Top 10 sports cars under $20,000
A new sports car is priced from $25,000 and up, but what about used cars? We researched the used car market and found plenty of choices in the 15K-22K price range. Our requirement for this list:
1. Available in sufficient numbers in the U.S.
2. Minimum 0 to 60 mph time: 6.5 seconds.
3. Model year 2000 or newer.
We have updated this list for 2017.
Chevrolet Corvette C6
The Corvette is a classic rear-wheel drive two-seater sports car with a lightweight body and a small-block V8. The C5 Corvette (1997-2004) is available as a coupe, convertible or a hardtop. The C6 (2005-2013) comes as a coupe or convertible. With the transmission in the back, the Corvette has nearly perfect weight distribution and handles exceptionally well. A 6-speed manual transmission is available, but three quarters of Corvettes we found in this price range have an automatic. The high-performance Corvette Z06 has more power and comes only with a manual. The ride is firm, so it is probably not a very good choice for a daily driver. The Corvette holds its value very well, so you won't lose a lot when you decide to sell it. The C5 Corvette is rated above average for reliability by Consumer Reports. The 0 to 60 times
: 1998 Corvette: 4.8 seconds
. 2004 Corvette Z06: 4.2 seconds
Ford Mustang GT 2003-2015
This iconic pony car is widely available and we even found a few SVT Cobra and Shelby models for under $20,000. The 4-th and 5-th generation Mustang is more of a straight-line-power muscle car with 2+2 seating, although it handles well even with the solid rear axle in the back. Ford offered an independent rear suspension (IRS) in the 1999-2004 SVT Cobra, but the old-school solid rear axle works just fine and fits better into the Mustang "raw power" image. Of course, the 2015-plus Mustang again comes with an independent rear suspension. The V8 offers plenty of torque and sounds terrific. The Mustang is, for the most part, reliable and not very expensive to maintain. The interior is much improved in the sixth generation (2015-present). The 2003 Mustang GT accelerates from 0 to 60 mph
in 5.6 seconds
. The 2015 GT makes 60 mph
in 4.5 seconds
Dodge Challenger R/T, SRT8 2008-2014
The Challenger is the ultimate coast-to-coast freeway cruiser. It's smooth, comfortable and roomy enough for a family trip. In fact, the 5-seater Challenger is the most spacious American muscle car. The 16.2-cubic-feet trunk can easily accommodate your travel bags and the 60/40 split foldable rear seats allow even more space for bulky items. The torquey V8 roars beautifully when pushed. The Challenger R/T comes with 5.7 L V8, while the rare SRT8 offered 6.1 L V8 until 2010 and the crazy 392 HEMI 6.4 L V8 from 2011 on. The 0 to 60 time
for the Challenger R/T is around 5.1 seconds
. If that's not enough, the 2011+ 470-hp SRT8 can reach 60 mph
in just 4.6 seconds
Subaru Impreza WRX/WRX STi
The Impreza WRX/WRX STi is a small all-wheel drive rally car with a turbocharged "boxer" engine for low center of gravity. For under 20K, you can buy the rugged second-generation sedan or wagon, or the softer and larger third-generation sedan or hatchback WRX. The WRX STi has more power, stronger 6-speed manual gearbox, better suspension, brakes and a few other mods. The second-generation 2004-2007 WRX STi comes only as a sedan, while the 2008-2010 WRX STi is a hatch only. Subaru Impreza WRX is well-built and reliable, but a lot will depend on how hard it was driven by previous owners. The 0 to 60 mph
times (Stock): 2006 WRX: 6.0 seconds
. 2006 WRX STi: 4.5 seconds
. 2008 WRX STi: 4.8 seconds
BMW E46 M3 / E90-E93 335i
The E46 M3 comes as a rear-wheel drive coupe or convertible. With 330 horsepower and sport suspension to match it, you will go through a lot of tires in this Ultimate Driving Machine. It's also comfortable enough to work as a daily driver. With the usual 3.2 L inline-6 under the hood, the E46 M3 is available with a 6-speed manual or SMG (automated manual) transmission.
The 2007-plus 335i (in the photo) is powered by a twin-turbo 3.0 L inline-6. It comes as a sedan (E90), coupe (E92) and convertible (E93). In terms of reliability, the 3-series is not too bad, but it is not a Honda - if you enjoy doing repairs yourself, this car will keep you busy. Parts are expensive too. Research the BMW forums before buying, as there is a lot of specifics. Many owners advise, for example, to modify the rear suspension of the E48 M3 to prevent expensive subframe repairs. The 0 to 60 mph
time for the e46 M3: 4.8 seconds
. The 2011 335i with a manual transmission accelerates to 60 mph
in 5.4 seconds
You can't go wrong with this small roadster. The S2000 is a rear-wheel drive two-seater with a high-revving 4-cylinder engine redlining at 9000 RPM and only a 6-speed manual transmission. With 50/50 front/rear weight distribution, this thing is a lot of fun to drive, although you have to rev the engine past 6000 rpms to get to the power. For a daily driver it's cramped and a bit noisy, but it won't bother you once you get the chance to see what it can do. It's also very reliable, although it might be hard to find the S2K that hasn't been raced. The tuner market is huge for it, but the insurance could be very expensive, as the S2000 is one of the most stolen cars. The S2000 0 to 60 mph
time: 5.8 seconds
. Photo credit: Honda.
