The Government Sponsored Nationwide $1200 Dollar Mid-Pandemic Beater Roundup

I have done a beater roundup before, but we’re caught up in some special circumstances now. A bunch of us are now 1200 dollars richer, right? Assuming you still have some manner of income, this check is an automotive opportunity. Don’t worry, though. You won’t have to spend the rest of your time on craigslist looking for the perfect beater. That’s our job.

Let’s get into it

I’m setting the max price to $1200, transmission to manual (I’ll look at autos if I get desperate), and the range to 99999 miles away from 19144 (Philadelphia). All of these cars have to run and drive. I’m not going to be listing any parts cars. I’m also going to set a minimum price at $300 to ward off all of those pea-brained dealerships who post leases on craigslist. That gets me irrationally angry but I’m not going to think about it for the sake of preventing a rant. I may lose a few of those sweet sub-$300 beaters, but it’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make.

What is a Kia Sephia?

Forgive me for my ignorance of the early 2000’s Kias, but what is this? I mean it looks like it’s in rough shape, but I don’t know anything about these cars. Is 190k a lot for a Kia Sephia? Do they live alone or in packs? I’m just not sure.

This one seems like it’s had a lot of work done to it lately. That can sometimes be a good thing, but other times just means the car is unreliable and eats through parts.

A plus to buying this particular Kia Sephia–besides the patina–is these free boxes you get in the trunk. They look like nice boxes. Double-walled, square… brown. I don’t know. I would use them.

Ford Focus SVT

How do you say that town name? Voorheesville. VORE-HE’S-VILLE?

This thing looks pretty solid from most of the pictures, but the owner describes it as being “Best used for a beater car”. Seems like it doesn’t run or shift really well, and it also has 200k miles on it.

The driver’s seat looks like it has some manner of fecal material worn into it. I think I would have to wear a few pairs of pants to drive this thing around. Just so I could at least be confident mentally that I wasn’t touching anything I didn’t want to.

Besides that, and the mechanical issues, the car looks pretty square. It comes with an extra set of wheels, too. Yes, it has some rust, but nothing absolutely crazy. For eight hundred bucks, this is a good deal. You would have 400 to spare–you could probably fix some of the issues it had just with some new parts.

Stick Saturn Vue!

I actually saw a stick Saturn Vue on black steelies and snow tires a few months ago, let me find the picture.

That thing just looks sweet. Somebody needs to cut the fenders out of one of these and make a really bad off-roading rig. I’m also not sure how good a Saturn Vue is to try and flex on people for driving stick (note the ‘save the manuals sticker’), but I guess you have to work with what you got.

There’s only one picture of this particular Vue, but if you’re willing to trust the owner, (I mean, I would probably trust a guy with a stick Saturn Vue) then it has working heat and A/C. At $1150, you could pick this thing up and then have a really expensive take-out lunch. Or buy a lot of really poor quality beer. I think with a little bit of black Plastidip and some big sidewall snow tires, you would be in business with this thing as a solid winter beater. Mileage is high at 200k, but Saturns are known for their bulletproof reliability, right?

I’m getting desperate.

There’s really not a lot for sale in this price range as far as stick cars go, even nationwide. It’s a lot less than I remember. Maybe this whole pandemic deal is affecting it. There are more cars for sale, but none of them are very interesting. Lots of old BMWs that definitely have bad head gaskets. As a result, we are going to look at some automatic options

Wow, check it out guys! That Mclaren is only a thousand bucks!

Forget these shitty cars! Look at all of these brand new cars we can pick up for under a grand! WOW! THAT’S AMAZING! I CAN’T BELIEVE IT! ONLY $459 HUH?

Alright, I’m calming down.

Toyota Celica

Check this guy out. ’94 Celica for only a thousand bucks. According to the owner–who we trust of course–the car will be worth five thousand dollars next year. I would say definitely buy this car. Count 365 days and then you’ll be able to just print out four grand.

Not only is our trustworthy friend extremely generous, but he’s also the next Ansel Adams. Because of the poor condition of the photographs, I can only describe the condition of the body as ‘red’.
“Hey honey, I’m going outside to take pictures of the Celica. Can you give me some garbage that I can stuff into the passenger’s footwell? Oh that brown bag is perfect. Give me some debris off the floormat that I can throw in there, too.”
It also has that depression on the armrest from where the driver’s elbow has sat for years. I would just uhh… stay away from this one.

