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

Every week we visit a different city and see what kinds of cars we can find under $5,000. Here’s the haul from sun-scorched Arizona.

byTony Markovich| PUBLISHED Sep 2, 2022 5:00 PM
5 Under $5K: The Best Cheap Cars We Found for Sale (Phoenix Edition)

For this week’s edition of 5 Under 5, we planted a flag in Phoenix, Arizona. This corner of the country is a fairly good used car market because it’s dry and the average precipitation per year is low. There have only been 15 inches of rain or more in a year three times in recorded history, and the coldest annual average temperature on record was 67.8 degrees Fahrenheit. That means no ice or snow and no salt, though extreme heat and dust do have their own downsides. Functioning air conditioning is a must.

In 2022, the market is harder than ever for finding legitimately good vehicles at an affordable budget of less than $5,000, but we separated the picks into categories to help a variety of types of people. Included are super-budget, eco-friendly, family-friendly, fun, and utilitarian choices. 

Keep in mind that this is pure internet window shopping, and we haven’t run any VIN checks on these vehicles, so the true condition and value are undetermined. We're just basing our opinions on what's apparent in the listing—we haven’t seen any of these vehicles or talked to any of the owners. If you can afford it, have a mechanic do an inspection before purchase. With that, let’s pop the hood on the sub-$5K section of Phoenix Craigslist.

The Super-Budget Choice: 2008 Chevrolet Cobalt

  • Price: $2,975
  • Miles: 189,849
  • LINK

Is a Chevrolet Cobalt a fantastic car? No, but for an extremely tight budget (I limited the search to $3,000 max), this looks like a fairly clean option that could do the job for ultra-basic transportation. It will also break 30 mpg on the highway as long as it's running right. And with gas prices up high, that’s a big plus. 

The NHTSA lists five recalls for the 2008 Cobalt, including for ignition switches, fuel pump modules, and electric power steering, so be sure to ask about that, or if you buy it, that’ll be the first thing you want to check.

The Green Choice: 2006 Scion Xa

  • Price: $3,800
  • Miles: 195,400
  • LINK

This Scion Xa would be a great first car for a young person or simply somebody looking for solid fuel economy in a time of annoying gas prices. With four doors and a hatchback, it’s overall super practical and it’s EPA-rated to get 27 mpg city, 34 mph highway, and 30 mpg overall.

Although this one has about 200,000 miles on the clock, this engine is known to be reliable, and any repairs that do pop up shouldn’t be too expensive. It does have a subwoofer installed, but don’t let that be a deterrent, it’s a fairly simple thing to remove.

And guess what? It’s a stick, for those keeping track, and the listing says it has a new clutch and flywheel.

The Family Choice: 2006 Saturn Vue

  • Price: $5,000
  • Miles: 218,317
  • LINK

Basic economy vehicles aren’t exactly exciting, but the bright orange paint (it looks like the Fusion Orange factory color?) on this 2006 Saturn Vue certainly makes it stand out, for better or worse. The odometer shows 218,317 miles, but it has an excellent Honda V6 in it, and the car appears to be in really good condition, including the leather interior. It’s almost suspiciously too clean down to the headlights and wheels, so you’ll definitely want to run a VIN check on this, as you should with all of these vehicles.

It also has an aftermarket touchscreen stereo and a backup camera, which is a great addition for anybody. The Tred listing lists that it has a warning light on, but from the photos, it looks like it’s the traction control light, not the engine light.

For what it’s worth, this car looks like it’s in far better shape than the Vue that our household just adopted. If two rows aren’t enough for your family, check out this decent-looking 2001 Chevrolet Suburban for a cheap $2,700.

The Fun Choice: 2007 Hyundai Tiburon GS

  • Price: $3,950
  • Miles: 127,906
  • LINK

The Tiburon and Genesis coupes are often overlooked because of Hyundai’s old reputation for making cheap value vehicles, but for the right price, they can both be great pickups. I personally think the Tiburon is very stylish, and this one looks like it’s had some very attentive owners who took care of it.

These cars aren’t quick at all, especially with the four-cylinder engine, but they’re known to have warm handling, so they can still be fun. The 2007 model had the mid-cycle changes, as well, so it’s the freshest of the bunch.

The 2007 Tiburon only had one minor recall, so there’s nothing to worry about there, but according to The Drive contributor and former Tiburon owner Kevin Williams, the timing belt is a concern, so that should be checked. 

The Utility Choice: 1995 Nissan XE Truck

  • Price: $4,400
  • Mileage: 173,713
  • LINK

Nissan used to be a car company, a real car company that made reliable vehicles with personality. This truck is from that good era before the company lost itself. 

As the small pickup market once again gains steam in America, this utilitarian truck is tinier than all the new models and can be had for less than $4,400 right now, today. No waiting or jumping through ordering hoops. Overall, it looks like a pretty clean vehicle, but it does have a missing door panel, and the air intake box and tubing appear to be missing, so that would be a primary question. The side body graphics are awfully charming, though.

If you are more of an American truck kind of person, check out this absolutely no-frills 1984 Ford Ranger with a phenomenal blue interior.

Previous Regions Featured on '5 Under 5'

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. Be advised: 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!