The differences between the ‘90s and today are amazing. You know what we wanted for food during the ‘90s? Gushers, Surge and brownies. Today, we like things that are vegan, organic and locally made. And gluten free. And dairy free. Why leave sugar out? Sugar free. Cage-free (I don’t even know what this means). You get the idea—things have changed. And that’s only the food department. You also have a massive change in the technology department. Computers were in their infant years. You had to do away with desktops. The internet wasn’t exactly known, and when it did become less obscure, going on the web wasn’t easy. And if you did manage to get internet, you wouldn’t have done much. Google, Netflix, Amazon and HotCars didn’t exist (at least not in their current forms). All that has, of course, changed. Not only do you have internet, but you can have it on a device that fits in your pocket while riding a car. And that brings me to my next and main topic, cars.
Cars have changed too. While you can blatantly see technological growth in the design and power of supercars of this era and that era, it’s not that difficult to see that in average cars either. New cars are sleek, tantalizing and fast. But, despite them having become all posh and what have you, cars from the ‘90s have a soft spot for some of us. But not necessarily all of them.
So let’s check out under $5K ‘90s cars that are worth it, and some that aren’t.
20 WORTH IT: 1993 BUICK ROADMASTER WAGON ($4.9K)
Check out the name of the cars that are made today, and you’ll find some bland names. Check out the name of this car, and it’ll evoke some sense of character. It’s not a “Bolt” or “Volt.” Nah, it’s a Roadmaster. It knows how to drive on the road. It’s a master after all, “Roadmaster.” And the praises are not limited to the name of the car. You have a car that looks dashing and classy, and I’m sure the amount of room for cargo is beyond what you’d need on a daily basis. You can have this for $4.9K.
19 WORTH IT: 1999 TOYOTA 4RUNNER ($4K)
If you were of a reasonable age during the ‘90s, you’d understand the desire to have a dark green SUV parked in the driveway. It was the culture back then, folks.
Unless you get one from an owner who’s an off-roader, you’re likely to get one whose 4-wheel drive has likely never been engaged.
Or, I guess except for that one time when the owner wanted to try out the 4-wheel drive. Anyway, you can easily get a 4Runner for under $5K. Don’t even worry about the mileage. It’s a Toyota product, so I’m fairly certain things will turn out fine.
18 WORTH IT: 1992 SUBARU SVX ($3K)
The side windows might remind you of the Lambo Countach or the DeLorean. And that may or may not be the best thing. Think of all the drive-thru troubles. But that doesn’t mean the car isn’t good. Just check out that tantalizing styling. It’s one beautiful coupe. These cars were pretty exotic back then. They are, however, cheaply priced now. You can find a good one for $3K, and a bad one for as cheap as $500—cheaper than an iPhone! The downside is that it has an automatic transmission. Yet, the driving and styling of the car are worth it.
17 WORTH IT: 1995 MERCEDES S500 ($4K)
I guess this is the car rich people of the ‘90s drove? That emblem has to be one of the most widely recognized pieces of art in the car world across the world. MBs used to define status back in the day, until BMW and Audi got a better foothold in the market.
The exterior styling is elegant, without being too loud.
The interior of these cars is done wonderfully. Whether it’s the posh cabin or the comfy seats, the buyer knew what she wanted. You can go ahead and get a taste of the handling and goodies for $4K.
16 WORTH IT: 1995 MAZDA MIATA ($3.7K)
No good list goes without this car being mentioned. And rightfully so. Just look at the car. It’s like a toy, almost. You can imagine yourself driving this car like you’d drive a go-kart or something similar. It looks enjoyable and a bit cartoonish. And when you drive it, it’s almost like all the physical traits seep into the cylinders. The design is simple and so is the engine bay. Yet, the car can serve numerous roles. You can make it a daily driver, race it competitively or mod it freakishly (please don’t do this). It’s a blank slate. And it’s your turn to make something good out of it.
