GREAT First Cars For Students Under $5,000


It’s the moment you’ve been waiting for all your life… that’s right! Time to buy your first car. But wait…. you only have $5,000 to spend? No problem! We’re going to tell you about 8 different cars that can fit into your budget, and are going to make your jaw drop when you see what they bring to the table. 

One car on our list is used to beat out Mustangs and Camaros on the drag strip, and we even found a sweet BMW for under $3,000! If you’re looking for the perfect car to commute to and from school, keep reading. We got you. Here are some great first cars for students under $5,000!

2008 Mazda3 S Touring

Executive Auto Sales

If you’re looking for the perfect first car to cruise to school in, it’s definitely worth considering a Mazda3. This is a car built to be your right hand man all through high school, college, and beyond. It’s durable, gets good gas mileage, is super cheap to repair, and looks a whole lot better than most cars you’re going get for under $5,000. 

You can get the base model 3 and have a great car that’s going to be perfect for commuting to and from school, or you could level up and get yourself a Mazda3 S Touring! Still for under $5,000. Whereas the base 3 gets 144 horses with its 2-cylinder engine, the Touring tacks on another 12, bringing it up to 156. The Touring trim also includes considerably more cabin and cargo space, which will come in handy for those times when you need to pile all your friends in the car for a camping trip, or to go to a hockey game, or…you know… other high school stuff

And mom and pop will be into this car too because it’s got some top-notch safety features that’ll keep their little baby safe and sound on the road. Automatic locking retractors, airbags galore, and a smart crash sensor. This whip is as safe as they come. 

Find a cheap 2008 Mazda3 S Touring on AutoTempest!

2007 Scion tC


Scion, Toyota’s discontinued economy brand, didn’t go out of existence without leaving the world with some wonderful sets of wheels. The Scion tC, in particular, is a perfect car for those looking to get their first set of keys. It’s safe, it performs great in handling and acceleration with its 240-horsepower 4-cylinder and finely-tuned transmission, and it’ll cost you no more than $5,000. Plus, it’s got a sweet ass sunroof that’s perfect for romancing your high school sweetheart under the night sky

The design language on the tC is modest but classy, with sweeping lines that continue from the prominent front grill all the way to the rear bumper. Pulling up in a tC sends the message that you got taste. And that doesn’t just mean the exterior. The dashboard on this car is beautiful, with amber lights highlighting all of your buttons and knobs, making them easy to find and nice to look at. 

But if you are going to buy a tC, get that engine thoroughly inspected, because these little sport sedans had an engine recall in 2007. But if you find one that runs the right way, the tC will last you a lifetime. 

Find a cheap 2007 Scion tC on AutoTempest!

2008 Acura TSX

RNR Automotive Blog

If you’re looking for a sportier first car, and you’re willing to sacrifice some gas mileage, look no further! The Acura TSX is a luxury sport sedan with some serious power for the price. For under $5,000, you could saddle up a 2.4-liter VTEC engine that revs up 205 horsepower attached to a 5-speed automatic transmission with Overdrive and Sportshift capabilities. 

Sure, the gas mileage isn’t great at 28 MPGs on the highway, but sometimes power comes with some sacrifices. But in the interior, the TSX gives up nothing. It’s got a slammin’ speaker system, Bluetooth wireless connectivity, and Satellite Radio included unless you live in Hawaii or Alaska. To all of you out there in Hawaii or Alaska… don’t worry, we still love you… even if Honda doesn’t. 

But regardless of where you live, the TSX always includes a host of safety features including a trunk anti-trap device in case someone tries to keep you hostage in the trunk of your own car. Hopefully that never happens to you, but it’s nice to know that the TSX has got you covered if it ever does.

Find a cheap 2008 Acura TSX on AutoTempest!

2000 Honda Civic


Since about the year 2000, there has been what seems like an unrestrained flood of Honda Civics onto the streets. And although these days you might associate the Civic with your middle-aged neighbor or the lady who walks your dog when you’re on vacation, from 1996 to 2000, the Civic was considered a badass Japanese drag machine. That’s right! 

When the car first hit the market around that time period, enthusiasts took a liking to this smaller, more-lightweight VTEC-powered roadster as an alternative to the bulkier V8-powered American muscle cars of the time. Believe it or not, the Civic was taking on Camaros and Corvettes on the drag strip…and winning! 

So, before you make your assumptions about the Civic, get behind the wheel of one and tell me that thing doesn’t have a little kick to it. No, it’s no supercar, but it costs next-to-nothing, it’s safe and reliable, and it’s a hell of a lot of fun to drive!

