Adventure awaits searching for sports cars under $5,000

There once was a time when $5,000 could score you a decent sports car. Unfortunately, those days are long gone. Today, finding new sports cars for under $5,000 is as difficult as you expect it to be. Finding any new car for under $5,000 is a search that will leave you empty-handed.

Fortunately, there are ways to score good deals on cars for under $5,000, including those of the sports car persuasion. You’ll have to look long and hard for these bargain finds and you have to accept that none of these cars are fresh off the line. But if you set your expectations right, you can unearth some good to great deals on fast cars under $5,000.

2001 Toyota MR2 Spyder

2000 - 2005 Toyota MR2 Spyder
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The Toyota MR2 often gets lost in the shuffle when discussing some of Toyota’s lineup of plucky sports cars from the 1990s.

The Supra understandably gets all the attention, but the two-seat, mid-engine MR2 with its rear-wheel drive layout had an impressive 23-year run of its own, culminating in 2007. These days, used versions of the MR2 — either the coupe or spyder version — can be bought for less than $5,000, a pedestrian price tag for a sports car that looked the part of a mini exotic.

Find one for sale on Cargurus.com

2000 - 2005 Toyota MR2 Spyder
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2001 Toyota MR2 Spyder specifications
Engine: 1.8-liter inline-four engine
Horsepower: 138 horsepower
Torque: 126 pound-feet of torque
0 to 60 MPH: 7.9 seconds
Top Speed: 130 mph
Curb Weight: 2,195 pounds (996 kilos)
Power-to-Weight Ratio (horsepower per US tonne): 126

Read our full review on the 2001 Toyota MR2 Spyder

2001 Subaru Impreza WRX STI

2001 Subaru Impreza STI
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When it comes to Japanese Domestic Market (JDM) sports cars, very few can evoke the kind of response and attention as the old-school Subaru WRX STI.

Sure, recent versions of the WRX have entered the U.S. market with their own set of appealing qualities, but older versions of the Impreza WRX STI were something else. The second-gen version of the four-door sports sedan — it was launched in 2005 — utilized a 2.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that produced 300 horsepower and 300 pound-feet of torque.

Newer versions of the WRX STI offer more power and more tech, but their presence was largely due to the foundation set by older-generation models. Even better, these older Impreza WRX STI models can be had these days for less than $5,000.

Find one for sale on Carfromjapan.com

10 Sports Cars Anyone Can Buy For Under $5,000 And Look Rich
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2001 Subaru Impreza WRX STI specifications
Engine: 2.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine
Horsepower: 300 horsepower
Torque: 300 pound-feet of torque
0 to 60 MPH: 5.1 seconds
Top Speed: 158 mph
Curb Weight: 2,800 pounds (1,460 kilos)
Power-to-Weight Ratio (horsepower per US tonne): 214

Read our full review on the 2001 Subaru Impreza WRX STI

1999 BMW M3 Convertible

10 Sports Cars Anyone Can Buy For Under $5,000 And Look Rich
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The BMW M3 is one of the finest cars in the business. It’s been around since 1985, and if there’s anything we’ve come to know about the M3, it’s the improving quality of every aspect of the car as the years go by.

The E36-generation M3, in particular, holds a special place in my heart. It’s one of the first cars I fell in love with, and the passing of time hasn’t dampened that affection. It’s not just that it carries a timeless look that imbibes all the qualities of BMW’s craftsmanship, but it’s also in the way it was built.

The E36 M3 is one of the best-handling performance cars of its time. You can drive one today and it’s still going to put a smile on your face. Remember, the E36 M3 was powered by a 3.2-liter straight-six engine that produced 282 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque, making it the first M3 to use a straight-six unit.

These days, you can buy a used E36 M3 for less than $5,000. You’re likely going to have to perform some modifications, but with the right setup in place, you can bring the M3’s stature back as one of the most reliable cars under $5,000.

Find one for sale on Cargurus.com

1992 - 2000 E36 BMW M3 Review
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1999 BMW M3 Convertible specifications
Engine: 3.2-liter straight-six engine
Horsepower: 280 horsepower
Torque: 236 pound-feet of torque
0 to 60 MPH: 5.2 seconds
Top Speed: 155 mph
Curb Weight: 3,219 pounds (1,460 kilos)
Power-to-Weight Ratio (horsepower per US tonne): 174

Read our full review on the 1999 BMW M3 Convertible

2004 Ford Mustang GT

10 Sports Cars Anyone Can Buy For Under $5,000 And Look Rich
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The 2004 Ford Mustang GT remains one of the most polarizing Mustangs in history. It’s the last year of the “Fox Body” ‘Stang and while there’s a population of Mustang fans who aren’t too fond of its design, some people have grown fond of it over time.

