Owning a sports car can be an expensive endeavor. Starting with the initial cost, and then continuing expenses like maintenance, gas, insurance and inevitable repairs. You may not be able to do much about accidents, but if you look at the used market, you can save a bundle on the initial cost of buying a sports car.
Like any other vehicle, sports cars rapidly depreciate when you leave the lot, so looking for a used one makes financial sense in more ways than one.
Let's take a look at some used sports cars that you can find for around and less than $30,000.
1. Cadillac CTS-V Coupe
Regardless of the price point, the Cadillac CTS-V Coupe is one of the most energizing sports cars around. You'll be looking back at the 2012 and 2011 models specifically for that $30,000 price range. If you're able to find one, you'll be getting a supercharged V8 engine that puts out 556 horsepower, luxurious interior, and sharp styling. You could also get a GM-certified pre-owned warranty, depending on where you buy, which should take some of the sting out of ownership costs.
It is one of the faster sports cars on the market with a 0-60 time of 4 seconds. Finding one around this price point might be a bit tough, as plenty of them are still hovering over $30,000 and close to $40,000, depending on options and mileage. The CTS-V Coupe offers the power and luxury of an AMG Mercedes-Benz without quite the same potential for rare replacement parts and mega repair bills.
2. Maserati Coupe/Spyder
The Maserati Coupe and Spyder are available at the $30,000 price point if you look back at the ones produced between 2001 and 2007. They offered a 390-horsepower 4.2-liter V8 engine built in partnership between Ferrari and Maserati, a six-speed manual transmission, a 0-60 mph time of 4.9 seconds, and a top track speed of 177 mph. It's not the most modern car in terms of those specs, but part of sports car mystique is in having the right appeal, and the Spyder has that look.
The Maserati Coupe and Spyder are mechanically similar, but the Spyder is a convertible. When it comes to the cost of ownership, it's worth noting that the Spyder has had roof failure issues, and Maserati generally does not have the best reliability rating. Like with the CTS-V, you could be in for a hunt, as neither car had a big production run, and they're pretty popular on the used market. At the same time, no other vehicle offers a Ferrari's exhaust soundtrack at anywhere near this price, and buyers in the market for something different should consider these Maseratis.
3. Dodge Challenger V8
The Challenger between the model years of 2008 and 2015 offered muscular retro styling and a range of powerful V8 engine options. Power output in these engines ranged from 350 horsepower to 707 horsepower. It was also reasonably competent in terms of reliability, having won the JD Power Initial Quality Study award. A $30,000 budget can cover a moderately wide variety of Challenger models.
However, you may have to look at the older end of the indicated model range. Look at vehicles with higher mileage, and you may even be able to snag a special edition or high-performance SRT model.
4. Lotus Elise
Produced between 2005 and 2011, the Lotus Elise offered a 1.8-liter Toyota four-cylinder from a Celica with 189 horsepower; the transmission was either a five- or six-speed manual. The Elise made the 0-60 mph sprint in 5.7 seconds with a top track speed of 124 mph. Like the Maserati Spyder, the Elise may not have the most impressive stats compared to larger and more modern sports cars.
Still, it is exceptionally light and has a European sports car pedigree. The Lotus Elise's small size and lightweight body gave it quick acceleration and handling more like a go-cart than an actual street-legal car. An Elise under the $30,000 mark may have higher mileage, but its reliable Toyota engine should assuage some mechanical concerns.
5. Infiniti G37 and Q60
The G37 and Q60 are essentially the same cars, with the latter nameplate simply being a renaming of the former as of 2013. This sporty car from Nissan's luxury brand is an excellent choice for car buyers with diverse preferences. There are many configurations for this car, including convertibles, coupes, manuals, automatics, base trims, and fully-loaded trims.
You'll be looking at the 2008 to 2015 years for vehicles in the $30,000 range. However, you'll still be getting a very reliable car with one of the best engines ever from the Infiniti line, a 3.7-liter V6 with 330 horsepower. The Q60 is now in its second generation, so the previous generation vehicles should continue to dip in price.
6. BMW M3 E46
The BMW M3 produced between 2000 and 2006 was one of the most affordable yet iconic sports cars ever made. The M3 has always been known for reasonable pricing considering its competitive performance. The E46 generation highly improved on the previous car, the E36. The E46 offered a 333-horsepower 3.2-liter inline-six engine, which could accelerate from 0-60 mph in 5 seconds with a top track speed of 155 mph. The E46 could reach a top speed of 170 mph if it weren't for the electronic limiter. In terms of the transmission, the standard manual offered a sportier feel versus the dual-clutch SMG.
The main reliability problems with the E46 were internal electronics -- some noted trouble spots include random button failure and windows jamming up or down. If you're unable to find an E46 for the $30,000 price point, you can get similar performance with the previous E36. However, you'll likely be looking at higher mileage, and you'll especially want to get it thoroughly checked out before buying.
7. Subaru BRZ
The BRZ and its twin, the Toyota 86, are the ultimate contenders in the slow-car-fast category. The lightweight, rear-wheel drive, 200-horsepower BRZ delivers point-and-shoot driving dynamics. The BRZ was designed with a happy but predictable tail, making it easy to maintain a slight drift upon corner exit.
The BRZ also offers some practicality, with a back seat that can be folded down to hold more oversized items, decent fuel economy with 24 mpg city and 33 highway. For under $30,000, buyers should be able to find a well-equipped 2017 or 2018 BRZ with relatively low mileage. With the all-new 2022 BRZ on the horizon, the used market offers excellent value versus buying new.
