2018 Nissan 370Z Heritage Edition hero ・ Photo by Nissan
There are a few different ways of looking for the cheapest sports cars to own, starting with the purchase price. But as is the case with most vehicles, a low MSRP doesn’t guarantee low ownership costs; you also have to take into account things like insurance prices, dependability and fuel expenditures. All those extra costs can add up quickly if you’re not careful, which is why we carefully analyzed many of those characteristics and more to come up with 10 of the cheapest sports cars to own.
Because of our focus on lower costs, we did stay away from the higher end of the marketplace. Enthusiasts can be confident of one thing, though: We still found plenty of high-performance driving excitement even at bargain prices.
The 2018 Toyota 86 was designed right from the start to be one of the cheapest sports cars to own. Meeting customer demand for an affordable, fun-to-drive sports car, complete with rear-wheel drive and an exotic design, was the No. 1 goal for the 86.
It’s mission accomplished, too, since this sleek two-door coupe checks all those boxes. The car’s MSRP of $26,255 also includes LED headlamps, a premium Pioneer sound system, and 205 horsepower and 156 pound-feet of torque when equipped with its six-speed manual transmission. At the same time, with impressive predicted reliability scores from Consumer Reports, it’s not likely to need a lot of repairs.
Photo by Toyota
Another strategy when shopping for the cheapest sports cars to own is to look for the sportiest model of a well-respected mainstream entry. Consider the 2018 Honda Civic Si. Based on the dependable, inexpensive-to-insure Civic, the Si matches the 205 horsepower in the Toyota 86 while dialing up a 23 percent jump in torque.
Of course, those 192 pound-feet of twisting power, and the car’s surprisingly high EPA ratings, both have the same source. That’s the Civic Si’s turbocharged four-cylinder engine, which is the first of its kind used in an Si. It can enable fuel economy grades of 28 mpg city/38 mpg highway/32 mpg combined. The MSRP for the Si? $24,100 in either coupe or sedan body style.
Photo by Honda
With a starting price of $26,995, the 2018 Subaru WRX is another affordable sports car. It delivers standard features like a 268-horsepower turbocharged engine, all-wheel drive and exactly the kind of performance you expect from a brand that’s known for building international rally champions.
Subaru raises the bar again for 2018, thanks to a retuned suspension and revised option packages. The new WRX performance package, for example, showcases Recaro front seats and upgraded brake components. And Subaru's updated EyeSight safety bundle, already boasting automatic reverse emergency braking, gets a handy system-status monitor. Best of all, from an overall cost standpoint, the WRX can be hundreds of dollars less to insure than even a car like the Toyota 86 (per Insure.com estimates).
Photo by Subaru
The cheapest sports cars to own are generally from the smaller segments, and the 2018 Ford Fiesta ST is among the smallest. The Blue Oval’s hot hatch is a subcompact model that relies on a fairly tiny 1.6-liter engine. That said, the ST’s engine is EcoBoosted with Ford’s turbocharging and direct-injection technologies, and as a result, drivers enjoy 197 horsepower and 202 pound-feet of torque. Also enjoyable for drivers: The Fiesta ST’s sport-tuned suspension and available Recaro seats
Lowering ownerships costs for the high-performance hatchback are notably inexpensive Insure.com insurance estimates and EPA ratings of 26 mpg city/33 highway/29 overall. At that rate, the EPA estimates that ST drivers save $100 per year in fuel costs (versus the “average” new vehicle today).
While some sports cars are downright inexpensive, others are relative bargains — not necessarily the cheapest vehicles in the marketplace, but models that offer a lot for the money. One such example is the 2018 Nissan 370Z coupe.
The two-seat 370Z is more expensive to buy or insure than Nissan's Altima mid-size sedan, and it’s more costly to keep filled with gasoline, too. But the Z’s MSRP of $29,990 is below the average transaction price of a typical new vehicle, it has positive predicted reliability ratings and those insurance costs are actually pretty good for a sports car. Plus, the 370Z is every inch a “real” sports car, from its 332-horsepower V6 to its sexy shape.
Photo by Nissan
If you’re shopping an affordable sports car, you’ll no doubt want to check out the 2018 Ford Mustang. Although all the modern-day muscle cars have their advantages, and all are rated pretty close together in most relevant categories, the Mustang shines with the lowest MSRP and the most standard output.
More specifically, the 2018 Mustang starts at $25,585 — undercutting it priciest rival, the Dodge Challenger, by $1,410 — and comes standard with a 2.3-liter four-cylinder turbo engine that kicks out 310 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque. That compares to the Challenger’s standard 305 horsepower and 268 lb-ft of torque, and the Chevrolet Camaro’s standard 275 and 295. The Mustang’s also the least expensive of the trio to keep filled up, according to the EPA.
Photo by Ford
Among the cheapest sports cars to own from a premium brand is the 2018 Infiniti Q60. The Q60 is one of the market’s newer entries, with the current generation debuting as a 2017 model, but it has everything it needs to run with the more established players.
Indeed, the Q60 has a dramatic exterior design, rear-wheel drive and a standard turbocharged engine that produces 210 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque — all with a sticker price of $38,950 and positive predicted reliability scores. The 2018 Audi TT coupe, despite offering the same amount of torque and just 10 more horsepower, opens at $43,950. The Q60 also has unexpectedly low insurance estimates that are, in fact, competitive with the Ford Mustang.
Photo by Infiniti
Yes, as we just made clear, the 2018 Audi TT isn't exactly a bargain to purchase. But as we also mentioned, ownership costs include more than just starting price — and it’s in those other areas, especially as compared to other sports cars, that the TT has its benefits.
For one thing, the TT is one of the more reliable sports cars around, which helps reduce the potential for repairs. It’s also on the low end of the sports-car spectrum for insurance coverage, even with its price tag in the mid-$40,000s. Oh, and about that price: Don’t forget that it includes standard luxury cues like all-wheel drive, heated leather sport seats and Audi’s 12.3-inch “virtual cockpit” instrument panel.
Photo by Audi
The 2018 BMW 2 Series is the least expensive BMW you can buy, with an MSRP of $34,800. The 2 Series also is more reliable and less expensive to insure than many mainstream cars with the same cost. Unlike mainstream cars, however, this is a performance-bred sports coupe that supplies rear-wheel drive and a turbocharged engine making 248 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque.
Moreover, like the other premium choices here, the 2 Series comes standard with luxury features as well. Among the highlights: LED headlights, LED foglights, 10-way power-adjustable sport seats, a rearview camera and BMW’s iDrive infotainment system.
Photo by BMW
The 2018 Subaru BRZ offers many of the same benefits as the first vehicle in this article, which only makes sense: The BRZ is Subaru’s version of the Toyota 86, a car that was jointly designed by two of the top automakers in the industry.
Subaru fans also should keep in mind that it was their brand that designed the car’s engine, so that the BRZ benefits from the lower center of gravity and improved handling of a boxer-style powerplant. Further — an important distinction for buyers seeking the cheapest sports cars — Subaru is $760 less expensive than its Toyota counterpart.
Photo by Subaru