In recent years, the automotive landscape has seen the price tags of many once-affordable cars skyrocket, making them unattainable for budget-conscious buyers. Sports cars, in particular, have faced this trend as practicality often precedes speed, style, and performance.
However, the good news is that a lineup of relatively affordable sports cars is still available, some of which can be owned for under $30,000. While not everyone may afford a $30,000 price point, it’s worth noting that this figure remains considerably below the average cost of new vehicles today and is reminiscent of what the $20,000 range represented a decade ago.
Without further ado, let’s dive into our selection of the best new and used sports cars that can be yours for $30,000 or less in 2023.
2015-2017 Ford Mustang
When it comes to the world of car enthusiasts, the 2015-2017 Ford Mustang stands out as a true gem. This iconic American muscle car made a remarkable leap forward in its sixth generation, hitting the scene with a sleeker design, more power, and a shift to independent rear suspension that elevated its handling dynamics. Now, for those seeking an exhilarating ride without breaking the bank, there’s a wealth of options on the used market, all available for $30,000 or less.
The top pick for most enthusiasts remains the Mustang GT, packing a mighty 5.0-liter V8 engine that unleashes a thunderous 435 horsepower. Paired with a standard six-speed manual transmission, it delivers an unmatched driving experience. If you’re looking for a blend of performance and fuel efficiency, the EcoBoost variant boasts a 2.3-liter turbocharged engine, producing a respectable 310 horsepower. Don’t overlook the V6-powered Mustang, often underrated but offering a solid 300 horsepower. Each model comes in the classic two-door coupe or convertible form, featuring functional rear seats and rear-wheel-drive, the essence of pure driving pleasure. Whether you choose a GT with 50,000 to 80,000 miles or a four or six-cylinder variant with as little as 10,000 miles, you’re in for an exhilarating ride that won’t drain your wallet. (And remember, when you pass by a gas station, you’ll have a little extra cash for a post-drive snack!)
2020-2021 Volkswagen GTI
When it comes to the world of car enthusiasts, the 2020-2021 Volkswagen GTI stands as a shining example of how you can have both performance and practicality without compromise. This iconic hot hatchback, with its roots dating back to the mid-1970s, has been instrumental in establishing the popularity of this vehicle segment. What makes it truly special is that it continues to set the standard for affordability and practicality while staying true to its enthusiast-focused heritage.
The 2020 and 2021 models of the GTI, priced around $30,000, offer an enticing package for car enthusiasts. Boasting four doors and accommodating rear seats, they strike a harmonious balance between practicality and performance. Enthusiasts will particularly appreciate the standard six-speed manual transmission, although there’s also an option for a dual-clutch automatic for added convenience. Under the hood, a turbocharged four-cylinder engine delivers a spirited 228 horsepower and 258 lb-ft. of torque, ensuring an exhilarating driving experience. Furthermore, the GTI’s standard hatchback body style provides a generous 22.8 cubic feet of cargo space, making it the ultimate all-rounder that seamlessly transitions between thrilling drives and daily errands. So, don’t be surprised if you find yourself fitting both your track-day gear and a week’s worth of groceries in this versatile hot hatch.
2023 Mazda MX-5 Miata
Regarded as an iconic gem within the realm of sports cars, the Mazda MX-5 stands as a testament to automotive brilliance. Its allure, however, extends beyond its undeniable appeal to car enthusiasts on a budget, as it proudly wears the tag of being one of the finest affordable sports cars available for less than $30,000. Though you’ll be in the realm of the base Sport trim, rest assured, with approximately $800 to spare even after accounting for the destination fee, you’ll still find yourself grinning from ear to ear as you navigate the open road. (Speaking of grinning, the MX-5’s steering wheel practically has a built-in “smile” button!)
