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Exploring Some of the Internet’s Least-Expensive Cars

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If you’re seeking a used car, you’re probably not looking to spend a whole lot of money. Even then, if you want to secure a vehicle that works and will last at least a year, you’ll have to dish out at least $1,000. Even this may be too much money for some, leading us to investigate some of the internet’s most affordable cars…

…and boy, did we come across some treasures. None of these options are necessarily a logical choice (although we’ll defend the logic behind pursuing one of these cars). You’ll certainly find more capable used cars for sale in Albany, even if they aren’t available for $100. Still, let’s explore some of the internet’s least-expensive cars…

1998 Kia Sephia: $100

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Despite being only “gently used,” this nearly 20-year-old car has 132,024 miles on the odometer, perhaps explaining why the vehicle is selling for such an affordable price. Of course, Kia’s vehicles are typically known for being reliable, so we wouldn’t completely discount the ride.

The compact car was produced by Kia from 1992 through 2003, and a 1998 model would be placed in the Sephia’s second generation. While this particular vehicle appears to be the basic four-door sedan version, the nameplate was also available as a five-door liftback (known as the Kia Spectra).

A pair of engines would likely appear under the hood: the DOHC 1.5-liter and the revamped DOHC 1.8-liter. These units would have been accompanied by two transmission choices, including the four-speed F4A-EL automatic and the five-speed G5M manual. The second generation also included an improved air conditioning unit.

1989 Dodge Aries: $199

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The Dodge Aries (along with the Plymouth Reliant) was Chrysler Corporation’s first official “K-car,” and it ended up replacing the Aspen in the brand’s lineup. The vehicle was also marketed as the company’s answer to Japanese cars, as the red, white, and blue advertisements pulled at customer’s American heartstrings. There were three engines included in the Aries during its eight-year run: the 2.2-liter K I4, 2.5-liter K I4, and the 2.6-liter Mitsubishi G54B I4.

The nameplate ended up seeing moderate success in the United States, selling just south of one million total units. With 1989 being the final year of production, you’d be receiving perhaps the best model during the Aries’ run. Of course, with more than 100,000 miles on the odometer and close to 20-years on the road, we’d suggest leaving this vehicle alone.

1996 Pontiac Grand Am SE: $500

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Hey, for $500, we’re not expecting a whole lot from a car. When it comes down to it, we just want it to start, right?

“[I]t seems to only start when it’s warm so it may or not be able to drive. I believe the fuel pump is going or there is a bad ground but I don’t want to put any money into the car so I’m selling it.”

Ah, well that’s fine. We can simply take the car into a mechanic and assure that everything’s working properly. Pontiac produces some reliable, long-lasting vehicles, and with only 102,437 miles on the odometer, we’re confident the car could continue working (assuming all of the parts are operating properly).

Luckily, Pontiacs are nice. Even a 1996 model has to offer some unique amenities.

“[A]lso the power windows don’t work and the dome lights need to be replaced.”

In that case, let’s appreciate the engine options. The 3.1-liter 3100 SFI V6 is the presumed unit under the hood, and you can expect 155 horsepower and 185 pounds-feet of torque. The vehicle could also feature the 2.4-liter DOHC Twin Cam L4 engine, which can pump out 150 horsepower and 155 pounds-feet of torque.

1999 Chevrolet Cavalier: $700

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With millions of units sold throughout the 13-year run, this compact automobile ended up transforming into one of Chevy’s most popular vehicles of all time. Ordinarily, we’d suggest pursuing a used Cavalier, even it had more than 100,000 miles.

The 1999 versions falls into the nameplate’s third generation. There were two main engine options available during the model year, like the 2.2-liter L4 engine (115 horsepower) and the 2.4-liter DOHC L4 (150 horsepower). The vehicle also proved to be relatively fuel efficient, making it an especially good choice for a young driver.

Despite the positive factors, we’d still probably avoid this listed Cavalier from Kenosha, Wisconsin (via Kevin Kryah of Esquire). No, we’re not turned off by the 166,000 miles on the odometer. In fact, the seller notes that “this thing runs fine and may give you two good years.” Furthermore, many of the parts had been replaced, and the owner wasn’t aware of any previous accidents.

However, there were way too many negatives that accompany this listing. While we appreciate the owner’s honesty, they can’t really expect us to purchase a vehicle after having read these kinds of remarks:

  • “The car has a bunch of dents and cosmetic stuff going on. Someone side swiped me in a parking lot and just drove off without leaving a note.”
  • “Almost rust free but I noticed a small spot starting on the bottom of the drivers door about mid winter. I thought to myself “I should do something about that rust spot,” then I didn’t do anything about the rust spot.”
  • “ABS wasn’t working right so I had to disable it.”

But hey, for $200, maybe you could salvage the few workable parts.

Bonus: Free Mystery Car!

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This Craigslist ad, found in Colorado Springs, adds a bit of adventure to the car-buying process (via Raphael Orlove of Jalopnik.com):

“At least I think it’s a car. It’s been buried under the dirt road that goes out the back of my property since I bought the place. Attempted to bury it in wood chips but it keeps reappearing every spring. i don’t think anyone’s in it but I’m not sure. mafia people did used to live around here. You’ll need a bobcat to dig it out and a heavy wrecker/trailer to tow it away. Bonus — there may be another one further down my road, and a squashed fiberglass boat. Not sure if they run or every have engines. Tires are definitely flat. So are the cars/boat. Please fill in the holes on your way out.”

Yeah… we’d suggest just leaving this car with nature.

This exercise was more for fun and jest. Sure, a $100 car seems too good to be true, and as you’ve learned above, it probably is. These incredibly affordable vehicles usually have north of 100,000 miles on the odometer, and there’s a good chance that some of the mechanics need to replaced.

Of course, these vehicles could still be worth the minimal financial risk. If you know a fair bit about cars, you could rip the vehicle apart and save any of the workable pieces. You could also bank on the fact that the car may actually operate. Even if the $100 car lasts for six months, well, that’s still less than you would have paid for a rental.

One thing is certain, however: don’t pursue the “free” car, especially if it’s buried in a backyard and may contain bodies.

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