For this week, five under $5,000, we’re in Baltimore City. And we’re talking about Baltimore specifically – the DMV area (DC, Maryland, Virginia) is something of its own and its own vibe. Let’s check out what a cheap car market in Maryland’s largest city looks like in this small corner of the East Coast.
As a reminder, these posts are meant to showcase and give context to current market realities while offering what look like some decent car options. Our suggestions are purely based on what we see from the list. We didn’t do VIN checks, didn’t see cars in person, and didn’t talk to sellers, so buy at your own risk. At the very least, we recommend checking PINs and taking these cars for inspection before making any serious buying decisions.
We have a variety of vehicles, as usual, and have tried to find the most interesting stuff at this increasingly difficult price point.
Budget function: 2000 Toyota Solara V6 Manual
- price: 1300 dollars
- miles: 223,000
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Based on the 1997-2001 Camry, the Toyota Solara is essentially the same as the coupe-body, and this era is unbeatable. The 5FSE’s 2.2-liter engine will stand up to just about anything, and it’s usually neglect or rust that gets it off the road, not bad design.
This, though, is very special and very rare. This Solara has a V6 engine and manual, every enthusiast’s dream. I’ve driven quite a few manual Camrys of this era, and the transmission was a bit long but fun and easy to use. The 3.0 produced a healthy 200 horsepower for the age, all of which was sent to the front wheels.
The leather is a little worn and the transparent cover is peeling, but the seller says the car doesn’t have a check engine light and suggests it “runs hard”. Even with 223,000 miles, any car that looks good for that cheap price is a good buy. If this car was close to me, it wouldn’t be on this list, I would have bought it and it would be on my driveway.
A true mechanic’s dream: 2004 Lexus RX330
- price: 3500 dollars
- miles: 225000
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I’m realistic. I try to recommend usable, repairable and flexible cars to people on a tight budget. Sure, a luxury BMW or Audi might drive well, but the level of specialized tools or OEM parts often means that budget BMWs and Audis aren’t wise ideas. However, repairing a Lexus is not much different from repairing regular Toyota cars. The Lexus RX mechanically resembles the Toyota Highlander crossover everywhere, so maintaining and repairing any of them is not that difficult.
The 2004 RX330 appears to be in excellent physical condition for a nearly 20-year-old vehicle with 225,000 miles. Now, it’s not all peaches and cream here. The seller says there’s an engine check light on, and the code “reflects emissions or catalytic converter repair.” Without the ability to perform a diagnosis, I will assume the code is P0420 – Catalyst System Low Efficiency. At 225,000 miles and two decades in use, the catalytic converters are likely to be worn out. An inexpensive set of aftermarket exhaust manifolds with integrated adapters will cost about $300, According to eBay. I would say maybe $1000 including labor, and this RX330 will get back on the road for not having a lot of dough.
Enthusiast’s Choice: 2006 Lexus IS250
- price: 5000 dollars
- miles: 176500
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The Lexus IS250 is awesome. Well, it can be said that this generation is not as interesting as its predecessor or even in comparison with its contemporaries such as the E90 BMW 3-series or the Infiniti G35. But at the end of the day, it’s still a rear-wheel-drive, six-cylinder sports sedan.
At $5,000, this example has seen better days. The body panels look straight, and the exterior damage appears to be mostly cosmetic, apart from peeling off the front bumper which was likely replaced and had a poorly matched color after a previous accident. The setup looks good, so I wouldn’t worry too much about any kind of heavy structural damage underneath. Inside, some of the ornate pieces look a little worse for wear.
If the engine and transmission were in good shape, I think this buyer would probably be haggled down for a better deal.
family undertaker: 2006 Toyota Sienna XLE 4WD
- price: 4600 dollars
- miles: 173000
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The phenomenon of all-wheel drive minivans was something like crash or fail when you back off and think about it. In the 1980s, Chrysler added it to the Voyager and Dodge Caravan, but it fell off the list of options when it entered the foldable stow-n-go flat seats. Ford and Chevy both offered all-wheel drive on Aerostar and Astro trucks respectively, but when the two automakers decided to make front-wheel drive minivans, they left all-wheel drive on the cutting room floor. However, Toyota has consistently offered the AWD Sienna for every generation, with the exception of the first. In general, the Toyota Sienna was the only option for drivers looking for an SUV that is not an SUV or a commercial truck.
The 2004 Sienna had 173,000 miles and seemed to be in great shape. The headlights are old and faded, and the seat belts look dirty from using the baby ferry. But, these seem to be few complaints for what appears to be a car in very good condition. I was trying to shell out a few bucks at the expense of headlights, but at $4600, that’s a good price for a small car.
Cheap Nostalgia Ticket: 1993 Dodge Dynasty
- price: 2200 dollars
- miles: 106229
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This car is not for the everyday driver or looking for economy transport, although I have no doubts that the breed will be able to. This car is for people who are into Radwood or any exceptional fantasy car collector.
The Dodge breed is not a good car at all. Underneath, it’s another K (Dodge Aries), this one with a 3.3-liter V6 and four-speed automatic. Worse, the Dynasty came with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and a three-speed automatic, so this upgraded powertrain is a space-age positive by comparison.
Still, this family has good bones. The frames are fine, the body panels in the photos fit perfectly, and there are no major dents or blemishes. Far from being the best competitor on offer at Radwood, this car is a paint job and deep interior detailing.
Previous regions featured in “5 Under 5”
CAUTION: The Garage’s “Five under Five” highlights five cars listed under $5,000 within a specific geographic area. The idea is to keep your finger on the pulse of the low-cost car market and provide some context about the current state of what’s on Craigslist. Be aware: we don’t know these sellers and have never seen any of these cars in person. We only share it based on what’s clear in the ad, so split your wallet at your own risk!
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