Best In Show

A lot of the other cars for sale seem like a real pain in the ass. Old A4s, automatic Saab 9-5s, just some stuff that’s eventually gonna leave you stranded. This Neon will not leave you stranded. It is the best buy.

Allow wheels, it’s a facelift model, and I even like the color. I’ve driven, and have been driven around in a few Neons before. They’re just solid economy cars. They may not be the coolest thing out there, but as far as a sub $1200 beater goes, they’re probably the best. This one is only 800 bucks, so you would have $400 leftover after you bought it.

Thing has a little oil leak, sway-bar needs some bushings, but the A/C works and it doesn’t look like there’s any rust at all. This is the one I would go for.

Post anything else you guys have found!

I’m sure you’ve been looking at cars, too. Especially if you got a check. I only looked at craigslist, but I’m sure there’s a lot of good stuff on Facebook marketplace and even sites like Autotrader. Post some stuff in the comments if anything has caught your eye.

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25 responses to “The Government Sponsored Nationwide $1200 Dollar Mid-Pandemic Beater Roundup”

  1. 0A5599 Avatar

    1986 Audi quattro wagon with a stick shift and a couple square feet of clearcoat still remaining.

  2. Zentropy Avatar

    How about this ultra-rare V6 (read: V8), manual-transmission (read: automatic), front-wheel-drive (read: RWD) Lincoln Town Car? I’m not sure if this guy swapped in the drivetrain from a Probe GT, accidentally posted the wrong photos, or if he’s just clueless. Regardless, I bet I could talk him down.

    1. Wayne Moyer Avatar
      Wayne Moyer

      So do we think the 230,000 miles is correct since everything else isnt?

      1. dead_elvis, inc. Avatar
        dead_elvis, inc.

        Hey, don’t be too hard on him – he managed to correctly identify the color (assuming the car pictured is actually the vehicle in question).

      2. Zentropy Avatar

        Ironically, one of the photos shows the engine, and embossed on the cover is very clearly “V8”.

        Despite all this, it looks like a good car for the money, if you’re into big floaty land yachts– which in my opinion are just a few mods away from a very hoonable ride.

  3. Fuhrman16 Avatar

    To answer your question, the Kia Sephia was basically a Korean built Mazda 323.

    And absolutely not to that Neon. I owned a similar vintage model a few years ago and it was awful. It broke down way to often for what was an eight year old car at the time.

    1. Sjalabais Avatar

      My mother bought a Shuma new around y2k, the hatchback Sephia, like this one:

      It was extremely bare bones. Underpowered, loud, shed-like feeling to it. My ’77 Volvo 242 was quieter and felt more refined. The new V40 I made a friend’s parent buy (diverted from Mercedes and now on his 4th Volvo), felt like from another planet. Still, few issues with the Shuma.

    2. dead_elvis, inc. Avatar
      dead_elvis, inc.

      I had a co-worker in the mid-90s who bought a brand new Kia Sephia (which sounds like something a round of penicillin would hopefully clear up). It felt much, much crappier than any sub-100K mile Mazda I’d ever been in, and the odometer started to run backwards after she’d had it about a month.

      1. Sjalabais Avatar

        That sounds like a feature rather than a bug…

        Seriously though, pretty unfathomable how Kia went from these cars to the very respectable, sometimes class-leading vehicles they make today.

        1. dead_elvis, inc. Avatar
          dead_elvis, inc.

          I’m sure it would have been a delight trying to explain that no, it really doesn’t have 895,000 miles, but only 105K, when trying to sell it. There’s absolutely zero chance it would have lasted long enough that the displayed mileage was lower than actual.

          You’re right about the leagues of improvement achieved by Kia/Hyundai. The earliest Hyundais in the US (the Pony is the first one I recall) were hateful, unrelentingly vile pieces of shit that made the mid-90s Sephia seem quite refined & well-crafted.

        2. dead_elvis, inc. Avatar
          dead_elvis, inc.