For the modest sum of around $30,000, the MX-5 Miata generously endows its fortunate owners with a classic rear-wheel drive convertible experience, featuring 181 horsepower under the hood, and a slick six-speed manual transmission at your command. This spirited chariot excels in nimble handling, sips fuel frugally, and delivers a touch of reliability to accompany its thrilling performance. Not stopping there, it even throws in some modern tech wizardry, including the likes of blind-spot monitoring, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto. Sure, you might have to relinquish the allure of a limited-slip differential, a nine-speaker Bose audio symphony, or a retractable hardtop, but fear not – the used market abounds with MX-5 Miatas adorned in these luxurious trappings, making it possible to have your sports car cake and eat it too!
2023 Toyota GR86/2023 Subaru BRZ
In 2013, the automotive world witnessed a remarkable collaboration between Toyota and Subaru, a dynamic duo with a shared mission: to challenge the MX-5 Miata’s monopoly on pure sports car exhilaration. Enter the 2023 Toyota GR86 and the 2023 Subaru BRZ, two formidable contenders that proudly hold their ground in the realm of sports car thrills. Priced around $30,000 for their base iterations, these high-octane wonders are your ticket to unadulterated driving bliss. (They say these cars have so much grip; they practically put Spider-Man to shame!)
Under the hood, both the GR86 and BRZ sport a gutsy 2.4-liter boxer engine, an enthusiast’s dream come true. This powerhouse delivers a robust 228 horsepower, more than ample for these lightweight chariots, tipping the scales at a mere 2,800 pounds each. With a shared commitment to rear-wheel drive and a silky six-speed manual transmission, these twins offer an intoxicating driving experience that’s second to none. While their appearances bear subtle differences, the essence remains the same.
For aficionados on the hunt for the perfect blend of performance and modernity, the GR86 and BRZ boast an impressive array of standard features, including an 8-inch touchscreen, seamless integration of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, push-button ignition, and dual-zone climate control. Although the allure of a 2022 model might tempt you in the used market, keep in mind that these new iterations offer a more comprehensive package, leaving you spoiled for choice. In the realm of affordable sports cars, these two have firmly etched their names in the annals of automotive greatness.
2019-2020 Nissan 370Z
The Nissan 370Z, a legend in its own right, sits at the intersection of nostalgia and modernity. Spanning the years from 2019 to 2020, this iconic sports car embodies the essence of a true enthusiast’s dream ride. (Why did the 370Z cross the road? To get to the racetrack, of course!) Its enduring generational run allowed Nissan to fine-tune this automotive masterpiece to perfection, ensuring that by 2020, it had reached its zenith before stepping aside for the current Z model. Some critics may have deemed it old-fashioned, but for aficionados, it’s a timeless classic, exuding an analog charm that transcends eras.
Beneath the sleek fastback styling of the 370Z lies a beastly 332-horsepower naturally-aspirated V6 engine, delivering symphonic melodies to your ears as you conquer every twist and turn. While the Roadster variant bowed out in 2020, the hatchback coupe body style adds a practical touch to the mix, ensuring that this sports car remains not just a thrill on the track but a usable gem on the streets. In a world where the new Nissan Z flaunts updated styling and tech, some argue that it lacks the 370Z’s distinctive character. However, the decision ultimately rests with you, the discerning enthusiast. And here’s the kicker – opting for a pristine, used 370Z won’t just appease your automotive desires; it will also keep a few extra dollars in your pocket. With examples boasting a sweet spot between 15,000 and 40,000 miles on the odometer, the 370Z continues to be an accessible avenue to sports car euphoria. So, whether you yearn for nostalgia or revel in modernity, the 370Z awaits your spirited drive.
2015 Chevrolet Camaro
Ah, the 2015 Chevrolet Camaro – a testament to American muscle car greatness that holds its own against its arch-nemesis, the 2015 Ford Mustang. (Why did the Camaro bring a compass to the race? To find its way to victory!) In the realm of modern muscle, this yearning for nostalgia may require a step back in time, relinquishing some of the modern bells and whistles found in newer Camaro models. But fear not, for this journey unlocks a treasure trove of Camaro SS models, adorned with the mighty V8 engine – a true symphony of power and performance.
