8 Sports Cars Under $5,000

1995 bmw e36 m3
Collecting Cars

We’re broke, but we want to go fast! Who can save us? That’s right, we here at Ideal have your back! Here to deliver unto you the gospel of cheap speed, fast cars, two doors, big power, tight handling, all under $5,000!

The last car on this list is a scorcher! What’s better than that? We have a huge list for you, so let’s not waste any time! Here are 8 awesome sports cars for under $5,000!

2004 – 2008 Nissan 350Z – Back to Basics

red 2008 nissan 350z
Greenbrier Dodge

Starting this list of right, baby! A proper rear-wheel drive, manual transmission, two-door sports car. The Fairlady Z has been a name synonymous with sports cars since the 70’s! And Nissan made massive waves in 2003 when they delivered the 350Z.

You see, this was the first new Z car Nissan had released since the 90’s! And some would say the wait was definitely worth it, because the latest generation Fairlady was everything that made us fall in love with the previous generations!

It packed a powerful 6-banger under the hood! Cranking out over 285 horsepower to the rear wheels! The refresh of the Z in 2007 gave it a good bump in power up to 305 horsepower, and revised some transmission issues in the earlier model. So if you can, try and snag an ’07 or later! But even the early generation is a great car for not a of cash. Why are they cheap? Because there were tens of thousands of 350Z’s made, which means there are plenty of cars to choose from! Just try and find one that hasn’t been too abused.

Now, the 350Z was a mega-popular tuner car when it launched, and it’s still thriving today. There are thousands of upgrades available for the car. And you can find 350Z’s in tons of racing disciplines, such as drifting, tracking, time attack, hell, even rallying! So, no matter what you want to do, you can’t go wrong with a 350Z! You could be the proud owner of a drop-top Z with a manual transmission and under 100,000 miles for $5,000. That is a fair price for a fair lady if you ask me.

Now, the Nissan 350Z is one hell of a sports car, especially for the price, but one of the greatest sports cars ever, price be damned, has got to be the BMW M3. And one of my favorite generations of the M3 is now ridiculously cheap. That’s right, the E36 M3 is affordable.

1992 – 1999 BMW M3 – The Bavarian Standard

green 1999 bmw e36 m3
Bring a Trailer

Now the E36 M3 is considered one of the greatest sports cars of all time, and for good reason! Like, for instance, that engine! There’s almost no other engine that sounds as good as the S50/S52 with an intake. Just a gorgeous sound that’ll take your breath away! And with as popular as the E36 M3 was, there’s a huge aftermarket!

The M3 is like the European Mustang! They’re everywhere! There are thousands of aftermarket parts available for many types of upgrades. Trying to stay glued to a racetrack? There are tons of coilover and suspension options. Want more power? There are a bunch of turbo and supercharger kits! Don’t like the S50? People swap in S54 from the E46 M3 or even LS motors for some really insane power!

Whatever you choose, the E36 M3 is the budget BMW banger for you! Values of E36 M3’s have pretty much bottomed out, but getting one under $5,000 is still going to be a chore, but it can be done! We were able to find this white M3 with 160,000 miles for $4,300 bucks! Bavarian motoring at its finest! 

Now, there is no list of sports cars complete without the Miata! Seriously, they are the most fun car you can get for the money, period! And anyone who laughs them off as a Barbie car, or the ride of choice for hairdressers, hasn’t driven them to their absolute limit! Because that’s what the Miata is all about!

NB or NC Miata – Top Down Fun Up

red nc miata

For under $5,000, you can drive a wide variety of Miatas from three different generations, but we think you should go with the NC or NB! That’s right, the NC is starting to hit below $5,000! But even then, many people prefer the simpler, the lower, the lighter NB. Either way, you’re going to love it.

Drop the top, grab the wheel, find a mountain road, and slam through the gears! What’s the old adage? It’s better to drive a slow car fast than a fast car slow? Whoever said that owned a Miata. Whether you’re buying it to take it to a track day, build it into a drift missile, or just use it as a daily, the Miata is a shoe that always fits.

The Miata was one of the lowest priced convertibles when it was released, and that still holds true today! Grab yourself a cheap Miata! Get the NB for smooth curves and a reasonable price, grab the NC for more power, more features, a better more modern experience, or hell, get yourself an old NA for dirt cheap and start modding the hell out of it with the money you saved! 

And for those of you who are too manly to be seen driving with the top down in a tiny Miata, the S197 Ford Mustang GT is a real many sports car for under $5,000!

S197 Mustang GT – Yee-haw! That’s Cheap!

red s197 mustang gt
Grassroots Motorsports

The S197 Ford Mustang GT is the only car on this list that sports a rompin’ stompin’ V8! And it was the first modern Mustang GT to come stock with 300 horsepower. It’s ready to get the tires spinning at a moment’s notice, making it one of the ideal choices on this list for a budget drift build! I mean, it was the first car to beat Japan in the D1 Grand Prix! USA! USA!

The S197 GT’s are proper modern sports cars, featuring upgraded suspension, bigger brakes, proper ABS and styling that still looks pretty decent today! Over 10,000,000 Mustangs have been made so far, so availability is definitely not an issue… unless you live in Europe. Sorry, lads!

