Owning a sports car can be an expensive endeavor. You start with the initial cost and then add expenses like maintenance, gas, insurance, and inevitable wear and tear. You may not be able to do much about accidents and repairs, but if you look to the used-car market, you can save a bundle on the initial cost of buying a sports car. Sports cars rapidly depreciate as soon as you leave the dealership lot, so looking for a used one makes financial sense in more ways than one. Let's look at some of the best used sports cars you can find for less than $30,000 and what makes them so great.
1. 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. The Corvette tops this list, because it continues to be a true performance bargain, whether on the new or used market.
2. 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. For under $30,000 look for a 2019 or 2020 with less than 20,000 miles. 2021 models with the snappy DCT transmission haven't yet depreciated under budget yet, but expect to see them under $30k in the near future.
3. Dodge Challenger V8
The Challenger between the model years of 2008 and 2016 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 for the USA between 2005 and 2011, the Lotus Elise offered a 1.8-liter Toyota four-cylinder from a Celica with 189 horsepower; paired with either a five-or six-speed manual transmission. The Elise made the 0-60 mph sprint in 5.7 seconds with a top track speed of 124 mph. While the Elise may not have the most impressive stats compared to larger and more modern sports cars, 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. The Elise with it tiny, two-door wedge shape also represents the most exotic looking vehicle on this list.
5. Kia Stinger
Kia's four-door Stinger is a shot across the bow to brands like Audi, though it lags slightly behind in interior luxury. Available in rear or all-wheel drive the Stinger is a handsome, sporty sedan which offers a lot of features and performance for the money. For the most thrills, seek out a Stinger GT with AWD and a 3.3-liter twin-turbo V6 making 365 horsepower.
That's enough to rocket the big sedan to 60 miles per hour in just 4.4 seconds. The non-GT models still benefit from an excellent chassis, and has a more than adequate 255-horsepower, turbocharged four-cylinder engine. Look for a GT1, GT2, or Premium trim to get amenities like a larger touchscreen, premium sounds system, and built-in navigation.
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. Many generations of the M3 were offered in both coupe and sedan body styles, opt for the sedan if you need a larger rear seat, or the coupe for a sportier grand touring car.
7. Subaru BRZ
The BRZ and its twin, the Toyota 86 (and Scion FR-S), 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, and 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 hitting the streets soon, 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. A new Z car is just around the corner, expect values to drop slightly in anticipation of Nissan's coming 400-horsepower, twin-turbo sports car.
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. The Camaro is also a somewhat practical option, with a small rear seat, capable of transporting children or luggage. It won't replace your need for a crossover, but it may be a good second car for a small family.
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. If you would rather go the turbo route, the Mustang's 2.3-liter EcoBoost version still delivers over 300 horsepower, and you should be able to snag one for a few thousand dollars less. You might even be able to find a fairly recent model with the EcoBoost High Performance package, with 330 horsepower under the $30,000 budget.
This is a big step up from previous generations of the Mustang, even those with a V8. 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. The TT's styling is handsome but understated, making this a great option for those wanting a fun car with "grown up" looks.
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. 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 2011 and 2012 models specifically to hit $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. It is one of the faster luxury 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. A coupe or sedan should be easier to find in this budget, especially with an automatic transmission. The wagon body style or cars with the manual transmission are going for more money, and may be difficult to find under budget.
15. Mazda MX-5 Miata
The Mazda Miata falls under the category of cars with seemingly unimpressive specs that are nevertheless both fast and sporty. In the Miata's case, the most recent generation is now available below the $30,000 mark even when well equipped. For the 2019 model year, the MX-5 received a power boost, up to 181 horsepower from 155, and on the used market, buyers should be able to get a soft-top with the extra power under $30k. Buyers wanting the Miata RF with a retractable hardtop will likely have to look at models from before the additional power was added.
However, like some of the other cars mentioned here, the Miata is a small and light two-seater, making even 155 horsepower more than enough to zip around town. The Miata is also one of the most affordable points of entry to rear-wheel-drive roadster ownership. Miata buyers should expect a very reliable vehicle, and parts are inexpensive and widely available. The very similar Fiat 124 Spider should also be available under budget, if you prefer your Miata with a turbocharged Italian twist.
Bonus: Honda Civic Si
For just under $30,000 you can find a nearly new Civic Si, loaded with options, in either a coupe or sedan body style. The Civic Si sports a 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine making a robust 205 horsepower. The Si is only available with a six speed manual transmission putting that power to the front wheels. The Si is an extremely practical sporty car, with a useable back seat, and fuel economy of38 miles per gallon on the highway.
The interior is classic Honda, well thought out, and high quality. You won't be lacking creature comforts either, with a touchscreen infotainment system including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Most of the models highlighted here should generally be 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. Have a pre-purchase inspection done, by a trusted mechanic, before spending $30k on a potential money pit.