If you’re looking for the most bang for your buck, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve compiled a list of 10 of the best sports cars under 10K so you can pick the perfect car for you.
One would think that an enthusiast with $10,000 in their pocket can’t even come close to buying an exciting sports car, but is that really the case?
To put things into perspective, the cheapest car right now on the North American market is $14,395, whereas many affordable sports cars are double the value. So, what about the second-hand market?
Not too long ago, a sum of 10,000 dollars would have got you a lot of bang for your bucks, with 15-year-old sports cars being nothing more than interesting second-hand performance bargains at the bottom of their depreciation curve. Fast forward a couple of years, and all those overlooked gems became collector classics, rising in value year after year. Moreover, interesting second-hand cars are no longer depreciating as they once used to, making the quest for an affordable sports car harder than ever.
At first glance, the situation is grim, but with a bit of a compromise, you can still get a fun and fast car.
This is our choice of ten of the best sports cars under 10K:
- Ford Mustang
- Mazda MX-5 Miata
- Pontiac Solstice GXP
- BMW Z3 3.0i
- Fiat 124 Spider
- Volkswagen Golf GTI
- Honda CRX
- Abarth 500
- Chrysler Crossfire
- Mitsubishi 3000GT VR4
Here’s a closer look at our best sports cars under 10K:
1. Ford Mustang
America’s sweetheart has been synonymous with an affordable sports car since it first hit the market in 1964, so it’s no wonder the second-hand market is filled with V8-powered Mustangs too.
For $10,000, you’re most likely to get an early fifth-generation S197 Mustang GT in either coupé or convertible form. Usually, these examples show mileage from 100,000 to 150,000, and you can find them with both manual and automatic transmission.
Apart from the most obvious choice, other options include late fourth-generation Mustangs, but even third-gen 5.0 Fox Body Mustangs fit the bill as sound examples can be bought from $8,000. If you’re into a daily sports car, buying an S197 seems like a more logical choice, whereas the other two are better off as weekend cars and sensible investments.
2 Mazda MX-5 Miata
A list of genuinely affordable and absolutely sporty cars can’t be complete without the car that reinvented the roadster, the one and only Mazda Miata. The market for the Miatas is vast, and the community is significant and supportive, all making the Mazda MX 5 an excellent buy for an entry-level enthusiast car and one of the best sports cars under 10K.
The second-hand market gives you near-endless trim level variations when it comes to buying the right example, starting with bone stock models to tastefully and community-approved modified ones. For less than $10,000, you’ll be limited to the first three generations, NA, NB, and NC, and our best advice is to ask around and look for classifieds within the Miata community.
3. Pontiac Solstice GXP
Compared to its muscle car heyday, Pontiac was a shadow of its former glory before GM finally pulled the plug on it in 2010. Still, Pontiac had two interesting cars before the sendoff: the GTO and the Solstice. While the GTO is out of reach for our imaginary enthusiast on a budget, there’s still the Solstice, a compact roadster built on GM’s Kappa platform alongside the Opel GT and Saturn Sky.
The Solstice is by far the most exciting of the three, with a concept car-like design and the GXP trim you should be after. This underrated classic has a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-four pushing out 260 horsepower to the rear axle via a 5-speed manual or a 5-speed automatic transmission (260 Lb-ft torque). So far, you can still get the Solstice GXP under $10,000, but Pontiac’s swan song prices are bound to go up in the near future, so you might be missing the last train for this future classic if you don’t act fast.
4. BMW Z3 3.0i
BMW’s attainable 007-approved roadster rose to prominence in the GoldenEye flick, as driven by Pierce Brosnan. In reality, though, it was modestly powered, at least until BMW decided to add more juice to it by gracing the roadster with its trademark inline-six. That way, the Z3 became more than just a looker. The car you should be after is a 228-horsepower M54B30-powered Z3 3.0i with 5-speed manual transmission. Its top speed is 155 mph and can accelerate from 0 – 60 mph in 5.6 seconds.
The beauty of the Z3 is that you’re not cocooned inside like in a modern open-top car. Rather than that, the whole upper part of your body will be above the door line when the windows are down, while its straight-six provides more than enough power and a beautiful soundtrack for exhilarating drives. As of now, the Z3 3.0i roadsters, which include a leather seats can easily pass the $10,000 mark, but you can still catch an example in need of a touch-up.
Alternatively, you could go for the 2.8i or even stumble upon the odd and lovable “clown shoe” Z3 Coupé, but chances for that sub-$10,000 catch are already sitting pretty low.
