There’s nothing like a fast drive in a sports car to get the blood flowing—and there’s nothing like the price tag of a new sports car to bring it to a dead stop. Fortunately, there are lots of great sports car buys on the used market. Here are 10 used sports cars you can get for $25,000 or less—often a lot less.
10 Best Used Sports Cars under $25,000
Photo Credit: Mazda USA
Mazda MX-5 Miata
The Mazda MX-5 was originally designed to recall classic British sports cars of the 1950s and 1960s; now, with 25 years of production under its wheels, it has become a classic sports car in its own right. Mazda recently redesigned the Miata, and the new-for-2016 version addresses concerns that the old one was getting a bit heavy in its old age. But we think the previous Miata was (and is) a great car, and who can disagree that it’s a great bargain? With the new-gen MX-5 starting around $26,000, you should be able to find almost-new 2015s selling for well under $25k—and considering how well Mazdas hold up, we’d recommend older models as well, which are easy to find in the $5,000-to-$15,000 range.
Hyundai Genesis Coupe
The Hyundai Genesis Coupe has to be one of the most underrated sports cars in the history of motorized transport. Though Hyundai has struggled with fine-tuning the steering and suspension of its front-drive cars, the rear-drive Genesis felt good from the start, and it gets better with a little tuning and tweaking. The 2.0-liter turbo engine offers strong power and light weight, while the 3.8-liter V6—though lacking a performance pedigree—still delivers an honest 300-plus horsepower. Prices reflect the lack of appreciation this car has received: Even high-end V6-powered R-Spec models from 2015 are valued at less than $20,000.
Nissan’s Z car is a legend, and we think the latest iteration is one of the best in terms of styling, speed and suspension. We love the way the VQ-series V6 delivers power, and we think that as this engine fades into the sunset (Nissan and luxury brand Infiniti are just starting to replace it) it’s bound to be remembered as one of the greats. The 370Z as we know it was introduced in 2009 and hasn’t changed much since. New examples start just over $30k, but these cars haven’t held their value as well as one might expect, and a $25,000 budget should suffice for a nice 2015 model, and possibly a lightly-used 2016.
The GTI introduced the “hot hatchback” concept to American buyers, and today the GTI continues to be one of the best sport compacts on the market. The GTI was last redesigned in 2015, though the basic layout—2.0-liter turbocharged engine and front-wheel drive—remained unchanged from earlier GTIs. New examples start around $27,000 and go up to around 35k, so it’s no surprise that you can find used 2015 GTIs for around $20,000. These cars are often driven hard and don’t always age well, so we’d recommend investing in a newer model rather than an older fixer-upper, and having any potential purchase carefully checked by a mechanic.
The Corvette is an American classic, and while you may or may not be a fan, the last two generations—C5 (1997-2004) and C6 (2005-2013)—have been pretty impressive sports cars. Once they depreciate to a certain point, Corvettes seem to hold their value pretty well, so a $25,000 budget means you’ll be looking at a car from 2008 or earlier. Actually, 2008 is the year we’d target: That’s when the 430-horsepower 6.2-liter LS3 V8 replaced the 400-horsepower 6.0-liter LS2, and while we’ve got nothing against the LS2, we love, love, love that LS3. If you can stretch your budget a bit, consider a 2010 Grand Sport model, which has an improved suspension that provides noticeably sharper handling than the base model car.
The RX-8 was the last production car to use Mazda’s legendary rotary engine, and while Mazda keeps promising a return of the rotary, so far it hasn’t happened. Now, you must understand that there’s a reason the rotary is no longer around: Though these engines are light and powerful, they require special care and feeding to maximize engine life, so it’s important that the unfamiliar do their research before committing to an RX-8. That said, if you know what you’re getting into, an RX-8 will bring you great joy—and it will fit your budget, as the latest-model RX-8s (2011 model year) can be bought for less than $15,000.
The M3 has long been a showcase for everything people love about German performance cars in general and BMWs in particular. Fast, agile, and incredibly responsive, the M3 has the goods to back up its image. These cars were expensive when new and remain desirable on the used market, so a $25,000 budget means you’ll probably be looking at cars from 2008 or 2009, but you need to shop carefully to avoid cars that have been abused or poorly maintained. Look for documentation of routine maintenance (preferably from a BMW dealer) and make sure you have any potential purchase examined by a mechanic—not just the shop down the street, but a place that knows BMWs inside and out. Pick carefully, and your M3 will deliver big smiles.
The Scion FR-S is a considered a sports car for the purist. It’s not particularly fast (although, despite what some press reports say, it’s not particularly slow, either), but it is very well balanced, and if you want to learn (or if you know and appreciate) the subtleties of a rear-drive car, the Scion FR-S provides an excellent classroom. Here is a car that will let you master oversteer and drifting at the relatively sane speeds found at autocross and track days. The FR-S is still offered new (and when the Scion brand folds in 2017, it will continue life as a Toyota), with a starting price in the high 20s, so a used FR-S should fit into our proposed budget: One-year-old cars go for around $20,000.
Interested in an underdog? Then we recommend Volvo’s C30 coupe, introduced in the mid-2000s and quietly discontinued after 2013. Though not quite a sports car per se, the C30 made a convincing rival to Volkswagen’s GTI. Volvo didn’t give this car anywhere near the marketing love it deserved, and that must explain its slow sales because there’s certainly nothing wrong with the car: It’s good looking, has a funky interior and a powerful 5-cylinder engine, and it feels great in the curves. The C30 didn’t hold its value well, and 2013 examples can be found in the high teens. If you really want something special, look for the 2013 C30 Polestar limited-run performance edition (just 250 built, and—unusually for a European car—all sent to the United States), which has a 250-horsepower engine, stiffer suspension, and quicker steering ratio. It’s a real rocket ship, provided you can deal with the torque steer.
There aren’t too many car fans who wouldn’t want to own a Porsche. Budget-friendly late-model 911s aren’t exactly easy to come by, but what about a Boxster? The Boxster certainly has its detractors, but it’s still good fun to drive, and anyone who denies that the Boxster’s mid-engine layout is far superior to the 911’s pendulum-like rear-engine setup can be dismissed as a 911 apologist. A $25,000 budget should be enough to get you a 6- to 7-year old Boxster, and as these cars were often bought as “weekenders” by those with the wealth to afford their high as-new prices, chances are many examples you encounter will be well-maintained low-mileage cars. As with the BMW M3, insist on a documented maintenance history and have any prospective purchase inspected by a proper Porsche mechanic. Shop carefully, and you’ll be living the dream of having a Porsche in your parking spot.