Always dreamed of owning a sports car but haven’t got the funds to splash out on a Ferrari or Lamborghini? Fret no more. You can still get a dreamy sports car for under $17,000 if you know what to look for. Let me tempt your appetite with a selection to get your heart racing.
1. Audi TTS Quattro (2008-2014)
With Audi’s famous AWD (All-Wheel Drive) as standard, the TTS featured a six-speed ‘S-Tronic’ dual-clutch transmission, a new two-stage sports-biased ESP (Electronic Stability Programme) and all-weather traction, as well as a 2.0 liter turbo engine that generates an impressive 350 Nm torque from 2,500-5,000 rpm. This makes it more powerful with a more capable chassis than the base TT model.
The one I found – A silver 2009 model with two-tone leather and Alcantara upholstery and door cards, Bose stereo system, rear spoiler, 18 inch ‘S’ design wheels, and Adaptive Suspension. It only has 62,821 miles on the speedometer and comes in at $15,990.
2. Subaru BR-Z/Scion FR-S/Toyota 86 (2013-2020)
Jointly developed by Subaru and Toyota, they both wanted to release the design that sold like wildfire. While Subaru called their car the BR-Z, Toyota sold their model initially under their youth-oriented ‘Scion’ brand as a FR-S which ended life in 2016, so the name changed to the Toyota 86 – a flashback to their fabulous 80’s Corolla variant. Not as fast as the Audi TTS, the BR-Z and 86 contain a 2.0 liter engine with either a 6-speed manual or A960E automatic transmission.
The one I found – 2013 Subaru BR-Z in stunning metallic gun-metal grey with traction control, Bluetooth, on-screen navigation, manual transmission and an amazingly low 41,531 miles on the clock. The dark and medium two-toned fabric seats are stylishly finished with red-ribbed stitching and the exterior is in mint condition – not surprising for a low-mileage model. Just under budget at $16,997, it was the cream of the crop.
3. Mazda MX-5 Miata (2005-2015)
The third-generation MX-5 Miata combines the best of the earlier and later models. It feels much more substantial than its previous model, while also offering a more direct connection to the road than the fourth-generation model introduced in 2016. You can pick up a 6-speed automatic model if your heart desires, however the responsive manual transmission is a drivers dream and is one of the best you’ll find in a car. The steering and suspension are so in sync that the driving and cornering experience is a must.
The one I found – If you don’t mind a 2.0 liter engine, then you may just fancy a 2006 Convertible in burnt orange with complimentary black-colored, strengthened soft-top in pristine condition. Black contour seats, 5-speed manual transmission, sports steering, Bluetooth, clean Autocheck title, only 3 previous owners and an eye-watering 46,741 miles traveled, this little sports car makes a worthy contender coming in cheap at $14,995.
4. Nissan 370Z Coupe/Roadster (2009-2013)
Featured in pop culture films like ‘Fast & Furious 6’ and ‘Born to Race’, the 370Z has turned heads since its introduction in showrooms across North America. A rear-wheel drive, naturally aspirated 3.7 liter V6 engine with 265kw, the 370Z inspires confidence in its braking system and supportive suspension. The ‘Sport Package’ adds 19-inch RAYS forged wheels with Bridgestone Potenza tires, dedicated Nissan Akebono Sports Brakes, and 6-speed manual SynchoRev Match while the ‘Navigation Package’ adds Nissan’s touch-screen Hard Drive Navigation System with XM NavTraffic updated real-time traffic information and a 9.3GB Music Box hard drive for digital music storage and playback.
The one I found – A 7-speed automatic transmission 2010 Roadster in ‘Brilliant’ metallic silver with fully working soft top, keyless entry and start, tire pressure monitoring system, anti-theft system, auto-off headlights, no previous damage and 85,500 miles for $16,500. Watch for models with faulty soft-tops or previous damage as there are plenty of them on the market. I also couldn’t find a coupe model under this price, however I did find one just over at $17,495 with 82,055 miles.
5. Chevrolet Corvette (1984-1996)
The fourth generation 5.7 liter V8 engine made this retro classic more powerful than its predecessors and the appealing targa-top added a cool vibe. The manual transmission returned, although it was problematic until it was replaced in 1989 by a 6-speed transmission (something to look out for when looking at an earlier model). Various updates occurred over the years including Acceleration Slip Regulation (ASR) in 1992, the Passive Keyless Entry System and 40th anniversary badges, and embroidered seat backs in 1993, OBD II (On-Board Diagnostics) and run-flat tires towards the end of the generation run, and special Grand Sport and Collector Edition models with unique options.
The one I found – Sure, there are plenty of old models on the market for less, but I found a ‘Ruby Red’ 1991 Coupe with a supremely low 34,500 miles in excellent condition, full service history and garaged all its life. The unmarked leather seats and crack-free dashboard are proof of this well-looked after example coming in at $13.995. A standout collectible.
6. Jaguar XK8 (1997-2006)
Luxury and iconic good looks make this 4.0 liter V8 sports car hard to miss. Leather seats and genuine wood-grain trim throughout are standard as you cruise or speed down the street. The larger body with more spacious interior may appeal for more comfort and breathability.
