Looking to quench the thirst for speed on a budget? There are plenty of options out there

As it’s usually the case when working under a tight budget – regardless of what you’re buying – research is king. Knowing where to look and what to look for can make a world of difference between ending up with what you needed in the first place or buying an utter piece of crap that’ll only bring disappointment.

The same stands when it comes to fast cars. We totally understand, it’s a hard knock life out there when it comes to balancing your slim bank account and the itch to go fast. However, finding a fast car that costs less than $10,000 is not so hard these days, and we’ve put together a list of potential avenues (read: cars) of all shapes and sizes that you might want to explore. Let’s check them out.

Nissan 350Z

2006 Nissan 350Z
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The 2002 350Z was Nissan’s fifth Z-car iteration, coming to replace the 300ZX. Available initially in coupé form, it eventually spawned a roadster two years from its debut and made more video game appearances than we can remember right now. Back in the day, you could get a squeaky-new Nissan 350Z for a base price of $26,809, fitted with the widely-popular naturally-aspirated 3.5-liter, 24-valve V-6 good for 287 horsepower and 274 pound-feet of torque.

An out-and-out sports car, the Nissan 350Z needed just 5.4 seconds to zap from 0 to 60 mph, 14.1 seconds to clear the quarter mile, and provided it had the necessary space, the 350Z could reach a top speed of 156 mph. Those numbers were pretty much similar to what a contemporary Porsche Boxster S could pull off, but for half the money.

These days, you can find a well-maintained Nissan 2004-2006 350Z for anything between $6,000 to $8,000.

2006 Nissan 350Z specifications
Engine 3.5-liter, 24-valve V-6
Horsepower 287 HP
Torque 274 LB-FT
0 to 60 mph 5.4 seconds
Top Speed 156 mph
Price $6,000 - $8,000

Read our full review on the 2006 Nissan 350Z

Ford Mustang GT

2006 Ford Mustang
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Based on the new D2C platform, the fifth-gen Mustang was supposed to be faster, zippier, and safer than its predecessors. Ford dropped the 3.6-liter V-6 for a larger, 4.0-liter one that made 210 horsepower. A Mustang GT was also offered, of course, based on a 4.6-liter, 24-valve V-8 tweaked to produce 300 horsepower.

The GT could dispatch the 0-60 mph sprint in 5.2 seconds. 100 mph was yours in 13.2 seconds, while top speed was limited to 140 mph. Mind you, these Mustangs were not exactly the definition of comfort, although the ergonomics created by the seat-pedals-wheel triangle were definitely better than on previous models. Look on the bright side, though: you’re not only getting a fast American icon, but also a definite future classic.

Prices for a pre-owned 2005 Ford Mustang V6 go up to $6,000, while the V-8-powered GT will ask for at least $7,000-$9,000 depending on mileage and condition.

2005 Ford Mustang GT specifications
Engine 4.6-liter, 24-valve V-8
Horsepower 300 HP
0 to 60 mph 5.2 seconds
0 to 100 mph 13.2 seconds
Top Speed 140 mph
Price $7,000-$9,000

Read our full review on the 2006 Ford Mustang GT

Corvette C4

10 Fastest Cars For Under $10,000
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Even with the mid-engined C8 Corvette changing the paradigm for Chevrolet, the Corvette will remain a Corvette if it comes from a distant time. Let’s take the C4 Corvette, for example. It came in 1984 and was designed by Dave McLellan, who’d replaced the legendary Zora Arkus-Duntov as Chevy’s chief designer in 1975. The C4 took a step back from the Stingray design language, could run from 0 to 60 mph in less than seven seconds and reach a top speed of 140 mph.

At launch, the Corvette C4 got the 205-horsepower, 290 pound-feet L83 V-8, but in 1985, Chevy replaced the unit with the L98 tuned-point fuel-injected V-8 that churned out 230 horsepower and 330 pound-feet of torque. Top speed went up to 150 mph. The Corvette C4 was discontinued in 1996, and come 1997, the C5 took its place.

Today, you can get a 1984 Corvette C4 from the used market for around $6,000-$7,000. Plus, you get pop-up headlights. I mean, who doesn’t love pop-up headlights?

1984 Corvette C4 specifications
Engine L83 V-8
Horsepower 205 HP
Torque 290 LB-FT
0 to 60 mph 7 seconds
Top Speed 140 mph
Price $6,000-$7,000

BMW E46 M3

2000 BMW E46 M3 review
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The BMW M3 doesn’t need too many introductions. The same goes for the one based on the E46 3 Series. Offered both as a coupé and convertible, the E46 M3 came to market in 2001. Its engine – BMW’s S54 DOHC straight-six unit displacing 3.2 liters – packed 333 horsepower and could rev all the way up to 8,000 rpm. Torque came in at 269 pound-feet and was fully unleashed when the rev needle showed 4,900 rpm, enough to propel the E46 M3 from 0 to 60 mph in five seconds and on to a limited top speed of 155 mph.