Sure, you can settle for the tamer LS or LT variants, housing a 323 horsepower V6 engine, if a more pristine, lower-mileage Camaro suits your fancy. However, the siren call of the 426 horsepower V8 engine may be too irresistible to ignore. True, the creature comforts may not be as lavish, and 2015 marked the farewell of the fifth generation, but it also lands squarely within our $30,000 budget. While Camaros have a notorious reputation for their visibility challenges, the 2015 models make up for it with nimble handling that outshines the Dodge Challenger of the same era. Furthermore, their handsome retro styling remains a classic, even after the sleek 2016 redesign. As you delve into the used market, you’ll discover SS models with mileage ranging from 25,000 to 75,000, available in both coupe and convertible forms. The road to muscle car nirvana awaits, where the roar of the V8 engine is your guiding anthem.
2005-2013 Chevrolet Corvette
If the Camaro doesn’t quite tickle your fancy, it’s time to set your sights on the legendary 2005-2013 Chevrolet Corvette, also known as the C5 Corvette – an automotive masterpiece that offers a kaleidoscope of choices in the world of high-performance cars. (Why did the C5 Corvette cross the finish line? To get to the other side… faster!) These gems are scattered across the used market, awaiting their next adventure in the hands of enthusiasts. With a wide array of conditions, body styles, and flavors to choose from, you’re spoiled for choice. Early models boast a formidable 400-horsepower V8 engine and a slick six-speed manual transmission, while the 2008 refresh kicked it up a notch to 430 horsepower, offering an exhilarating driving experience.
Although some purists bemoan the C5 Corvette’s departure from the iconic pop-up headlights, this high-performance marvel strikes a balance between dynamic handling and seductive styling, raising the bar from its predecessors. Despite occasional controversy, the Corvette stands as one of America’s automotive icons, delivering affordable performance that sets hearts racing. Depending on the model year and the bells and whistles you desire, you can easily find well-maintained C5 Corvettes in the used market, boasting anywhere from 20,000 to 150,000 miles on their odometers. While the ultra-desirable and potent Z06 models from this era may be a bit elusive without stretching your budget, the thrill of owning a C5 Corvette is an adventure worth pursuing. So, rev up your search and prepare for an adrenaline-pumping journey in this American classic.
2016 Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class
In the world of Mercedes-Benz, renowned for its grand tourers, opulent family sedans, and commanding coupes, the 2016 Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class stands as a captivating outlier, venturing into the domain of sports cars while gracefully fitting within our $30,000 budget range. (Why did the SLK-Class become a sports car? Because it wanted to have a “roof-raising” experience!) Though it may not bear the purebred sports car pedigree of a Porsche Boxster or Mazda MX-5 Miata, it makes its mark with sheer finesse and a dash of sophistication.
While the 2016 SLK-Class may have bid adieu to the manual transmission option, it compensates with a retractable hardtop that dances with the sky, a panoramic glass roof panel to soak in the sun, and a surprisingly spacious interior for a two-seater sports car. Nestled beneath its sculpted hood lies a spirited 241-horsepower four-cylinder turbocharged engine, ready to propel you into the realm of driving pleasure. Seek out the base SLK 300 models on the used market, where you’ll uncover treasures with odometers reading anywhere between 20,000 to 60,000 miles. While the hunt for the more potent 2016 SLK 350 models with the same mileage may be a tad trickier, don’t be afraid to explore slightly older gems if you’re eager to embrace the allure of Mercedes-Benz’s sports car lineage. So, rev up your dreams, for the 2016 SLK-Class beckons with the promise of luxury, performance, and a sun-soaked journey on the open road.
2017-2020 Fiat 124 Spider
When the echo of “Mazda MX-5 Miata” becomes too familiar, it’s time to tune into the harmonious roar of the 2017-2020 Fiat 124 Spider. This Italian-inspired roadster, born from a partnership with the MX-5 Miata, offers a refreshing twist on the classic two-seat convertible experience. (Why did the Fiat 124 Spider invite the Miata to the racetrack? To have a “top-down” conversation!) While it may share its underpinnings with its Japanese counterpart, the Fiat 124 Spider adds its own unique flair to the road.
