12 on the other side, letting in plenty of light. It looks a little dusty, so a good clean is all it needs along with some re-configuring and updating of the interior to suit your needs. You can buy retro cabinets and dress up your bus with bespoke pieces of furniture and window dressings for a fraction of the price of new. This makes good sense and is a great base at $2,500. I know of a couple who bought a 1998 Thomas bus with similar mileage for $5,000, converted the interior into a modern kitchen/lounge, bedroom and bathroom, and traveled with their cat to nearly 140 cities across America and even into Canada. They have never looked back loving life on the road in their mobile home.

1994 Ford Thunderbird LX Coupe

Ford Thunderbird

With a 4.2liter V8 engine ready to go, and only 90,000 miles on the clock, this four-speed automatic comes with good tires, great interior and icy-cold air-con. It has no body damage and no rust, however the paintwork needs sanding back and re-coating. But it has a good engine, interior, and wheel rims, so for $2,100, you already have $400 from the $2,500 budget to put towards a new paint job. Better yet, look up exactly what to do for a professional job online and do-it-yourself for a professional paint strip and sand, saving you money right there.

2000 Chevrolet Astro 111 WB Van

Chevrolet Astro

A custom silver van with front windscreen sun-visor, tinted windows, and 2 airbags for driver and front passenger, the Astro has plenty of scope for camping, fishing, or carting round deliveries. The interior is clean with no rips or stains on the seats, and no tears on the floor mats. The exterior has no dents or damage, no faded paintwork, and it sits solidly on the road. With 206,409 miles on the clock and a convenient rear step-up bumper, all it needs is a good clean for a mere $1,995. The left over money should pay for a thorough check and a major service for peace of mind.

2007 BMW X5 SUV

BMW X5

I can’t quite believe my eyes here. This silver beast is in excellent condition inside and out featuring unmarked black leather seats, full panoramic sunroof, parking sensors, wooden trim, all the luxury, and it recently passed a smog and safety inspection. With 138,000 miles done, this SUV only costs $2,502, although I reckon I could get $2 off to bring it in under budget. The only thing you need to be aware of is the cost to maintain a BMW. They are by far the most expensive vehicles to maintain.

You won’t get much information out of a ‘Dealer’ advert about the actual car. In fact, you won’t get much of a bargain from one either at these low prices. So I prefer to look through the private sellers, as they will at least put down something in the ‘seller comments’ section relating to the car instead of the dealership rules and marketing blurb. They also know what has been done to the car while they have owned it, giving you a bit of background. They are also more likely to strike a deal and agree to a lower price (although for cars under $2,500, don’t expect too much off the asking price). If you live near an auction house, you could visit with someone who knows a little about cars, or check my article on what to check when buying a used car https://rearviewreview.com/advice/ and go on your own. I bought a car from auction once, and it was a fun and exciting, smooth experience. I thoroughly looked over and under the car as much as I could checking for any leaks and wear and tear, worked out how much I wanted to spend on it, managed to get it within budget, and drive it home (as it had a couple of days registration left on it). By the time I had a full service done on the car two days later, I worked out I saved $2,500 over similar cars in similar condition with similar mileage. In fact, I regularly keep an eye on auction prices in my local area, and on average (after adding any and all costs of getting the car on the road again), you can save between 30% and 50% on a similar model from a Dealer. Well worth the effort in my opinion.

You will need to get a thorough mechanical check of the car – even more so, on a cheaper auto as they are more likely to have some problem or other.  

There are ways to pimp up your car with parts and accessories. You’d be surprised what a cool custom set of headlights, rear spoiler/wing, or a new set of fat alloy tires can do for a car – not only for practical drive-ability, but also cool looks.

When it comes down to it, if I can find ten great cars for under $2,500 so can you. Good luck hunting down your next ride. 

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