Hybrids offer great value for money at the moment. A 2008 Toyota hybrid should be within your price. If you budget is slightly elastic you can find gen 3. ( Model year 2010 on) for ~$6500
There are plenty of other options, Incase you want something larger, sportier or cooler.Don't be afraid of brands that considered bad but actually have good models. Mitsubishi, GM, Ford all have good models
Use the reliability data here and LTQI to find a which ones to buy and which to avoid.