What makes a car cool? Lots of power, a sexy exterior, pedigree, or top-down driving enjoyment are all factors that can contribute. For the most part, however, being cool comes at a premium price point. Many enthusiasts just cannot afford the cost of a brand new cool car. However, buying a used vehicle allows you to get more car for your money. Instead of purchasing a brand new automobile at dealership prices, you can get a cool used car that is a few years old and thus has depreciated by a fair amount. There are lots of great affordable cars on the market and this list spotlights 10 cool car ideas.
1) Pontiac GTO
Are you intrigued by the idea of a forgotten muscle car? With the demise of Pontiac, the GTO has practically fallen off the radar screen for most muscle car enthusiasts. With the Mustang, Camaro, and Challenger taking up space on the used car lots, the GTO has been neglected. But this works in your favor, as prices for the Pontiac GTO have significantly declined. The GTO only had a three-year run from 2004-2006, thanks to lackluster sales due to a boring exterior and high $30k price tag when the car was new. Now you can find a wonderful deal on a used example. Opt for the 2005 or 2006 model, which came with a 6.0-liter LS2 V-8 engine that put out 400 horsepower and 400 lb-ft. of torque. This monster can run 0-60 mph in 4.6 seconds. It’s a bit on the older side, but the Pontiac GTO is a cool, high horsepower car that is pretty inexpensive.
2) Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder
Looking for an affordable yet cool convertible? The fourth generation Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder, which was available from 2007 until 2012, is a great all around convertible for the affordable car shopper. The Spyder had a much higher premium compared to the Eclipse’s base model hardtop coupe, but can you really put a price on top-down driving fun? The fourth generation Eclipse Spyder came powered by either a weak 2.4-liter engine or a cool 3.8-liter V-6. Definitely opt for the larger engine as you will be rewarded with 101 more horsepower with a minimal hit to fuel economy. The Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder is front-wheel drive and offers several transmissions.
3) Chevrolet Corvette
The Corvette might be the epitome of the American sports car, and thanks to its long history, there are plenty of used examples on the market. Corvette enthusiasts tend to be partial to certain generations, but if you are coming to the model with a blank slate, you have some decisions to make. Check out the C6 generation, which debuted in 2005 and was sold right up through 2014. Early examples will offer the best value as well as a 6.0-liter V-8 engine that produced 400 horsepower and 400 lb-ft of torque, with both manual and automatic transmission options. Later C6 models equipped with the 6.2-liter engine could blast from 0-60 mph in 4 seconds flat. The C6 Corvette offers nearly perfect weight distribution, tight suspension, good gas mileage, and a sexy exterior. The Corvette has always been an affordable sports car that could ruin the day of most exotics costing four times as much.
4) Scion xB
The xB is the first microvan that was a mainstream success and many automobile manufacturers have tried to grab a piece of the pie. With its cool boxy shape and hip persona, the first generation Scion xB proved to be a real winner, attracting drivers of all types. Besides looking cool, this wagon/van blend proved to be very versatile and full of utility. Plus, the Scion xB came standard with tons of goodies like air conditioning, anti-lock brakes, and power everything. The best part was the very affordable price brand new. Now that a few years have passed, the Scion xB has still held its value pretty well. Opting for a manual will improve the driving experience, as the 1.5-liter 4-cylinder engine only makes 108 horsepower. Stepping up to the second generation xB, which was introduced in 2008, gets you a 2.4-liter straight-4 that makes 158 hp.
5) Nissan 350Z
Many people dream of one day owning a nice little sports car to drive around. But the price of anything that has some guts and would make a fun car is usually out of reach.There are other alternatives, though, and the Nissan 350Z is perfect example of an affordable used sports car that is easily within reach The Nissan 350Z made its first appearance as a 2003 model and came packing tons of history and heritage.The Nissan Z-Car spans the past few decades and the 5th generation Z-Car (the 350Z) marked a return to performance. The 2003 base model 350Z cost $26k brand new and came with a 6-speed manual transmission and a potent 3.5-liter V-6 engine that makes 287 horsepower. The winning recipe for a great Japanese sports car involves a front engine, rear wheel drive, and superb handling, and the Nissan 350Z is a prime example. There is also a huge tuner aftermarket for those looking to have the coolest 350Z in town.
6) Dodge Magnum
The Dodge Magnum may be single-handedly responsible for reviving the station wagon segment. Debuting as a 2005 model, the Magnum looked cool while offering a huge amount of usable cargo volume. In 2006, the Magnum SRT-8 received a HEMI V-8 engine that produced 425 horsepower. If that model is still a bit too expensive, you can find a nice cheap SXT example, which came with a V-6 engine that produced 250 horsepower. You should be able to get a great price on a vehicle that not only looks cool but that’s full of utility.
7) Pontiac Grand Prix
The Pontiac Grand Prix dates all the way back to 1962 but was sadly discontinued in 2008. The sixth generation was produced from 1997 until 2003 and it’s the GTP model that is the real gem of the line up. This attractive sedan featured a supercharged 3.8-liter V-6 engine that made 240 horsepower and 280 lb-ft. of torque. In 20015, Pontiac introduced a new GXP trim level for the car’s seventh generation. The Grand Prix GXP featured a 5.3-liter V-8 with 303 horsepower. No matter what version of the Grand Prix appeals to you, it is a great family sedan that combines a powerful engine, tight suspension, roomy interior, and good looks into one cool package.
8) MINI Cooper
Ah, the MINI Cooper, what a cute little car. MINI is an icon overseas and there is quite a large following in the U.S. The MINI Cooper debuted here in America in 2002 and the base version had a retail price of $16,300. Over the years the MINI Cooper has grown into a cool little ride. There are a few different drivetrains to choose from, and MINI has also introduced several interesting body styles over the years, including convertibles, wagons, and super-small crossovers. Like any used car, the trick is to decide what your budget is, and identify model years and variations likely to fall within your parameters. MINI Coopers have held their value well over the years, but the styling is so classic that you can go a little older. There are so many MINI Cooper options that we can’t cover them all here, but rest assured, there are plenty of solid examples on the used market.
9) Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS
The stylish Chevrolet Monte Carlo dates all the way back to 1970. Throughout the years, many competitors have come and gone, but the Monte Carlo soldiered on. In 2000, the 2+2 coupe got a nice makeover resulting in renewed interest. There were two different models that were differentiated mainly by the engines. The top-of-the-line 2000 Monte Carlo SS cost $22k brand new, and was very appealing to Nascar fans, in particular. The car was powered by a 3.8-liter V-6 that made 200 horsepower, and is a well balanced car with a very comfortable ride. The SS model came with tons of standard equipment. too. Chevrolet discontinued the Monte Carlo in 2007, and though many examples on the used market are showing their age, a little patience might result in a really good value on a fun car with a lot of heritage.
10) Ford Mustang
Muscle cars are back with a vengeance, although new ones certainly don’t come cheap. Over the years, many muscle cars have died out, only to make a triumphant return to the lime light. Well, the Ford Mustang is an automobile that has withstood the test of time. During the early 2000s, the Mustang lineup consisted primarily of three different Mustang models: a base model V-6, a GT V-8, and a Cobra V-8. Any of these would be a fine buy now, provided it was in good condition for a used car of that age. But the enduring popularity of the Ford Mustang means there’s tons of them out there, and you might be pleasantly surprised by the prices of more recent model years.