New cheap car

I need to shop (southern California) for a <=$4K car for a friend. I believe that I want a Carolla because they're always at the top of
reliability lists and NOBODY I know wants to work on a car ever again. So I'm looking at cars in the $3-$4K range with under 150K miles which tend to be 2004-2006 models, generally LEs or CEs.
When I was looking for myself I chose a 2013 Corolla S, and I can't for the life of me remember why I decided against CEs, but I'm willing to trust my former judgment.
I believe that a newer one is better than an older one, although I have nothing to base that on other than the difference between my Corolla and the POS 1988 Caddy I had before. Is one Corolla pretty much as good as another? The newer ones with side airbags are out of the price range, but is there any other new technology that I should be thinking about?
I've set Craigslist alerts for likely cars -- experience (I just started looking today) indicates that any car I was interested in was already sold -- and intend to at least attempt to strike while the iron is hot.
Is there anything wrong with my thinking? I used to be confident in my ability to buy an old car, but modern "old" cars are pretty much a mystery except for truly obvious defects (sounds, smells, feel, etc.).
--
Cheers, Bev
"Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey
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The Real Bev wrote:

Cant tell you much about Corollas except that the ones I occasionally rent are noisy and do 0-60 mph in 12-15 seconds. I always wear ear plugs when driving Corollas. They are ergonomic and comfortable though. Seem to be decent little cars. OTH, nothing has ever gone wrong with my 2006 Kia Spectra. It is probably the best car I have ever had. If I were to buy another used car it would be a Kia.
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On Saturday, April 14, 2018 at 7:49:52 PM UTC-5, Paul in Houston TX wrote:

https://repairpal.com/toyota/corolla
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