Most Reliable Cars Under $1,500

white 1994 lexus ls 400

You want something cheap. You want something reliable. Well, this in this article you can have your cake and eat it too. We’re going to dig into my favorite, and I mean favorite, vehicles that will get you from A to B every single time. 

For over 20 years, there’s one car that has been America’s symbol of authority. A car that has cruised the open highways for billions of miles. A car that has served the USA in pursuit of civil perfection. And you guessed it, it’s the second generation Ford Crown Victoria!

1998 – 2012 Ford Crown Victoria Ex-Cop Workhorse

white 2012 ford crown victoria

Introduced for the 1998 model year, The Ford Crown Vic was an instant success. After all, it was one of the last rear-wheel drive big-body American sedans left. Plus, it had a huge V8 up front, so what’s not to love? And they’ve been the favorite of cops and taxi cabs for years, which says something about their reliability, because those guys put on some hard miles! Yee haw!

And since there were well over a million Crown Vics produced, they are a dime a dozen to find on sale, with parts dirt cheap. For $1,500, I would think this is one of the best cars you can get! I mean, a rear-wheel drive car with the same 4.6-liter V8 as the Mustang if it has the Police Interceptor package. Now that’s a screaming deal!

Plus, you got some cash left over for some shenanigans! With its sheer size and live rear axle, it’s ready to boogie both on and off road! Try and get an ex-police car with the P71 package, like the one we found for $1,200, because you know it’s going to have a lifetime of regular maintenance. The mileage on these might be scary, but reports are people pushing close to 400,000 miles on them reliably!

Bonus! Everyone will get out of your way when you drive up behind them on the freeway. Next up is the much better brother to the Crown Vic…

1998 – 2011  Lincoln Town Car – Your Personal Limo

black 2011 lincoln town car

The Lincoln Town Car is a tried and true workhorse like the Crown Vic, and for good reason! It rides on the same platform as the Crown Vic, and shares the same drivetrain too. But where the Crown Vic was hauling criminals and drunk people, the Town Car was made for driving around the upper class. It’s got a much more plush interior with wood trim along the dash! It gives you a sense of importance and luxury.

But, don’t be mistaken by its soft seats and sedated looks! It can haul ass just as well as the Crown Vic! And for $1,500, a comfy Town Car is one hell of a deal! And just like the Crown Vic, there’s a million of them. So, you can find a ton of them for sale in your area.

Either way, the Town Car and Crown Vic are built pretty damn well! The modular Ford V8 is made of bulletproofium, with many examples driving over a million miles!

Now, both of these are American reliability icons, but what about our friends in Japan? Well, a car synonymous with comfort and style, and reliable for hundreds of thousands of miles… is the Lexus LS 400!

1989 – 1994 Lexus LS 400 – Reliable Luxury

tan 1994 lexus ls 400
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Produced from 1989 to 1994, the first generation LS 400 was Lexus’s flagship luxury sedan. It had immense legroom, a gargantuan trunk, and impressive power. Speaking of power, nestled under the hood was the famous 1UZ V8, a power plant developed from a race engine Toyota had used in the 80’s! Now, that’s one way to say it will outlive the owner!

With hundreds of thousands sold, it’s easy to understand why they’re common, and what goes hand in hand with being common? Being cheap! $1,500 can get you into the classy driver’s seat of an LS 400, but be ready to iron out some bugs. One thing you probably won’t have to iron out is the engine though! Over 300,000 miles on a properly taken care of 1UZ is no big deal!

The Lexus LS 400 is probably one of the most fun and versatile cars on this list. With some wheels and suspension work, you can build out a swanky VIP ride. Or with some performance mods, that 1UZ can power a pretty solid drift car. But we’re talking reliability. So, keep this baby stock and cruise in the lap of luxury for miles to come. Or straight pipe it and let your friends know what reliability really sounds like! 

