Cheap and fun! Those are two words used to describe some of the best cars out there. But don’t be fooled, while there are some good choices, there are some really bad ones too. So, don’t be the guy rolling around in a fancy set of wheels that you can’t afford to fix if it goes bad. Or worse, that you just can’t handle.
You might be hypnotized to like these cars for one reason or another, but we here at Ideal are here to help you steer clear of these cars. Trust me, you will thank me later. In this article, I’m going to show you 6 cars that seem appealing, but are actually appalling!
BMW E60 M5 – Who Needs Bearings?
BMW has created some real legends both in the past and present, but not everything to come out of their factories has lived up to that standard. Even some of their M-cars have fallen victim to this plague, like the E60 M5.
The E60 M5 is a true beast with a fire-breathing F1-derived V10 pumping out 500 horsepower! Yeah! The Sauber F1 team developed this engine! And the E60 M5 was the first production sedan to be powered by a V10 engine!
So, what was not to love? Well, we here in the States didn’t get the super badass E61 M5 Touring, which is an M5 wagon! And the sad thing is that BMW hasn’t offered any M-cars in a wagon form since. Come on, BMW! We want another M-wagon like the E61 M5 with that screaming V10 and manual transmission. That’s right, both the E60 sedan and E61 wagon were offered with a manual transmission!
All this sounds amazing, right? Well, when things seem to be to good to be true, most of the time they are. And the M5 is plagued by many reliability issues. Here’s the full list of problemed components: rod bearing failures, clutch issues, throttle actuator problems, oil pumps cracking, valve cover gaskets leaking, DSC hydraulic unit failure, faulty plugs and coils, steering angle sensor failures, and multiple other electronics failures. So, yeah, E60 M5s aren’t all that reliable, like at all.
It’s unfortunate because the E60 M5 has the underpinnings of a great car, but the repair bills will end up costing way more than the price of the car! While the barrier to entry might make the E60 M5 look like a stellar deal, don’t be fooled. Even a clean PPI should scare you away from these cars.
But if you’re aunt’s best friend’s sister has one, tell them to take you out for a rip, and try and convince them to straight-pipe it. Damn, that thing sounds mean! And for less than $15,000, I know it’s going to be tempting, but you’ll thank me for steering you away from the E60 M5.
At least they’re great to drive when they work, and they probably won’t try to kill you, unlike the Toyota MR2.
Toyota MR2 – Killer Kar
Snap oversteer has prevented the Toyota MR2 from getting the true love that it desires. But what is snap oversteer anyway? Say that you are coming into a corner maybe just a little too hot, so you lift off the gas pedal while turning to try and slow yourself down. It’s not the right way to enter a turn; you’re supposed to brake and enter the turn at the right speed, then accelerate out. But, hey, sometimes mistakes happen.
And since the little MR2 is mid-engined and rear-wheel drive, if you decelerate into a corner, the weight of the car is suddenly thrown forward, the rear end loses grip and it kicks out, initiating oversteer. And since the MR2 is mid-engined, most of its weight is in the middle, which isn’t a recipe for the most beautifully executed drift. And you don’t even have to be drifting. During simple autocrosses and daily driving it could happen too!
So why would you even want an MR2? Well, for starters it looks like a mini Ferrari. Also, it’s small and light, so it gets good returns at the pump too. Throw some money into it and it takes to mods really well. And since it’s a Toyota, you know it’s never going to leave you stranded on the side of the road. Even the 2.0-liter turbo motors were dead reliable up to 240 horsepower, which made these little “supercars” fly!
MR2s are perfect for letting mullets fly in the wind with their T-tops removed. That’s right, they had T-tops and even pop-up headlights! Why can’t we just bring back the ’80s? Today, MR2s are getting harder and harder to find, especially ones that haven’t been rotted out, or haven’t been put into a tree thanks to our friend snap oversteer.
The ones that you do find are going to be around $10,000. Want one that’s absolutely mint with 44,000 miles? You’ll have to shell out just a bit less than $12,000. But, by using the Ideal Car Strategies I’m sure that you’d be able to land at a lower number! And while we know having an MR2 would just be so much fun, that snap oversteer is what makes that car so unappealing.
What about a car made under Ferrari’s supervision? They’ve all got to be perfecto, right? Well, there is one car that definitely isn’t perfecto: the Maserati Quattroporte.
Maserati Quattroporte – Four-Door Horror
Now I know Maserati is not Ferrari, but at the time these cars were built, Ferrari owned Maserati and the Quattroportes were designed and built by Ferrari. The 4.2-liter V8 engine is right out of most Ferrari models of the time and the suspension is based off of the Ferrari 612. The aluminum bodywork was all designed by Pininfarina, so it’s fair to say that the Maserati Quattroporte is essentially a four-door Ferrari.
But, this is a list of cheap, fun cars, and Ferrari ain’t cheap. Well, in this case, the Maserati Quattroporte is pretty cheap, especially for what you get. However, like the other cars on this list, the Maserati Quattroporte is also too good to be true.
It has a complexity that made the car ahead of its time back when it was new, But the car is aging fast, and aging poorly. The earliest models are nearing their 20th birthdays! And just because they’re getting old doesn’t mean they were great off the factory lines either. When Autocar tested them, they said it was plagued with significant electrical gremlins right from the start.
