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We Actually Found a Bunch of Cheap Used Cars

Unicorns do exist.
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Gas prices are ascending rapidly. Inflation is through the roof. The world is on fire. It makes you wonder if there are any cheap used cars out there. The good news is that there are, and The Drive’s Garage team found some totally killer rides.

The crew is on it, and that’s great. If it were up to me, everyone would be driving around in classics that might make it 50 miles before the first major issue pops up. To find something for everyone, each of us ventured into the world of online car sales to see what we could find for $18,000 or less. The choices are far better than you might believe.

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Shelby Dakota

Hank O’Hop: 1989 Dodge Dakota Shelby


It’s a 1989 Dakota Shelby, and it doesn’t get any better than this. The beast is powered by the legendary 5.2 Chrysler V8. It’s got an automatic on the column, an outlandishly cool appearance package, and it’s as clean as can be. If that’s not enough, you’ll be able to tell people you drive a vehicle graced by the touch of Carol Shelby. It’s up for auction right now, but you can opt to buy it now for $18K.

The Grail BMW E30 3-Series Wagon

Jonathon Klein: 1989 BMW E30 3-Series Wagon


The Grail. Do I need to explain myself on this one? Few cars are as searingly cool as an E30-generation BMW 3-Series wagon, and this specific one is a Euro model. (We never got them in the U.S.) To say I’m salivating at the possibility of owning this motor would be an understatement.

006 Mercedes-Benz AMG SL500

Kara Snow: 2006 Mercedes-Benz SL500


This Mercedes with a 5.0-liter V8 has only 86,000 miles and two owners. Yes, it’s a convertible, but it’s a hardtop convertible, and it comes with lots of extras. The black with tan interior is also always a win.

1997 Toyota RAV4 AWD

Tony Markovich: 1997 Toyota RAV4 AWD


Beyond dream cars, a perfect ride to me is one that blends daily usability, practicality, reliability, and fun. A Toyota RAV4 ticks all those boxes, even one that has been on the road for a quarter of a century. Listed at $9,300, it’s possible to find newer RAV4s for a similar price, but this example has a five-speed manual, all-wheel drive, and only 97,824 miles on the clock. Those minty old-school seats are sweet too.

2000 BMW Z3

Andrew P. Collins: 2000 BMW Z3


The Z3 design has aged really nicely, and the M versions especially are collectibles at this point. This particular one seems really well looked after, and silver is a quintessential German car color, making this a pretty attractive droptop for the money.

2014 Ford Fiesta ST

Robert Bacon: 2014 Ford Fiesta ST


Add some pep to your daily commute or Sunday spin with this 2014 Fiesta ST. Recaro leather seats and a six-speed manual transmission mean it shouldn’t be long before you get in the mood to take the scenic route home. There’s a turbocharged 1.6-liter inline-four under the hood, which pumps 197 horsepower, and it’s only racked up 30,604 miles.

2013 MINI Cooper

Peter Nelson: 2013 Mini Cooper


I’ve always dug this generation Mini Cooper, as it was still properly mini. They look great, the turbo-four is a lot of fun, and this one is a manual to boot.

2004 Nissan 350Z

Corey Foster: 2004 Nissan 350Z 


Low miles, garage kept, fantastic paint and interior. Big Bird wants you to hoon with the top down. If only it was an MT.

1991 Honda Beat

Patrick George: 1991 Honda Beat


I first drove a Beat about three years ago now, and it’s something I still think about—along with the fact that it’s a tremendous personal failing that I don’t own one. I’ll take this over a supercar any day of the week.