Affordable sports cars exist for one reason – to offer all of their splendor to those of us that usually can’t afford luxury cars, supercars, or even top tier muscle cars. Japanese roadsters offer superb handling, quick revving and genuinely fun drive, but they aren’t the only ones. Domestic cars can be affordable too, and offer all of this at the same time as well. Heck, even German cars have been known to become affordable if you’re patient enough to wait before buying them. What’s more, all of them can become the cheapest sports cars of all time.
And while their prices drop considerably, their performance remains more or less intact. You won’t pay much for them and nothing will hold you back for it. You’ll be able to squeeze out the most of them without feeling guilty about forcing them too much. This is why cheap used sports cars can be a fine investment. You can drive them until their their soul leaves their body and move on to the next one. Here are ten such affordable sports cars to choose from. Oh, and only one nameplate per manufacturer to keep things fair. And, no Mazda Miata. It’s getting seriously boring. Not the car’s driving dynamics which are hellishly fun, but its inclusion on every single related list. Consider this the honorable mention.
10. Nissan 350Z
Fairlady has always been one of the best cheap sports cars that offers fun driving mechanics and great performance. While 370Z still keeps its price being the current model and all, Nissan 350Z is already quite affordable. Produced between 2002 and 2009, it can be found for much less than $10,000 if you’re willing to go with pre-facelift models. Regardless of choice, 3.5L V6 is what always comes with it, and so do almost 300 horses. Transmission, however, depends on the model year. Pre-2006 models were fitted with 5-speed automatics, while newer 350Z’s come with 6-speed automatics.
9. Late 4th Gen Chevrolet Camaro Z28
Millennium Z28 Camaros are now quite affordable, although not as much as the base models. However, they are much more fun to drive thanks to their orientation toward performance. One such V8 Z28 Camaro usually delivers around 300 horsepower which is more than enough to ensure easy overtaking and quick acceleration. F-body Z38 Camaros are probably your best bet for acquiring affordable American sports car – especially knowing what kind of weight Z28 moniker carries with itself.
8. Honda S2000
Honda’s arguably most popular roadster produced between 1999 and 2009 might be making a comeback soon enough. Until it does that, however, you can always get yourself a used one. They still keep their price, but for slightly north of $10,000 you can easily get yourself one of the earlier millennium models. Their 2.0L 4-cylinders were making around 250 horsepower, but it was their high revving that was addicting. Japanese sports cars aren’t as popular as they are for nothing, after all.
7. Mitsubishi Eclipse
Sports compact was in production until 2012 and there are four generations of it to choose from. What’s great, even the latest models can be found for less than $10,000 – not to mention older ones. Of course, you’ll want the Eclipse GT which was fitted with 3.8L V6 making 263 horsepower in its last generation. In early two thousands, though, Eclipse still made north of 200 horses via 3.0L V6, and these can be had for less than $5,000.
6. Mazda RX-8
Newer RX-8s aren’t that easy to find because their owners are aware of what superb sports cars they possess. Moreover, they still hold their value, but with a little research, you’ll easily be able to find the late two thousands model for between $5,000 and $10,000. It’s really not much considering you get the masterpiece guzzler Wenkel rotary engine with it. 1.3L displacement doesn’t promise much on paper, but it did manage at least 190 horses in low-output versions. 6-speed manual transmission and high-output models put close to 250 horsepower and 9,000 rpm redline at the table.
5. Ford Mustang S-197
It wasn’t that long ago that the fifth generation Mustang was the freshest Mustang there was. When sixth generation came out in 2015, code name S-197s prices dropped considerably. They can easily be found for less than $10,000, but don’t expect too many beyond-2010 models for that kind of money. Still, even they don’t cost much more, plus they usually come with lower mileage on their odometers. Wasting words on their performance is unnecessary, really. Whether V6 or V8, Mustang is an epitome for performance. It always was, and it likely always will be.
4. Acura RSX Type-S
While the regular models generated 155 horsepower, Acura RSX Type-S delivered 201 horses thanks to its K20A2 version of in-line four engine. That was between 2002 and 2004, at least. 2005 and 2006 year models received 210-horsepower K20Z1 version of the four banger. In both instances, the RSX is one nimble and capable sports car which is usually available for between $5,000 and $10,000.
3. Toyota MR2
When it comes to Toyota and sports cars mash up, everyone would like to get themselves a Supra. Since Supra is kind of expensive for 20-year old used car, you’ll probably have to settle for MR2. There’s no less than three generations to choose from here, and they all have their ups and downs. Newest W30 models branded as Spyder in the US have been powered by the 138-horsepower 1.8L 4-cylinder engine. They are usually available for slightly north of $5,000 or $6,000, while older models are cheaper still.
2. Porsche Boxter 986
Newer Boxters and Caymans are still a little bit expensive to be called laughably cheap sports cars, but first generation Boxter hits that sweet $10,000 spot or thereabouts. They all came with Porsche’s trademark flat-six engines, although with different displacements and power outputs. 2.5L, 2.7L or 3.2L, they all delivered more than adequate outputs for one sports car. Totals ranged from 201 horsepower in 1996 to 266 horses in 2004, but don’t expect to find the latter for as little money as the older models.
1. BMW M3 E36
E36 versions of performance-oriented BMW 3-series were produced between 1992 and 1999 with first US imports coming in 1995. While latter models still keep their prices, you’ll likely find older versions for much less. Maybe even for around $5,000, but they probably won’t be in that great of a shape. In any case, second generation M3 shouldn’t be that expensive, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find better combination of performance and luxury for that kind of money in any cheap sports car. 240 horsepower and 225 lb-ft of torque from 3.0L straight-six was enough for 6-second 0 to 60 at the time. Quite solid considering M3 came in sedan configuration, as well as in coupe form.