Pondering cheap motoring: How much fun can you really buy for $2000?

You’re actually looking at $5700, but bear with me…

Cheap motoring. To some, it’s an oxymoron. But to others it’s a way of life, crawling under their cars every Sunday in order to avoid paying the mechanic down the street. If, like me, you fall under the latter, I’ve put together a shortlist of interesting, sub-$2000 cars that I’ve come across in the last little while.

Disclaimer: These choices are based on my local market in Toronto, Canada. Prices may vary around the world.

Mercedes 190E

As far as cheap luxury goes, this is your best bet. 190’s are readily available for less than $2000, both the 2.3 and 2.6. For your money you get a Mercedes of the 1980’s. Need I say more? If you’re lucky you might even stumble upon a manual variant. As far as reliability goes, old, German cars tend to be very expensive to maintain. But the 190, and many other Mercedes’ of the era, have developed a reputation for being bulletproof.  If anything goes wrong however, I sure hope you know how to fix it by yourself, or you’ll be greeted with open arms by astronomical Mercedes repair costs.

Ford F-Series

You may be wondering why exactly I didn’t list any specific model nor generation of the F-Series. And that’s because there’s quite simply a huge variety of them, all within the $2000 budget. You want an early-2000’s F-150? Not a problem! A massive, late-80’s F-350 with a powerful diesel engine? Right this way. They’re all available in varying condition, but with a little bit of mechanical attention they will all last for years to come. Perhaps they aren’t fun in the same way as the other cars on this list, but they can make great off-road vehicles, and are excellent workhorses if you need to move a lot of bigger things around.

Honda Prelude (3rd-generation)

Before I continue, I have to concede – this is a rather difficult one to find around Toronto. Maybe other markets will have better luck, but I have only been able to find one in the $2000 budget thus far. However, it was so good that I tried to purchase it. Alas, due to some personal issues I had to pull out. But the third-generation Prelude is a rather excellent car. With legendary Honda reliability, this may very well be your ticket to cheap motoring. And it had that most-fantastic of 1980’s automotive features – pop-up headlamps! If you can find a four-wheel-steering model, they were able to outhandle the likes of Lamborghini, Ferrari, and Porsche in the slalom at the time. Be warned, however, that the four-wheel-steering can be very tricky as far as maintenance goes, and with the standard models still rather fun to drive, I would avoid it altogether.

These three are the choices that stood out to me in my search. There are many other cars in this budget, that may or may not be relatively safe purchases. In conclusion however, it must be said that any kind of car this old, especially for this kind of budget, will be a bit of a risk. You should be prepared to perform a whole lot of maintenance work – regular, preventative, or unexpected. And if you haven’t got the slightest clue how a car works, then in the words of Jeremy Clarkson, “Stay at work, be productive and buy a helicopter.”

Money Photo: Andrew Magill | CC BY 2.0

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