          I’m sure it would have been a delight trying to explain that no, it really doesn’t have 895,000 miles, but only 105K, when trying to sell it. There’s absolutely zero chance it would have lasted long enough that the displayed mileage was lower than actual.

          You’re right about the leagues of improvement achieved by Kia/Hyundai. The earliest Hyundais in the US (the Pony is the first one I recall) were hateful, unrelentingly vile pieces of shit that made the mid-90s Sephia seem quite refined & well-crafted.

          1. Sjalabais Avatar

            It would be a nice Craigslist giggle though, a high mileage Sephia…Kia/Hyundai did improve with every generation, indeed. Nothing but respect for that kind of progress.

  4. Batshitbox Avatar

    Voorheesville! You know… where that nice Voorhees family is from.

  5. dead_elvis, inc. Avatar
    dead_elvis, inc.

    A handful of red Rangers in western Washington:
    A decent looking ’92 for $1200,

    A ’91 extra cab, also for $1200,

    Given that the following two together could make a single, fully functioning trucklet for 8 Benjamins, I’m going to ignore the stipulation of “must be running & driving” as laid out above:
    This plus

    And how about one in black, if red isn’t your thing?
    (Details? who needs details beyond manual, V6, $750?)

    1. Zentropy Avatar

      I wish one of those red Rangers were in my area– I’d love to have a small pickup right now.

      1. dead_elvis, inc. Avatar
        dead_elvis, inc.

        I’d love one – an old Ranger would perform 99 44/100ths of my truck-related needs – but I can’t justify a 3rd vehicle right now, even if two of them wouldn’t need to be parked on the street at all times.

    2. Victor~~ Avatar

      Rangers of that vintage are long gone from Michigan , salt kills. Those are all decent buys.

      1. dead_elvis, inc. Avatar
        dead_elvis, inc.

        Vermont native here, can confirm – road salt/brine is the devil.

  6. outback_ute Avatar

    Great sport, and dangerously tempting! Found a few interesting candidates with
    US$1200 converted to AU$2000 but you really need to tread carefully. I am not tempted by all of these, some are
    just so ridiculous.

    1954 Morris Minor, a few spots of rust but an interesting overlap of split window and ohv engine, not registered. $1650 –
    1973 Chev LUV, needs work, not registered $1600 –
    1974 Citroen GS, rust might only be in the doors, no reg $1500 –
    1984 Toyota Corona, looks pretty tidy, and end-of-rwd-era simple $2000 –
    1991 Subaru Liberty wagon (aka Legacy), some body damage $1500 –
    At the other end of things (although you could get newer Chinese cars) 2011 Renault Fluence, “not driveable due to cooling fan issue” what more could you want in a future orphan? $2,000 –

    1. dead_elvis, inc. Avatar
      dead_elvis, inc.

      I’m not sure if we got that gen Corona in the US, but it’s rather handsome, like a slightly larger version of the last RWD Corolla.

      Of course, I’m a sucker for a perfectly proportioned 3-box, having owned mostly Volvo 244s for the last 30 years.

    2. Troggy Avatar

      Oh wow, that Corona. An ’83 wagon with 4sp was my first car!

    1. Zentropy Avatar

      Funny you should note that black Ranger, because I looked at the same ad (and laughed at the “idles like a pig” comment) when I found the one about the Lincoln I posted above. I’m very tempted by used Ranger ads– the white one you linked looks almost identical to the first new vehicle I ever bought. They sell for dirt-cheap prices now. I’d love to have another 4-cylinder / 5-speed to use as a light-duty runabout.

      1. salguod Avatar

        That white one looks like it might be worth driving to Cleveland for.

        I’ve been toying with the idea of replacing mine with a used Tundra for the 4WD and the extra capability. Early 2000s Tundra are pretty cheap and many got new frames from Toyota about 5-10 years ago.

  7. Fuhrman16 Avatar
    Fuhrman16 The craigslist ad expired a couple of weeks ago, but this Mercury Milan stills shows up on the dealer’s website. What makes it special is it’s a super rare 5 speed car! Sure, the it doesn’t shift into the odd numbered gears, but surely with the extra $257 you’ll have left over you can fix it.

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