Sideways! Door-to-door! More smoke than a WRX meet! We love drifting! And, if it wasn’t for the cheap grassroots versions, we wouldn’t have competitions like Formula DRIFT. And grassroots competitions wouldn’t be cheap if the cars were expensive either!
So, in this article, I’m going to show you some of the best and cheapest ways to get into drifting! Drifting can be traced back to mountain togues all throughout Japan, where drifters would race up and down sliding their lightweight, rear-wheel drive cars all night.
2002-2009 Nissan 350Z (306 Horsepower)
One such car was the Nissan 240SX. But, sadly, those cars have all skyrocketed in price. Luckily, its younger brother, the 350Z, is much cheaper! With a punchy V6 under the hood and an athletic chassis, the 350Z was practically designed for motorsport! Whether you want it to rip it, grip it, or slip it, the 350Z is perfect!
But, we want cheap drift cars and, let’s just be honest, the 350Z was the first car you and I thought of. From the factory, you can slide it around corners thanks to its limited-slip differential!
But, if you want it to really get sideways, you’ve got to add an angle kit and a whole slew of aftermarket parts. And, luckily, there’s huge aftermarket support for the 350Z! The Z is such a good platform that even DK knew he needed one. No, that’s not Donkey Kong but the Drift King from Tokyo Drift. He knew that he could go out and buy one for just over $6,000, throw a couple of thousand dollars in mods and he’d be killing competitors out on the tarmac!
The Z loves to play near redline but be careful because, without proper maintenance, it might blow pretty quickly. But, in the Mazda RX-8, you need to rev it out until the redline to maintain it!
2003-2012 Mazda RX-8 (232 Horsepower)
You heard me right. Redlining the RX-8 helps the engine stay healthy! It’s got a trick little 1.3-liter rotary engine and the apex seals can easily get clogged if it doesn’t rev all the way out and clear out sitting carbon in the seals! So, go for it! Send it! Because, if you don’t, you’ll grenade your engine. And no one wants that!
But, legends of drift love the RX-8. Throw on an angle kit and turbo for big power and you’ve got yourself one spicy Dorito! Considering you can pick these up with under 65,000 miles for less than $6,500, it seems like a steal. But, if you use the Ideal Car Strategies, then I bet you can get that down a lot!
So, you’re not too thrilled with the idea of a rotary. What about an E46 3 Series?
1997-2006 BMW E46 3 Series (231 Horsepower)
Arguably the best on this list, the E46 chassis is one of the most balanced and ready-for-battle on this list. Toss it down Touge, Manji it at the track, and you’ll quickly realize that these beasts come to party! The E46 has proven itself in the drifting world as Formula DRIFT champion Michael Essa piloted his E46 to a championship in 2013! He still drives that car in competition today and young gun Dylan “The Dozer” Hughes piloted his E46 to two podiums in the 2021 season. So, it’s fair to say that it’s a very capable platform.
And, luckily, it’s one that you can start and take from grassroots events all the way up to the pro level! Take your pick at the trim, but we would recommend a 330 with that 5-speed transmission for the most fun right out of the box! Also luckily, you can find them with under 100,000 miles for just $11,000! Throw on some angle and you should be ready to clutch-kick your way to podiums right off of the lot!
But, if reliability worries you, why not just head over to Lexus and get yourself an SC.
1992-2000 Lexus SC300/400 (225-260 Horsepower)
While finding these with a manual transmission is a rare find in itself, they are out there. And do you want to know the best secret of the SC? Just look under the hood. You’re looking at a legendary 1UZ or even a 2JZ! And that’s not the only thing shared with a Mark IV Supra; the suspension is the same too! So, you can have yourself a luxurious Supra for a fraction of the price.
But, with the longer wheelbase, the SC slides better than a Supra! Pair that with the rare manual option and you’ll be able to slide in and out of the bank for just over $5,000! And the thing about the SC is that they’ll last hundreds of thousands of miles no matter which engine you choose! Strap a turbo to either and you’ve got yourself one hell of a rocketship!
But, if you want something lighter and livelier, you’ve got to look at a Miata!
1989-2013 Mazda MX-5 Miata (140 Horsepower)
I mean, come on, do you really think we would do a list without mentioning the Miata? It’s always the answer! And, when you’re looking for a cheap drift car, it’s no different! No matter which generation you choose, they all offer a lightweight and rigid chassis perfect for all types of motorsports!
While the engine might not have much push, it’s got plenty to push you sideways. Paired with a limited-slip differential, you should have no problem sliding it at your local industrial park or even at Formula DRIFT events. No matter which generation you get, you’ll be able to slide into any light pole with precision and finesse. And all for a tight budget under $6,500!
1989-1990 Volvo 740 2.3L Turbo (162 Horsepower)
That’s right! I’m suggesting that, if you want a cheap drift car, go out and buy yourself an old Volvo. But, this isn’t just any old Volvo. The 740 has a peppy turbo motor and it’ll bash doors with any other car on this list! And for a fraction of their price too. You can buy one for under $4,000!
But, if you don’t want a grandma sleeper and you want more luxuries, then maybe an Infiniti G35 would be for you!
2003-2008 Infiniti G35 (306 Horsepower)
Like the 350Z, the G35 is powered by a VQ35DET motor good for plenty of power and just enough to get the rear wheels spinning. But, if you really need more wheel speed, why not swap in a turbo? That’s good for 1,000 horsepower!
But, unlike the 350Z, the G35 is appointed in leather and also has back seats (kind of). Paired with a manual transmission and fitted with a limited-slip differential, this thing will rip! And I almost forgot to mention that they come with big Brembo brakes standard!
So, if you want a more daily drivable 350Z, the G35 might just be your best bet. And, considering that you can pick one up for just $8,000, it might just be an even better deal too!