Congratulations! You’ve just gotten your driver’s license and now it’s time to look for a car. Your first car is a perfect chance to make a statement. Don’t you want to be the cool kid at your school? That’s why we’re putting this list together, so you can find the most fun, the most reliable, and the cheapest first car for your late-night study sessions.
So, here’s our list of the best cheap, fun, and reliable first cars for car enthusiasts under $10,000! Buckle up, this one is going to be fun! Let’s go!
Who here likes “stance”? We all know there’s one company that does slow and low like no other, good old Volkswagen. When most people think Volkswagen, they think of the Beetle. While that’s not the coolest car out there, there’s a hidden gem in the Volkswagen lineup. The Golf is the gold standard for fun, cheap hatchbacks that drive great, are very well-equipped for the price, and have a surprising knack for reliability.
I know what everyone says, “Oh German cars are too expensive to maintain.” But, hear us out on this one. Let’s start on the driving aspect. The Golf was originally built as a replacement for the Beetle way back in 1974. With front-wheel drive becoming cheaper to produce and easier to package, VW saw the benefit of ditching the aging Beetle with a new platform.
The new Golf sold like hot cakes in Europe. We didn’t get the Golf until the Mk2 in 1983. A few years after the Mk1 was introduced, VW gave the people what they really wanted, a hot version of the already much loved People’s Car. The first GTI got a souped-up version of the 1.6-liter four and gave the public simple, sporty goodness in a family hatchback.
Okay, history lesson over, the Golf is still a great car and you’re spoiled for choice for your first car. The GTI is obviously the best in the bunch. With our price range, we may have to rule that one out, unless you find a higher mileage Mk5, but that may fall a little flat on reliability. The regular gas- and diesel-powered models are what catch our eye for this list.
The 2.5-liter 5-cylinder still makes a respectable 170 horsepower and is uber reliable. The 2.0-liter diesel is also a great choice for its longevity and insane 236 pound-feet of torque. That low end grunt is perfect for sending you through the twisties. Plus, the Golf looks awesome whether you decided to lower it a little, or slam that thing on bags and scrape the pavement. How cool does that sound, fellow kids?
So, for our choice, we want to look at the Mk6 Golf to balance out the newest model with our available price range. We did happen to find a GTI for sale within our price range. It was a little high in mileage, but with proper maintenance, these cars can run high miles without breaking a sweat. So, if you want to tie a little practicality to your first fun car, the Golf may be your choice.
Find a cheap Volkswagen Golf on AutoTempest!
Honda Civic Si
Let’s keep the front-wheel drive party going with another cheap commuter car hero. What happens when you take one of the best selling cars of all time and add some spice? You get the Honda Civic Si! All small Japanese commuter cars have that same feel to them. They’re like really good kitchen appliances, they always get the job done, will run forever, and just feel well-built.
That’s what the Honda Civic is, it’s the ultimate commuter car that just so happens to be kind of fun. The original Civic was made back in 1972 as a way for Honda to give Americans a small, fuel-efficient car to combat the oil crisis. It also just so happened to have fully independent suspension! So, it’s a light, agile, and thanks to a rev-happy little engine, a particularly shouty little commuter.
A few years on and the first Si came to American shores as the CRX Si, basically a Honda Civic with a slightly boxier design, but still a Civic at heart. The Civic Si persists to the most recent generation of Civic, and thanks to Honda reliability, even older generations are likely to get you to school every single day. Sorry, you can’t use “my car broke down” as an excuse anymore.
The 8th or 9th generations of Civic are going to be on our radar for this list. The 9th generation Civic Si comes with a 205 horsepower VTEC and a six-speed manual transmission as the only available option. This is the ultimate do-all, reliable tuner car. Go to any car meet and you’re bound to see a few Civics, and they almost always look good. Tastefully modded the Civics are always a delight to see.
So, getting down to the price, 8th generation Civics are going to fit in our price range a little easier than newer models, but enough research could get you a good example under $10,000. We were able to find a 2008 model with 64,000 miles. That’s Honda reliability and VTEC sportyness all in one package!
Find a cheap Honda Civic Si on AutoTempest!
Okay, now we can move onto a few options your parents won’t be so crazy about. We’re talking rear-wheel drive sports cars that you can own for under $10,000! And it all starts with the Corvette. I know what you’re thinking, Oh, a Corvette? That means we’re talking about Z06’s, right? Not necessarily, but hear us out.
