Contrary to popular belief, it is possible to get decent speed at a bargain price. But that means a used car. And for $10,000 or less, there are plenty of older cars that still pack a punch, plus some recent models that have suffered big depreciation hits. We found the following 10 fast used cars for sale on various sites, but the availability, pricing, and specific models may be different in your area. Without further ado, here are 10 fast used cars that you can buy for under $10,000, as chosen by Autobytel editors.
10 Fast Cars Under $10,000
1) 2008 Mazda MX-5 Miata
The Mazda MX-5 Miata is relatively inexpensive new, making it a downright bargain after some time has passed. Picking up a Miata for $10,000 or less means a great time is in store for you and your best friend. While the Miata’s never been about posting the highest horsepower numbers, or the fastest run in a straight line, it’s an absolute blast to drive, and this holds true no matter how old it is. It's easy to find a 2008 (or similar) Mazda MX-5 Miata right around our price cap, and sometimes even for less. This is why a used Mazda MX-5 Miata will always be one of our favorite 10 fast cars for under $10,000.
Photo Credit: Hyundai
2) 2010 Hyundai Genesis Coupe 3.8
If you’re looking for a fast car under $10,000, don’t be fooled by the base model Genesis Coupe. We know, that 4-cylinder model is tempting, since they’re a lot less expensive. But take our advice and hold out for the 3.8-liter V6-powered model. You’ll be rewarded with 306 horsepower, which is plenty of energy for this rear-wheel-drive 2-door. Find one with a manual transmission, too, if you can. This version of the Genesis isn’t the most comfortable (and certainly nothing like the Genesis we know today), but as the driver, you’ll be fine; it’s the back seat occupants who'll have a tough time with the scant leg room and head room.
Photo Credit: Honda
3) 2008 Honda Civic Si
If you’re in the market for a used car under $10,000, a Honda Civic is a safe bet. If you’re looking for a fast used car under $10,000, though, we recommend you hold out for the higher performance Civic Si. They’re hard to come by, at least in decent shape, but targeting the 2008 model year (or maybe a little earlier) should improve your chances of finding one. For your patience, you’ll be rewarded with a 2.0-liter inline-4 that makes 197 horsepower. As usual, we recommend the manual transmission; whether you want a 2-door or 4-door is up to you (or the availability of particular models in your area).
4) 2007 MINI Cooper S
A used MINI Cooper S is another good source of cheap speed, and one of our 10 favorite fast cars under $10,000. New MINI Coopers have premium pricing (considering what you get, compared to the competition) but buying an older model solves that issue. The 2007 Cooper S makes 172 horsepower from its turbocharged 1.6-liter 4-cylinder, and we of course recommend the 6-speed manual transmission. We also suggest being a little picky, here—if you hold out for the exact color and exterior details you want, you might be waiting a while, but don’t buy the first one that comes along, either. Keeping up with maintenance is important for a MINI Cooper, and the last thing you want to do is pay for the privilege of inheriting someone else’s problems.
5) 1995 Chevrolet Corvette
Based on used car listings at the time of this writing, we’re targeting a 1995 Corvette, but any Vette, really, makes a fine addition to our list of 10 fast cars under $10,000—take your pick. The 1995 model is near the end of the sports car’s fourth generation (which was commemorated by a bunch of special editions in 1996). The car was offered as a coupe and a convertible, and came powered by one of two 5.7-liter V8 engines. At our price point, you’re probably looking at the 300-horsepower base model, but a 405-horsepower version is out there, too. The fourth-generation Corvette, commonly called the C4, is available in an array of bright and muted colors, the best the ‘90s had to offer.
6) 2003 Mercury Marauder
We’re going to preface this by saying that a Mercury Marauder is sort of a stretch for our list of 10 fast and affordable cars. That’s because it seems like people who have them don’t really want to let them go. Your efforts in finding a good Marauder will be rewarded, though—it’s one of the best sleepers out there. It looks like a Grand Marquis, because it is, but this Mercury is essentially a Ford Crown Victoria P71 Police Interceptor, complete with rear-wheel drive and a torquey 302-horsepower 4.6-liter V8. On some sites, you'll see that some Marauders are way overpriced (at least in terms of our $10,000), but there are a few to be had around the $8000 mark.
7) 2007 Subaru Impreza WRX
The Subaru Impreza WRX is one of our favorite sporty and affordable cars. To keep it around $10,000, look for a 2007 model (give or take a couple years). This compact sedan, basically a high-performance version of Subaru’s entry-level Impreza, makes quite a competent and practical commuter car, especially considering it comes standard with Subaru’s all-wheel-drive system. It’s a good option for buyers who can’t swing a weekend-only track toy. The Impreza WRX comes powered by a turbocharged 2.5-liter boxer four, and it makes 224 horsepower. Maybe the Subaru Impreza WRX isn’t the fastest car on the list, but it comes complete with serious motorsports street cred, and is one of the most fun cars you can buy for less than five figures.
8) 2002 Toyota Celica GT
The 2002 Toyota Celica GT coupe might not seem like one of the more responsible choices on our list of fast cars under $10,000, but bear with us. First and foremost, it’s a Toyota, which means it’s got excellent t reliability. Of course, you’re taking your chances with any car of this age, but that leads us to our second point, which is that the Celica GT is one of the least-expensive options on our list. Just put some of your leftover cash aside so you’ll be covered if anything happens. The Celica GT makes 140 horsepower from its 1.8-liter 4-cylinder engine; it’s modest, but that’s all you really need for such a light, tossable car.
9) 2007 Volkswagen GTI
A Volkswagen GTI, new or used, is a reliable source of cheap speed. For our purposes—our under $10,000 benchmark—we’re going to suggest the 2007 model, from the car’s fifth generation, but opening a few new search windows will lead you down a really exciting rabbit hole with tons of fun options. When new, the 2007 GTI was among the sportiest cars in its class. It offers firm handling and a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine that makes 200 horsepower. You’ll likely have some of your original $10K left over, and if you’re tempted to explore the thriving aftermarket for VW products, your fast and cheap GTI can easily be made quite a bit faster.
Photo Credit: Mazda
10) 2010 Mazda RX-8
We can’t let a list of fast cars for under $10,000 go by without considering another Mazda. The 2010 Mazda RX-8 is pretty much perfect for these requirements. This compact rear-drive coupe still looks stylish, and as a bonus, its back seat is quite a bit larger than you might expect. Look for an RX-8 with a manual transmission; not only will it be more fun to drive, but it has a higher horsepower rating than the automatic version. You’ll get 232 ponies from the RX-8’s two-rotor Wankel engine, whereas the automatic made 20 horsepower less. These types of engines rev high, but they don’t produce much torque, making RX-8 ownership an interesting experience.