How to Buy a Car When You’re on a Budget

My first car was 5k, I drove it 5 years, and sold it for 4k

Trudy Horsting


Photo by Michael Heuser on Unsplash

Last year, I decided to sell my first vehicle which had served me well for 5 years, and fly to my new home across the country.

I ended up selling my car for just 1,000 less than I bought it for AFTER using it for 5 years.

The new car I purchased I’m sure will give me the same sort of return.

When you’re on a budget, a fancy car is often at the bottom of your list of priorities. You may even consider leasing to avoid the cost. But by driving a used car, I was able to spend 12 times less than I would have through leasing a vehicle- even if that lease had hypothetically cost me only 200 dollars a month.

Here are some of the best tips I’ve learned regarding what to look for when buying cars on a budget.

What to Look For

1. Reliable Models

Sure, you’ll pay more for a Honda or Toyota- even used, but it will be well worth the money you save in repairs over the course of your time with the car.

My first car was a 2004 Honda Accord. My second is a 2013 Honda CRV. Over the course of the life of both of these vehicles, I have had very minimal repairs.

Part of this is because the cars were taken care of prior to my purchase of them, and part of this is because I continued to take care of them when they were in my possession.

This means regular oil changes, tire rotations, fluid checks, and more. Regular maintenance is critical for maintaining any car, especially used ones.

If you treat your reliable model of a car correctly, longevity is close to guaranteed.

2. Private Sellers

You can often get a better deal from private sellers on a used car. Even if the vehicle itself is a similar price and mileage, it will be worth it in the money you’re saving in dealership fees alone.

Both of my cars have been from private sellers found through neighbors or Facebook Marketplace.

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Trudy Horsting

Writer. PhD Candidate. Frugal Traveler. Passionate about health, personal growth, and saving money.