Fortunately, everyone agreed that the 2004 Mustang GT had the power and performance chops of a true muscle car. It was powered by a 4.6-liter V-8 engine that produced 268 horsepower and 302 pound-feet of torque. Those numbers helped the ’04 Mustang GT accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 5.4 seconds before maxing out at a top speed of 149 mph. Different versions of the 2004 Mustang GT can be found in the used-car market for around $5,000. These models typical have six-figure mileage, but with the proper modifications, you can get it back to running the way it used to.

Find one for sale on Cargurus.com

10 Sports Cars Anyone Can Buy For Under $5,000 And Look Rich
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2004 Ford Mustang GT specifications
Engine: 4.6-liter V-8 engine
Horsepower: 268 horsepower
Torque: 302 pound-feet of torque
0 to 60 MPH: 5.4 seconds
Top Speed: 149 mph
Curb Weight: 3,347 pounds (1,518 kilos)
Power-to-Weight Ratio (horsepower per US tonne): 160

2001 Audi TT 1.8T Roadster

10 Sports Cars Anyone Can Buy For Under $5,000 And Look Rich
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Have you ever driven a car that was not only nominated for North American Car of the Year in its heyday but also made it to Car and Driver’s Ten Best lists in 2000 and 2001? If you’re in the market for a first-generation Audi TT, that’s what you’re in store for.

The lightweight, two-door sports coupe has been Audi’s go-to entry-level sports car for the better part of two decades, but it’s the 2001 model that stood out.

The TT Roadster, in particular, looked the part of a proper sports car. It also featured a 1.8-liter turbocharged inline-four-cylinder engine that produced 178 horsepower and 173 pound-feet of torque. The peppy roadster could sprint from 0 to 60 mph in 8.4 seconds to go with a top speed of 138 mph.

Used versions of the 2001 TT with six-figure mileage sell for less than $5,000 these days. Look hard enough and you might even find one that comes in at a cheaper price.

Find one for sale on Carsforsale.com.

10 Sports Cars Anyone Can Buy For Under $5,000 And Look Rich
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2001 Audi TT 1.8T Roadster specifications
Engine: 1.8-liter turbocharged inline-four engine
Horsepower: 178 horsepower
Torque: 173 pound-feet of torque
0 to 60 MPH: 8.4 seconds
Top Speed: 138 mph
Curb Weight: 2,954 pounds (1,340 kilos)
Power-to-Weight Ratio (horsepower per US tonne): 121

2002 Pontiac Firebird Convertible

10 Sports Cars Anyone Can Buy For Under $5,000 And Look Rich
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The Mustang, Camaro, and Challenger weren’t the only muscle cars to ride around America back in the day. Other pony cars joined them, none more memorable than the legendary Pontiac Firebird.

A generation of people doesn’t remember the Firebird, but back in its day, it was every bit as potent and popular as any muscle car in the streets.

Classic Firebirds have shot up in price in recent years, but the last-generation of the muscle car — the one that was in the market from 1993 to 2002 — can still be had for bargain bin prices. The early 2000s models, in particular, can be scored for as little as $5,000.

That’s an insanely affordable price for a muscle car that still packs a 5.7-liter LS1 V-8 engine that produces 310 horsepower and 340 pound-feet of torque. You won’t find fourth-generation Firebirds with that much power on tap by virtue of their age, but with proper modifications, you can get these birds of prey back to their old selves.

Find one for sale on Cargurus.com

10 Sports Cars Anyone Can Buy For Under $5,000 And Look Rich
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2002 Pontiac Firebird Convertible specifications
Engine: 5.7-liter LS1 V-8 engine
Horsepower: 310 horsepower
Torque: 340 pound-feet of torque
0 to 60 MPH: Under five seconds
Top Speed: 165 mph
Curb Weight: 3,284 pounds (1,340 kilos)
Power-to-Weight Ratio (horsepower per US tonne): 189

2001 Mazda MX-5 Miata

10 Sports Cars Anyone Can Buy For Under $5,000 And Look Rich
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What else is there to say about Mazda’s plucky little roadster? The MX-5 Miata has been in our lives for more than 30 years, and its popularity hasn’t waned one bit.

Part of the MX-5’s appeal can be attributed to its energetic ride and another part can be attributed to its low price tag. Yes, the 2020 MX-5 comes with a base price of just $26,580, making it one of the best sports car purchases in the market today.

But in the event that you don’t have that kind of scratch, there are cheaper versions of the MX-5 that can be purchased for less than $5,000. An early-2000s MX-5, for example, can be bought for that amount — maybe even less depending on the condition.

These models came equipped with a 1.8-liter inline-four cylinder engine that produced 142 horsepower and 125 pound-feet of torque. These Miatas could jolt off the line, too, achieving a naught-to-60-mph sprint time of just 7.7 seconds before peaking at a top speed of 130 mph. As far as buck-worthy sports car purchases go, the MX-5 Miata has one of the highest ratings of the bunch.

