Who doesn’t dream of driving out of a dealership in a sports car? It’s every gearhead’s dream, but this isn’t always obtainable because of that annoying old thing called money. The chances of most of us being able to afford a fun, spicy sports car are fairly low – or so we thought.
It used to be so easy to find a great used sports car under $10k, but now it’s a little harder. However, this doesn’t mean you can’t find some amazing deals for great sports cars under $30k. That’s why we have put together a list showing 10 of the best affordable sports cars you can buy, ranging from $27k to $70k for those with a slightly larger wallet.
10 2023 Toyota GR86 – $27,900
The Toyota GR86 is one of the very best cars to emerge from Japan last year, taking the rest of the world by surprise with its capability and excellence. This younger sibling to the GT86 has more torque, and better-handling, and is a cheap sports car that we even think looks better than its predecessor, plus the GR86 isn’t afraid to go drifting.
The GR86’s power comes from a 2.4-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine that produces 228 hp and can be had with either a six-speed automatic or a manual gearbox – but we would imagine most enthusiasts choosing the latter for increased driver involvement. While the engine may not sound like the most powerful, you need to remember that this little Japanese sports car weighs just 2,810 lbs, so throwing this around a tight corner only results in good feelings.
9 2022 Ford Mustang – $27,205
Mustangs went through a phase a few years ago of having a bad name for not being able to do anything other than drive in a straight line (and occasionally losing control at car meets), but what Ford has done with the new one is spectacular.
It now features sharper styling, a more engaging driving experience and some exceptional overall packages. For example, you can have the 2022 Mustang in two different flavors: a turbocharged four-cylinder engine or a meaty 5.0-liter V8 engine – both of which are available with a dual-clutch automatic or a six-speed manual gearbox.
So, the fact that you can have all that for a starting price of less than $30,000 – you should be laughing all the way to the dealership.
8 2004-2013 Porsche (997) 911 – $30,000+
The saying went something like ‘when you reach a certain age, you tend to buy a Porsche’ – that’s just the way it is, but now the world has deemed it acceptable for anyone to buy and enjoy Porsches, and so they should. But which one do you buy? With over fifty years’ worth of cars on offer, it’s hard to know where to start, but we think you can’t do much better than a 997 if you’re on a budget. Whether you opt for a Carrera, Carrera S, Turbo S or even a GT3, we are certain that you won’t be disappointed in any way.
The 997 features Porsche’s legendary flat-six, which varies throughout the range. Still, regardless of the model you choose, you’ll be greeted with great straight-line speed, excellent cornering capabilities and one of the greatest exhaust notes known to man.
7 2015-2021 BMW M2 – $55,000+
While most modern BMWs are used for business people doing business things such as long site visits and driving to the office, the little M2 is quite the opposite. This two-door super sedan killer is a car that doesn’t look like much, but will absolutely blow your socks off when you hit the gas.
Its turbocharged 3.0-liter straight-six engine can propel you from 0-60 mph in 4.1 seconds – meaning it’s no slouch. But aside from its straight-line speed, the M2 is also capable of taking corners with ease, just be careful because these M2s are incredibly tail-happy. Just know that you’ve been warned.
6 2014-2023 Jaguar F-Type R – $32,000+
There are lots of different iterations of the F-Type out there now, but the one we want to focus on now is the V8 F-Type R because what’s cooler than 550 hp and a cackling exhaust note?
It may not be as light on its feet as the aforementioned 911 (or even the V6 variant), or as fast in a straight line as some of its rivals, but what it does offer is presence and a thrilling sound that will have you picking up the phone to your local JLR dealer before you can say ‘wow’.
What’s better is that now you can pick one up from around $30k, which is astonishing when you consider that’s about the same as a brand-new and much less exciting Honda Accord. Just let that sink in for a moment.
5 2012-2016 Porsche Boxster S (981) – $25,000+
The Porsche Boxster S that came out in 2012 is one of the finest sports cars money can buy. Not just because it’s reasonable in today’s used car market, but because it’s also sublime on any road you take it on, and its flat-six engine sounds amazing.
Whether you’re unsure about owning a 911 or just fancy something smaller without a roof, the Boxster is a superb pick. Mated to its engine, you can have either a manual or an automatic gearbox – both of which are sharp, snappy and make you feel involved in the driving experience. And what’s better is that because you’re buying one now, you will have beaten all the depreciation, and you can just enjoy one hell of a German driving machine. Plus, you might even make some money in the long run when these start to creep up in value again.
4 2020 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat – $67,590
From topless German driving to hardcore V8 muscle, the Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat is one beastly car. Sitting under the hood is a monstrous supercharged 6.2-liter V8 engine that produces 717 hp in its standard form, or a whopping 797 hp if you are a crazy person who bought the Redeye model.
But what’s even crazier is that you can have this insane automobile with either a manual or automatic transmission – but we would have thought the auto is preferred with all that power at your disposal. Although, there will be some mad people who love the manual, and we can only respect that. So, if you want to be the fastest of your friends in a drag race, then there really isn’t another option but to buy a Hellcat.
3 2009-2013 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 – $70,000
From one V8 to another. This is the Chevrolet Corvette ZR1, and it is one hell of a driving machine, but unlike the Dodge, it feels much more comfortable on a racetrack or twisty road. It provides excellent acceleration, with a 0-60 mph time of 3.3 seconds and a well-set-up chassis for some superb cornering.
Okay, so it’s no Ferrari around the bends, but it is very impressive for a car that weighs 3,333 lbs and has a great big 638 hp 6.2-liter V8 up front. We especially prefer this over a Nissan GT-R or a modern Porsche 911 because it feels a bit childish and arguably more fun on a canyon blast – and if you want the true sports car experience, that’s what you’ll go for.
2 2013-2019 Alfa Romeo 4C – $50,000
Motoring journalist and TV personality Jeremy Clarkson once wrote in The Sunday Times that driving the Alfa Romeo 4C was like “whizzing about in a reincarnated blend of Gandhi and Diana, Princess of Wales,” and we think that says it all.
When you truly love a car, you let the little things slide. We know the 4C doesn’t have the best interior, isn’t built as well as an Audi, and may not be entirely practical. But what we do know is that it’s drop-dead gorgeous, offering an excellent driving experience to go along with it – the 4C is a seriously underrated car.
Power comes from a 1.7-liter turbocharged, four-cylinder engine that develops 240 hp, which may not sound like a lot, but coupled with the fact it weighs just 1,973 lbs, it sure doesn’t feel like it. In fact, it feels similar to a 718 Porsche Cayman but more special because of its Italian flair and unnecessarily expensive and intricate body made from a composite material called Sheet Moulding Compound (SMC) which is essentially a fancy papier-mâché.
1 2000-Present Ariel Atom – $30,000+
In the UK, a Caterham Seven is a popular DIY track car that offers detailed levels of driver involvement and performance, but something you don’t always find is an Ariel Atom, which maintains one of the most fun sports cars you can buy around the world.
The Ariel Motor Company is based in the South of England, and they manage to produce some incredible things, namely the Atom – its extremely lightweight, track-focused sports car. Weighing just 1,349 lbs, and producing 324 hp, the Atom is seriously fast, and in fact once messed up Clarkson’s face on the old Top Gear, which is one of the funniest clips on the internet.
This 300 hp variant is one of the cheaper ones, but if you did fancy extending your budget a bit, then you may be able to get your hands on the limited-edition Ariel Atom 500 V8 that produces 507 hp and is almost guaranteed to make you reevaluate your driving style and behavior on the road.