So you have your tax check or your daughter turned 16 and you think $3k is a good amount for their first car. You are right on all fronts, however, unfortunately what $3k gets you today you do not want to be in unless you find what I call "the magic bean". By that I mean every once in awhile you find on Craigslist an unused old persons car that they don't want anymore and you drive away happy. Most of the time though for $3k you are buying $2k worth of repairs and lost peace of mind.
We are satifsying many families now with cars around $5495 where they put down the $3 or $4k and instead get a car with less miles (sometimes under 100k miles) and sometimes less than 10 years old. Payments are $300 a month and don't last more than a year or year and a half.
So whether it's for you or your new driver getting to high school after school events or college, this may be a better option for you in the long run.. They are all AS IS and you will be doing maintenance on them (and would want to) and most likely want to knock off a couple of things along the way like fixing the annoying electric window but that's cheaper than a $5k engine, a $3k transmission or a $1500 cooling system or $1000 radiator replacement.
So hunt for the magic bean but also come by and see what we have on the lot and you might find the magic bean is actually on my lot!