These performance cars are cheap, fast, and have all had previous owners

With the prices of cars increasing, a $20,000 used sports car has become harder to obtain these days. Not too long ago, you could afford a decent runner for $20,000 and still have enough change to buy a few cosmetic kits. But that’s no longer the case today, or at least, not for the most part. Look hard enough, though, and you can still score some good deals on used sports cars for $20,000 or less. These cars aren’t world-beaters by any stretch of the imagination, but they should still have enough juice to get the adrenaline flowing. They’re out there in the world. All you need to do is look for them.

Honda S2000 1999 – 2009

Top 10 Fastest Used Cars Under $20K
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The Honda S2000 is arguably one of the most desirable Japanese sports cars in recent memory. The Japanese roadster is beloved for its charm and character, but don’t sleep on its power and performance credentials, too. The S2000 is powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that produces as much as 247 horsepower and 161 pound-feet of torque. That kind of power allows the S2000 to accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in around 5.5 seconds and hit a top speed of 149 mph.

Granted, used S2000 models will likely have less power to offer, but the roadster can still pack a punch when called upon. It also helps that the S2000’s design has a classic look to it that has yet to go out of style. Best of all, you can score a model for less than $20,000. Autolist.com has a few options on the table for as little as $14,900 for models with more than 70,000 miles under their belt.

Honda S2000 1999 – 2009 specifications
Engine 2.0-liter four-cylinder
Horsepower 247 HP
Torque 161 LB-FT
0 to 60 mph 5.5 seconds
Top Speed 149 mph
Price $14,900

Read our full review on the Honda S2000 1999 – 2009

Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 2008 -2016

2008 - 2015 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X High Resolution Exterior Wallpaper quality
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Mitsubishi doesn’t have the sparkliest of reputations these days, but it does have one model that still captures the imagination of sports car lovers the world over. The Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution was produced from 1992 to 2016, and, to this day, it’s still considered as one of the purest all-wheel-drive performance cars in the business. That’s high praise for an automaker that has struggled to gain any traction in the industry for the better part of two decades now. All told, the Lancer Evolution spanned ten generations, and, in its most recent iteration — the Evo X — the four-door performance car relied on a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that produced as much as 291 horsepower and 300 pound-feet of torque. Combine that with its all-wheel-drive setup, and the Lancer Evo was as fast as it was fun to drive.

Different versions of different generation models of the Lancer Evolution are available in the used-car market. Depending on the generation, trim option, and general condition, you can score one for as little as $11,000 on Cargurus.com. Spend more, and you can buy one with fewer miles in the odometer for around $20,000.

Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 2008 -2016 specifications
Engine 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder
Horsepower 291 HP
Torque 300 LB-FT
0 to 60 mph 4.7 seconds
Top Speed 157 mph
Price $11,000

Read our full review on the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 2008 -2016

Subaru WRX STi 2008 -2010

Top 10 Fastest Used Cars Under $20K
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It’s harder to secure a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution these days than it is to secure a Subaru WRX STI. You can choose either of the two models, and you’ll still get a well-regarded four-door performance sedan. The Subaru has garnered more attention, in part because it’s more readily available than its Lancer Evo counterpart. Of course, that’s not ht only reason why you should buy a WRX STI.

Another reason is the Subie’s iconic 2.0-liter four-cylinder boxer engine that produces more than 300 horsepower and 300 pound-feet of torque. The powerful engine is complemented by a six-speed manual transmission that sends all that power to all four wheels of the sedan. All of this makes the WRX STI one of the most fun performance cars to drive on the road. You can’t go wrong owning one. Depending on the year and trim, owning a second-hand Subaru WRX STI is easier than it sounds. There are a lot of them available in the used-car market, including over at Cargurus, where you can buy a base 2015 WRX STI with 50,000 miles on it for $20,000.

Subaru WRX STi 2008 -2010 specifications
Engine 2.0-liter four-cylinder boxer
Horsepower 300 HP
Torque 300 LB-FT
0 to 60 mph 4.8 seconds
Top Speed 158 mph
Price $20,000

Read our full review on the Subaru WRX STi 2008 -2010

Ford Mustang GT 2005 – 2014

2010 Ford Mustang
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A base 2020 Ford Mustang is priced from $26,670. It’s not an expensive car relative to this list, but you could also look at it that way, especially if you’re in the market for a Mustang GT. For what it’s worth, a base 2020 Mustang GT starts at over $35,000, so that’s a pretty big gap from your $20,000 budget.

