It's becoming more challenging to find new vehicles with manual transmissions as automatic transmissions become more common. The manual transmission was typically standard in a wide variety of vehicles, from sports cars to sedans to SUVs. So what are some of the best manual cars under $10,000?
The Ford Focus was in production from 1999 until 2018 over three generations in the United States. As a used car, it's available as a hatchback, wagon, sedan, or coupe – and all were available with a manual transmission at some point. Most Focus models came with four-cylinder engines. As an example, you can find a used 2012 Focus for prices ranging from $5,000 to $8,000 depending on mileage, location and options.
Another compact car, the Impreza has been in production since 1992. During its lifetime, the Impreza has been available in body styles such as a coupe, sedan, wagon and hatchback. And all Imprezas have offered both automatic and manual transmissions, with most also featuring all-wheel-drive as standard equipment, rare among compact cars. The Impreza keeps its value pretty well, so you'll have to look between model years 2008 and 2011 to find one under $10,000 with reasonable miles.
Produced as a sedan and a hatchback, the Mazda 3 has been available since 2003. All four generations have offered manual transmissions paired with four-cylinder engines. Like the Impreza, the Mazda 3 has substantial resale value, and you'll likely have to go back past model year 2012 to find them priced for less than $10,000.
The TSX was Acura's entry-level premium sedan between 2003 and 2014. It primarily came in a four-door sedan version with also a limited amount of station wagons produced. All generations had available manual transmissions and the engine size varied from a four-cylinder to a V6, but the manual was only available for four-cylinder sedan models. Even though the TSX is no longer in production, it's not too difficult to find models for under $10,000 in price. The sweet spot seems to be between 2004 and 2008.
The GTI is a performance version of the Golf, and there's no doubt that the little hatchback is fun to drive, and especially with a manual transmission. Despite its small size, it's surprisingly roomy inside. There is a decent selection of Volkswagen GTIs between model years 2009 and 2014 for less than $10,000.
One of the most popular cars ever made, the Accord has been around since 1976 as both a compact and midsize car. The eighth generation of Accord was sold from 2008 until 2013 and is available as a used car for under $10,000. It also came with a manual transmission in sedan and coupe formats, with either four or six-cylinder power.
The Miata is a sporty little convertible that has been in production since 1989 and is currently in its fourth generation. The small Mazda is only a two-seater, so it's often referred to as a roadster or sports car. It only comes with a four-cylinder engine, and many were ordered with the standard manual transmission. Currently, it's relatively easy to find a Miata produced between 2000 and 2010 for less than $10,000, especially as the original 1990s models rise in value.
Like the Accord, the Corolla has been around for a long time, since 1966, and is well-known for being dependable transportation. Brand new, the Corolla has a price range between $16,800 and $21,300, so it's not difficult to find used models under $10,000. You might be able to find some as new as 2014, but in general, you'll be looking older than 2011. That year range generally came in a four-cylinder with available manual transmissions, but you'll have to look hard as most Corollas were ordered with automatics.
The Honda Fit is another compact car that was relatively inexpensive new, with an MSRP topping out around $21,000. If you look at model years between 2009 and 2013, it shouldn't be too hard to find some for under $10,000. The Fit is a hatchback powered by a four-cylinder engine and offers both manual and automatic transmissions.
The Sonic has been in production since 2011 as a hatchback and sedan. It comes with a four-cylinder engine, including a turbo version, and available with manual and automatic transmissions. While brand new versions can sticker for more than $20,000, it's not too hard to find one under $10,000 from about the 2016 model year and older.
BMW 3 Series
The BMW 3 Series was introduced in 1977 and quickly became a popular choice for those looking for a small sports coupe or sedan. Both four and six-cylinder engines have been available over the years, with turbocharged versions becoming increasingly prevalent. Manual transmissions used to be reasonably common, too, a rarity for a luxury brand. Versions from as recently as 2014 are starting to fall below the $10,000 mark.
