Five Under $5K: The Best Cheap Cars We Found for Sale (Philadelphia Edition)

Philadelphia is tough on cars. When it comes to finding a cheap ride for sale, one might say the odds are good but the goods are odd.

byHank O'Hop| PUBLISHED Nov 4, 2022 3:30 PM
Five Under $5K: The Best Cheap Cars We Found for Sale (Philadelphia Edition)
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Every time this weekly cheap-car roundup comes up in daily meetings, someone from the back shouts, "do Philly." Not for the right reasons, either. Pennsylvania isn't a great place to be a car person. Between the harsh environmental conditions, bored teens beating up on mom's ride, and dishonest sellers, you're in for a rough go if you don't know what to look for in the used car market. 

To make the car buying process even worse, times are tough, and they're just getting tougher. Fewer people can afford to buy anything half decent to get around in, let alone a vehicle to have fun with. That's what this recurring segment is all about, though. Since I'm The Drive's resident PA native, dwelling just two hours north of Philly, I figured what better person to handle the delicate topic than yours truly. 

And as always, a heads up: The Garage’s “five under five” highlights five cars listed under $5,000 within a specific geographic region. The idea is to keep a finger on the low-end car market’s pulse and provide some context on the current state of what’s on Craigslist. We don’t know these sellers and haven’t seen any of these cars in person. We’re just sharing them based on what’s apparent in the ad, so break out your wallet at your own risk!

2000 Ford Ranger: Ol’ Reliable 

Craigslist
  • Miles: 112,000
  • Price: $4,500
  • Link

A '90s Ford Ranger Splash was almost my first vehicle. It was rolling with a four-cylinder and a stick, but my teenage brain decided to pass. Since then, that memory haunts me whenever a Ford Ranger appears in front of me. Especially this one. 

It's got two extra cylinders, making for a whopping 3.0 liters of displacement mated to a manual transmission. It might not have the step-side bed, but it's a bed nonetheless, and it's not rotted out like many others you'll find here in PA. There aren't even that many miles on the little rig, with an odometer reading of just 112,000. The only thing that might take it down a notch for some is the fact that it's powering only two wheels, but you have to take a hit somewhere when you find a good truck for cheap. 

2004 Subaru Outback Wagon 35th Anniversary Edition: An Unstoppable Treasure 

Craigslist
  • Miles: 129,278
  • Price: $4,000
  • Link 

If you're looking for four wheels powering plenty of cargo space, this Subaru Outback has your name all over it. I know. It's not the big, fire-breathing machine you were thinking of, but it'll get the job done. Besides, I've seen the owner of one of the baddest collections of classic cars you could dream of rolling around town in one of these for years. I bet the thing is still running somewhere. 

Yeah. It's a station wagon, and if that doesn't get you fired up, you'd better rethink your taste in cars. Not only does that mean you've got more cargo space, but that's room to party when you're buddies' coupes can't handle the weather. This thing's also packing heated seats, a bike rack, and a 3.0-liter to keep that AWD system running through anything. 

2011 Ford Fiesta: Because Everyone Loves a Party 

Craigslist
  • Miles: 113,075
  • Price: $4,300
  • Link

OK, so what if you can somehow take the best of the first two options, blend them together, and somehow achieve even better fuel economy? No problem. I might not be the first guy to jump on a Ford Fiesta, but I certainly appreciate what they have to offer in today's economic climate. 

This little machine did get a black eye at some point, but that doesn't take away from all the right it can do by your side. It's a relatively well-kept little car with just over 100,000 miles on it, advertised to achieve up to 38 mpg on the highway. And yes, it has a stick for you to have plenty of fun with. You will need to address the front-end damage to get a safety inspection (you really do need one to drive on Pennsylvania's awful roads), but a little bit of elbow grease is worth all this car has to offer. 

2007 Pontiac G5: Clean is Good

Craigslist
  • Miles: 107,327
  • Price: $3,995
  • Link

If any car on this list has the potential to find a home today, this is the one. I'm not saying that because I'm some die-hard Pontiac nut, nor do I think that this is some absurdly rare, highly-attractive model in any way. It is, however, very clean for something of its price here in PA. 

The paint, the interior, engine bay, trunk, and every other part of this car is in almost suspiciously good shape. It even has reasonably low mileage on it, making me wonder how long the posting will actually last. It's just a great little car to grab ahold of if you want something practical with decent gas mileage without going broke, and there was no way not to include it on this list. 

1989 Buick Reatta: Get Real Weird With It

Craigslist
  • Miles: 75,000
  • Price: $3,999
  • Link

Looking for something weird? Good. Because I found it. I didn't even know the Buick Reatta was a car until today, and part of me wishes I still didn't. I'm not saying that I don't appreciate it, but I could have gone a lifetime without knowing what would happen if a Pontiac Fiero and a Corvette made a baby. 

All jokes aside, this can be a cool car to someone, especially when flagship cars are overplayed and folks appreciate classics you don't see every day. The Buick Reatta is a rare car, with only a few thousand being made throughout its three-year run. Aside from some minor damage to the driver's side, this does look like a pretty clean example and might be just what you're looking for to strike up some interesting conversations at your next cars and coffee meetup. 

Previous Regions Featured on ‘5 Under 5’

You're probably not going to be able to buy the exact cars in these previous window shopping rundowns, but they should still give you a sense of what kind of hardware's available in different corners of the United States.