Okay, let’s step back and put aside our perceptions of Buicks…

1997 – 2005 Buick Century – Your Grandpa’s Go Getter

silver 2005 buick century

The Buick Century is one of the most reliable cars you could possibly buy! On the outside, it’s virtually identical to its upscale brother, the Buick Regal. But since it’s the lower-spec car of the two, it houses a smaller 3.1-liter V6. But don’t think that that makes it bad! Oh no! This bad boy is sure to take you into hundreds of thousands of miles.

And Buick has seen solid sales of the Century since the turn of the Century! Get it? Now, I can understand that Buick is seen as a brand for old people, a brand that is the definition of bland. But that does help in terms of reliability!

Let me explain. Since mostly older people drive them, Buicks will have been driven gently nearly their entire lives! The engine and interior bits will pretty likely be in great condition. You can certainly find a few showroom quality Centurys for sale near you!

Also, one good thing is that since Buick shared a lot of parts with other GM cars. Parts are cheap to find, although I’m not sure what you would replace, since this is one of the most reliable cars you can buy at this price point!

Every single list of reliable cars has this next car at the very top. If you look up “bulletproof” in the dictionary, it’s a picture of a Toyota Camry. It’s paint fading, it hasn’t had its oil changed in a decade and it’s about to hit 400,000, and she’s still running strong.

1996 – 2002 Toyota Camry – The Benchmark

grey 2002 toyota camry
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The Toyota Camry is synonymous with the phrase “cheap and reliable”. The late 90’s Camry came in multiple trims. It could be optioned with a 4-cylinder or a V6, and could be had with a manual or an automatic! Any route you go, the Camry will definitely not leave you stranded!

The interior is pretty spartan, but that means there’s not much tech that’ll break! One of the greatest selling points for the Camry was the price! It easily stole its competitors’ thunder, because it offered comparable luxury at a lower price point, directly leading to its utter domination of the mid-size car segment!

The Toyota Camry is one of the best selling cars of all time, with over ten million sold, and you know what that means! There’s a ton of them for sale! For $1,500, you’re bound to find a few good examples, especially since we know high mileage is not an issue! There are Camrys cruising around with a million miles on them!

And the American answer to the Camry, is certainly Ford’s little funky fighter, the Ford Focus!

1998 – 2007 Ford Focus – Sharp, Strong, Spunky

red 2007 ford focus

The Ford Focus is an iconic car. In the late 90’s, Ford took the Focus racing in the World Rally Championship, and put the legendary Colin McRae in the driver’s seat! The Ford Focus’s domination of the primarily-European motorsport turned the Focus into an absolute legend overseas. In fact, the Focus might even be more popular worldwide than it is here in America!

Having cut its teeth in rally, the world’s toughest motorsport, the Focus is as reliable as gravity! As a result, Ford sold tons of them around the globe, meaning you have tons to choose from on the used market! Sedan, hatchback, wagon, manual, automatic, there are plenty of decisions to make!

So, what are you waiting for? Pick up a cheap Focus today and channel your inner Colin McRae on some backroads!

And a sporty little contender for the title of funnest on this list, would be the Honda Civic.

EG and EJ Honda Civic – The People’s Car

green 1993 eg honda civic

There is no way a list of reliable cars could be complete without the Honda Civic! Like the Toyota Camry, the Civic is one of the all-time greatest selling cars, even outselling the Camry 16 million to 10 million! Now, the Civic sells so well for a very good reason! Its engines are some of the most bulletproof engines to ever exist. Many people have reported not changing the engine oil for tens of thousands of miles. Don’t do that.

Despite even the most negligent owners, the Civics never skipped a beat. They started right up every time. And, of course, the ideal thing about the Civic is that it’s one of the most versatile platforms on this list! There are plenty of aftermarket products for every variation of the Civic, with many being modified for track abuse, drag racing, cars shows, and the like!

In fact, the Civic is one of the most modified cars on the planet as well! Hell, I can almost guarantee that there is at least one Civic at every track day! So, there’s no way you can go wrong with picking up a Civic. And for $1,500, you can find plenty of examples of Civics in all sorts of body styles and trims!

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