Nissan 350Z / 370Z
The 350Z/370Z is a rear-wheel drive V6 powered two-seater available as a hatchback-coupe or convertible. The Z is the second most widely available sports car after the Mustang. The good news is that almost half of those we found for sale are equipped with a manual transmission. The 350Z has plenty of power and is fun to toss around the corners, but the ride is firm and noisy and the cabin is cramped. Open the hood, and you will find the very popular 3.5 L V6 VQ engine. The Nissan GT-R's V6 is loosely based on the VQ motor and even looks similar. The 370Z replaced the 350Z since 2009. The Z is reliable, but there were a few issues with tires wearing fast, engine oil consumption and some transmission glitches that you probably want to research first. The 350Z reaches 0 to 60 mph in 5.5 seconds. The 370Z Nismo with the 3.7-liter V6 sprints 0 to 60 mph
in 4.9 seconds
Chevrolet Camaro 5-th gen
The 5th generation Camaro reappeared for 2010 and is already widely available on the used car market. It is a rear-wheel drive 4-seater muscle car with a refined suspension and powertrain available as a two-door coupe or convertible. The Camaro comes with a V8 or V6 engine and an automatic or six-speed manual transmission. Of course, the 3.6 L direct-injected V6 is no slouch, delivering 304 horsepower. The Camaro SS is powered by the 6.2 L LS3 V8. The interior is nicely done, although the rear seat is fairly small. The outward visibility could be a deal breaker, but if you can live with it, it's a steal for this price. The 0 to 60 time: V6 manual: 4.9 seconds. The 2013 Camaro SS will get to 60 mph in 4.3 seconds.
Infiniti G35/37/Q60 Coupe
The Infiniti G35 coupe shares its rear-wheel drive platform with the Nissan 350Z but it's more refined and comfortable, which makes it more suitable as a daily driver. The G35/37 handling is often compared to the BMW 3-series. Reliability is above average. It's an upscale car, so you are more likely to find it in good condition, than, for example, Subaru WRX. The G37 Coupe replaced the G35 for 2008 model year. The G37 is faster and has a more luxurious interior. It's also the first production car to use the VVEL technology, where the amount of intake air can be controlled directly by the intake valves rather than the throttle for faster response. The Q60 took over the G37 spot in the Infiniti lineup in 2014. The 0 to 60 mph times: G35 Coupe: 5.5 seconds, G37 Coupe: 5.3 seconds.
Reader's Choice: Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX, X
Since 2013, we were running the poll for one more car to include in this list. You, our readers made it clear: Mitsubishi Evo won by more than 1000 votes over the second-place Pontiac GTO. The Lancer Evolution comes with all-wheel drive and the 2.0L 4-cylinder turbocharged engine
mated to a six-speed twin-clutch automatic or 5-speed manual transmission. The 2010 Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 0 to 60 time is 4.6 seconds. The reliability strongly depends on the way the car was treated by previous owners.
Volkswagen GTI – plenty are available for under $20,000. The GTI is a fun to drive FWD hatchback with a turbocharged engine and a nicely done interior. The 0 to 60 time is 6.1 seconds. Reliability is not great. !
Mazdaspeed3 – widely available fast FWD hatchback with a 2.3L turbo engine. The 0 to 60 time is under 6 seconds.
Pontiac GTO 2004-2006 The GTO is a rear-wheel drive 2+2 coupe with a 5.7L or 6.0L V8. The GTO is a rebadged Australian Holden Monaro that was based on the European Opel Omega. It's basically a European-looking version of an American muscle car.
Mazda RX-8 – handles very well, redlines at 9,000 rpm and sounds great doing it. The 0 to 60 time is 6.4 seconds. The short manual shifter is excellent but… There is practically no torque off the line and would you really recommend the RX-8 to a friend unless he or she is willing to learn all the tricks of driving and maintaining a rotary engine?
Mazda MX-5 Miata – It's a good candidate for a top 10 fun-to-drive cars, but it's a very small two-seater and it's not really fast. If you are over 6″ tall, you are going to have a hard time getting in and out of this car. Plus, the 0-to 60 time is about 6.8 seconds.
Pontiac G8 – gorgeous car riding on the same platform as the Camaro. Plenty are available for this price.
Acura NSX – Yeah, right. The lowest price is around $40,000.
Porsche Cayman – excellent rear-wheel drive, rear mid-engined two-seater; currently priced around 30K and higher.
Porsche Boxster / Boxster S 2000-2006 – nice one, the 0 to 60 time for Boxster S is around 6 seconds. Still, it's more of a roadster, isn't it?
Pontiac Solstice GXP / Saturn Sky Red Line 2007-2009 – These twins come with a turbocharged 260-hp 4-cylinder engine. The 0 to 60 time: 5.5 seconds.
Audi TT – there are plenty of 2000-2006 Audi TT for sale, but it's really not that fast. The 0 to 60 time is in the 6.7 – 7.4 seconds range. The 2008 and newer TT is faster, but only a few of them are available for this price.