BMW built the E46 M3 between 2000 and 2006. Customers could pick a Getrag six-speed manual or the SMG II six-speed automated manual which was actually based on the former. These days, you can bag a decent 2003-2005 BMW E46 M3 for a price tag in the region of $6,900-$8,300, but you should expect around 90,000 to 100,000 miles on the odometer.

BMW E46 M3 specifications
Engine 3.2-liters straight-six
Horsepower 333 HP @ 8,000 RPM
Torque 269 LB-FT @ 4,900 RPM
0 to 60 mph 5 seconds
Top Speed 155 mph
Price $6,900-$8,300

Read our full review on the 2000 BMW E46 M3


2010 Volkswagen Golf GTI U.S. version
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The 2020 VW Golf GTI might be a tempting proposition for those in the market for a warm hatch, but its bells and whistles mean one thing: a hefty price tag. But fret not. You can have an earlier model Golf GTI. VW launched the GTI for the U.S. market in 2010 with a 2.0-liter, turbocharged straight-four engine churning out 200 horsepower and 207 pound-feet of torque and two body styles: four-door and two-door. Transmission options included a crispy six-speed manual or VW’s six-speed dual-clutch DSG gearbox.

Both units did a good job in exploiting the engine’s grunt and besides being quick off the line – 0-60 mph took just 5.8 seconds to completion – the GTI could prove its mettle on twisty roads, too. What’s more, it could reach a top speed of 149 mph, provided it was given enough space.

PS: We actually wanted to include the 2013 Ford Focus ST here, but it turns out that used STs sell for around $13,000, whereas you can easily find a 2012-2013 Volkswagen Golf GTI for anything between $8,800-$9,900.

2010 Volkswagen Golf GTI specifications
Engine 2.0-liter, turbocharged straight-four
Horsepower 200 HP
Torque 207 LB-FT
0 to 60 mph 5.8 seconds
Top Speed 149 mph
Price $8,800-$9,900

Read our full review on the 2010 Volkswagen Golf GTI.

Mercedes-Benz E55 AMG

2003 - 2006 Mercedes E55 AMG
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Mercedes AMG E55

AMG has always had that power of extracting mind-boggling levels of performance from your otherwise dull-looking, grandpa-approved sedan. The E55 AMG was just that. Massive power in a bland packaging. But who cared? It packed 469 horsepower coming from a supercharged 5.4-liter V-8 derived from AMG’s backbone 5.0-liter V-8. The E55 also came to the market as a response to BMW and Audi rallying the M5 and RS 6, respectively.

The new engine dictated a ripple of mods in other departments. AMG had to tweak the run-of-the-mill Mercedes-issue five-speed auto to handle the extra oomph. Top speed was limited to 155 mph, of course, but the E55 AMG could do more. The big problem here, however, was that the luxurious E55 was so good at isolating you from the rest of the world, that such speeds seemed like mere walks in the park, although surrounding objects would still come at you in the blink of an eye.

So, yeah, if it’s freakishly fast luxo-barges you’re after but don’t want (or afford) to splash the cash on a newer AMG, you can get the E55 AMG for around $9,500-$10,000. Just don’t get too picky when it comes to mileage and whatnot.

Mercedes-Benz E55 AMG specifications
Engine supercharged 5.4-liter V-8
Horsepower 469 HP
Top Speed 155 mph
Price $9,500-$10,000

Read our full review on the Mercedes-Benz E55 AMG

Volvo V70 R

2006 Volvo V70 R
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The Volvo V70 R was introduced back in 2002 alongside the S60 R, which was its sedan interpretation. Both cars came with an electronically-controlled all-wheel-drive setup, but the center piece was the reworked 2.5-liter, transversely-mounted, turbocharged (also DOHC) inline-five gasoline engine. The engine was offered in the XC90 SUV at that time, where it made 208 horsepower.

For use inside the Volvo V70 R, however, the powerplant was slapped with a KKK turbocharger with 15.2 psi worth of peak boost. The result: 300 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque. Other than that, the V70 R was fitted with a smart, fast-adjusting Haldex AWD setup, a six-speed automatic gearbox, and Öhlins-Monroe-developed shocks with electronically-controlled valves that could adjust up to 500 times per second to keep body roll, nose dives, and rear-end squats in check. Being a station wagon, the V70 R’s practicality should be taken for granted, just like its nanny-limited top speed of 155 mph.

There are listings out there asking between $6,000 and $8,800 for a pre-owned 2004-2006 Volvo V70 R wagon.

