Best used car for $3,000 is a "grandpa or grandma car" again. Buick, Oldsmobile, Mercury, Ford and maybe even a Chevy. You don't have to go full size if you don't want to. The mid size cars are also used by the elderly and most have been well cared for, garage kept and cream puffed around. Sellers are usually eager to sell due to losing their driving privileges and it is amazing what you can get for $2,500-$5,000. Stay away from European and Japanese cars in this price range. They are being sold for such a low cost for a reason. The seller more than likely was having some problems and took it to the shop to get looked at and bailed out before it took a real dump. Parts are expensive and don't expect to buy them anywhere either. Your shade tree mechanic neighbor more than likely won't even touch it for you, even if you come up with some reasonably priced parts. Leave these kind of cars to the people who buy them new and know how they have been taken care of and avoid a $3,000 paperweight. These older folks cars are your best bet.