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Cheap Kicks: The Top Used Sports Cars for Under $10K

Supercars are our bread and butter. They are not only super-fast, but they also look amazing and are very rare. With all of those awesome features also comes a super price. This means that the normal person that reads about them can’t pull off the kind of financial gymnastics to afford one.

For these people (us included), we have a special list of sports cars that you can typically find for $9,999 or less, making them an obtainable goal. This may require dipping back a few years, but you’ll still get yourself a nice car that is both quick and agile. Sure, it may not have fancy leather, a killer stereo system, navigation, Bluetooth, or any other modern features, but you will get yourself a true sports car.

There are literally thousands of cars we can choose from in this group, so we have to make some tough decisions on who gets in and who’s left out.

Click past the jump to read our complete list and see where we rank each car.

2004 Mazdaspeed Miata

Cheap Kicks: The Top Used Sports Cars for Under $10K

You get a nice overall sports car for just a little over $9,000.

The Miata , of course, won’t make this list in its base format, as there are too many vehicles that outplay it for the money. However, the Mazda Mazda speed model is a different situation. With its 1.8-liter turbocharged engine, this Miata pushes 178 horsepower and 166 pound-feet of torque. This gets the normally very average-accelerating Miata to 60 mph in between 6.2 and 6.9 seconds, depending on how heat-soaked the Chiclet it has for an intercooler gets. Yeah, that’s no screamer, but it is at least pretty quick and when you combine that with its outstanding suspension, you get a nice overall sports car for just a little over $9,000.

The issue is turning into a supply and demand skew for the Mazdaspeed Miata. There were only 4,000 total Mazdaspeed Miatas built between 2004 and 2005, so the typical downward slope of the price curve is flattening out, as it approaches 10-years old.

Cheap Kicks: The Top Used Sports Cars for Under $10K

In addition to its power and handling, this is one of the best-looking Miatas to ever leave the factory. The ground effects, spoiler, and rims on the already-sharp second-gen Miata body complete the package.

On the downside, the Miata has very little “Cool Factor,” as it has a reputation of being a “chick’s car.” Many people have no idea what a Mazdaspeed model is, so they typically just lump it in with every other Miata. Once they go for a ride in it, their opinions typically do a complete 180.

Ratings:

CategoryRating}Short and Sweet
Speed7Quick, but not a real screamer
Style8Looks sharp, especially with the body kit
Handling9Hugs the corners like it’s on rails
Braking10Stops on a dime on an oil-soaked road
Fun-to-drive-ability8Easy to toss around, and there are few surprises with it
Cool Factor4Some people resort to just calling it an “MX-5” to avoid the “Chick’s car” stereotype
Pricing6It can exceed our $9,995 limit in some cases, but there are some out there for under $10K
Overall7.42It’s a great car to own, but not perfect, by a long shot

Mitsubishi Eclipse GS-T/GSX and Eagle Talon TSi/TSi AWD

Cheap Kicks: The Top Used Sports Cars for Under $10K

Ah, the golden years for the Eclipse and the lesser-known Talon. This little gem was the brainchild of Chrysler and Mitsubishi trying to grab hold of the blooming import car tuning world and running with it. The Eclipse was well known across the nation, while its sibling, the Eagle Talon, was lost in a slew of re-badged Dodges known as the Eagle lineup of turds.

These two models debuted in 1990 and really took the world by storm. The first generation models boasted a turbocharged 4-banger that popped off 195 horsepower (190 in front-wheel drive and 185 with a slush-box transmission). When the second generation came around, the turbocharged engines were pumped up to 210 horsepower in a manual transmission model and 205 ponies in an automatic. First-gen AWD models have been timed as low as 6.4 seconds to 60 mph, while FWD models see a time closer to 7.4 seconds. Second-gen models, though slightly more powerful, actually saw a slower time to 60 mph in AWD, as raced to 60 mph in 7 seconds. The FWD models were pretty close to the AWD models, hitting the same 60 mph in only 7.1 seconds.

As for style, you don't get much better for the era than the Eclipse.

As for style, you don’t get much better for the era than the Eclipse. The first generation was relatively stylish, with its pop-up headlights the first few years, then moving to a fixed headlight later. The second generation was one of the most gorgeous cars on the road at the time. Sure, it was a little fatter and slower than the first-gen, but damn it looked cool.

The Eclipse/Talon was a functional car too, as it had a relatively roomy trunk, decent passenger capacity, and it didn’t loosen your guts on a bumpy road. Its downside was the fact that it was never known as a super handling car. It was serviceable, but was ultimately left in the dust when it came to competing against the Miata, Corvette, 3000GT, and others in the curves.

The Eclipse/Talon takes a front seat in pricing, as you can snag them up under $6,000 all day. Plus, the aftermarket world is abundant in second-gen performance parts.

