Buying a car in today’s market, where prices are still at an all-time high, can be a daunting task. Buying a sports car to have a little extra fun is even harder, since, for most people, it will be a second or third vehicle that really is not necessary. You will be happy to know, however, that there are plenty of options on the used market for over $10,000 less than the price of an average new car.
A wide variety of used sports cars for under $30,000 are quite easy to find from several manufacturers. Not all of them continue to eat away at your budget either. Some are small, lightweight cars that get excellent fuel economy. If you are less focused on that and more focused on power, there are plenty of options that fill that slot as well.
Here is our list of the best-used sports cars for under $30,000.
2015-2017 Ford Mustang GT
The Mustang used to have a reputation as an affordable brute of a car that never handled very well and was never quite considered a true muscle car like the Dodge Challenger. They have always been relatively affordable, even as a new car, with some impressive performance for the money. Ford changed the Mustang’s reputation in 2015, though, when they introduced the sixth-generation model.
They got rid of the live rear axle that made it handle more like a brick than a car, they gave it modern styling, and in doing so, they thrust it into the realm of true sports cars. It still is not considered a true sports car by many since it is much larger and less agile than the Mazda Miata, Nissan 370Z, and Porsche Boxster, but it is a legitimate performance car to its core.
2015-2017 Ford Mustang GT models have begun to pop up all over in the sub-$30,000 range. For that, you get 435 horsepower, 400 lb-ft of torque, the option of a six-speed manual transmission, and a coupe or convertible. The redesigned 2018 GTs are still a bit too pricey, and the ones that are available have high miles. If you need a Mustang from in the 2018 to 2020 model year range, you will have to settle for a used four-cylinder EcoBoost model.
2012-2016 BMW Z4
Most buyers looking for an affordable sports car often forget about the BMW Z4. Being a BMW, it is a softer luxury sports car unlike Mustang or a purpose-built mountain road shredder like the Subaru BRZ or Mazda Miata. There is nothing wrong with that, though Its interior is well-appointed and comfortable with plenty of power still on tap.
Base model sDrive 28i Z4s come with a turbocharged four-cylinder engine that produces 240 horsepower. Beefier sDrive35i models do not come with a manual gearbox like the 28i models, but they up the horsepower to 335. You can also choose from a 300-horsepower “tweener” model if 335 horsepower is too much but 240 is too little.
All three models are available on the used market, covering a wide price range and making your job of finding the one you want a little easier. Even though the Z4 is not as nimble as some others on this list, its rear-wheel-drive layout, convertible top, and lack of a rear seat should get you the sports car thrills you need.
2006-2008 Porsche Cayman
The Porsche Boxster is usually the one that pops up on a list like this because it is Porsche’s entry-level offering. Many also automatically assume that you have to buy a Boxster because you cannot buy a 911. The Cayman sometimes gets left behind, but it certainly should not. There are not as many on the used market as there are Boxsters, so you should not pass one over if you see one.
All the ingredients that make the Boxster so special are present in Cayman as well. Its engine is mounted behind the passengers in the middle of the car, it comes with a six-speed manual transmission, it is well-balanced, and it is a Porsche for under $30,000. Cayman S models pack a 295-horsepower punch with 251 lb-ft of torque on tap to help get you going.
You should not need much to get you going, though, since the Cayman’s curb weight comes in under 3,000 pounds. Even if you cannot find a Cayman S and you have to go with the base model, you will still get a manual gearbox and 245 horsepower, plenty to put a smile on your face as you zip down the road.
2008-2013 Chevrolet Corvette
The C6 Corvette has been scrutinized heavily by Corvette purists because of its design – it was the first generation that the ‘Vette’s pop-up headlights were gone. It has gained popularity, though, since prices are coming down, you still get some of the feel from the older C5 Corvette, and you get some of the modern styling elements found in the newer C7.
Unfortunately, high-performance Z06 and ZR1 C6 models are still outside of the sub-$30,000 price range, but the base model should fill most of your needs. You have the choice of a convertible or removable hardtop coupe body style, rear-wheel-drive comes standard, and you have the choice of a manual or automatic transmission.
Regardless of your configuration of choice, even an entry-level Corvette comes with a 6.2-liter V8 with 430 horsepower and 424 lb-ft of torque. Those are impressive specs for the price. Even though most do not consider the Corvette a true sports car, it is close enough, and that alone should not deter you from considering one.
2016-2020 Mazda MX-5 Miata/Fiat 124 Spider
The Mazda Miata makes another top ten list, but this time, it is bringing a friend to share the spotlight. The Fiat 124 Spider was developed alongside the Miata and shares its Japanese underpinnings. The largest differences between the two vehicles are their styling and powertrain. Most agree that the Fiat looks a little better, and it had more power than the Miata for a few model years.