Early cars came with a lovely six-speed automated-manual DuoSelect transaxle, but it was often criticized for being awkward and jerky for everyday driving. Luckily, later cars got a ZF automatic transmission out of a BMW 7 Series, which helped with everyday drivability. Unfortunately, it changed the nearly perfect 49:51 weight distribution to 47:53.
And while that can all be put up with, the rotting subframes can’t. Quattroportes are known for both their front and rear subframes rotting. Of course, there’s more problems too, like the fact that the DuoSelect transmission goes through more clutches than I go through TikTok videos while waiting for the car service to finish up. It’s just four bolts and some grease! It shouldn’t take half a day!
It’s not only clutches that it goes through, the air compressor to the air conditioner is known to go out, it’s common for their timing chains to rattle, and the constant oil and coolant leaks just add to its personality. And that’s not the worst part. The electronics are known to go out without warning, and everything in the Quattroporte is electronically controlled.
So, what does that mean for me and you? The value of these cars dropped faster than Ed Bolian jumping one into a tree. Today, these can be had for just over $10,000. But, trust me, you don’t want to put your entire bank account at risk. Repairs aren’t cheap on these Quattroportes.
Over $4,000 of repairs in a sorted car hurts, but maybe not as much as owning our next car: the Fiat 500 Abarth.
Fiat 500 Abarth – Forget About Fiat
The Fiat 500 Abarth is Italy’s favorite little city dweller, sportified. And that sounds awesome in theory, but they aren’t the hottest hatch around for good reason. Sure, it’s got one of the most badass exhaust notes from the factory. In fact, like the Dodge Neon SRT-4, the 500 Abarth has no mufflers from the factory, and it sounds damn good.
The 500 Abarth is also a joy to toss around your favorite twisties since it’s a lightweight and nimble little car made to tear up the canyons. Many owners love their little 500s to death, but some wish they had never even bought one!
Problems are plentiful with these cars. They’re cheap Italian cars, so some of their problems just add to their personality, like the blower motor failing. While it’s a common failure, it’s one that adds some spunk to the driving experience because, at random times, it decides to make a loud squealing noise from up under the dashboard. And because it’s up under the dashboard, it’s a labor-intensive process to remove the dashboard to replace it.
The interior is prone to rattling and squeaking thanks to the Abarth’s stiffened suspension, and that’s a complaint right off the lot! There is a lot more fit and finish issues, but those are boring. We want to let you know about the expensive stuff! These eager little 2.0-liter engines drink oil like it’s water. So if you don’t monitor oil levels every time you fill up, you might be needing yourself a new engine. And since these little racecars come with a tiny little turbo, boost leaks are a common issue too!
As the little Fiat is new to the United States, people complain that parts are relatively hard to come by, waiting weeks and even months for parts to be shipped over from Italy. Even with prices dipping below $8,000, I wouldn’t want to deal with the potential issues that these have, and the same can be said about the BMW 335i.
BMW 335i – 335-Die
Now, I know the 335i is powered by the legendary N54 engine, which can hold a ton of power. Not only that, but it comes in a plush Bimmer that’s relatively modern. So, you get creature comforts like powered and heated seats, keyless entry, and push-button start that most cars double the price don’t even have.
But we don’t care about all that. All we care about is what’s under the hood, that glorious N54 which is often referred to as the modern-day 2JZ. Twin turbos push the 335i to 300 horsepower from the factory, but N54s take mods so well that seeing 500 horsepower is doable for the common daily driver. Up the boost and throw in some supporting mods, and you’ll be hunting Hellcats!
So why shouldn’t you buy one? There’s a laundry list of expensive repairs just to keep it on the road. Wastegate rattle, clogged fuel injectors, failed high-pressure fuel pumps, leaky valve cover gaskets, and the dreaded water pump failure are all common issues and most of those come with costly repairs over $1,000! So, while the asking price of the car might be attractive, the repair bills certainly will not be.
Even cars right around 100,000 miles have had many of these problems already; and even if they’ve been fixed, chances are they’ll happen again. And even though the 335i can cost less than $9,000, I would still shy away from them! And the same can definitely be said about this next car: the Mazda RX-8!
Mazda RX-8 – Dorito Danger
I’m not even going to lie, the Mazda RX-8 can be a blast to drive, but it’s painfully unreliable. The RX-8 is powered by one spicy Dorito, pumping out 238 horsepower. That 1.3-liter rotary engine loves to play in the revs! Right until it blows its apex seals!
But play in the revs and throw it around a backroad, and it’ll be sure to put a smile on your face. From their funky rear doors to their trickster rotary engine, the RX-8 was always one quirky car. Their chassis make for some solid handling characteristics and their lightweight architecture would make this one solid ride, if it wasn’t for their rotary engines.
They were so unreliable that even Mazda acknowledged it. It was so bad that Mazda had to build a whole new factory just to build new engines for the RX-8s, as most owners would blow their engines in the first 80,000 miles! The thing is that a rotary engine is not like a typical engine found in most cars. To properly maintain a rotary, you need to treat it with care and understand what it likes.
Fill it with gas, then fill it with oil and coolant. Redline it at least once a week to rid the engine of carbon buildup. Don’t stop the car cold otherwise it will likely flood. And many other minute but important things are necessary to know when owning a rotary car. And even if you follow all those things to a tee, how will you know if the previous owner did? And what about the owner before that? Who knows?
One thing I do know is that, once you see the price, you might just look into a LS swap. But if I owned one, I probably would too. Today, you can pick up a fairly clean newer RX-8 with less than 100,000 miles for less than $6,500!