Anyone who isn’t up to speed in the car world will tell you that cars as investments are a terrible idea. And for the most part, they’d be absolutely right. Cars are depreciating assets and, especially if you buy new, you can lose a ton of money in the first few years.
That is, unless you play it smart, watching the car market like some people watch the stock market. It’s easier than you think, but you have to be very careful and make sure you make the right moves. We put together a list of 7 cheap sports cars that you can drive for free. You can enjoy them for a year or two, take them to the track, drive them to work, and get most of your money back, if not all of it!
Yes, it’s possible, but you have to do it with the right ideal car! So, buckle up. First up is a car from Lexus that was never really popular, but was a total underdog that we now look back on with really good vibes.
Lexus IS F
The IS F is a rare breed of cars from the era when more than just one manufacturer decided it was a smart idea to stuff a big meaty V8 into a compact sports sedan to make a refined muscle car. Lexus took a 5.0-liter V8, codenamed the 2UR, and put it into their popular, sexy IS sedan. The result was almost 420 horsepower sent right to the rear wheels.
This is a car that competed with the E90 BMW M3 with its fiery V8, as well as the first generation of the Mercedes C63. But what the IS F offered over both of these cars is reliability, and that proves to be the case today too, as they’re getting on more than ten years old. If you’re thinking of buying an M3 or C63 and owning it for free, it’s hard to if you start factoring in maintenance costs.
All the Lexus will ask you for is fluids, tires, and brakes. Regular maintenance will keep one on the road for a long time. You can find IS Fs today for less than $20,000 without looking too hard, and just like any other Lexus, mileage doesn’t really matter.
Next up is another muscle sedan with a V8, but one from another era.
Find a cheap Lexus IS F on AutoTempest!
E39 BMW M5
That’s right, the BMW M5. At its time, the BMW M5 was the fastest sedan in the world, and also was the car that celebrity Alex Roy used to set the Cannonball record in. Yeah, this was the car that set the Guinness World Record for the fastest time across the United States.
With its 4.0-liter V8 and 400 horsepower to the back wheels, with a slick-shifting six-speed manual, the E39 M5 is going up in value hard. Examples with 100,000 to 150,000 miles are available now for between $15,000 and $20,000, but they won’t stay there for long.
You see, BMW’s have a huge aftermarket and a ton of good independent shops to get them worked on. It’s not cheap to get your old BMW repaired at a dealer, but with a good independent, it can be very reasonable to keep it on the road.
The M5 delivers a driving experience no current sports sedan does, especially because of its manual transmission. It’s traditional in the best sense of the word.
Staying with the German theme, let’s look at something with a crest on the hood.
Find a cheap BMW M5 on AutoTempest!
While its twin, the Infiniti G35, was popular as well, it’s Nissan’s Z car that’s sitting steady on the used market right now. The two-seater, rear-drive 350Z came in either coupe or roadster form, and with the screaming 3.5-liter VQ-series V6 that Nissan still uses to this day. Z cars put out power in the 300 range, and the 350Z was around from 2003 until the 370Z came out in 2008.
They made enough of them to be seriously popular, and while it’s a bit on the pudgy side from a weight perspective, the balance is enough to make a fun, seriously engaging track car. Some years with the Rev-Up engine had to deal with oil consumption issues, but other than that, the 350Z was pretty bulletproof.
Nice 350Z’s are all over the country for less than $10,000, and there are even some rare NISMO models available with the unique suspension and track goodies for around $20,000.
Find a cheap Nissan 350Z on AutoTempest!
986 Porsche Boxster
Which enthusiast doesn’t want a P-car at some point in their life? We all grew up lusting after those air-cooled 911’s that have that timeless styling. Porsche introduced the Boxster in 1996 with the goal of bringing a smaller, more affordable alternative for those who couldn’t quite swing a 911 at the time.
Now, though, the Boxster is one of those cars that’s looked at differently. It’s not the poor man’s Porsche by any means, and is a legitimate mid-engined sports car with its power sent to the correct wheels.
There’s one big issue, the IMS bearing, that can require serious money to repair if it hasn’t been addressed. But, there are plenty of enthusiasts that have early Boxsters with the IMS addressed prematurely, and these are the ones you want to buy.
Having under $10,000 in your wallet will still buy you a clean Boxster nowadays, and because so many were sold, there are even the Boxster S’s with the bigger engine, more power, and a better suspension available in that price range.
Let’s head across to the United States now and look at something from our own soil.
Find a cheap Porsche Boxster on AutoTempest!
Chevrolet Corvette Z06
The C6 Z06 is one of those cars that brings serious track power to those on a budget. Okay, it’s not quite as cheap as an early Boxster or a decent Miata, but it’s totoally easy to find a nice Z06 for roughly $25,000.
And that’s not a lot of money at all considering you’re getting a 7.0-liter V8, naturally-aspirated, with 505 horsepower. That’s just so much power. It’s 505 horsepower of American muscle and a hairy-chested manual transmission. This is a serious car, and one that doesn’t have many problems at all.
The darn things are made of fiberglass, so the body won’t rot, but because the frame still will, it might be worth finding a car in a southern climate. This won’t be hard, because there are plenty of Boomers in Florida who love their Corvettes.
And, on top of it all, the Z06 will realistically see well over 20 miles per gallon on the highway if you go easy on it. The Corvette just might be the most horsepower you can get in this price range, and with its added reliability, it’s not likely to depreciate.
Even if you look at cars that are 30 years old, how many do you see with huge horsepower numbers and an enthusiast cult following that are worth less than $10,000? See? There aren’t any, and that’s what makes the ‘Vette something that you can enjoy a few track days with and sell without losing any money.
Time to skip back across the pond to Japan and look at a two-seat convertible.
Find a cheap Chevrolet Corvette Z06 on AutoTempest!
They bolted a small turbocharger onto the regular MX-5 engines, and while it’s not as insane as the ones put out by our friends at Flyin’ Miata, it’s still desirable and not likely to lose any value over the next few years.
You see, the Mazdaspeed version was sold from 2004 to 2005 and hit 60 miles per hour in just 6.7 seconds. It got an upgraded transmission, better Bilstein shocks, bigger tires, and 17-inch Racing Hart wheels.
Just over 5,000 were sold in the USA, and they have hit their depreciation floor. You can find Mazdaspeed Miatas for less than $10,000 without looking too hard. And luckily, most of them were bought by older enthusiasts who wanted to step up from their regular Miatas, or were just jumping into a mid-life crisis.
So most of the Mazdaspeed versions we found online look like really clean, cared for examples with mature owners.
Staying within the Mazda family is something that you can probably find even cheaper!
Find a cheap Mazdaspeed MX-5 on AutoTempest!
The RX-8 is probably one of the most unique cars at any price, with a proprietary rotary engine and serious character. It revs to 9,000 RPM with the six-speed manual and feels great to drive. The 1.3-liter rotary is a fun little unit, and these cars are less than $5,000 on the market all day long. It’s a serious grand tourer, with excellent highway manners and sweet steering response.
There’s only one problem, so let’s address the elephant in the room, they drink gas and oil like it’s nobody’s business. Rotary engines are fun as long as you don’t need any torque, but the RX-8 is one of those cars that is incredible to own if you do your research and take care of it.
We’ve seen plenty of owners take their cars to 150,000 miles with no issues. The value point to the RX-8 is that they’ve bottomed out too, and mint cars are online for just under $10,000. Grab one while you can, enjoy it, and sell it for the same amount next year!
Find a cheap Mazda RX-8 on AutoTempest!