The market on these is really competitive so you might need lady luck on your side to get a good example before they’re sold, but we found a few with decent miles, clean condition and most importantly clean titles under our budget!

Find a cheap 2000 Honda Civic on AutoTempest!

2007 Toyota Yaris

Top Speed

The Toyota Yaris. Am I crazy? Or is that just an awful name for anything, much less a car. Yaris just sounds like a dirty word, like something you’d scrape off the bottom of your bath mat. But anyway, despite it’s god-awful name, this car is actually a phenomenal purchase for all you students looking to buy your first car. 

It’s super compact, gets great gas mileage, and best of all, it’ll fit into basically anyone’s budget. And if you find a Yaris that’s been driven lightly, it’s going to last you forever, because these cars are super reliable. I will say, though, if you aren’t into Euro-style cars, the Yaris design is a bit weird. But if you could care less about the looks and want to save some cash on gas, this whip gets 35 highway miles to the gallon. 

Not bad… not bad at all. Unfortunately, this is due in part to the fact that the Yaris has a 106-horsepower 1.5-liter Easy Bake Oven for an engine. But hey, it’s cheap, reliable, and fuel efficient. Not great for your budding racing career, but definitely great for your wallet. Sure, the Yaris is underpowered, but it’s also underpriced.

Find a cheap 2007 Toyota Yaris on AutoTempest!

2006 BMW 325i

Wikimedia Commons

When people here in the USA see someone driving a Bimmer, they immediately assume that they spent big bucks on it. But truth be told, you don’t have to! For under $25,000, you could be sitting behind the wheel of a 2006 BMW 325i. And at that price, it’s going to blow your mind the kind of quality you’re in for. We’re talking a beautiful combination of sporty performance and practicality, all wrapped up in BMW luxury. 

This car is more agile than a jungle cat, turning, accelerating, and stopping with ease and without sacrificing even the slightest bit of driver comfort. And, of course, when you’re buying a BMW, you expect some sweet tech features. Back in 2006, the 325i was blowing people away with its Active Steering system, which actually turns the front wheels without the driver having to do anything, this way you don’t have to worry about drifting out of your lane. The 325i also features bi-xenon headlights and high-tech cruise control that will apply the brakes if you start going too fast downhill. 

Overall, to get all this value for so little cash is just insane. If you’re a first-time car buyer in the market right now, maybe send BMW a thank you note for building the 325i.

Find a cheap 2006 BMW 325i on AutoTempest!

2011 Volkswagen Jetta SE


In the past decade or so, Volkswagen has proven itself to be a fantastic all-around automaker, and the Jetta SE is among some of their finest work. This car excels in almost every category imaginable. It gets 33 highway miles to the gallon, its cabin is spacious and equipped with an easy-to-use high-tech interface. Most people who own a Jetta SE have zero problems with it for at least the first 5 years, and while it certainly isn’t packing a supercharged V8, it does put out 170 horsepower with its 2.5-liter SEFI engine, which is… you know… respectable. 

This interior of the Jetta SE feels like a full-on luxury vehicle, and its handling is among the best in its class. You’re going to be smiling when you’re driving down the road thinking about how you got all that performance and luxury for under $5,000. 

But if you are going to get in the market for a Jetta SE, we highly recommend you go for one that has the soft plush interior instead of the hard leather they tried to replace it with. Sure, leather looks better. But if you’re going to put your butt on something for multiple hours a week, you want it to be comfortable.

Find a cheap 2011 Volkswagen Jetta SE on AutoTempest!

2002 Lexus RX300


Lexus luxury, baby! I know we’re always talking about it, but that’s because it’s the real deal! And the RX300 is certainly no exception. There’s a reason this is the car of choice of the wealthy and elderly. But don’t let that deter you from getting all the value the RX300 has to offer. When the V6 front engine churns out 220 horsepower, you certainly won’t feel like a grandpa. 

Plus, this car is stitched up with super comfortable leather in the interior, a ton of cabin space, and a bumpin’ seven speaker sound system. Unfortunately, the gas mileage isn’t amazing at 22 miles per gallon on the highway, but it’s not terrible for an SUV this big with this much power. The RX300 is available in front-wheel drive and 4-wheel drive configurations, and while the 4-wheel is going to cost you a bit more, we suggest going for that trim, because the difference in handling is definitely noticeable. But either way you go, the RX300 is a home run for your first car.

Find a cheap 2002 Lexus RX300 on AutoTempest!

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