Contrary to popular belief, it is possible to purchase a car for less than 500 dollars. However, you have to do your homework, and consider the risks associated with purchasing a cheap car.
Where to Find Cars Under 500 Dollars
Many sellers of older cars will offer their vehicles for sale for 500 dollars or less. These bargains often have higher mileage and need repairs. However, for someone who has the knowledge and willingness to fix the car, it can be a great bargain. Sellers go to a few of the following places to unload their older vehicles, providing the best opportunity for the buyer to find a cheap car.
Online Auto Marketplaces
You can find an array of automobiles for sale from auto dealers and private sellers via online marketplaces. In most instances, listings contain detailed information about the vehicle, CARFAX reports, photos and contact information for the seller. When conducting the search, only include your zip code and price to get avoid getting zero results.
Reputable online auto marketplaces include eBay Motors, Auto Trader, and AOL Autos.
Craigslist enables you to search for all sorts of vehicles through its database. First, you need to filter by location. Under the 'for sale' section, click on cars+trucks and filter according to your criteria. After that, you can filter by price. Beware that owners may not include a significant amount of information in the advertisements, and some ads may even be scams. Contact the advertiser directly to learn more and refrain from conducting monetary transactions online.
Websites, such as governmentauctions.org, and the US General Services Administration lists cars for sale that are government property and are at a surplus or have been impounded by the police. Auctions start as low as $100, and searches are available by zip code. To locate deals in your area, you will need to subscribe to the site. A free trial is available for three days, and you will be assessed $18.95 per month once the complimentary period expires.
Not only are auto junkyards great for finding deals on hubcaps and wheels, owners of these junkyards will often have bargain cars as well. They may need work, and some vehicles you find may not be running at all. However, if you're a do-it-yourself mechanic, you can find some real gems by visiting a junkyard. Before you haul the car away, make sure the junkyard owner has a clear title to sell you the vehicle.
Used Car Lots
Owners of used car lots will attend auctions where they often buy older cars that are not in the best condition for less than 500 dollars. While they won't put much mechanical or reconditioning expense into these low-cost vehicles, if they buy one for 300 dollars, chances are they'll sell it to you for 500 dollars. Ask questions and check the title before you buy.
Look in your local newspaper for estate sales. People who inherit large estates, or attorneys who handle large estates, will often sell vehicles at a deal to clear the estate of assets for distribution to the heirs.
Tips for Buying Older Cars
Not every older used car will be a gem. In fact, there are more lemons than gems out there. To protect yourself, follow a few key tips.
Obtain the CARFAX Report
You can obtain a CARFAX report, but only if the vehicle isn't too old. Older 1950 through 1960 year models won't have the required 17-digit vehicle identification number or VIN, and CARFAX doesn't go back that far. If the car is a 1970 model or older, spend the $29.95, and get a CARFAX report.
Conduct a Cost-Benefit Analysis
Expect repairs if you want to buy a cheap car. Unless you're buying from a helpful relative, most cars as cheap as 500 dollars will need some repairs. Get estimates to see if you can afford to repair the vehicle back to working order.
Request a Mechanical Inspection
Since there is a significant chance that the car will possess mechanical issues, ask the owner if they will allow you to have an inspection done on the vehicle, so you will know what you are getting into before you make the purchase. If they deny your request, simply move on as this is an indicator that they are withholding significant information.
Be realistic about the car you are buying. If the price tag is 500 dollars, chances are it does need either body or mechanical work, or even new tires. Keep in mind that you may also need to invest enough money into the vehicle for it to pass either a state inspection or an emissions test. However, spending 500 dollars on a car can make for a great project for someone who is willing and able to put the work into it to make the car run like new.