The question begs: can you actually buy a used Mustang GT for less than $20,000? The answer, of course, is yes. The caveat is that you’re going to have to settle for an older version of the Mustang GT. Typically, second-hand versions of 2015MY and 2016MY Mustang GTs sell for around $25,000 to $27,000. Opt for a more recent 2018MY Mustang GT, and your cost could go up to $30,000. But if you’re fine with, say, a 2012 Mustang GT with over 50,000 miles in its odometer, you can score one for less than $20,000. Don’t sweat the age and condition too much; even if you’re buying a model that’s had its share of runs on the road, you’re still getting a muscle car that’s powered by a 4.6-liter V-8 engine that produces 300 horsepower. Those figures can still help you get where you need to go when you’re in a hurry.

2012 Ford Mustang GT Price
Engine 4.6-liter V-8
Horsepower 300 HP
Torque 325 LB-FT
0 to 60 mph 4.9 seconds
Top Speed 146 mph
Price $20,000

Read our full review on the Ford Mustang GT 2005 – 2014

BMW M3 E46 2000 -2006

2001 - 2003 BMW M3 E46
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The BMW M3 E46 is arguably one of the best versions of the M3 to ever come out. It was available in the market from 2000 to 2006, and it made a lasting impact on a lot of people when it was around. Part the M3 E46’s appeal revolved around its stature as one of the best — if not the best — models BMW has ever built. It was lauded for being engaging, fun to drive, reliable, and all-out fun to drive. The M3 E46, in particular, added incredible power to that mix, drawing its juice from a 3.2-liter inline-six engine that produced 333 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque. The M3 E46 could sprint from 0 to 60 mph in just 5.1 seconds and hit a top speed of 155 mph.

It’s not an exaggeration to say that a big reason why there are so many M3 E46 models in the used-car market is that so many people the model when it was in the market. That’s why used models of the M3 E46 can be bought for as little as $8,000 to $10,000. It’s not that the car stinks; it’s that there are so many out there.

BMW M3 E46 2000 -2006 specifications
Engine 3.2-liter inline-six
Horsepower 333 HP
Torque 262 LB-FT
0 to 60 mph 5.1 seconds
Top Speed 155 mph
Price $10,000

Read our full review on the BMW M3 E46 2000 -2006

Chevrolet Corvette C5 1997 - 2004

Top 10 Fastest Used Cars Under $20K
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There is a generation of car lovers — I count myself in this group — who grew up with posters of the Chevrolet Corvette C5 on their walls. Introduced in 1997, the Corvette C5 enjoyed a seven-year run as the Chevy of our dreams until it was replaced by the Corvette C6 in 2004. The Corvette C5 is appealing for many reasons for many people. It could be that it was the last Corvette to carry pop-up headlamps. It could be that it was the first Corvette to feature a head-up display. It could also be because the Corvette C5 lived up to its billing as a sports car. It was powered by a 5.7-liter V-8 engine that produced 350 horsepower and 350 pound-feet of torque. Those numbers helped the Corvette C5 sprint from 0 to 60 mph in 5.3 seconds on its way to a top speed of 175 mph.

Whatever the reason, the Corvette C5 remains a fan favorite among Corvette lovers. Fortunately, there are enough Corvette C5 models in the second-hand market to satisfy a lot of the cravings for this particular model. Go to TrueCar.com, and there’s no shortage of options to choose from. Some used versions of the Corvette C5 cost as low as $7,000, though those models have serious miles — usually more than 100,000 miles — under their belt. Opt for a model with fewer miles in its odometer, and your costs could go up to as high as $20,000. It still classifies as a car that you can buy for less than $20,000, so it still works out for you.

Chevrolet Corvette C5 specifications
Engine 5.7-liter V-8
Horsepower 350 HP
Torque 350 LB-FT
0 to 60 mph 5.3 seconds
Top Speed 175 mph
Price $7,000

Read our full review on the Chevrolet Corvette C5 1997 - 2004

Dodge Challenger 2009 -2015

Top 10 Fastest Used Cars Under $20K High Resolution Exterior
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When it comes to the Dodge Challenger, certain models are well out of your price range. Don’t even start dreaming about the possibility of buying a Challenger SRT Demon for $20,000. That’s not happening for as long as that model is functional. The good news is that there are versions of the Challenger that are affordable to penny pinchers like us. Dodge Challenger models from 2009 to 2015, in particular, can be bought for less than $20,000. A 2010 model with 95,000 miles on it is available on Truecar.com for less than $8,000. If you want a “newer” model, you can opt for a 2014 Challenger R/T Manual with less than 30,000 miles under its belt for just $15,400.

Base model versions of the Challenger are powered by a 3.5-liter V-6 engine that produces 250 horsepower and 250 pound-feet of torque. If you want a more powerful version, you can go with models that are equipped with either a 5.7-liter HEMI V-8 engine or a 6.1-liter HEMI V-8 engine. The Challenger R/T HEMI 5.7 packs 372 horsepower and 398 pound-feet of torque while the more power-packed Challenger SRT8 had 425 horsepower to play around with. There are plenty of Challenger models with different trim options in the second-hand market. You can choose which one suits you and your wallet the best.

