Going fast doesn’t have to cost you big bucks. In fact, there are plenty of fast cars for under $10,000.
For as much as we idolize supercars and pour over the specs on the latest unobtanium from the RAM TRX to the Porsche Taycan, most car enthusiasts experience speed at a much lower price point. Indeed, from the Ford Mustang to the Mazda Miata, entire nameplates have been built on the notion that going fast should be a affordable. So, whether you’re looking for your next track day project car or just a daily driver that can still carve the canyons, there are lots of great options on the used car market. Below we highlight some of our favorite fast cars under $10,000.
The fifth-generation Z-car, the Nissan 350Z is an obvious go-to when it comes to accessible speed. Back in 2005, the 350Z came equipped with a 3.5L V6 making 287 horsepower and came with either a five-speed automatic or six-speed manual transmission. Then, in 2007, Nissan upgraded the 350Z’s VQ35DE to the new VQ35HR V6 that topped out at 306 horsepower. Track edition trims came with performance extras like Brembo brakes, front and rear spoilers, and the six-speed manual. A stock 350Z is already a quick and capable car but part of the attraction in a sub-$10,000 car is the room left in one’s budget for upgrades. Thankfully, the 350Z has a ton of aftermarket support and a strong following. So, whether it’s upgrading the suspension or finding replacement parts, you’ll be well positioned with a 350Z.
Dodge has a long history of making affordable fast cars and exhibit A is the Charger. For a potent V8 that won’t break the bank, the fifth-gen RT/Police interceptor is a great option. With a 5.7L HEMI V8, the Charger RT delivered 340 horsepower for model years 2006-08 and, with a timing upgrade, 368 horsepower from 2009 to 2010. Of course, there’s also plenty of MOPAR support to customize your Charger as you see fit. As you might have heard, used car prices are up and that means the highly desirable 6.1L SRT8 has risen above $10,000. What you will find for under $10,000 are lots of old police Chargers carrying the same 5.7L as the RT.
Though the Mustang’s legacy began with criticism of it being an underpowered “secretary’s” car, Ford was quick to right this wrong with an upgraded the GT Equipment package and a larger V8. And thus introduced the potent mix of power and affordability that gave rise the muscle/pony car era. The fifth generation of the imitable Mustang GT follows in this tradition with a 4.7L V8 thundering out a 300 horsepower and 320 lb-ft. of torque. This allowed the Mustang GT to leap from 0-60 in a hair over 5 seconds. Not only does the fifth generation echo the Mustang of old in terms of its performance to price ratio, but it also harkens back to the old school with design cues like its quad headlights, triple taillights, and ‘60s-style font for the tach and speedo.
For the diehard fans of German motoring there’s the BMW 335i (3-Series) from the 2007 model year. Under the hood of the 335i you’ll find a twin-turbocharged inline-six making 302 horsepower and 295 lb.-ft. of torque. Of course, when we’re talking about aging BMWs, there’s going to be a few gremlins under the hood. But, when you need, absolutely need to hear that twin-turbo whining in your ears, you’ll happily put in a few extra hours of wrenching.
LS swaps have gotten so popular as to be passe at this point. The Chevrolet Corvette C5 and its LS1 are part of the reason why. The Vette has long been a standard for accessible speed, and with good reason. The C5’s 5.7L LS1 V8 delivered 345 horsepower (upped to 350hp in 2001). Not only did the well-balanced, light weight Corvette deliver thrills and a top speed of 172 mph it did so while also maintaining excellent gas mileage. Automatic equipped C5s could get up to 25 mph on the highway and the manual (as in the right transmission) got an even more impressive 28 highway mpg rating. When you’re looking for a “race car for the street” right out of the box, there are few better or more obvious answers than a Vette.
The Subaru WRX is a classic of the tuner scene with its distinctive boxer rumble, prominent hood scoop, and gobs of tire smoking, drift-tastic all-wheel drive power. In 2006, the second generation Impreza WRX received an upgrade a 2.5L turbocharged flat-four (up from 2.0L) putting out 230 horsepower and 235 lb.-ft. of torque. But what’s made the WRX special is its Subaru staple all-wheel drive system allowing the car to apply that Boxer engine’s power to all four wheels. While there are plenty of second-gen WRXs out there for under $10,000 many, many of those will have been “well-loved”. Expect to put in some extra dough for upgrades and/or fixing the “upgrades” of past owners. One WRX you probably won’t find for under $10,000 anymore is the WRX STI. This performance legend can command upwards of $20,000 on the used market, vape pen and ground effects not included.
Thought you’d never be able to afford putting a Porsche in your garage? Think again. The bargain Porsche of yesteryear, the Boxter 986 remains a bargain to this day. That is, if you’re willing to put in the effort and money to keep it on the road. Unlike its bigger brother the 911, the Boxter is a proper midengined sports car packing a 2.5L flat-6 positioned in front of the rear wheels. Though it’s 0-60 time of 6.4 seconds means it’s rather slow in a straight line by the standards of this list, like any good Porsche, the Boxter 986 really comes alive in the turns, delivering thrills and lap times that would make a Miata blush. And unlike all those abashed 996 owners, in a Boxter 986 you can proudly flaunt those “runny egg” headlights without embarrassment.
Need a little classic American luxury with your get-up-and-go? The Cadillac CTS-V (definitely not a new crime procedural coming to NBC this fall) will first wow you with its plush interior and then wow you again once you mash down on the throttle. The first-generation CTS-V of the mid-aughts came with the same 5.7L LS as the C5 Corvette which means it too delivered copious amounts of power (400 horsepower) this time in a luxury sedan package. As a result, the CTS-V made the run from 0-60 in just 4.6 seconds. And then there’s all the luxury features: heated front seats, leather upholstery, and wood trim to name just a few. The Cadillac CTS-V evokes German luxury sedans with its potent V8 power and cossetted cabin, and all for under $10,000.