Here Are 5 Cars Under $5,000 Right Now: Raleigh, NC

North Carolina might be hiding some cheap transportation gems.

byKevin Williams| PUBLISHED Aug 26, 2022 3:45 PM
Here Are 5 Cars Under $5,000 Right Now: Raleigh, NC

It’s Triple F Day here at The Drive again. That means it’s Friday, and we’ve got five more automotive gems for sale for under $5,000. Last week, my colleague Peter Nelson took us on a tour around the great city of Atlanta. This week, we’re in the Raleigh, North Carolina, area, including nearby Durham.

Durham and Raleigh are just far enough south and fairly inland from the water, so it’s a good selection of rust-free motoring. There’s no pesky salty sea air compromising body panels and wintery salt slush that destroys undercarriages is rare.

Keep in mind the Five Under Five lists aren't just for enthusiasts, and we try to post for all types of drivers (though, we also haven't seen or driven any of these vehicles). As the veteran budget car flipper with more than 40 Craigslist beater purchases under my belt, I know a thing or two about a good deal with a limited budget.

The Enthusiast’s Choice: 2003 Honda Civic Si

Price: $4,950
Miles: 155,035

The EP3 Honda Civic Si has a bad rap, just ask fellow The Drive writer Chris Rosales, who low-key despises these. Unlike him, my Peter and I adore the EP3, even if the basic platform and suspension design might be considered compromised. It’s still a sharp-driving vehicle that’s often cheaper to buy than the Civic Sis that came before it and after it.

This one is a bit tattered, even for the miles and age, but it doesn’t look like it has huge problems that would make the car horrible or unsafe to drive. The clear coat is faded, the driver’s door handle is missing, there’s a semi-gnarly dent in the driver’s side rocker panel, and it looks like the rear bumper cover is scuffed and misaligned, meaning it probably needs a new bumper hanging bracket. The seller also states that the cruise control doesn’t work, and the brake pedal vibrates because of pitted rotors.

The list price of $4,950 isn’t terrible these days for a somewhat low-mileage (for the year and brand) Civic Si with a clean title and no rust. Given the fact it’s been listed for 26 days, I’ll bet the seller might slip under $4K. For under $4,000 and a bit of elbow grease, you’ll have a fun little hot (warm) hatch. 

The Green Choice: 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid

Price: $4,950
Miles: 140914

The Ford Fusion Hybrid is a dark horse in the Prius-versus-the-world hybrid race. Before somewhat recently, early Ford hybrids used technology very similar to Toyota. The Fusion Hybrid is no exception. Although the battery, engine, and electric motors aren’t the same as any Toyota, the Fusion Hybrid uses the mechanically robust power-split device, commonly referred to as an eCVT.

This one looks to be in great shape, barring the “total loss” that the owner said occurred. A small rear-end collision ruined the bumper and trunk lid, which were subsequently replaced. I think the owner may be confused about what total loss means because there’s nothing I could find via a VIN search that showed the vehicle had been totaled out. If that were the case, the car would have a rebuilt or salvage title. If I were purchasing this car, I’d make sure I got a thorough inspection from a trusted mechanic or body repair guy, just to make sure everything’s ok. If it’s in the clear, it could be a nice little deal.

The Miserly Super-Budget Choice: 1998 Toyota Corolla LE

Price: $2,499
Miles: 206,000

I didn’t want to recommend a Corolla because Peter recommended one last week, but this one’s an LE model from an era when Toyota’s model grades were straightforward and easy to follow. The LE grade came with lots of goodies, alloy wheels, really nice cloth seats (instead of the vinyl seats, like the CE model I failed my driver’s test in), and A/C. Also, Corolla LE’s came with a four-speed automatic, a huge upgrade over the three-speed auto in more basic units.

Do keep in mind that these 1.8-liter engines tend to burn oil, especially later in life. I would know, I’ve owned three Pontiac Vibes, and a Corolla sedan with this engine. 

The Collector’s Choice: 1981 Mercedes-Benz 300D

Price: $3,500
Miles: 186,000

The Mercedes-Benz 300D has always been an iconic collector’s car. Born from the era when Mercedes-Benz cut all of its gas-powered engines because none of them would pass emissions (thanks for educating me, Jason Cammisa), the 300D is a staple in diesel car transport of the 1980s. Sumptuous, well built, and incredibly slow, these big sedans aren’t uncommon but can get expensive for vehicles in decent working order.

This car looks to be in really good physical shape. The seller said the car spent its life in California, so there shouldn’t be any rust. The sunroof looks to be in working order, and the interior doesn’t have any big blemishes. Unfortunately, the A/C leaks, but it does work, at least for a little while until all the refrigerant leaks out. There are some other mechanical niggles too, but I think they’re worth it, just for the good-condition body.

The Utility Choice: 2000 Ford Explorer Eddie Bauer

Price: $3,750
Miles: 191,000

I have a confession. I have always liked these Explorers, but I always viewed them as   a kind of forbidden fruit. See, I grew up in the late 1990s in a household where my dad worked for Firestone tire company, right in the heat of the Wilderness AT controversy. Ford Explorer was a dirty phrase in our house. Strangely, I learned to drive on a Ford Econoline, but whatever. 

This Eddie-Bauer-trimmed Explorer looks to be in good shape, aside from a few nicks, dents, and a slightly grody front door. This particular example has been sitting for 22 days, so if it’s still up, I’ll bet the seller is willing to wheel and deal.