With the Mazda comes a four-cylinder engine that puts 155 horsepower to the pavement – until 2018, at least. Mazda upped that number to 181 in 2019 to satisfy buyers’ pleas for more get-up-and-go. The 124 Spider comes with 160 horsepower and a turbocharger in its base form, with the performance-oriented Abarth model getting a 4 horsepower bump from that.
Both cars come standard with a manual transmission, only two seats, a convertible roof, and well over 30 MPG of fuel economy on the highway. With a fairly low starting price, you can currently find lightly used examples of both cars. 124s are a bit harder to find than Miatas and offer less long-term reliability, but they arguably offer an even more thrilling driving experience.
2013-2016 Hyundai Genesis Coupe
Hyundai is not known for its sports cars, so when the Genesis Coupe was released in 2010, it received mixed feelings from the public. In retrospect, Hyundai did a great job on their first try. The Genesis Coupe is an underrated car, with a portion of the enthusiast community still turning a blind eye to what they see as just a Hyundai.
This is not all bad, though. Prices for used examples have remained relatively low. You can find a six-speed manual Genesis coupe with low miles for well under $30,000. The 3.8-liter V6 is the star of the show. It puts 348 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque through the rear wheels to the road. The alternative engine, only available in 2013 and 2014 is a four-cylinder turbo that is more tunable but less powerful from the factory.
Top-of-the-line Genesis Coupe 3.8 Ultimate models are the most well-rounded. They come with leather seating, a limited-slip differential, xenon headlights, Brembo brakes, and a relatively usable back seat for a sports car. If you cannot drive a stick, you can get one with an eight-speed automatic transmission that makes it easier to commute around town.
2017-2020 Toyota 86/Subaru BRZ
The Toyota 86 and Subaru BRZ are sister vehicles that have taken a page out of the Mazda Miata’s book about how to be a sports car. They are light and nimble, only come with rear-wheel-drive, and come with a manual transmission as standard that adds 5 horsepower from the automatic option.
205 horsepower is all you get in both models, a point of contention among enthusiasts. Still, this has not prohibited either car from being one of the best handling, fun cars available on the market. Again, like the Miata, they are affordable, with base pricing as new cars coming in under $30,000 already.
This means that in addition to being affordable sports cars, they are new enough to have features like an infotainment system, a backup camera, and some other nice tech features missing in older sports cars. To add even more reason to consider one, you get pretty good fuel economy and proven reliability with the purchase of each 86 or BRZ.
2009-2012 Porsche Boxster
The Porsche Boxster is not that much different than the Cayman, save for one major thing. Whereas the Cayman is a fastback coupe, the Boxster is a convertible. This makes for some additional driving fun for those who enjoy the sun on their windy back roads.
The Boxster is often cited as one of the best driving cars ever built, one of the purest sports cars ever made, and one of the best handling vehicles of all time. One other thing the Boxster does exceptionally well is keeping you out of trouble. With either 255 horsepower from the base flat-six or up to 320 horsepower from a larger flat-six, neither hits Mustang, Camaro, or Corvette levels of power. You should not need it, though.
With a curb weight of under 3,000 pounds, the need for a ton of power just does not exist with the Boxster. An additional perk of the Boxster over the Cayman is that its pricing is typically a little lower than its sibling, meaning that you can get more Porsche for your $30,000 in convertible form.
2009-2020 Nissan 370Z
The Nissan 370Z is a great car that has worn out its welcome in many people’s minds. It has recently been replaced by a brand-new Z model, but beyond its dated interior and exterior styling, it really is a great true sports car. A fastback coupe or roadster body style is available depending on your particular taste.
Earlier generation models had fewer horses under the hood, but most model years have remained relatively unchanged. This means that age and condition are the only major factors to consider when buying one. And seeing as how new 370Zs did not retail for too much more than $30,000 in the first place, well-maintained models with low mileage are everywhere.
With only two seats, rear-wheel-drive, an available six-speed manual transmission, and around 330 horsepower on tap, it fits the sports car bill perfectly. You can even find sportier Nismo models with 350 horses from its V6 engine if 330 is not enough for you. If you are into tuning and customization, rest assured that it is a favorite to modify, and aftermarket parts are readily available.
2015-2020 Subaru WRX
We have to admit that the Subaru barely makes it onto this list, not because it is not a good car, but because it really is not a true sports car. It is unique as a performance car and does not have anywhere else to legitimately go unless you consider “sports sedan” as a category. With four doors and all-wheel drive as standard, it is much different than most others on this list and offers the practicality that many others do not.