The C5 Corvette is the one generation that everyone thinks of, but we’re taking a look back one generation at the C4. While the C5 is a more refined generation for the ‘Vette, the C4 has a style all its own. The late 80’s and early 90’s models are stuck so far in the past that they’re actually cool now. Digital dashboards, targa tops, a cassette player, the C4 has all of that in spades.
Plus, you get tire-smoking American horsepower being sent to the rear-wheels, all from one of the legendary Chevy LS motors. You could also happen to come across the ZR1 model, which was developed by Chevy with help from Lotus. And Lotus happens to know a thing or two about making sporty cars.
This model also happens to have the sweet ninja-star wheels. If that isn’t quite your speed, then there are plenty of other special editions you can dig up. For instance, we found a gold 1984 model for just $7,900! The C4 is rad in all the right ways, and just imagine how cool you’ll feel walking out of the DMV into your Corvette.
Find a cheap Chevrolet Corvette on AutoTempest!
The Corvette is one of the best examples of American muscle at a dirt cheap price, but what if you want to ride in style? Let’s say you want the same aggressive performance on a platform from the Land of the Rising Sun? Then we have the G35.
The G35 is a tried and true platform. It’s been around for a very long time, and is most likely going to stick around. That’s how you know its a good chassis. The sweet secret of the G-series Infiniti is that it sits on the same chassis and uses the same engine as the Nissan 350Z.
Basically, it’s another version of Nissan’s legendary performance coupe. Plus, since Infiniti is the luxury division for Nissan, you get that level of performance with a well-equipped ride. Comfort, luxury and performance prowess at the drop of a hat. This is a triple threat!
The G-series, particularly the G35 coupe, still looks good. Even the models from 10 years ago look modern and well designed. We’d also highly recommend searching for a rear-wheel drive model, so you can get into some after-school hooning shenanigans.
The G35 also has a huge tuner community behind it, being that it’s based off of the 350Z. The G35 is also going to be reliable thanks to the Nissan V6. All of this is going to be available to you, for under $10,000! We found a 2006 model for just under $9,000. So, get your spare tires ready, because you’ll be burning rubber in style thanks to your new G35.
Japanese luxury cars are all well and good, but what if our high schooler wants to celebrate a little more American pride? Well, that question can be answered with our next entry, the Ford Mustang. There’s few things more American than the Ford Mustang. It was built with the idea of giving the enthusiasts of the USA the perfect car. It’s a sports car and a family car all in one.
The very first pony car set in motion one of the biggest movements in automotive history. Muscle cars were a thing in America, and people lover it! Eventually, the Mustang evolved from the all-American pony car to a full-blown muscle car with special editions like the Mach 1 and the Shelby 350.
And then the oil crisis hit, killing the muscle car kingdom. Not all hope was lost, though, because the 90’s brought the main muscle players back. The Mustang was brought back with the Fox-4 platform in 1994. This is the Mustang sweet spot on the used market. Most of the classic muscle and pony cars are way too expensive thanks to price inflation, but the 1994 to 2008 models are in the perfect price range for new drivers.
That’s two different generations of Mustang to choose from, all with their own different trim levels and engines to choice from. Being that the Mustang is a simple American V8-powered horse, it’s going to be as reliable as you need it to be. Just make sure to keep it away from crowds, we’ve all seen the memes.
We found a 1994 model with a manual transmission and that all-important V8 for around $9,000. So, here’s your chance to make your first car a part of American history.
Mustangs, Infinitis, and Corvettes are great and all, but when asked the question “What car should I buy?”, things always seem to boil down to one answer. And we have to include it on this list, the Mazda Miata! The Miata is always the answer.
What should I get if I want a good weekend cruiser? Miata. What should I get if I want a good autocrosser? Miata. What should I get if I’m a young guy who just got their license? Well, a Miata can answer that question too. The Miata is one of the best performance convertibles available for cheap on the used market.
The Miata was first made because Mazda noticed several enthusiasts complaining about their British roadsters being in the garage all the time. More often than not, Lotuses, Austin Healeys, and other British roadsters spent weekends being worked on rather than actually driving. Those days passed, and the British roadster faded into history.
