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

The Pacific Northwest has an excellent variety of cheap used cars. Here are the best ones we found on Seattle’s Craigslist this week.

byChris Rosales| PUBLISHED Sep 30, 2022 2:01 PM
Five Under $5K: The Best Cheap Cars We Found for Sale (Seattle Edition)

Searching for cheap used cars these days is genuinely tough. It's harder than ever to find above-decent vehicles at an affordable price, especially if all you have to spend is $5,000. But they're still out there, and we found five in Seattle that could fit the bill for a variety of needs, ranging from super-budget to project car, family-friendly, fun, and utilitarian choices.

Seattle is full of excellent hardware. Sometimes searching for cars in different parts of the country can prove tough but finding a selection of cars here was more about paring down than it was searching for scraps. The five we lined up here are particularly decent vehicles.

Keep in mind that this is just harmless perusing—no VIN checks or emailing back and forth with the seller took place, so the true condition is taken at face value. If any of them look enticing and you can afford a pre-purchase inspection, we highly recommend it. With that, let's take a look at some sub-$5,000 hardware of Seattle Craigslist.

The King of Minivans: 2007 Honda Odyssey Touring

  • Miles: 144,000
  • Price: $5,000
  • Link

For the family hauler, this 2007 Honda Odyssey should fit the bill beautifully. This generation of Odyssey minivan predates the famous onboard vacuum, but the top trim Touring model is a van I’ve actually done a lot of miles in. It’s fabulously comfortable, quiet, spacious, and reasonable on fuel.

This example has some service history, with recent parts like the dampers, tailgate struts, belts and pulleys, and a fresh AC system. The two caveats are that the AC system was never charged after repair and it has some serious paint failure above the windshield. If the seller is to believe regarding the functionality of the AC (which ... maybe), a recharge isn’t too expensive. For $5,000, this is possibly the most luxurious large-family vehicle you can buy without wasting another $5,000 on gasoline in a year.

A Fun Gas-Saver: 1998 Honda Civic HX manual

  • Miles: 180,000
  • Price: $4,000
  • Link

Fuel efficiency is highly valued, especially with gas prices creeping back up. But fuel economy doesn’t have to come at the expense of fun, because this 1998 Honda Civic HX should be plenty fun while being absurdly efficient, especially because it's a manual.

These Civics are well-built, reliable, lightweight, and with the right mods handle incredibly well. This one has a long list of maintenance in 2021 and 2022, including a new gearbox, clutch, and a general tune-up. At 180,000 miles it’s barely getting started and should be mechanically ready to go for a good while.

The only thing going against it is its cosmetic situation. It presents decently clean but has some flaws, with the interior being the nicest looking part of the car.

A Manual SUV Bargain: 2002 Nissan Pathfinder 4x4 Manual

  • Miles: 198,000
  • Price: $4,000
  • Link

Preaching the good word of the lesser-loved Japanese SUVs is becoming something of a theme in these Five Under Five posts. Though the Toyota 4Runner and Tacoma have stolen the thunder from everything else (with good reason), we would be remiss to exclude the lesser-known Nissan Pathfinder. Mainly because they are extremely reasonably priced and the Toyotas are absurdly inflated.

This particular one is a facelift 2002 model with 4x4 and a manual gearbox, which I didn’t even know existed for this truck until I saw this one. These old trucks have major budget 4Runner vibes about them but they do have one big demerit: unibody construction instead of a body-on-frame truck (some other Pathfinder gens are frame-based). It loses the edge in being rugged, but it's still going to be plenty capable and fun, especially for a third of the price of a 4Runner.

A Collectible Shark Nose: 1985 BMW 535i 

  • Miles: 298,000
  • Price: $4,000
  • Link

Old BMWs are always worth taking a look at, especially something of the ‘80s vintage. This 1985 BMW 535i is one of the great sharknose BMWs, with great driving dynamics, nice steering, and quiet refinement while having a hint of excellence about it.

This one is, unfortunately, automatic. But it looks extremely clean for its age, with the usual signs of wear and usage. Most importantly, the car has records going back to 1988, making it an instant cheap collectible. It also has a vibe and experience that you can’t get in any modern car.

Rally Ready: 1995 BMW 325i E36 

  • Miles: 178,000
  • Price: $4,000
  • Link

For our last entry, an enthusiast special seemed to fit best. The E36 BMW has experienced the most obvious of the "uncool and cheap" to "cool and expensive" curve of any semi-modern BMW, as evidenced by the ridiculous prices of E36 M3s right now. A cheap E36 is still a great enthusiast project car, but only if you don't spend a lot of money on it.

This example is cheap, looks reasonably well-kept, and has some interesting mods. It’s clearly been prepped for the track with bucket seats, a half-cage, brakes, and suspension. Albeit the parts used seem to be in the budget range instead of high-dollar stuff, it still does the job of being a cheap fun project race car. This is surely worth the $4,000 the seller is asking.

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!