The one I found – Spoilt for choice, I found a 1997 convertible in ‘Burgundy Red’ with complimentary ‘Tan’ soft-top. The matching tan interior is in immaculate condition as is the exterior paintwork. It features keyless entry, tinted glass, effortless power-top, 5-speed automatic transmission, and super alloy wheels with 42,253 miles ready to drive away at $14,500. However, if you’re after the rare hard-top coupe version, then the updated 2005 model I found in metallic grey with black leather seats and only two previous owners is a must. It’s a private owner selling so has all the service records and history of how the car performs, and may take a reasonable offer. It has 67,564 miles and a 6-speed automatic transmission also listed at $14,500. So it comes down to whether you want a coupe or convertible. The mileage difference of 25,000 may make up your mind – however they have both been lovingly cared for and garaged, so it could very well be a hard choice. My advice would be to test drive both.
7. BMW M3 E46 Generation (2000-2006)
A high-performance version of the BMW 3 Series, the M3 E46 coupe and convertible are fast becoming a collectors’ car, and prices are rising (especially in Europe and Australia). Beside the engine, the handling, brakes, aerodynamics, lightweight materials and interiors have all been upgraded. BMW fitted the E46 M3 with the SMG-II gearbox officially taking the title as the fastest shifting gear box in the world. The engine came in two models – the 3.2 liter straight 6 and the 4.0 liter V8 (GTR only) with a 6-speed manual transmission.
The one I found – A metallic blue 2003 3.2 liter straight 6 with new 19-inch Continental tires on RUFF Racing aluminum wheels (original wheels also included in sale). It has the updated ‘Snow Ski Package’ including heated leather seats, an updated JVC stereo with Bluetooth, CD/DVD, all maintenance records and has been kept in a garage. 92,750 miles have been traveled and it’s in great condition with a fully working soft-top in black for $16,240.
8. Audi S5 (2007-2012)
The pumped-up sports version of the A5, the S5 (coupe or convertible) comes with either a 3.0 liter V6 engine (producing 245kw), or the faster 4.2 liter V8 motor (producing 260kw) which would give more power, however could be harder to track down within budget. Standard with the S5 are the famous Quattro four-wheel drive (4WD) system, 19-inch alloy wheels, larger brakes, heated leather sports seats, dual-quad tip exhaust, bigger air inlets on the front bumper and side skirts. The string of LED daytime running lights enhances the look, while there were also ‘Premium Plus’ and ‘Prestige’ trim levels available.
The one I found – A “Premium Plus’ 2010 4.2 liter V8 coupe model in metallic silver featuring a sunroof/moonroof, Bluetooth, Satellite Navigation system, ‘Sport Package’ with premium wheels, and 90,000 miles for $15,950.
9. Porsche Boxster (1996-2004)
The first generation Boxster started out with a 2.5 liter flat six-cylinder engine, upgraded to the base 2.7 liter flat 6 in the year 2000 with an extra Boxster ‘S’ variant introduced featuring a 3.2 liter flat six. Although early engines had a number of failures, from 1999 onwards they had rectified the problem and were back on form. In 2002, they replaced the Perspex plastic rear window with a smaller glass window, the interior received a new glove compartment and an updated steering wheel.
The one I found – Depending on whether you prefer a hard or soft top, I found two base models from 2002, both 5-speed automatic, and both with six previous owners. There is only 3,000 miles between them with the soft-top having done 58,500 while the hard-top has traveled slightly less at 55,500 miles. The soft-top comes in silver with a black interior while the hard-top comes in ‘Racing Green’ with a complimentary tan interior. Both are in great condition, so the only other difference would be the price. The soft-top is selling for $15,900 from a dealer and the hard-top is selling privately for $16,714. With a little negotiation, you could get the hard-top for the same price as the soft-top. Decisions, decisions.
10. Toyota MR2 Spyder (1999-2007)
Moving on from the Porsche Boxster to the third generation Toyota MR2 seems natural in that the MR2 shares some parts with the more expensive Boxster. However, the Toyota is easy to navigate if fixing, it’s reliable, and costs less to run with only a 1.8 liter inline 4-cylinder engine. However, the sporty good looks and manual transmission make this car enjoyable to drive.
The one I found – For $13,998 I found a ‘Absolutely Red’ model with only three previous owners, daytime running lights, condition like new, and a jaw-dropping 48,746 miles traveled. That works out to the car only traveling 2,215 miles per year! You’d be crazy to pass that up.
When dealing with a used sports car, it is imperative to get a professional, thorough inspection done to confirm there is no previous ‘brand’ or ‘salvage’ title and that the undercarriage and wheel axles are in great condition as most sit low to the ground. The main problem when purchasing a used performance car is that a lot of them have been thrashed and that the owner may have lost their license due to one too many speeding infringements. But as you can see, there are plenty of awesome sports cars under $17,000 on the market. You just have to get out there and find a sports car to suit your dreams.