What helps it stay here is its available six-speed manual transmission, turbocharged four-cylinder engine, and the 268 horsepower that it produces. It is not a large car, so Mustang-level power is not needed. It is not as sharp as a handler as some others on this list, but its AWD system helps it get off the line, and it is not bad in the bends for being a five-seat sports sedan.
Even though these can easily be found for $30,000 or less, they tend to hold their value very well. It helps that their starting MSRP is relatively low as a new car. This is definitely one to consider if you cannot fit your family into a two-door vehicle and you have to deal with harsh winters where you live.
2019-2021 Volkswagen Golf GTI
Like the Subaru WRX above, the Volkswagen Golf GTI is not considered to be a true sports car as it is only available in front-wheel-drive as a hatchback rather than a coupe or convertible. Unlike the WRX, the Golf GTI does not hold its value nearly as well, so one or two-year-old GTI models can easily be found for much less than $30,000 with reasonable mileage.
The Golf GTI also has a rich heritage, known for being the original hot hatch. It has gotten larger and more bloated since the original GTI debuted more than 35 years ago, but its combination of practicality and performance is hard to match in today’s market. It still comes with an available six-speed manual transmission, but you can also haul your family and luggage comfortably.
In 2019, its 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine was tuned to produce 228 horsepower over the previous model year’s 220. This may not be much by today’s standards, but being a small car, it is more than enough to have some fun. If you really need more power from your Golf, you will have to look further back and find a Golf R, or you will need to pay more to find a Honda Civic Type R or Hyundai Veloster N.
2000-2009 Honda S2000
The Honda S2000 is considered by many to be one of the best sports cars ever made. It is small and nimble like the Mazda Miata, but it did not have nearly as long of a lifespan. It was available from 2000 to 2009, and it was known for its high-revving engine, eager handling, and for having the highest specific power output of any other mass-production naturally aspirated vehicle at that time.
That is pretty cool, but driving it was cooler. Its standard six-speed manual transmission, convertible top, rear-wheel-drive, and sub-3,000 pound curb weight made it agile. Its meager 153 lb-ft of torque made its drivers push the engine to 5,000 RPMs or more to get the best out of it, a key part of its fantastic driving experience. Though the engine did produce around 240 horsepower, it was hard to feel in normal driving.
Even though this car made the list of the best-used sports cars for under $20,000, the collector market is ramping up for the S2000, pushing prices to record highs. Even $30,000 is pushing the top price range for some of the best S2000s on the market. If your budget is set, you may want to get one before they go up even more.
2016-2017 Chevrolet Camaro SS
The Chevy Camaro is the Mustang’s chief rival, and they both draw many similarities to each other. Both are also offered with peppy four-cylinder engines that are much easier to find for less money, they both offer much nimbler handling than they used to, and they both fill a “tweener” spot between a muscle car and a sports car, and they are both performance bargains.
The Camaro SS in particular is the counterpart to the Mustang GT. It is a little harder to find in SS trim for the same years as the Mustang GT, but it also has about 20 more horsepower when equipped with the V8 engine: 455 horsepower as opposed to 435 in the Mustang. It also handles a little bit better than the standard Mustang GT, making it a tad more fun to drive.
You can choose a convertible or coupe body style and throw in manual transmission to row your own gears. If you need them, there are two back seats that will be unusable for most but the smallest passengers. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are both supported through the infotainment system and 8-inch touchscreen to make it just a tad more usable as an everyday driver.
2009-2013 Audi TTS
If you take the luxury and feel of the BMW Z4, the fastback design of the Nissan 370Z, throw in the rear seats from the Subaru BRZ and apply all-wheel-drive at the end, you have the Audi TT. It is not technically a true sports car without the rear-wheel-drive that most others have. Everything else that makes a sports car a sports car is there, though, and the TTS model in particular only strengthens the TT’s case to be on this list.
Its excellent Quattro AWD system both hurts and helps the TTS. It does nearly take it out of the league of official sports cars, but it helps it get its 265 horsepower to the ground quickly. Unfortunately, that power is put through a six-speed automated manual rather than a true manual transmission, but its peppy turbocharged four-cylinder engine helps make up for that.
You can choose to have the TTS in coupe or convertible roadster form, and its nice, comfortable interior will ensure you a great drive to the office or through the twisting canyon roads. Handling is not as sharp as some others on this list, but the TTS is a fair consolation prize to the more powerful TT RS which is much harder to find at this price point.