Ratings

CategoryRating}Short and Sweet
Speed6It’s okay, but nothing too overwhelming
Style8First-gen is cool and second-gen is flat-out stunning
Handling5Never really known for its handling
Braking6Same deal as its handling
Fun-to-drive-ability7Really fun in a straight line, especially when dropping the hammer in AWD
Cool Factor8It’s a cult car that everyone has heard of and it often gets more credit than it deserves
Pricing9210 horsepower for under $6K... Yes sir
Overall7It’s really cool, but falls short in the twisties, but there are enough performance aftermarket parts to make up for that

Mitsubishi 3000GT VR-4/Dodge Stealth R/T

Cheap Kicks: The Top Used Sports Cars for Under $10K

Looking at Mitsubishi now, it is amazing to think that they had two sports cars that were near the top during the 1990s. The 3000GT VR-4 and Dodge Dodge Stealth R/T were literally identical, sans the emblems and minor styling details, and they were simply awesome! These models boasted a 3.0-liter turbocharged engine that pumped out 300 to 320 horsepower, depending on the model year. This allowed them to sprint to 60 mph in 5.8 seconds and could hit a top speed of 159 mph.

The only models that you can get into under our $10K ceiling are the very early years – 1991 to 1994 – but they are still very stylish and sporty looking cars. The 300GT and Stealth are more like sports touring cars, so they are slightly larger and heavier than your typical sports car. They handled slightly better than their little brothers, the Eclipse and Talon, but they still were not the corner monsters that the Miata was.

Cheap Kicks: The Top Used Sports Cars for Under $10K

The 3000GT and Dodge Stealth are flat out cool, if you have the VR-4 or R/T model. The remaining models are just overweight, under performing touring cars. This makes the high-end models that much more desirable, driving the price sky high, even after they have been out of production for coming up on 15 years. You can slide into a early model year for just under $10K in the Mitsubishi model, but the Stealth R/T you can get into for a little less money and get the same performance.

Ratings

CategoryRating}Short and Sweet
Speed9There’s not too much that can hang with it at that price
Style7Simply fantastic looking car, though a little overdone in some areas
Handling6Acceptable, but that’s about it
Braking5It’s big, fat and fast, so it doesn’t stop well... At all
Fun-to-drive-ability8Plenty of straight-line speed to play with, but scary in the corners
Cool Factor9Tell a car nut that you have a 3000 GT VR-4 and see how many time he asks you to drive it
Pricing4Still extremely expensive for the year
Overall7.85It’s really cool, but falls short in the twisties, but there are enough performance aftermarket parts to make up for that

C4 Corvette

Cheap Kicks: The Top Used Sports Cars for Under $10K

The classic `Vette simply cannot be left off of this list. We’re going to skip the 1984 version of the Corvette , as its engine was still grappling with emission standards and only pumped out 205 horsepower. In 1985, mild revisions to the fuel and management systems saw a bump up to 230 horsepower and in 1987, it was again bumped to 240 horsepower from its 5.7-liter V-8. This brought the Corvette to a respectable 6-second sprint to 60 mph. In 1992, the LS1 engine arrived to replace the L98 and the Corvette pumped out 300 ponies and sprinted to 60 mph in only 5 seconds.

Cheap Kicks: The Top Used Sports Cars for Under $10K

The C4 `Vette was a supremely beautiful vehicle that translates well in today’s supercar world

The C4 `Vette was a supremely beautiful vehicle that translates well in today’s supercar world its its wedge-like design and aggressive body lines. The V4 `Vette also featured awesome suspension for the era and the optional Z51 suspension package made it all the better.

As for coolness, the Corvette always has been and always will be cool, especially the C4 model. To boot, the aftermarket parts supply is abundant and capable of cheaply getting the Corvette to 300 horsepower. One issue is that the majority of the C4 class of `Vettes are now considered classic cars, so the price is quickly increasing. When you could one slide into these for a quick $3K, you are now looking at least $7K for mid-1980s models, but you can sneak into the 300-horsepower mid-1990s models for less than $10K.

Ratings

CategoryRating}Short and Sweet
Speed8Earlier model years were a little slow, but revisions made it awesome
Style8Good looker that remains valid, even in today’s market
Handling8Good as a base model, but great with the Z51 package
Braking7Decent, but nothing superb
Fun-to-drive-ability8Plenty of straight-line speed to play with and competent in the turns
Cool Factor9It’s one of the mode recognizable names in the sports car world
Pricing7Getting up there in price, but you can still get a mid-1990s model for about $7K
Overall7.8A phenomenal sports car, even by today’s standards and there are tons of aftermarket parts to make it faster

Nissan 300ZX Twin-Turbo

Nissan 300zx

This is by far the greatest of the Z cars ever made, including today’s models. This nearly exotic machine boasted a 3.0-liter V-6 engine with a pair of blowers attached to it. It pumped out 300 ponies and hit 60 mph in the mid-5-second range.