We found a shiny blue ‘Stang we found for $4,700! A pony car you can be proud to have in your stable! The Mustang is an obvious choice for a cheap sports car. What’s not so obvious? A Korean luxury coupe!

2009 – 2016 Hyundai Genesis Coupe – Korea’s Underdog

red 2016 hyundai genesis coupe

That’s right. The Hyundai Genesis Coupe is one of the most overlooked sports cars of the modern era, and that doesn’t make sense. It’s rear-wheel drive, it’s manual, it’s two-door, and plenty of power! It had two different engines: one was a turbo two-liter engine with about 275 horsepower capable of holding a lot more boost than stock, and the other option was the 3.8-liter V6 putting out over 350 horsepower! That’s way more power than the Mustang! And that was a V8!

Underappreciated in its day, the Genesis Coupe is starting to become a popular choice for a budget sports car, and you can see why! With power figures like that, it’s hard not to get excited! It was initially built to compete with the Infiniti G37 and similar cars, but instead, it showed us that Hyundai could make solid sports cars too! In fact, during its worldwide unveiling in 2008, the first thing Hyundai did with the car was powerslides and burnouts until the tires almost popped! That’s one way to prove your product. Kudos to Hyundai!

We found an example of a two-liter model for just under $5,000. It’s one hell of a performance bargain, that’s for sure! All of the cars that we’ve mentioned so far lack a little space for junk in the trunk though. The Golf GTI is a staple of cheap, fun, and fast cars, and its history explains exactly why. The Mk1 Golf GTI is credited with starting the entire hot hatchback genre. Meanwhile, the latest Mk7 version has taken the name into uncharted sports car-slaying territory! But arguably, the finest GTI of them all is the one you see here, the Mk5.

Mk5 VW Golf GTI – The People’s Budget Sports Car

mk5 volkswagen golf gti
Garage Dreams

Sporting 200 horsepower, it’s definitely a quick car. But I get it, many wouldn’t get very excited by that number. However, numbers are not the point of the Volkswagen Golf GTI! That’s because every part of the GTI plays perfectly with each other. Each control, the throttle, the brake, the gearbox, the steering work together so well, it’s almost an extension of your arms and legs!

There’s an underrated but deeply satisfying feeling from an older car that not many new cars can match! The GTI is a great car for cruising since it can comfortably seat 5 people, and it’s also a great track car. In fact, it’s often called the “European Civic” because of how well it handles for a front-wheel drive car!

We found great example under $5,000 with some money left over for some shenanigans! And for something completely different…

Toyota W30 MR-S/MR2 – Mid-Engined Mister

red toyota w30 mr2
Honest John Classics

The W30 MR2 is the lesser-known twin of the NB Miata. Just like the NB, it’s a super lightweight, barebones roadster ready for some action. However, it is mid-engined as opposed to the Miata’s front engine! That’s right, It’s both lighter and has a lower polar moment of inertia than the world’s favorite sports car! In fact, Tiff Needel from Fifth Gear said that the W30 had perfect handling, much less likely to kill you compared to the 2 previous generations of MR2’s!

It’s definitely tempting, a great-handling, good-looking, sparkling sports car with contemporary Japanese reliability standards and perfect weight distribution! What’s not to love? Alright, I can already hear your thoughts. Yes, the MR2 is not the prettiest car to look at, and it doesn’t have much luggage space. Actually, it doesn’t even have a trunk.

Anyways, for the money, this is possibly the best handling sports car you can buy! Also, just like the Miata, all W30 MR2’s are convertibles so you can enjoy some good weather with the top down! We found an example for far less than $5,000. You have some extra cash left over for some sticky tires so you can really push the car to its limits!

Now, I’ve really been saving one of the best for last, you guys…

2005 – 2010 Cobalt SS – Supercharged Sleeper

red 2010 chevrolet cobalt ss

The Chevy Cobalt SS is one of the last cars I think of when I think cheap sports cars, but hear me out. It’s really one of the most overlooked sports cars in the USA!

The Cobalt SS is the supercharged version of the regular Chevy Cobalt. The SS was equipped with an Eaton M62 roots-type supercharger, providing 12.5 PSI through a water-air intercooler! The motor sends all of its power to the front wheels where a limited slip differential was optional, and definitely recommended. That option was called the G85, and keep an eye out for this one, especially since if you got the G85 package, you also got some Recaro buckets! Don’t worry, most people with an SS opted for the G85 package, so there’s a lot of them out there!

The car came with 18-inch wheels, new rockers, a boost gauge mounted on the A-pillar, and General Motors’s finest FE5 sport suspension! Now, this sounds like a much more serious car than you thought! Altogether, in top trim, the SS is a 260-horsepower tarmac-eating machine!

The Chevy Cobalt SS was one of the best performing front-wheel drive cars of its time! Unfortunately, the SS Supercharged came to a halt with the 2007 recession. Now, finding one under $5,000 is difficult, but not impossible. In a quick search, we found a blue SS for a little over $5,000 with decent miles, and could probably be had for under $5,000 if you use the Ideal Car Strategies. It’ll definitely be worth it, because the SS Supercharged is one mean cheap machine!

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