Volvo V70 R specifications
Engine 2.5-liter inline-five
Horsepower 300 HP
Torque 295 LB-FT
Transmission six-speed automatic
Top Speed 155 mph
Price $6,000-$8,800

Read our full review on the Volvo V70 R

Jaguar XJ

2006 Jaguar XJ
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Launched in 2003, the Jaguar XJ (X350) looked a lot like its predecessor but the better part of the changes brought by the British carmaker could be found behind the elegant body. Speaking of which, the X350’s outer shell was made entirely out of aluminum, making it 200 kilograms (440 pounds) lighter than the model it replaced.

The XJ8 came with a 4.2-liter V-8 good for 300 horsepower, while the XJR upped the ante with the same unit but slapped with a supercharger for an output of 400 horsepower. The XJ6 was also brought back, based on a 3.0-liter V-6 borrowed from the X-Type and S-Type that produced 240 horsepower. Top speed was limited at 155 mph, and every powerplant mated to the ZF6HP six-speed automatic gearbox previously launched on the 2002 S-Type.

These days, used 2006-2007 Jaguar XJ8s can be had for $7,500, maybe $9,000 for a lower mileage car.

2006-2007 Jaguar XJ8s specifications
Engine 4.2-liter V-8
Horsepower 300 HP
Top Speed 155 mph
Transmission six-speed automatic
Price $7,500-$9,000

Read our full review on the Jaguar XJ

Audi A6 4.2 quattro

2006 Audi A6 Sedan
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Perhaps you’re not the sports car type and with your family in mind, you’d be better off with a car that can thrill you on a weekend and allow you to take the kids safely to school on a weekday. Enter the Audi A6 4.2 quattro.

All-wheel-drive? Check. 4.2-liter, gasoline-fed V-8? Check. 330 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of twist? Check. Room for at least four adults and their bags? Check. German quality inside? Yeah, that too. Not to mention that 2005 models and later got a tweaked six-speed Tiptronic gearbox which helped with a better, more efficient, and a lot smoother power delivery. Should you ask for it, the Audi A6 4.2 quattro can zap from naught to 60 mph in 6.3 seconds on its way to a top speed of 155 mph. The A6 was also notorious for its steadiness at high speeds, although some customers would have liked a less stiffer suspension setup. Even so, it’s hard to find a better all-rounder than this one.

A 2004-2006 Audi A6 4.2 quattro shouldn’t cost more than $4,500-$6,000, with prices going up to $8,000-$9,000 for low-mileage vehicles.

2004-2006 Audi A6 4.2 quattro specifications
Engine 4.2-liter V-8
Horsepower 330 HP
Torque 310 LB-FT
0 to 60 mph 6.3 seconds
Top Speed 155 mph
Price $4,500-$6,000

Read our full review on the 2006 Audi A6.

Infiniti G35 Coupe

2006 Infiniti G35
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The 2003 Infiniti G35 Sports Coupe (that’s it’s full name, by the way) shared a lot of its underpinnings with Nissan’s 350Z, but upped the ante when it came to cabin luxury. It was basically the two-door version of the previously launched G35 Sport Sedan and packed a 280-horsepower, 270 pound-feet 3.5-liter DOHC V-6 twinned to either a six-speed manual or a five-speed electronically-controlled automatic transmission. Regardless of what you picked, power went exclusively to the rear wheels.

Despite being 137 pounds heavier than the 350Z and packing a tad less power and torque – 280 horsepower instead of 287 and 270 pound-feet instead of 274, the Infiniti G35 could still run from 0 to 60 mph in 5.5 seconds (0.1 clicks slower than the Z) and continue the charge to a top speed of 155 mph. The automatic wasn’t the best choice one could make, mind you, but it’s down to where you’ll use the car mostly – inside or outside the city. We’d take the manual, for example, because the G35 could also hold its own when the road got twisty.

These days, you can drive home a 2006 Infiniti G35 Coupe RWD for around $8,500. In case that’s too much for your budget, a 2004MY in good condition can be purchased for around $5,000.

2003 Infiniti G35 specifications
Engine 3.5-liter DOHC V-6
Horsepower 280 HP
Torque 270 LB-FT
0 to 60 mph 5.5 seconds
Top Speed 155 mph
Price $5,000

Read our full review on the 2006 Infiniti G35 Coupe

Tudor Rus
Assistant Content Manager - Automotive Expert - tudor@topspeed.com
Tudor’s first encounter with cars took place when he was only a child. Back then, his father brought home a Trabant 601 Kombi and a few years later, a Wartburg 353. At that time, he was too young to know how they worked and way too young to drive them, but he could see one thing – each of them had a different ethos and their own unique personality. As time went on, he started seeing that in other cars as well, and his love for the automobile was born.  Read More
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