I'd check into how new of a Ford Focus you can get for that amount of money. 2005 onwards (after the interior was redone) should be pretty reliable, and they drive well.
A small Honda or Toyota would probably be more reliable, but you'd have to get a much older car to get one for $3,000. So this would likely even out.
Best of the bunch--if you can drive a manual--is the performance-oriented ST. Just a few of those around the country with asking prices under $4,000, but where there are a few maybe there's one for you.