15 WORTH IT: 1991 MITSUBISHI 3000GT VR4 ($4.8K)
This is one beast looking car. I mean, it’s sharp, it’s sleek, and it’s low to the ground. Look at those side vents, whoa! And the rear has a spoiler. It’s just one beautiful car.
This was a Japanese halo car, with the reception being mainly positive from critics, although the public wasn’t the biggest fan of the car.
Part of that probably had to do with the car not hitting the Fast and Furious franchise. The engine is good and powerful but was complex back in the days. You can have one for just a little under $5K with a good number of miles on it.
14 WORTH IT: 1990 TOYOTA SUPRA ($4.8K)
I wanted to include a Supra from the late ‘90s, but the price of those things is not exactly budget compatible. While the exterior styling is different from that of the late ‘90s Supras, this one isn’t bad. It has that square body with some soft curves here and there, but not much. Nonetheless, they drive pretty well. The interior is also decently well. It’s a bit congested with so many things in the center console, but that was the reality of all the cars of the ‘90s. You can have one of these for about $4.8K—mileage shouldn’t be of much concern.
13 WORTH IT: 1999 HONDA PRELUDE ($2.5K)
Here’s a car from Honda that’s worth it. The Prelude is just all time famous among, well, everyone… Yeah, everyone likes the Prelude. They are very nice cars. The exterior style is fascinating.
It didn’t become as curved as some of the other cars from that year, but it looks pretty good, despite being rather simple.
The interior is less busy than that of the Supra from a decade ago. The best part of this car is the driving. That’s where it wins. Whether it’s on the highway or just the streets of a neighborhood, the car is amazing to drive. You can have one for $2.5K.
12 WORTH IT: 1990 HONDA CRX SI ($4.9K)
It’s kind of difficult to get one for the listed price, but I saw a couple relatively within the zone, so I’m pretty sure you can find one that fits the budget. It has that lovely shape that not a lot of other cars sported. But the shape wasn’t the only distinguishing feature of this car. This beauty returned more than 50 mpg. That’s right, back in the day, it had a fuel economy of 50 mpg, and it wouldn’t drive any differently today. The car was labeled the lightest car from Honda. And of course the handling was sharp.
11 WORTH IT: 1999 PONTIAC FIREBIRD ($4K)
Here’s another sleek car, an American one this time. I really like the exterior styling of this car. It’s not too rad—like a Lambo—but manages to give off a powerful vibe with some hints of simplicity.
And that’s definitely not the US way—just look at the loud Dodge Viper from this era or, actually, any era.
Anyway, the car has a good interior, but the best part is the big V8 that roars like a hungry lion. Power is sent to the rear wheels; the transmission requires your input. You can have a decent one for around $4K.
10 SKIP: 1996 FORD ASPIRE ($3K)
This one is a rough one. I try to put myself in the manufacturer’s shoes and see what they were trying to think. And it seems that this was intended for young people who wanted to have a relatively reliable vehicle for a cheap price. Good intentions, but bad delivery. I mean, have you driven a car that takes a good 16 seconds to reach that 60 mph mark? Give the Aspire a shot, and you’ll know what that experience is like. You can have this car for less than $5K, but I don’t think you’d be in a rush to buy it.
9 SKIP: HYUNDAI TIBURON TURBULENCE ($1.5K)
I’m a bit conflicted about this one. If you check out the exterior styling of the ones from 1996 or so, they look pretty neat. But this one (1999)? Ehh, it’s highly controversial. I applaud the novelty, but the result is that the styling might be a little too out of touch for some. (I personally think it looks pretty decent.)
The problem, however, wasn’t the epidermis layer.
It went deep into the guts. The engine was rather weak, and the interior was so-so. Worse yet, it had some serious safety issues. You can have one for as low as $1.5K.
8 SKIP: EVERY CHEVY LUMINA APV ($3.8K)
Talking about rough cars, here’s one with the smoothest front. I mean, that thing can be used as slides by kids in some of the model years. Turns out GM had wanted to give it a sporty and stylish look for a couple of years, but the end result was a low sales number because of the poor visibility. The Lumina probably had its utility. It was a fine family hauler, going from point A to point B, but it’s not appreciated anymore. There was nothing notable about the reliability of these cars. You can definitely have this car for under $5K, but you better stand by your reasons for wanting this car.
