While Australia’s second-hand car market has exploded in the wake of production slowdowns and component shortages, we think it’s still possible to grab yourself a bargain. 

While $5,000 might not be a lot of money in the context of quality vehicles, advances in modern manufacturing and reliability mean that there are a number of options out there in the second-hand market for around the $5,000 mark- it’s just a matter of searching high and low for the best prices, and knowing which models to look for. 

While prices in your area might fluctuate above or below what we’ve mentioned here, this remains a great place to start researching prices for the cars you’re looking at, and what your current vehicle is worth. 

With that in mind, let’s take a look at 15 of the best cars for sale here in Australia under $5,000, and how you can prepare yourself to find a bargain that won’t prove to be a money pit in the long run. 

What You Need To Know Before Purchasing a $5,000 Car 

In spite of rising price tags for new cars, $5,000 is still a considerable amount of money for the purchase of a used car, so long as you’re pointing it in the right direction. That means that you should be sticking to models from recognised manufacturers that are renowned for their reliability, which gives you more confidence when making a purchase. 

Some things you should know before making your purchase include: 

  • Research the make and model year for customer reviews or any common issues
  • Insist the engine is cold before starting 
  • Listen for any knocks or signs of irregular timing when cold starting the engine 
  • Check the lights, signals and interior features for any electrical problems 
  • Inspect under the body for any signs of rust or significant frame or suspension damage 
  • Check for bodywork damage that may be deep enough to turn to rust 
  • Check the service history and kilometres listed to see if the vehicle will need a major service in the near future 
  • Never purchase a used vehicle without a roadworthy certificate or valid safety inspection 

What is the Most Reliable Cheap Car? 

It’s impossible to say definitively which is the most reliable cheap car on the market, but we can give you some guidelines to use when you’re assessing your options. 

It’s widely believed that sticking to a major manufacturer from Japan is one of the most important signs of a reliable vehicle over a long period of time. This is because of the fact that Japanese engines are typically well-engineered and built tough, and in the case that something does go wrong, a widely accessible catalogue of parts and mechanics that can work on Japanese models means that you won’t break the bank fixing an issue.

How Long will a $5,000 Car Last? 

It’s hard to give an exact timeframe for how long a $5,000 car will last, because of the nature of the second-hand car market and the fact that modern cars have become incredibly reliable. 

As a result, some cars around this price point might offer a year of hassle-free motoring, while others might offer another decade or more of driving without a single issue. 

An important piece of the puzzle when it comes to a vehicle’s long-term lifespan is the kilometres it has already travelled, as well as the service history. If the previous owner has stuck to the recommended service intervals and ensured that major services - including the replacement of timing belts and chains - has been taken care of, you can have significantly more confidence with your purchase. 

15 of the Best Cars Under $5,000 in Australia 

1. Subaru Outback

Subaru Outback's adventurous wagon can be all yours for under $5,000, so long as you’re looking for a model year sitting around MY07-08. For your money, you’ll gain a large, practical wagon body with a symmetrical all-wheel drive platform for added confidence. 

2. Kia Rio

Kia’s affordable hatch, the Kia Rio, can be found on the market sitting around our $5,000 mark, which is made even more attractive by the positive owner reviews of this particular make and model. It’s the perfect companion for those looking for a no-frills commuter or user-friendly beginner’s car. Better still, you won’t have to opt for a particularly old Rio to hit your budget. 

3. Holden Astra 

The Holden Astra used to be one of the country’s best sellers, and as a result of this popularity, it’s remarkably easy to find an Astra sitting well below our budget mark, here. The Astra is a rock-solid option for those looking for a no-frills commuter, and has a competent engine capable of running into several hundreds of thousands of kilometres. 

4. Mazda 3

As one of Australia’s favorites, there is a huge number of Mazda 3’s frequenting used car lots and online classifieds alike, giving buyers perhaps the best opportunity on the second hand car market. 

Built to an exceptionally high standard for an affordable vehicle, the Mazda 3 remains one of the leading value for money propositions you’ll find for under $5,000.  

5. Toyota Corolla

On a similar note, it’s no secret that the Toyota Corolla is another one of the leading options within the second hand car market, and depending on the model year you’re looking at, can easily be found for less than $5,000. 

With a sturdy platform, economical engines and a surprising amount of practicality for its size, the Corolla range is a must for any shortlist of reasonably-priced cars. 

6. Honda Civic

Cars like the Honda Civic used to be Australia’s best sellers, with Australian buyers snapping them up by the thousand. Years later, this is great news for you if you’re looking at the second hand market, with a number of well-built, reliable and practical Civics within reach for less than $5,000. 

7. Mitsubishi Lancer

For those looking for an exceptionally user-friendly platform for new drivers, the Mitsubishi Lancer is a famous platform that can be found for extremely modest prices around Australia. Benefitting from a sturdy platform and a raft of affordable parts in the event something does go wrong, the Lancer is a great option within the second hand car market. 

8. Ford Focus

Ford has been making the Focus for decades now, which means you can find yourself a bargain on the second hand car market that far excels what you’d expect from a decade-old car. The Ford Focus feels planted and solid for a hatch, and offers a surprising amount of space inside, making it a great option for families.  

9. Volkswagen Polo

Volkswagen Polo's baby within the range is priced from less than $20,000 brand new, which means that you can find a relatively modern vehicle within our price range that benefits from VW’s European attention to detail and high build quality. 

10. Subaru Forester

The Subaru Forester is another great option within the market for buyers demanding space for the family, and some added off-road and adventurous credentials. With a rugged platform, the Forester ages particularly well, meaning that you can find a decade-old vehicle in great shape for below our budget mark here. 

11. Toyota Camry

As one of Australia’s all-time best sellers, the second hand market is burgeoning with Camrys looking for a new home. With a family-friendly platform, and a set of reliable mechanicals under the bonnet, you can be confident that purchasing a Toyota Camry under the $5,000 mark is a relatively low-risk, high-reward proposition for you and the family. 

12. Hyundai i30

Hyundai’s i30 hatchback is another great option within the used car market here in Australia, and if you’re lucky enough to find one underneath our price threshold, you’re in for a hugely rewarding experience. With a set of simple mechanicals and surprisingly refined ride quality, the i30 is one of the best no-frills commuters on our list. 

13. Suzuki Grand Vitara

The Suzuki Grand Vitara is one of the more affordable 4x4 body shapes you’ll find on the market. It rides on a tough platform that makes it a great affordable option for off-roading, while the mechanicals are remarkably simple when it comes time to service or repair an issue. 

14. Mazda 2

As one of the cheapest cars in Mazda’s lineup, it’s entirely possible to find a great deal on a Mazda 2 that is the perfect package for new drivers and those looking for a no-frills commuter. Better still, cheap prices while brand new mean that you can get a relatively modern Mazda 2 for under our $5,000 budget. 

15. Mitsubishi Pajero

Finally, if you’re quick and paying attention to the market, it’s possible to find yourself a bargain on something like the iconic Mitsubishi Pajero. Mass-produced throughout the 90s all the way to today, the Pajero platform has found its way to tens and thousands of Australian driveways, giving you an opportunity to find one for under $5,00 if you’re fast enough. 

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