Find a car for sale on Carsforsale.com

10 Sports Cars Anyone Can Buy For Under $5,000 And Look Rich
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2001 Mazda MX-5 Miata specifications
Engine: 1.8-liter inline-four cylinder engine
Horsepower: 142 horsepower
Torque: 125 pound-feet of torque
0 to 60 MPH: 7.7 seconds
Top Speed: 130 mph
Curb Weight: 2,387 pounds (1,083 kilos)
Power-to-Weight Ratio (horsepower per US tonne): 119

2003 Mazda RX-8 Sport

2005 Mazda RX-8
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Here’s another Mazda that became popular in its own right, even if it wasn’t able to sustain that popularity as well as the MX-5 Miata did.

As the successor to the RX-7 sports car, the RX-8 managed to have an eventful 10-year production run, spanning two generations.

The first-gen model arrived in 2003 and people often remember it for its freestyle rear doors. But the first-gen RX-8 had other qualities, too, none more important than its RENESIS 1.3-liter Wankel rotary engine that produced 189 horsepower and 159 pound-feet of torque.

This version of the RX-8 could split a 0-to-60-mph time in 6.1 seconds and hit a top speed of 146 mph. For a sports car that had to live up to the legacy left behind by the RX-7, the first-gen RX-8 did that, and then some. Unfortunately, the RX-8 fizzled out after a decade in the market, and these days, you can buy a used first-generation model for less than $5,000.

Find one for sale on Cargurus.com

2005 Mazda RX-8
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2003 Mazda RX-8 Sport specifications
Engine: 1.3-liter inline-four cylinder engine
Horsepower: 189 horsepower
Torque: 159 pound-feet of torque
0 to 60 MPH: 6.1 seconds
Top Speed: 146 mph
Curb Weight: 3,027 pounds (1,373 kilos)
Power-to-Weight Ratio (horsepower per US tonne): 125

Read our full review on the 2003 Mazda RX-8 Sport

1999 Mitsubishi 3000GT

10 Sports Cars Anyone Can Buy For Under $5,000 And Look Rich
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Like most cheap sports cars under $5,000, the Mitsubishi 3000 GT is a barnstorm of a find. Known as the GTO in Japan and as the Dodge Stealth in America, the 3000 GT lasted for just one generation.

It’s a shame because the sports car’s design has aged remarkably well, particularly those pop-up headlights that became the trend among performance cars of that era. The 3000GT was no slouch on the road, either. It was powered by a 3.0-liter V-6 engine that produced 219 horsepower and 204 pound-feet of torque. The high-powered VR-4 models command insane prices these days (think six figures), but the lower-spec models can be purchased for less than $5,000.

Find one for sale on Cargurus.com

10 Sports Cars Anyone Can Buy For Under $5,000 And Look Rich
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1999 Mitsubishi 3000GT specifications
Engine: 3.0-liter V-6 engine
Horsepower: 219 horsepower
Torque: 204 pound-feet of torque
0 to 60 MPH: Over five seconds
Top Speed: 158 mph
Curb Weight: 3,263 lb (1,480 kg)
Power-to-Weight Ratio (horsepower per US tonne): 134

1999 Porsche Boxster

1997 - 2004 Porsche Boxster (986)
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Imagine being able to buy a Porsche Boxster for under $5,000. Well, if you look hard enough, you might not have to imagine it anymore. The Boxster has been around since 1997, accumulating a trail of awards along the way, including being named the “Best Roadster in the World” by Autocar.

It’s even made it to the “10 Best” list of Car and Driver a staggering 11 times.

Obviously, you’re not going to be able to buy a modern Boxster for under $5,000. But first-generation versions of the Boxster can be had for that amount, maybe even less.

The 986-generation Boxster was powered by a 2.5-liter flat-six engine that produced 201 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque. It was able to accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 6.9 seconds on its way to a top speed of 149 mph. The Porsche Boxster is one of the best RWD sports cars under $5,000. No doubt about it.

Find one for sale on Cargurus.com

1997 - 2004 Porsche Boxster (986)
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1999 Porsche Boxster specifications
Engine: 2.5-liter flat-six engine
Horsepower: 201 horsepower
Torque: 177 pound-feet of torque
0 to 60 MPH: 6.9 seconds
Top Speed: 149 mph
Curb Weight: 2,910 lb (1,320 kg)
Power-to-Weight Ratio (horsepower per US tonne): 138

Read our full review on the 1999 Porsche Boxster

Kirby Garlitos
Automotive Aftermarket Expert - kirby@topspeed.com
Kirby’s first exposure into the world of automobiles happened when he caught Knight Rider on television as a five-year old boy. David Hasselhoff didn’t leave much of an impression on him (that happened later on in Baywatch), but KITT certainly did. To this day, Kirby remains convinced that he will one day own a car with the same ‘spirit’ as the original KITT (not the 2008 monstrosity). He doesn't know when that will be, but until then, he’s committed to expressing his love for KITT, and all cars for that matter, here at TopSpeed.  Read More
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