Here Are 5 Cars Under $5,000 Right Now: Des Moines, Iowa

The high cost of cars today makes it harder to find cheap fun. But we found a few affordable, interesting prospects to prove they still exist.

byPeter Nelson| PUBLISHED Aug 15, 2022 1:30 PM
Here Are 5 Cars Under $5,000 Right Now: Des Moines, Iowa

The Jewel of the Middle of the Midwest, also known as the Greater Des Moines, Iowa Area, can be a great source for solid vehicular deals. Whether you're local to the area, or in search of a well-taken-care-of diamond in the rough and are willing to travel, you might be surprised by what pops up on Craigslist in the town that Slipknot once called home. There are some neat finds to be found in this part of the country, and here are five examples that prove it.

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!

2011 Dodge Caravan

  • Price: $4,900
  • Miles: 196,000
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An old boss of mine referred to the Chrysler/Dodge van, regardless of generation, as the vehicle of the Cognoscenti, and I agree. They're sturdy and versatile, perfectly practical haulers for a variety of people. They’ve been safely carting around American families for the better part of 40 years, while also providing your local punk scene with great instrument-hauling capacity since at least the late '90s. You might even see a university professor driving one. 

The Chrysler van of this vintage is probably cheaper to repair than most vehicles on the road, and I wouldn't be surprised if supplies needed for a major overall could all be gathered during just one visit to your preferred local auto parts store.

This 2011 example's done 196,000 miles, and it might only need only a minor bit of maintenance to truly be tip-top. The owner states that it's had some recent service, the interior looks generally clean, and it's even got a backup camera! As far as a cheap, dependable, and safe family hauler for not a whole lot of coin, this would be high up on my list.

2000 Honda Accord LX

  • Price: $3,000
  • Miles: 263,920
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Back in the day, many automakers made the shrewd and very appreciated business decision to offer manual transmissions on base specs. You had to pay a bit more for an auto, which by today's standards seems trivial—why pay extra for a slow-shifting slushbox that might cost an arm and a leg to rebuild or completely replace if things go south? Especially if you live in a part of the country that doesn't have much traffic, like Des Moines, Iowa, so people can't use clutching in gridlock as an excuse to avoid the three-pedal life.

Who doesn't love a base, stick-shift '90s and early '00s Honda? This generation of the Accord is particularly great, as it features a four-cylinder engine that could probably be lubricated with a mixture of sand and paint (perhaps Neutral Drop ought to try it sometime).

This 2000 model in LX trim has a very clean interior, fresh tires, a lot of recent maintenance, and has done nearly 264,000 miles. That's less than half its life if properly maintained, which doesn't take much work to achieve. It sounds like it's been owned with tender love and care, and all that's required is $3,000 to pass on the Honda reliability torch to its next owner.

2000 Chevrolet K2500 4x4

  • Price: $3,500
  • Miles: 185,241
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Man, what a treat this next rig is. Bob Seger himself would totally roll around in it. This 2000 Chevrolet K2500 features a single cab, long bed, and is probably one of the last of its generation ever built before the Silverado came along. For $3,500 in 2022, this truck ain't a bad deal at all.

This white is also probably the easiest shade to match, ever, so if you decide to repair the rust, repaint it, and restore it back to its former dealer-lot-fresh glory, it wouldn't be terribly expensive. You could also leave it as-is and use it as a faithful workhorse for years to come. The small-block Chevy V8 under its hood would probably have a better chance against an electromagnetic pulse than any modern V8 truck, and 185,241 miles is still pretty darn young for these.

Check out the blue bench seating, too! I love a good, of-its-era base truck spec, and this thing is a prime example. Back when times were simpler, and GM was happy to paint the interior one interesting (by today's standards) color. I'd totally own this myself, and you better believe mine would have a cassette player with plenty of Bob Seger tapes on hand.

1990 Chevrolet Lumina Van

  • Price: $5,000
  • Miles: 48,407
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Staying within the Bowtie Brigade, if you're into obscurity, why not pick up this 1990 Chevy Lumina Van? Remember the Lumina nameplate? Chevy made it in van form, too, known more specifically as the Lumina APV. This wedge-shaped chunk of pure early '90s design shared a chassis with the Pontiac Trans Sport, which was a van made famous by the 1992 Rodney Dangerfield classic, Ladybugs.

Just look at it—those graphics, that greenhouse! By the looks of the apparatus attached to its front, it appears that this museum piece lived its life as a tow-behind. It's had some things done, like a new exhaust system and its brake lines replaced, probably due to rust. Because it was a tow-behind and has such low mileage, it'd be a good idea to ensure the tires are less than five years old, it's had its oil changed with some frequency, the transmission shifts smoothly, and all seals, gaskets, and bushings are in good shape.

But still, what a time capsule. Like most GM vehicles of the era, this thing would be so cheap to wrench on. I'm not sure about ease of maintenance, as I imagine getting up close and personal with its 3.1-, 3.4-, or 3.8-liter V6 could be tough. I bet it's a bit crowded under the hood. Regardless, $5,000 makes this a swell deal, and it will get a strong gaze by any '90s car connoisseur you pass on the street.

1984 Porsche 944

  • Price: $4,900
  • Miles: 59,000
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Here's something that'll get all the Porsche Club of America concours dads all hot and bothered: a 1984 Porsche 944. Like the Lumina APV above, this thing's a true icon of its era and was sort of like the precursor to the Boxster in that it was an everyman's Porsche. You didn't need to earn a very comfortable white-collar living to stash a new one away in your garage, you just needed to live comfortably in the upper-middle class.

This example was apparently repainted 12 years ago and has had some servicing done since. It only has 59,000 miles, so pulling it out of storage and firing it up for the first time since 2016 might not be too hard of a task. As a precaution, it'd be a good idea to give it fresh tires in addition to fresh gas and a fresh battery, but otherwise, this thing could be a screaming deal for just $5,000, possibly less with a little dickering. Plus, the fact that the owner uploaded photos of actual, physical photographs might turn away some punters, so a have-money-will-travel mentality would be quite rewarding.
These really are neat cars. They look great, are rear-wheel drive, and while regarded as kind of slow by today's standards, it still has three pedals and a very low-slung, sports car driving position. Whether your intentions are to show, cruise, autocross, or track, this would be a solid basis for all four. Or, live out your dream of being a character in a John Hughes movie. Weirdly, the 2.5-liter inline-four is absolutely massive under the 944's hood, it looks to be more the size of an inline-six.