Nissan 300zx

Its style is flat-out awesome and there is little to argue about there.

Its style is flat-out awesome and there is little to argue about there. It remains a modern-looking car by today’s standards and will remain that way for many years. The issue with these cars is the supply, as not many owners are looking to sell these collectable cars, but you can get into one in the $5,000 to $7,000 range, though the majority are asking well over $10,000 – more than double its actual value.

The coolness factor really makes this car, as it is one of the most recognizable cars from the 1990s and has the speed to back it all up.

Nissan S15 Silvia

Not only was this car extremely powerful, but it also handled like a dream, despite being pretty heavy for its wheelbase. This is mostly thanks its High Capacity Active Suspension (HiCAS) system. This system allowed for rear steering at certain speeds and other parameters to make it a great handler.

A downfall to this car is its rear seat. Sure, this is a 2+2 coupe, but the rear seats are only built for those lacking lower appendages. Many 300ZX enthusiasts simply remove the rear seats to save some weight, given they are practically useless as-is.

Ratings:

CategoryRating}Short and Sweet
Speed10Eats Corvettes and snacks on 3000GTs
Style8.5Simple, yet very sharp exterior
Handling9The HiCAS system allows this massive beast to whip through the twisties with
Braking8Good enough
Fun-to-drive-ability9Exhilarating car to drive
Cool Factor9The 300ZX has a huge following and most people drool over the twin-turbo model
Pricing7Heading upward in pricing and owners are now hanging onto them, as they will be worth good money soon
Overall8.64A phenom in the 1990s and it remains a top performer today for those on a budget

Porsche 928 S

Porsche 928

Sure, there are more ideal Porsche cars, such as the 911 , but none give you the bang for your buck like the 928 S. The performance numbers vary greatly between model years, but you can sneak into the 1986 and 1987 model years for just about $9,000. These 5.0-liter V-8 powered hatchbacks produce 316 horsepower and 317 pound-feet of torque. This lets it scream to 60 mph in just 5.7 seconds and have a top speed of an incredible 170 mph.

On the outside, the 928 was unlike the typical Porsche, boasting a long nose and rounded rump, but you can tell that its design cues were taken from the car it was supposed to replace – the 911. With this, you also get the pedigree of the Porsche lineup, but you also get the huge repair bills.

Porsche 928

The price for a later-model 928 S remains a little high – between $8K and $9.5K – but it is a lot of car for the money. An unfortunate thing is that the 928 does not translate well into today’s sports car world, as its proportions are way off. As far as giddy-up without needing boost, the 928 S is almost unbeatable.

The 928 S has received pretty rave reviews about its balance between comfort and sport when it comes to handling. It does receive some black marks thanks to numb steering, but its passive rear-wheel steering definitely makes up for that.

Ratings:

CategoryRating}Short and Sweet
Speed9.5Almost pure perfection
Style6.5The body just hasn’t withstood the test of time
Handling8Numb, but responsive at the same time
Braking8Brakes well, but noting incredible about it
Fun-to-drive-ability9A blast to whip around and what a wonderful noise it makes
Cool Factor7The 928 S never received the credit it deserved, so it really has only a small amount of coolness to it
Pricing8Prices are creeping upward, but still affordable
Overall8A great choice for those that want that “Porsche” name

Porsche Boxster/Boxster S

Porsche Boxster (986)

Much like the Miata, the Boxster and Boxster S have a stigma of being a “chick’s car,” though not nearly as much as the Miata. You can get yourself into a mid- to late-1990s Boxster and Boxster S for just shy of $10K, though the S model is a little more scarce. With the Boxster, you get a 201-horsepower 2.5-liter flat-6 that gets you to 60 mph in about 6.6 seconds. The Boxster S comes with a 3.2-liter flat-6 that sprints to 60 in only 5.8 seconds.

This generation for the Boxster was a very boring one, as the bodies looked like they were just squashed down 911s. Newer models show much more character and that really affects the cool factor of the Boxster in a negative way.

Porsche Boxster (986)

In the handling department, the Boxster is up there with the Miata. It goes where you point it and the steering feed back is incredible. Yeah, it’s not the fastest car on the list, but it’s certainly in the competition.

Ratings:

CategoryRating}Short and Sweet
Speed8.5The Boxster is definitely the say to go
Style6Is definitely in the running for the ugliest Porsche ever built
Handling9.5Near perfection
Braking9Brakes like a Porsche should
Fun-to-drive-ability9Awesome in the twist and serviceable in the straights
Cool Factor7You may have to answer the “Why are you driving your sister’s car” question every day
Pricing8.5Affordable and will keep going down, for now
Overall8.21A great choice for those that want that “Porsche” name

1991 – 1995 Toyota MR2 Turbocharged

Toyota MR2

No, we refuse to add the monstrosity that was the MR2 Spyder – what a waste of a good idea. We are talking about the second-gen MR2 with a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder good for 200 horsepower. These 200 monies are good enough to get the MR2 Turbo to 60 mph in the mid-6s.