Mazda then came to the rescue by giving the world the first Miata in 1989. Unsurprisingly, the light, spry, and well-tuned little convertible took the car world by storm. The first Miata, otherwise known as the NA, took home multiple awards upon release and cemented the little coupe in sports car history.
The NB, NC and current ND models have all stayed faithful to the same ideology, making sure the Miata stayed popular throughout the decades. It’s also reliable, and if you do ever come across an issue, they’re super easy to work on.
You really can’t go wrong with any generation of the Miata, each one is special and makes the perfect platform for basically whatever you want. Do you want the perfect car for weekend autocross? You’re all set. Do you want to drift the crap out of it? Go for it. Do you want to have a convertible coupe that can go off-road? People have done it and there’s nothing to stop you from doing it too.
So, when you’re in the market for your own Miata, what should you look for? Well, we’d normally say to go for the NA with its pop-up headlights, but the NB model is a little more refined and makes a better option for consistent reliability and more modern approachability.
We found a 1999 model with low miles for just under $7,000! So, get your hands on the perfect do-all convertible and get wrenching, build your perfect build.
Honda Fit Sport
Let’s take a trip back to hatchback land for a second here. We all know that rear-wheel drive is best-wheel drive, but there’s something about a practical egg-shaped car that’s fun to toss around that we just love. So, here’s your grandma’s sports car, the Honda Fit.
So, for small hot hatchbacks, we would have included the Fiat 500 Abarth, but reliability is a requirement so that’s a no-go. This leads us to the Honda Fit. I know it looks like something your grandma would drive, but you have to give the Fit a chance.
The pieces to the puzzle are all there. It’s a small, light hatchback with Honda reliability and the all-important fun factor we’re looking for. Honda is well known for making small cars fun, and the Fit has that and more.
The manual gear select is amazing with that signature “slam-shift” Honda character. 117 horsepower is sent to the front wheels from the 4-cylinder engine, and I know that doesn’t sound like much, but you have to remember that this is a Honda. Throw a turbo on there, maybe some bolt-on tunes, and you can hit 200 horsepower easily. Plus, you’ll have plenty of space for spare tires and racing helmets to take to the track, because the Fit makes almost everyone’s cheap autocross car. Did we mention VTEC? The Fit gets VTEC too.
The inside, like we mentioned, has plenty of space for storage, but one of the standout features is the placement of the cupholders. They sit just below the air vents on either side of the car, so your drinks can stay warm in the winter and cool in the summer. I know we’re kind of grasping at straws talking about cupholders, but trust us, the Fit is a great car.
We found a 2009 Sport model for $5,500! That’s right, they’re extremely cheap too. So, if you want to be the practical guy at your school that can still tear it up on the weekends, this Honda might be the perfect Fit for you. Get it?
2009 Pontiac G8
Alright, our last car isn’t going to be another front-wheel drive hatchback, we’re going back to the land of cars you’d actually like to be seen in. This is a sports sedan unlike any other, the Audi A4! We’re joking again. Reliability is a factor here, and Audis aren’t known for being too kind to wallets.
The last car for our list is one that has a little more of a cult following, something a little more out of left field. We’re bringing it back from the dead, because we’re looking at the Pontiac G8. This is the sports sedan that’s based off of multiple Holden platforms that Chevy has been making for our friends down under. They’ve been having all the fun for too long, but Pontiac finally brought the platform to us.
The modern iteration, the Chevy SS, was a runaway hit with enthusiasts, but that’s a little too new for our list. That’s where the G8 comes in. It’s a rear-wheel drive sports sedan that packs a 250-horsepower V6 in the base model. This is an American muscle car with two extra doors.
One of the other stand-out features of the G8 is the fact that it’s a driver’s car. You have to work to get the G8 really hustling, but once you get into the zone, it handles awesome and will give you all the rear-wheel drive fun you’d expect.
Thanks to a cult following in the enthusiasts community, mods and maintenance support are super easy to find. We hope you have some money set aside for extra tires, because you’ll need them after you’re done doing burnouts in the school parking lot.
Thanks to depreciation and the fact that Pontiac is a dead company, the G8 is relatively cheap to find as well. We found one with the V6 for just under $10,000. For a sedan with muscle car attitude, we think that’s a pretty great deal.