Car Corner
Hot Used Cars for $35,000

October 1, 2007
By Scott Lewis

A while back I wrote an article on the possible used cars I might buy when the time came to buy  a car. At the time of that article, May 2005, I thought I was going to be getting a car in the Fall of 2007. Well, it's the Fall of 2007 and I am not in the market for a car, because I bought a Mini Cooper S in the summer of 06.

The next article in that series looked at sedans... both new and used. Between those two articles I mentioned a lot of cars that were out of my price range as new cars. I assumed (hoped) they might be in my price range as used cars buy the Fall 07... which is to say... now.

This month I am going to look at the used car market and see how I did in my expectations for a possible used car. I bought my Mini Cooper S Convertible for a hair over $30,000 last year. Had I not bought then and saved a little for a down payment I think it is safe to say I might be able to get away with a budget of $35K.

So, what really cool cars are available in the used car market. When searching for cars for this article I tried to think of as many cars that were too expensive in 2005, but could be bought on the used car market today... hopefully fitting within a $35,000 budget. I also made sure to look for cars with under 30,000 miles. I still need a factory warrantee, so high mileage is out of the question. I put over 20K on my own car a year. A need the balance of a factory warrantee to make sure the car is going to be reliable.

Let's see what I found in one sessions on AutoTrader. (I found all the cars below in one evening. Imagine how much better I could do if I really shopped around.)

2005 Chevrolet Corvette - $35,000
Miles: 28,000
Exterior Color: Black
Interior Color: Tan
Comments: First up is the Corvette. This was the only Corvette I found within 300 miles of my home, with under 30K miles and met my $35K budget. It was a private seller, so it is possible we could get the price down. I saw a number of cars with less mileage, including one with 19K miles for $36K. If I were really shopping I would call about the low mileage car, but I wanted to prove I could find a worthwhile Vette for $35,000 for this article.

2006 Cadillac CTS-V - $36,995
Miles: 23,145
Exterior Color: Infrared
Interior Color: Light Cashmere
Comments: Next up is the Cadillac CTS-V. I love this car. I love the idea... a Corvette engine in a luxury sedan... that kicks ass. I drove one of these at an Auto Show In Motion (if you follow the link scroll to the bottom to see my driving impressions of the CTS-V). When I thought up the idea for this article I did a little looking and saw a CTS-V for around $32K. Unfortunately I could not match that price the night I did the final research for this article. So I end up over budget here. This would be a tight squeeze, but if I were determined to get a CTS-V I would just search AutoTrader daily until one met my budget.

2005 BMW M3 Coupe - $32,000
Miles: 12,500
Exterior Color: Gray
Interior Color: Black
Comments: I love the M3. This one is pretty low in mileage. I have heard that these cars have harsh rides, and that might not make them ideal for a daily driver. They said similar things about the Mini Cooper S, especially with the Sport package... which my car has. A quick test drive would take care of any doubts. I could really see myself driving this car.

2005 Porsche Boxster - $34,000
Miles: 6,400
Exterior Color: White
Interior Color: Blue
Comments: With my wife owning a 1999 Porsche 911 I don't know that I would ever get a Boxster. But here are a few points. First, did you see that mileage. That is way cool! Next, the Boxster is arguably a better handling being a mid-engined car as opposed to the 911 which is read-engined. Better weight distribution makes the Boxster handle better. Unfortunately this is not a Boxster S, and will be down on horsepower. However, I have been thoroughly enjoying my Mini Cooper which is at least a full second slower to 60 than the Boxster, so I should be able to enjoy it. I would prefer blue, with a light beige interior if I was really looking.

2005 Mercedes-Benz SLK350 - $37,900
Miles: 24,408
Exterior Color: Black
Interior Color: Beige
Comments: I really liked these cars when they came out. This was the best I could do on price. We are really close here, but I would probably have to wait a few more months for the SLK to come down in value some more.

2005 Dodge Charger SRT-8 - $32,977
Miles: 18,863
Exterior Color: Black
Interior Color: Dark/Light Slate Gray
Comments: My previous CEO has one of these and he let me drive it. This car is less refined than the CTS-V, with about the same level of performance. But this has a HEMI. In reality I still like this car. It looks tough in black. Since it falls into my budget I would seriously consider it. I would be concerned about gas mileage, as this car gets hit with a gas guzzler tax when new.

2006 Dodge Charger R/T - $26,990
Miles: 22,291
Exterior Color: Black
Interior Color: Gray
Comments: I came across this Charger when looking for the SRT-8. I like the hood on it. It is more aggressive looking than the real SRT-8 hood, but does not look too radical. Plus the polished wheels give this Hemi power R/T the same look as the more expensive SRT-8. This version of the Hemi gets cylinder deactivation to provide 25 mpg on the highway, so it might be better than the SRT-8 for a daily driver. Plus this car is a 06 and is well under budget, so it should be an easy sell to my wife.

2006 Chrysler 300 SRT-8 - $33,595
Miles: 6,528
Exterior Color: Metallic Grey
Interior Color: Charcoal
Comments: I couldn't look at the Charger without looking at the 300 in SRT-8 trim. This is the only "high end" car here from model year 2006. And the mileage is really low. I would want to test drive this car before buying a CTS-V or a couple of the other cars in this list.

2005 Audi S4 4.2 Quattro - $33,980
Miles: 16,061
Exterior Color: Light Silver Metallic
Interior Color: Black
Comments: When I first thought of the S4 I thought it would look more like the latest version. This car is a does not appeal to me in the looks department. However, I love Recaro seats. Having actually looked at what was available I would not continue to look for this Audi. I would have to wait for an newer model than 05 to become affordable.

2005 Mercedes-Benz C55 AMG - $36,000
Miles: 23,000
Exterior Color: Black
Interior Color: Grey
Comments: Here is a nice little luxury sedan with 362 horsepower. I like these cars. I would love to test drive it.


Doing this research has turned me off of the 05 Audi S4. I may have to look at newer versions to see why I thought I would like them. I could see myself in the C55 or CTS-V. I don't really know about the Charger and 300, I am kind of on the fence with those. The SLK is still out of my price range, and it also follows the Boxster and Corvette as being two seaters, and that may be impractical for a daily driver.

Probably my favorite car here is the M3. If I had to go with a sedan I would try harder to find a CTS-V before picking the M3.