7 SKIP: 1995 LAND ROVER DISCOVERY ($2.9K)
Here’s a fragile, macho car. As far as the looks are concerned, it has that boxy design that screams macho and utility through and through. At no point would you doubt its prowess. Unless you knew a little bit about the car—then you’d hold a different opinion.
It was plagued with issues. Its human equivalent would be someone who has eaten nothing but MacDonald's their entire life.
Whether it was unreliable electronics, loose head gaskets or the high risk of rolling over, the car, unfortunately, managed to have every bad thing that can exist in a car.
6 SKIP: 1997 MERCEDES-BENZ A-CLASS ($3K)
And if you thought it was the size or looks of the car that mattered, you’d be wrong. You already saw a big Discovery; here’s a tiny MB. While the Discovery was plagued with reliability issues, the A-Class was fraught with safety issues. It became notorious for flipping over while doing the “elk test.” MB denied any such safety issues with the car, but then also recalled all the units sold to date at that time. And then there’s the looks department of the car. And this is where things get iffy. Nonetheless, if you’d like to have this car, you can have it for under $5K.
5 SKIP: 1996 FORD TAURUS ($1.5K)
This is like that individual who went to the gym regularly for a bit, but then decided to stop. After a few months, all those defined muscles deformed, giving a very bulbous appearance. But the reality of Ford Taurus was that Ford actually designed it that way. Oh boy.
Yep, the ‘90s was the time when people moved away from the sharp lines of the ‘80s into something that would be a little softer, a little more pleasing to the eyes.
Ford went a little too soft, though. It was quite a drastic change for this car. You can have one for as cheap as $1.5K.
4 SKIP: 1991 FORD TOPAZ ($800)
While some people believe in the Topaz gemstone, not many people believe in the Topaz car. Consumer Guide had chastised this car pretty heavily, stating it “has no outstanding features and lacks the refinement and overall polish of import rivals.” That’s pretty accurate. Just check out the exterior styling of the car. It kind of defines bland. I mean, there’s absolutely nothing exciting about this car. And if you check out the interior, you won’t find much of a difference. The highways were rough for this car, as the gas pedal behaved like an injured dog. Best yet, the $800 price tag reflects all that.
3 SKIP: 1995 OLDSMOBILE ACHIEVA ($2K)
While a lot of people think the exterior styling of the car is pretty bad, I think the coupe looks pretty decent. Though, the four door does get lost in the sea of mediocrity because of lack of foresight by the planners. The trouble, however, went deeper than the fascia. The car had a pretty weak engine that couldn’t pull the wheels properly. But that wasn’t it. It also made a decent amount of noise, which forced GM to replace the engine for the ’96 and ’97 model years. It was a lost cause, which can be found for $2K, if desired.
2 SKIP: 1997 FORD PROBE ($2.5K)
It’s funny how things are so dynamic. Sometimes I think our minds parallel the universe of subatomic particles. Everything is a possibility, but the reality is only one event. And then that reality changes to be something completely opposite.
The Probe was no different, although its reality didn’t change after coming into the world. What do I mean? Well, this was supposed to be a replacement for the Mustang.
But the front-wheel drive and bizarre styling cemented its image as a pretty bad car. Atop, the interior was nasty, and the engine was sloppy. But hey, you can have it for $2.5K.
1 SKIP: 1990s MERCEDES-BENZ C-CLASS ($3.5K)
This one is a decent car. The exterior styling is pretty neat, with the grille and emblem easily showing what power and status mean. But the truth is, the car was decently rough because of the poor build quality. I mean, by the late ‘90s, the quality had really fallen significantly. Status on the outside, suffering on the inside—that’s what you got from this car. However, we can’t help but commend MB’s attempt of making this a better car through and through. All they were trying to do was introduce more sophisticated technology. You can have this one for $3.5K.
Sources: msn.com, jalopnik.com