Sports cars are the dream for all car enthusiasts. They drive the best, look the best, and give us the best feeling when we really send it. But, because sports cars are so awesome, they tend to be a little expensive. Okay, more than a little expensive, but we don’t want to face that cold, hard reality.
So, because we love looking for a good deal (it’s sort of our thing here at Ideal), we’ve put together another list of sports cars you can buy for $5,000 or less! I want you to use the Ideal Car Strategies to get into one of these great starter cars. Let’s go!
NA Mazda Miata – Always the Answer
Our first choice is one of the staples of the car community. There isn’t a car meet, garage, or track day that hasn’t seen one of these. It’s the… who the hell am I kidding? You know what it is. The Mazda Miata is a sports car a lot of car guys hate to love. It’s near-perfect in every way, rear-wheel drive, perfectly balanced, and has plenty of room for more performance.
The only drawback is that it looks more like a matchbox car than a real car, and that’s the main problem people have with it. Well, that, and there’s the fact that it has like less power than a lawnmower. But, you could argue that with the same British roadsters that inspired it and hairy-chested, manly men in the ’60s drove those without issue.
While the Miata doesn’t come stock with anything super revolutionary under the hood, the possibilities are endless. For instance, sure, you could add a turbocharger and exhaust system, or you could rip the engine out altogether and replace it with a Chevy LS. You could even stuff a Hellcat crate engine under there! But, you won’t, because you’re looking at sub-$5,000 sports cars.
What you can do with your Miata is track it or drift it or throw a lift kit on and go off-roading! The Miata is one of the best Swiss Army knives of the car world. And, thanks to a complete lack of appreciation for the Miata, it’s one of the cheapest on the used market, almost.
NA models are creeping up in value. And while deals are still out there, you’d better move on it fast. We found one for $3,000 in good condition, but I guarantee it’s already been snatched up.
We’ve listed the number one answer to: “Which sports car should I buy?” But what if you need something a little different? Something with a roof, maybe? Well, we have another great option for less than $5,000.
2003 Acura RSX – The Integra Lives On
This may not be the first car that comes to mind when we say “cheap sports car,” but hear us out. The Acura Integra was one of the greatest front-wheel drive cars ever made. Look it up; the articles are out there in the hundreds. But, everything must eventually evolve and that’s where the RSX comes in.
The Acura RSX, or Honda Integra as it’s known outside of the USA, was the last generation of the platform. It completed the run for the car and did it beautifully. Standard models will come with 160 horsepower out of a K-series motor, which can easily rev to 7,800 RPM. And, like all Hondas, it has VTEC. Hope the neighbors have earplugs!
Nowadays, the RSX is a car that a lot of people write off because it’s so closely associated with the bad side of ricer culture, along with the trash Civics farting down the road and annoying everyone in the neighborhood.
But, the RSX is a serious performer and people are waking up to it in a bad way. We’ve found one with less than 100,000 miles under $5,000 on AutoTempest. So, do yourself a favor and pick one up, because we’d give it maybe another couple of years before the last one gets bought and turned into a Fast and Furious wannabe.
While we’re on the subject of front-wheel drive cars, let’s talk about something that isn’t a sports car but drives like a sports car. Honestly, it’ll leave a lot of cars in the dust when things get twisty.
2003 Mini Cooper S – The Mini Sports Car
Mini Coopers aren’t known for being the pinnacle of tire smoke and brimstone, but they have been around for so long for very good reasons. The very first Mini Coopers proved year after year at the Monaco rallies that power isn’t what makes the car. Handling is the key to beating the competition. That’s why the Mini Cooper S is on our list.
The handling of a Mini is almost always compared to a go-kart, to the point that it’s sometimes a bit of a handful because of how twitchy they are. They make me nervous to drive at higher speeds, which is fine. You don’t need high speed to navigate the sewers while hauling gold.
The Mini does get a 1.6-liter supercharged motor making 163 horsepower. So, if you’re looking for vomit-inducing cornering skills in a small, unassuming package, then the Mini is the car you need to look at. Thanks to AutoTempest, we were able to find one under $5,000, making the Cooper a total steal. Just keep a mechanic handy.
So, the Mini is probably the complete polar opposite of what people expect from a sports car, but we’re going to blow your mind again with another unexpected sports car. This is a sports car with four doors.
2004 Audi A6 3.0 – The Sports Car With Four Doors
So, I bet you weren’t expecting to see a sedan on your list, were you? Yeah, I know you sports car purists are going to throw a fit but, honestly, we went totally off the rails with the RSX, so don’t expect us to get strict about definitions now. Feel free to complain about it in the comments.