2009 Dodge Challenger specifications
Engine 6.1-liter HEMI V-8
Horsepower 425 HP
Torque 420 LB-FT
0 to 60 mph 4.5 seconds
Top Speed 171 mph
Price $20,000

Read our full review on the Dodge Challenger 2009 -2015

Pontiac GTO 2004 – 2006

2006 Pontiac GTO
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Here’s one model that you won’t find anywhere else other than the used-car market. The fifth-generation Pontiac GTO lived a short two-year life before it was canned. It didn’t last long enough to make an impression to a lot of people, but even with its short life, the GTO was able to serve notice that it wasn’t one to be messed around with. As the last model to wear the iconic “GTO” badge, the fifth-generation Pontiac GTO lived up to the billing, thanks in large part to a 5.7-liter V-8 engine that produced 350 horsepower and 365 pound-feet of torque. The GTO wasn’t the prettiest performance car you can buy back then, but it sure packed the kind of meat that allowed it to sprint from 0 to 60 mph in 5.3 seconds on its way to a top speed of 159 mph.

As is often the case with used cars, prices vary depending on the model year and the general condition of the car. Over at Truecar.com, a 2004 GTO with over 120,000 miles in its odometer is available for just under $9,000. Meanwhile, a 2005 GTO with less than 8,000 miles in its readout is available for $20,000.

2004-2006 Pontiac GTO specifications
Engine 5.7-liter V-8
Horsepower 350 HP
Torque 365 LB-FT
0 to 60 mph 5.3 seconds
Top Speed 159 mph
Price $9,000

Read our full review on the Pontiac GTO 2004 – 2006

Chevrolet Camaro SS 2010 -2015

Top 10 Fastest Used Cars Under $20K
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The fifth-generation Chevrolet Camaro was a return to form for Chevy’s resident muscle car. Introduced in 2010 after an eight-year hiatus for the Camaro nameplate, the fifth-gen Camaro not only reignited interest in the Camaro as a muscle car, but it also sparked a renaissance of sorts for the entire pony car industry. Of all the versions of the Camaro that came out in that era, the SS was arguably the most sought-after. It wasn’t as fast as the Z/28, but the Camaro SS still packed an impressive 6.2-liter V-8 unit that produced 426 horsepower and 420 pound-feet of torque. Just as important as the Camaro’s power figures were its performance times. In full bloom, the Camaro SS could sprint from 0 to 60 mph in just 4.6 seconds on its way to a capped top speed of 155 mph.

As popular as the fifth-generation Camaro SS was during its time in the market, there are a handful of models that are available in the used-car market that you can buy for under $20,000. In fact, the price range for a used Camaro SS comes up at around $10,000 to $15,000 depending on its condition. For a model that defined the muscle car wars in the early part of the decade, the prices for a used Camaro SS are affordable, to say the least.

2010-2015 Chevrolet Camaro SS specifications
Engine 6.2-liter V-8
Horsepower 426 HP
Torque 420 LB-FT
0 to 60 mph 4.6 seconds
Top Speed 155 mph
Price $15,000

Read our full review on the Chevrolet Camaro SS 2010 -2015

Cadillac CTS-V 2009 -2010

2009 Cadillac CTS-V
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2009 Cadillac CTS-V

You don’t often see a car with over 500 horsepower under its hood sell for less than $20,000, but that’s exactly what you’re in for if you’re in the market for a second-generation Cadillac CTS-V. The four-door performance sedan was a monster in a lot of ways. It didn’t carry the same posh elegance as you’d expect from an automaker like Cadillac, but the truth of the matter was the CTS-V didn’t need to look good. It was fast, and it was powerful. That’s all that mattered. At the heart of all that was a 6.2-liter supercharged V-8 engine that produced a whopping 556 horsepower and 551 pound-feet of torque. As incredible as those figures were, the CTS-V was more than just a powerful sedan; it was fast, too. The four-door rocket was capable of hitting 60 mph from an idle position in just 3.9 seconds and tops out at 191 mph.

Incredibly — or maybe not — a used second-generation CTS-V doesn’t fetch a lot of scratch. While most models still command more than $20,000 in the used-car market, there are some that you can score for just a shade under $20,000. You’re going to have to be resourceful to find one, but they’re out there.

2009-2010 Cadillac CTS-V specifications
Engine 6.2-liter supercharged V-8
Horsepower 556 HP
Torque 551 LB-FT
0 to 60 mph 3.9 seconds
Top Speed 191 mph
Price $20,000

Read our full review on the Cadillac CTS-V 2009 -2010

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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