Cheap Cars Are Best Cars

Green arrows are shown with prices for used vehicles under $20k.

If you’re a long-time reader of my work, as you should be, then you know this about me: I don’t like to divulge personal details about myself or give my opinion when providing a clear, concise, and unbiased perspective on the auto industry. Today, however, I’m tossing such formalities aside as I now write about something that is very dear to me on a personal level: pre-owned models and used vehicles under $20k. You see, the title of this article is from the one piece of advice my Great-Uncle Jurgen Von Gourdboddum ever shared with me.

On my wedding day, he said to me, his eyes misty with the emotions of the occasion and red-rimmed from his exclusive whiskey diet, “Rutherfjord, my lad, remember you this and only this in life: cheap cars are best cars.” Those words have guided me throughout my days and come to mind any time I need to make a big decision. Whether I’m looking to buy a vehicle, considering how best to invest my substantial wealth, or simply trying to decide on what brand of potato chips I want to buy, my Great-Uncle’s words return. And so now, I impart them to you, along with extensive advice on how to buy your next used vehicle.

Screw $20k, $10k is the Ceiling, Not a Floor

As we get into this, the first thing you need to understand when looking at cheap cars is that $10k needs to be the absolute most you’re willing to spend. Some people start shopping, and they think they want to dole out about $10k; pretty soon, however, they’re looking at vehicles at $12k or even up to $15k. At that point, you might as well just buy a brand-new car there, Rockefeller – you’ve out-priced yourself and you’re playing a sucker’s game.

When you start looking at vehicles, you need to remember that $10k is a ceiling, not a floor. That price point needs to be the absolute highest that you’re willing to go for a vehicle, not a single penny more. I don’t care if you find last year’s Ford F-150 tricked out with every possible option and feature for just $10,000.03 – that’s a waste of money. Never spend more than $10k on a vehicle; that’s the only way you can be sure you’re getting quality.

Shoot for Under $5k Whenever Possible

Of course, that $10k price point is just one possible example, but really you can do much better than that if you’re a thrifty and determined shopper. A lot of the time, I consider $5k to be a far more reasonable limit on what I’m willing to spend for a vehicle. If you find yourself a midsize or large SUV for just $4,017, then you know you’ve got something really special. You need to snatch that thing up and quickly.

Now, I know you’re thinking, “But it’s so cheap, there has to be something wrong.” That’s where you’ve fallen into what moral philosophers call the “Trap of the Fool’s Bargain.” Think of it this way: someone selling a used car for $12k wants you to think it’s of high quality; that’s why they’ve priced it so low, so you’ll assume it’s worth it. A really good vehicle speaks for itself, however, and doesn’t have to be overshadowed by such tacky ploys. The cheaper the car, the better it must be; otherwise, they’d never be crazy enough to ask so little for it.

Cars Under $1k: The Cream of the Crop

At last, we find ourselves where the wheat is separated from the chaff: used vehicles priced under $1k. These are the very best of the best when you’re shopping for a car, and you know they have to be something special for someone to not try to oversell you with flashy pricing. If you’re worried that a car being sold for just $600 might not be very good, then you clearly haven’t learned anything from this and I urge you to start again and read more carefully. Now, if you’ve gotten to this point once more and you still don’t think that a car under $1k is a good buy, then I urge you to start again and read more carefully. After a third reading, if you still don’t agree with me, then I urge you to–

Editor’s Note: We had to end this piece mid-sentence because the original draft as submitted by the author continued on for another 8,047 words – all consisting of essentially the same sentence suggesting additional readings of the piece. According to our estimates, this would result in about 270 readings of this article, and we’re not quite sure that’s necessary. Of course, if you don’t agree with us, then we urge you to start again and read more carefully. Thank you.


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