So, let’s get into why the Audi A6 is on our list. Like all other Audis, the A6 is a great performer in the corners, but that doesn’t mean your spine will be pounded to dust over the bumpers. The ride is supple and forgiving. And, thanks to the nice leather seats, you’ll feel great after a cruise.
The best part of the A6 is that fantastic V6. As long as you are willing to do the maintenance, it’s easy to make 300 horsepower, which is more than enough to get you moving. And the Quattro system will keep you confident on any road.
The Audi A6, particularly ones from around the early 2000s, can be found online for less than $5,000. So, if you want to bring your kids with you on the weekend cruise, then the A6 may just be the budget super-sedan you never knew you needed.
Okay, the A6 was a slight diversion from the course, but let’s get back on track. We’re going to talk about coupes and tire smoke, American tire smoke in particular.
2001 Mustang Base – Back to Basics
This couldn’t be a cheap sports car list without a Mustang. The Mustang is about as basic a sports car as you can get. It has two doors, rear-wheel drive, and a fire-breathing 5.0-liter under the hood. Unfortunately, we won’t be looking at the V8 version; the V6 will be our car of choice for this list. Don’t stop reading now, though!
I know the V6 gets a lot of flack from the car community, but it has its merits. The V6 makes 190 horsepower stock, which isn’t much, but stock is the keyword here. There is always room to tune with any version of the Mustang because Ford’s engines are always welcoming to aftermarket parts.
You can take these little motors to 300 horsepower fairly easily, which is more than their stock 4.6-liter counterparts, and you get to surprise the hell out of people when you lay down a couple of black stripes. The hate will be real when you get to your local car meet, but that’s just fuel. The real car nuts will know what’s up just from your look.
Anyways, the Mustang in question comes to us from the late ’90s to early 2000s and can easily be found for under $6,000, which you could absolutely negotiate down to $5,000 with the Ideal Car Strategies. And you’d have a really clean, fun-to-drive car.
The Mustang is a red-blooded muscle car from the heartland of American car culture. Our next car is going to come from the heartland of tuner culture and is one of the best cheap cars you can buy if you love modding.
2007 Mitsubishi Eclipse – Eclipse the Competition
We know some of you were expecting to see a Lancer on this list but, unfortunately, those have gotten a little pricey. So, the Mitsubishi we’ll be looking at is one that’s been living in the Evo’s shadow for its entire run, except for a certain green one that graced the silver screen. And even then that one was not a high-performance Eclipse, it just had a lot of junk attached to it.
Anyway, the Eclipse is one of the best performance cars that people always seem to forget about. Honestly, all the DCM cars are kind of forgotten about now. They were like hidden gems and sleepers in the ’90s, enjoyed a bit of a popularity surge in the early 2000s, and then the last generation came along, and people felt like the Eclipse was ruined.
The new car was considered to be too “round” and “overweight,” but it was still a competent performance car. It just wasn’t as good as the other offerings at the time. However, the four-cylinder 4G69 engine can still take a tune like a champ and give back more than enough power to smoke more expensive cars at the stoplights.
If you happen to find a GT model equipped with the V6, you’ll get 263 horsepower, which can take a tune no problem. Either way, you’ll be getting a more-than-solid platform to build off of, all for less than $5,000! And while it’s not as cool as an Evo, the average person will just see a little red sports car, which has its advantages if you’re trying to get someone to notice you.
We’ve looked at relatively modern cars on this list. But, for our last one, we’ll be winding the clocks back. Our last car is a blast from the past and can be found at nearly every classic car meet.
Triumph Spitfire – A Triumph in Cheap Sports Cars
The Triumph name might not be around anymore unless you count their beautiful retro motorcycles, but we know how you all feel about motorcycles, so we might as well just say the company’s gone. But, that doesn’t mean you can’t still find their cars at meets and cruises.
The Spitfire model, in particular, is a favorite for classic sports car collectors and for people who like to spend a lot of time under the hood. You have your set of British Standard wrenches, don’t you? The Spitfire exemplified classic British sports car culture; it was a little, rear-wheel drive convertible with a manual transmission. What’s not to love?
Not to mention, you’ll be getting a nicely worn-in leather interior and you can’t really put a price on the feeling of a comfy leather seat in a British roadster. Power is going to come in at… well, maybe we shouldn’t talk too much about power. Let’s just say it won’t be enough to get you any speeding tickets in the near future unless you’re heading down a really steep hill.
Now, British roadsters aren’t known for their reliability, but that may be a good thing if you like to wrench on your own cars every once and a while. Everything about the Spitfire is genuine to the classic car ownership experience and that’s why it made our list.
Most British roadsters can be found on the used market for under $5,000 in pretty good condition. These cars have a knack for changing hands often, but that just adds to the story. And this one can be part of your story for only $4,500.