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Here's Some of the Coolest Cars $3,000 Will Buy You in Los Angeles

Jalopnik logo Jalopnik 2/19/2019 Rob Emslie
a car parked on the side of a building

With a Volkswagen Phaeton, a chop-top Jeep, Volvo C70 HT, Mercedes 420E or Nissan Xterra on the offering, the Craigslist in Los Angeles offers quite the cachet when the money is, in fact, an object. Let’s see what three grand will buy us in America’s most car-centric city.


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It’s been raining here in LA, a concept with which most Angelenos are totally unfamiliar. After years of drought and what Californians like to consider a personal relationship with the Sun, the sudden prolonged spate of rain has many of us questioning whether the end-days have finally arrived.

The rain has resulted in slick streets and limited visibility owing to many of us being ill versed in how windshield wipers work. That combination has kept many of us at home, and that’s led me to spend more time engaged in one of my favorite pastimes—perusing the online classifieds.

And hoo-boy, did I find some cool ****.

When Missing Persons sang that “Nobody walks in LA” they weren’t being facetious—Los Angeles is a car-centric city. That’s not to say that we don’t have satisfactory public transportation systems, or that pedestrians are rounded up and escorted en masse to the city border, but if you’re going to live here, you’re going to really want to have a car.

And, with what’s on the market here for around $3,000 (the upper limit of what could be considered throw-away money) why would you even want to be carless? Let’s have a look at the coolest stuff presently offered on the LA Craigslist at around that three-grand asking.

a car engine

We’ll start off with a 2004 Volkswagen Phaeton V8 for $2,800. Grab the ad here if it goes away.

That’s a hell of a lot of car for the money, even if there’s some damage on the front bumper. Hell, you can just ask the valet at Spago to park it with the good side out.

There’s 161,000 miles on the car and amazingly it’s claimed to come with a clean title. At that modest price you could just have it parked in your yard and enjoy the sumptuous interior.

a green truck parked in front of a building© Photo: Craigslist

On the off chance that Volkswagen’s not your cup of Riesling, there’s more from which to choose. Like say, a 1948 Willys Wagon that’s been turned (turn’t?) into a convertible pickup for $3,100? Ogle the ad here if need be.

a green truck parked in front of a car

Yes, this truck is $100 over our arbitrarily set limit, but if you’re unwilling to stretch, you’ll never make it in this town.

The seller says much of the customization work was done back in the ‘80s, but that he continues to noodle with it and will up the asking as work gets done. Snatch it up before he gets too far along!

Of course, one way to show you’ve made it here in LA is by driving a Porsche, and after some transmission work, you could do just that in this classic 1979 928 which only costs $3,200.

You’d float an extra Benjamin or two to say you owned a V8 Porsche, right? The back up is here should the seller yank the ad.

a red car parked on the side of a building© Photo: Craigslist

Yes, it’s an automatic, and you’re darn tootin’ that slusher needs some work, but it is a unit Porsche sourced from Mercedes, which means that once it is right as rain, you can bet it will be pretty sweet. Plus, it’s in the back which makes it easier to get out and get in.

Okay, so you want to go German, and the whole idea of a Mercedes automatic appeals to you, but you really need a runner since you’ve got places to go and people to see—what could you swing? Well, LA’s got you covered there too, my friend.

a car parked on the side of a road© Photo: Craigslist

Check out this sweet 1993 Mercedes Benz 400E. It’s green, has a nearly indestructible MBTex interior, and asks a mere $1,400. Holy Schnitzel, that’s a butt-load of car for the bucks. Check out the ad here if you don’t believe me.

The seller says he wants the Benz gone, and I think it’s incumbent upon one hero Angeleno to help him out. A broken odometer and a non-working sunroof are the only major flaws described, but those are countered by a clean title and some recent expensive maintenance.

a view of a car

So you’re a bit more of the rugged type, I get that. That’s totally okay and appropriate since LA is surrounded by stunning mountains and deserts that beg for exploration. What better way to do so than in a cool 2000 Nissan Xterra with a stick? This one’s likely to go fast so I’ve backed up the ad here.

a yellow car parked in a parking lot© Photo: Craigslist

The Xterra has a cool name—it’s like X Games, or something. The truck’s unique stepped-roof styling also sets it apart from pretty much everything short of a Land Rover Discovery. This one comes with a five-speed stick backing up its four-pot engine and what are described as good tires. What’s missing is 4WD, but posing is an acceptable occupation here in LA.

a close up of a car

Okay, I know what you’re asking: where is Volvo in this crowd? Don’t worry fam, I got you there too.

a car parked in a parking lot© Photo: Craigslist

This 2000 Volvo C70 comes with Venetian Red paint and the high-pressure T5 turbo five cylinder engine. That’s 236 horsepower and 244 lb-ft of torque to you and me. At $3,300 asking, that makes it one of the best bang for the buck cars on this list. Find it here if it falls off the Craigslist.

The car is claimed to be perfect for the upcoming “convertible season” which honestly, other than this wet year is pretty much all the time in LA. The snow-capped mountains in the background of the ad’s main shot are a reminder that the wet weather brings with it great beauty.

a car parked on the side of a road

The car looks to be a beauty too, with only a recalcitrant window winder (repair parts are included) to mar the purchase. The $3,300 price makes this 192,000 miler our most expensive option, but the experience of driving a convertible down PCH at sunset is one that should make you want to go the few extra bucks.

So there you have it. Los Angeles is not just the most car city in America but also one of the best used car markets in the country as well. Every day on Craigslist here is a snapshot of what this super car market offers. Considering today’s snapshot, which one of these cheap-seats cool cars would you snap up?


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