The MR2 was always well-known as an impressive handler

The MR2 was always well-known as an impressive handler, thanks to Lotus helping Toyota develop the perfect suspension system. The 1991 through 1995 MR2 Turbo is no exception to this rule. It hugged corners like no other in its era and flew out of the corners just as easily.

Toyota MR2

The style of the MR2 would still look good on today’s cars, so its design has definitely held up to the test of time. It’s unfortunate that Toyota didn’t simply modify this body style to fit the last generation MR2, instead of making it a spyder.

For cool factor, there is little that exceeds the MR2 Turbo. It was the first real Japanese powerhouse that came in under $60,000. The NSX was the only other Japanese car in its class, but it was roughly $62,000 when new.

Ratings:

CategoryRating}Short and Sweet
Speed8Mid-6-second 0 to 60 time is good enough for us
Style9.5Gorgeous car, even by today’s standards
Handling9.5Doesn’t get much better
Braking9Will stop on a dime on command
Fun-to-drive-ability9.5Pure driving fun with just enough unexpected oversteer to make it more intense
Cool Factor10Not only are MR2 Turbos rare to come by, but also very well respected in the tuner world
Pricing8.5You can snag up a super-low-mileage MR2 Turbo for less than $10K
Overall9.14A great choice for those that want that “Porsche” name

Overall Standings

Toyota MR2

The overall rankings are basically outlining just the best bang for the buck and may not exactly fit what you are looking for. In the following sections we will go through various scenarios to get you a winner for each scenario.

PlaceModelScore
11991 to 1995 Toyota MR29.14
2Nissan 300ZX Twin-Turbo8.64
3Porsche Boxster/Boxster S8.21
41986 to 1987 Porsche 928 S8
5Mitsubishi 3000GT VR-4/Dodge Stealth R/T7.85
6C4 Chevrolet Corvette7.8
72004 Mazdaspeed Miata7.42
8Mitsubishi Eclipse GS-T/GSX and Eagle Talon TSi/TSi AWD7

Best Tuner

Cheap Kicks: The Top Used Sports Cars for Under $10K

Okay, not everyone is happy with what their car has from the factory, so we need to account for those looking to tune their car themselves. All of these cars have plenty of room to increase their power, but one stands out above the rest, thanks to an abundance of aftermarket parts and the overall potential of the engine. This car is, believe it or not, our last place finisher in the overall standings. The Mitsubishi Mitsubishi Eclipse and Eagle Talon have the potential to increase there horsepower significantly, thanks to the huge number of parts suppliers out there. Also, the performance parts for the Eclipse/Talon are fairly inexpensive.

Best Straight Speed

Porsche 928

If all you want to do is go fast in a straight line and nothing else concerns you, there is only one choice. This choice is the Porsche 928 S. With its 170 mph top speed and room to grow, nothing else on this list can hang with it in a straight line.

Just Look at Me, Please

Cheap Kicks: The Top Used Sports Cars for Under $10K

If all you want is someone to stare at you and say “Damn, that car’s sick,” There is one car that stands above all of the others. This is the C4 Corvette. It is already a stylish car, but with the correct body kit, nice wheels, good paint, and a mean exhaust system, it definitely gets stares. So if your goal is just a little attention, go with the C4 `Vette.

Close, But No Cigar

There was a number of vehicles that were really close to making this list, but we had to leave them off for various reasons. We’’ll go over some of the borderline ones here.

Mazda RX-7

Mazda RX7

We debated long and hard on the RX-7, but it ultimately came up a little short. In its base format, the RX-7 is actually pretty slow and when you look into its Turbo trim level, you exceed our $10K mark in all cases.

Late-1980s Ford Probe GT

The Probe GT was actually quite the performer in the late-1980s, but it came up shy, as it was never a good handler and its 0 to 60 time was a little too slow (low-7-seconds.)

Acura Integra GS-R

Acura Integra history

A little slow at 7 seconds to 60 mph and definitely not known as a handling machine. It features very heavy under-steer, thanks to its FWD setup.

Honda S2000

Honda S2000

To fit it into this price range, you have to either buy a wrecked one or one that has 160,000 miles of thrashing.

Conclusion

This is our collection of the top spots cars that you can snag up for under $10K, but what you find a good deal may completely differ from ours. Let us know what we missed in the comments section below.



1 comments:

Great article, but I think you have a photo of a s15 Silvia under the 300ZX twin turbo piece.

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