Buying a Used Car Under $10K

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Automotive Content Editor

Meghan Carbary has been writing professionally for nearly 20 years. A published journalist in three states, Meghan honed her skills as a feature writer and sports editor. She has now expanded her skill-set into the automotive industry as a content writer for Auto Credit Express, where she contributes to several automotive and auto finance blogs.


, Automotive Content Editor - October 5, 2021

When you need a cheap car it's common to set a benchmark price, and many borrowers choose $10,000 as theirs. When you're shopping for a used car within this price range, it can be a fine line between affordability and reliability – but we've got some tips to help.

Are Cars Under $10K Worth It?

Shopping for a used vehicle is just about the only way to get a vehicle under $10,000 in the U.S. these days. A used car can be a great option, but you have to shop carefully and take a few more steps than you might with a brand new car.

Cars under $10K can be a great value if you know how to find one that's right for you. Chances are that you may have to do a little searching to find a reliable vehicle in this price range, especially since cars under $10,000 have been difficult to find since dealer stock has tumbled.

“Worth” is often in the eye of the beholder, but there are certain factors you should consider when it comes to a used car:

  • Reliability – Get a car that is known to run well into its prime. You can look this up by reviewing valuation sites and customer feedback online.
  • Safety – Safety is key when it comes to a used car. Make sure to know what the NHTSA and IIHS have to say about safety ratings for a particular vehicle, and always get a vehicle history report to ensure the car hasn't been in a prior accident.
  • Actual Value – Are you paying more than the car can hold for value? If you go upside down on a vehicle with a loan, you're not likely to get out of the position in a used car, especially if it doesn't have a high value to begin with.
  • Affordability – no matter how far down you go on the price list, it doesn't matter unless you can afford it. This means budgeting for your car loan by crunching some numbers before you start shopping. Knowing your DTI and PTI can help you stay on track.
  • Lifestyle – Be sure to get a vehicle that fits your situation. Checking fuel economy and cargo capacity is important for used cars. Don't buy a gas guzzler if you have a long commute, or a sports car if you have to haul kids adored.

Some Options to Consider

Though many people still hold on to the old adage that you should buy a used car that’s less than 10 years old, vehicles are being built to last longer these days, and many of them can run much longer than vehicles in the past.

According to a recent Kelley Blue Book study, you're most likely to find a balance of value and cost when you look at vehicles that are at or near the 10-year mark. Here are the top five cars to consider that may be under $10K:

Tips on Buying a Used Car

To know if a vehicle is worth its cost, or has a good value for its price, you need to know what to look for in a used car. Here are a few tips on finding the balance that works for you.

  • Buy a vehicle known for holding its value. Some automakers have a reputation for being a better value than others. This means these cars tend to run longer, or have fewer problems on average, than some of their fellow brands. Carmakers such as Subaru, Toyota, and Honda are among those known to keep their value well past their prime.
  • Rate shop. To get the best value on a vehicle under $10,000, make sure you're getting the best financing deal you can for your situation. The best way to do this is to get a few quotes from different lenders to see which can offer you the lowest APR. Be sure to do your rate shopping within two weeks so the inquiries don't all hit your credit score.
  • Touch everything. When you're looking for an affordable vehicle, you also need to make sure that you're getting the best value for your money. Open all the doors, turn all the knobs, adjust the mirrors, the seats, and anything else, open the trunk, the hood, and the gas tank (if there is one). The point is to make sure there won't be any surprises after you sign the paperwork.
  • Always take a test drive. A test drive is essential to making sure the vehicle you choose meets your needs. If possible take it into a variety of situations to ensure its handling capabilities.
  • Don't skip the pre-purchase inspection. Even with the most thorough look yourself, there are things you might not know to check for unless you're a mechanic. Make sure you take your potential purchase to an independent certified mechanic for a pre-purchase inspection before signing any paperwork.

Need a Subprime Car Loan?

If you have poor credit and need a car under $10K, we want to help. Finding a vehicle in this price range is difficult right now, but not impossible. However, with bad credit, you need to work with a lender that looks beyond your credit score and judges your auto loan eligibility on other factors.

Here at CarsDirect, we work with a nationwide network of special finance dealerships that have lenders that can help. We want to connect you to a local dealer for free, so you don't have to stress about where to turn. Simply fill out our fast, no-obligation car loan request form to get started.

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, Automotive Content Editor

Meghan Carbary has been writing professionally for nearly 20 years. A published journalist in three states, Meghan honed her skills as a feature writer and sports editor. She has now expanded her skill-set into the automotive industry as a content writer for Auto Credit Express, where she contributes to several automotive and auto finance blogs.


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