Not only is the Honda Civic one of the most popular small cars ever, but it has a deserved reputation of being one of the most well-rounded. Available over the years as a sedan, coupe and hatchback, the Civic has been around for a long time, and it's easy to find model years that cost less than $10,000 – many of which have manual transmissions. Look for models as recently as 2015.
Believe it or not, you can find certain generations of the quintessential American sports car in the Corvette for under 10 grand. You'll mainly want to look at the C4 generation, which was made between model years 1984 and 1996. These classic rear-wheel-drive cars are likely to have over 100,000 miles on them, and many were automatics, but there are still some with manual transmissions out there. If you're not worried about fuel economy, then it's hard to resist a V8 sports car under $10,000.
The early Boxsters may be beginning to look a bit dated compared to the most recent versions, but they represent a lot of value for less than $10,000. They may not be turbocharged, but models from 1997 through 2000 offer the company's classic six-cylinder format and many feature manual transmissions, with more prestige than a Mazda Miata.
Another high-performance car, the 2004 S4 can be found for under $10,000 if you're willing to do some hunting. This car comes with a 4.2-liter V8 with 340 horsepower, as well as a standard all-wheel-drive system and available manual transmissions.
If you're still looking for iconic sports cars, then don't forget about the Camaro. Thanks to the car's hiatus after the fourth generation, it's pretty easy to find it for under $10,000. That generation was made between 1992 and 2002, and it came in both V6 and V8 engines with available manual transmissions.
Infiniti G35 Coupe
The G35 was produced between 2003 and 2008. The coupe version was a sporty and quick version with a six-cylinder engine and available manual transmission and shares many pieces with the Nissan 350Z sports coupe – but with more interior space and luxury features. It's easy to find one under $10,000 in price.
If you're looking for a reliable all-around vehicle with decent gas mileage, roomy interior, all-wheel-drive and manual transmission, then a used Outback might be a perfect choice. With lots of space for five passengers and cargo and a reputation for durability, Outbacks hold their value well, especially in snowy parts of the country. You'll generally be looking at vehicles older than 2011 and mileage is likely to be over 100,000.
It's becoming much harder to find SUVs and trucks with manual transmissions, but the Xterra offered one during its production from 2000 until 2015. While the last few years of the Xterra are still hovering over $10,000 in many cases, if you look around 2011 and older, you should be able to find them at a reasonable price.
The Soul is a subcompact SUV produced since 2010 over two generations. Both generations have offered manual transmissions, and anything older than 2015 is generally priced under or around $10,000. They're uncommon, though, and most lack the upscale amenities of models with automatic transmissions. But the Soul is a quirky, versatile vehicle that is relatively economical and inexpensive to run.
The Popularity of Manual Transmissions
As of 2018, cars with manual transmissions account for only 2% of all vehicles sold. In 2006, nearly half of all new models in the United States were offered with both automatics and manuals, but now it's down to only 20% and dropping quickly. The reason isn't too hard to understand. With more people driving, most want something easy to use and convenient. The majority of manuals today are found either in sports cars, whose drivers still like to feel at one with the road, and small commuter cars to make them less expensive. Very few SUVs or pickups have them anymore, with notable exceptions in the Toyota Tacoma, Nissan Frontier and Jeep Wrangler.
Pros and Cons of Manuals
The main con of a manual transmission is the learning curve. With an automatic, you simply put it into drive and go. A manual usually has five or six forward to select as driving conditions dictate, and you'll need to use the clutch each time you shift. Newer automatics also have more than six gears or a continuously variable setup that maximizes fuel economy, something that was traditionally an advantage for the manual transmission.
On the other hand, manual transmissions have fewer moving parts than an automatic and thus typically last longer with fewer breakdowns. The clutch is the main part that needs to be replaced, but models that have been well maintained and not driven too aggressively can go about 100,000 miles before clutch repair.
Another plus of a manual vehicle is that it forces you to pay closer attention to driving due to having to shift consistently. In an era of smartphones and other distractions, this can be invaluable to some people.