5. Fiat 124 Spider
Compared to its sleek European counterpart, the US market Fiat 124 Spider wasn’t much of a looker with its federal bumpers, side markers, and awkward raised stance to comply with the minimum height of the headlights. On the other hand, it was still a cool European convertible and included five-speed transmission, rear wheel drive, four-wheel disc brakes, and a fuel-injected 2.0-liter dual overhead cam engine in later variants.
On today’s classic car market, well-sorted examples could be bought for sums between $8,000 to $10,000, and if you’re no stranger to doing some TLC yourself, Fiat 2000 Spider could be a classic sporty roadster for you.
6. Volkswagen Golf GTI
When the Volkswagen Golf GTI took the stage in 1975, it started a shift in the affordable performance segment as the hot hatchback market soon replaced the compact coupe and roadsters as cars for speed-hungry youth. The North American market has been deprived of many brilliant hot hatches, but the Golf has been there since day one.
Our sub-$10,000 hot hatch contenders were Mini Cooper S and Golf GTI, but with the latter being a class-defining vehicle, we went the Volkswagen way for one of the best sports cars under 10K. For sums close to $10,000, you can get a fifth or sixth-generation Golf GTI in either 3-door and 5-door body styles and powered by a 2.0-liter inline-four turbocharged engine pushing 197 and 208 horsepower, respectively. Both cars can be found with 6-speed manual or 6-speed DSG dual-clutch automatic transmission, and it’s up to you to pick what configuration suits you the most.
7. Honda CRX
The iconic 1980s compact 2-seater almost didn’t come to the American market, but luckily it did, becoming one of the greatest imports in the 1980s and the 1990s. This nimble and Civic-based front-wheel drive coupé mixed favorable fuel economy with an exciting driving experience, courtesy of its lightweight and clever engineering.
Due to their immense potential and affordability, these charming little Hondas endured decades of various modifications and engine swapping, driving the prices of all-original cars north. If you are lucky and patient, $7,000 to $10,000 can get you a decent and unmolested first-generation 1.5-liter CRX Si (Sports injected) with 5-speed manual transmission. Finally, if you want one, act quickly as there are not many of them on the market, and the prices will continue going up.
8. Abarth 500
What hot hatches usually lack compared to classic sports cars like coupés and roadsters is style, as they are basically econoboxes with a power bump, larger brakes, and stiffer suspension. But then there are Italians, and the retro-modern 500 Abarth, subcompact. The Abarth 500 was a part of Fiat’s ambitious return to the United States, and it’s safe to say it has been the most successful effort as well.
The Abarth’s heritage is monumental in Europe with car enthusiasts as the constructor has been involved in all forms of racing for decades. Still, for America, the 500 Abarth is a strange yet chic performance offering. Don’t let the minuscule 1.4-liter fool you, as the Abarth is the most fun you’ll have in a sporty styling modern subcompact and the angry noises it makes are just enchanting. And yes, you can have this piece of Italian passion for under $10,000.
9. Chrysler Crossfire
The marriage between Daimler AG and the Chrysler Corporation didn’t last long, but it gave birth to a few interesting cars, one of which is the Chrysler Crossfire. Marketed as a coupé and a convertible, the Crossfire had internals based on the Mercedes-Benz SLK. Yet, unlike the baby Benz, which had a palette of engines, its American cousin was offered exclusively with a 3.2-liter M112 V6, naturally aspirated in regular or supercharged in SRT-6 variant.
Today, the Crossfire can be found in the $8,000 to $10,000 range with many low mileage examples in both coupé and roadster form. So far, the Crossfire is the last somewhat exciting Chrysler, and given that the brand has slim chances of rising to its former glory, it will most probably remain that way, whether you like it or not.
10. Mitsubishi 3000GT VR4
Back in the 1990s, when Mitsubishi meant something in the sports car world, the 3000GT VR-4 was an absolute icon of the Far East. The Japanese sports car features a 300 horsepower 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged transversely mounted V6 powerful engine. Other features like active aerodynamics, four-wheel steering, and electronic suspension enabled it to proudly stand among other JDM flagships such as the Mark IV Toyota Supra, Nissan GT-R, Honda NSX, Mazda RX-7, and Subaru SVX.
The 3000GT VR4 didn’t follow the price surge some of its JDM performance car competitors witnessed recently, meaning it’s a still somewhat affordable high-end Japanese coupé from the 1990s. With some fortune on your side, you could find an early model great car with 5-speed long ratio manual transmission for $10,000, albeit with higher mileage and most probably not in its striking red.
Limiting the best sports cars under 10K to 10 cars was quite a challenge and I’m sure there are many more. Comment below with your suggestions.