8. Porsche Boxster
Porsche produced the first generation of the Porsche Boxster between 1996 and 2004. In the present day, it's a very affordable sports car. It featured a 2.5-liter to 3.2-liter six-cylinder engine mated with a manual or automatic transmission to get 200 to 250 horsepower. The Boxster covered 0-60 mph in about six to seven seconds with a top speed of 160 mph. The Cayman, introduced in 2006 with the second-generation Boxster, is mechanically identical. The Boxster is a roadster, while the Cayman is a fastback coupe.
In terms of reliability, the Boxster/Cayman duo are considered more reliable than other German nameplates. Still, they do have higher maintenance expenses versus Japanese and American sports cars. If reliability is an issue, you can also find the newer 2013-2014 Boxster for under $30,000 -- it won JD Power's Initial Quality Study award. In some places, it may also be easier to find the hardtop Cayman over the Boxster.
9. Nissan 370Z NISMO
The current model of 370Z NISMO has a starting MSRP of $45,790, but if you look back to models between the years of 2012 and 2015, you should easily be able to find some for sale under $30,000. A 2015 NISMO offered a 350-horsepower V6 and a race-inspired suspension.
It drove with sharp, sports-car handling and quick acceleration. The current NISMO offers a seven-speed automatic transmission and a six-speed manual, but older models only offered the manual. When it comes to reliability, you should be pretty well-covered with Nissan's solid ratings.
10. Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 or SS
The Camaro was resurrected for its fifth generation in 2010, and the 2013 model year was a good one with a 426 horsepower engine for the SS version. If you want an even more significant boost, you can opt for the supercharged 6.2-liter V8 in the ZL1, which made 580 horsepower.
Finding 2013 and 2014 models of the Camaro for under $30,000 appears to be relatively easy, as the average national price paid for a 2013 SS coupe was right around $22,500. If you want a convertible model, then you can expect to pay roughly $1,500 more. Reliability ratings from US News put the Camaro at a score of four out of five, making it a very affordable value.
11. Ford Mustang GT
Another modern retro muscle car, the Mustang GT, continuously ranks in lists of affordable sports cars, even when new. Finding 2015-2017 models under $30,000 is pretty easy, and many of them still have relatively low mileage. If you opt for the Mustang GT, you'll be looking at a 5.0-liter V8 and 435 horsepower.
This is a big step up from previous generations of the Mustang. On the other hand, if you want even more power and exclusivity, then you might consider looking for the 2012 Mustang Shelby GT500, which offers a 500 horsepower engine. The 2012 GT500 has begun to sink below the $30,000 price for higher-mileage examples. The Mustang GT trim receives a good rating for reliability, meaning you don't have to trade power for dependability.
12. Audi TT Coupe
The 2016 Audi TT coupe started around $44,000 brand-new, but it's now available for under $30,000 in many cases. The TT from this year featured all-wheel-drive, stylish exterior, and cutting-edge interior technology.
It offered a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that put out 220 horsepower, providing a 0-60 time of 5.3 seconds. The Quattro AWD system gave the TT athletic and sharp handling, allowing it to stick to hairpin turns with little effort.
13. Subaru WRX STI
The Subaru WRX STI looks like an ordinary four-door sedan, but underneath it's far more of a sports car. It offers AWD and a six-speed manual transmission with a turbocharged 305 horsepower four-cylinder engine. A national average cost for a 2017 model of the WRX is just under $30,000, as STIs continue to hold their value.
If you want a highly optioned model, then you'll likely be paying a couple thousand more. If you want something a little cheaper, you could look for the base WRX, which still offered 270 horsepower in a turbocharged engine. Along with a fast and sharp-handling roomy four-door, you'll also get Subaru's strong reputation for making durable and reliable cars.
14. Chevrolet Corvette C6
Now that the C7 Chevy Corvette is several years old and the next generation C8 has just been released, the prices on used C6s have dropped drastically. The C6 comes with a minimum of 400 horsepower and 400 lb-ft of torque, meaning there are no bad choices. You can find various trims and models of the C6 generation in just under $30,000 in most areas.
You'll be looking at LT3 and LT1 models most of the time, as the Z51 models are still selling for over $40,000. With the new C8 trickling out of factories and onto city streets, there's no doubt that C6 Corvettes will continue to go down in price.
15. Mazda MX-5 Miata
The Miata falls under the category of cars with seemingly unimpressive specs that are nevertheless both fast and sporty. In the case of the Miata, a 2015 Grand Touring model featured 167 horsepower with a manual transmission. If you opt for an automatic, then you're cutting horsepower down to 158. A manual hardtop of this model has a national average price of just over $19,000. An automatic typically costs some hundreds more. However, like some of the other cars mentioned here, the Miata is a small and light two-seater, which makes its power more than enough to zip around town. Reliability ratings for the 2015 model are average at 3.5 out of 5, but for the price, the value is decent.
Most of the models highlighted here should generally have on the lower end of mileage. But as with any used car, it's vital to get any prospective purchase thoroughly checked out and its history investigated. Performance cars often require more maintenance than other vehicles and can also be prone to accidents due to their speed and configuration.
Bonus: Hyundai Veloster N
The Veloster is the best hot hatch currently on the market, and used models are now available at well under the $30,000 mark. Though it lacks European rivals' cabin refinement, the Veloster N offers a more exciting driving experience than the heralded Volkswagen GTI. The Veloster N blends all of a hatchback's practicality with a sports car's thrills and exhaust sounds. When it debuted, reviewers universally raved about the Veloster N, with multiple awards from various automotive news outlets. Buyers looking for fun, practicality, and affordability should consider this three-door hatchback.
Most of the models highlighted here should generally have on the lower end of mileage. But as with any used car, it's vital to get any prospective purchase thoroughly checked out and its history investigated. Performance cars often require more maintenance than other vehicles. They can also be prone to accidents due to their speed and configuration.