For those who crave an extra punch of performance, the coveted 124 Abarth emerges as the crown jewel in the lineup. With a limited-slip differential, a spirited 1.4-liter turbocharged engine generating 164 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque, and the option to grace it with Recaro sport seats, it exudes a tantalizing blend of excitement. Yet, even with these enhancements, it doesn’t quite outrun the Miata in the race to 60 miles per hour. However, the 124 Spider’s lineup features other trim levels that provide a more comfortable and subdued ride, ensuring that every drive is a delightful journey, even if the Miata occasionally steals the spotlight in head-to-head performance duels. Speaking of competition, the 124 Spider gives the Miata a run for its money in the realm of depreciation, with Abarth models surfacing on the used market with as few as 15,000 miles, offering a tempting proposition for budget-conscious enthusiasts. So, whether you prefer Italian charm or Japanese precision, the Fiat 124 Spider adds a unique note to the symphony of open-top driving pleasures.
2015-2016 Hyundai Genesis Coupe
In the realm of Hyundai’s sports car offerings, ranging from the legendary Tiburon to the recently retired Veloster N, one gem often overlooked is the 2015-2016 Hyundai Genesis Coupe. (Why did the Genesis Coupe bring a stopwatch to the track? To prove it’s got some serious “accelera-tion”!) While it might not boast the same cult-like following as the Mustang, Camaro, or 370Z, nor match the razor-sharp handling of the Miata, BRZ, or GR86, the Genesis Coupe stands proudly as a formidable contender in the world of sports cars.
The 2015 and 2016 Genesis Coupe models epitomize the pinnacle of this car’s legacy. With its rear-wheel-drive prowess and sleek two-door coupe design, it not only turns heads but also packs a punch under the hood, thanks to its robust V6 engine that churns out an impressive 348 horsepower. Enthusiasts will relish the choice between a six-speed manual transmission or an eight-speed automatic for their preferred driving experience. Offering a trio of trim levels, the base models come equipped with cloth seats, LED daytime running lights, and automatic climate control. However, the discerning enthusiast may find the R-Spec or Ultimate trims more enticing, complete with Xenon headlights, sports seats, a limited-slip differential, and a finely tuned suspension. As you embark on your hunt, prepare for pleasant surprises, with some models boasting as few as 10,000 miles on the odometer – a testament to the care and devotion of fellow car enthusiasts. So, whether you opt for the Genesis Coupe’s understated charm or the top-tier performance trims, it’s a journey worth savoring in the world of sports car exhilaration.
2016 BMW Z4
If the Mercedes-Benz SLK 300 didn’t rev up your engine, consider turning your gaze towards the 2016 BMW Z4, another exhilarating hardtop convertible roadster from the same model year. (Why did the BMW Z4 bring a thesaurus to the track? To find more synonyms for “excitement”!) The allure of the Z4 lies not only in its sleek design but also in the option to embrace the art of manual transmission, a rare gem in today’s automotive landscape. With both a 240-horsepower base engine and a more robust 300-horsepower counterpart available within our $30,000 budget, the Z4 caters to enthusiasts seeking both style and substance.
Under the hood, you’ll find two distinct powerplants – a nimble 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with a single turbocharger and a brawnier version featuring a twin-turbo setup. While the elusive 335-horsepower beast may be just out of reach within our price point, the Z4 doesn’t hold back in the handling department, offering a thrilling driving experience that outpaces its German rival. Despite its sporty nature, this two-seater roadster boasts a surprisingly spacious cabin, ensuring that every journey is a comfortable one. Even in its base form, the Z4 doesn’t skimp on features, with dual-zone climate control, Bluetooth connectivity, and rain-sensing windshield wipers as standard fare. When it comes to fuel economy, the Z4 impresses with estimates of up to 33 MPG on the highway for those who opt for the manual transmission and base engine combination. As you embark on your quest for the perfect Z4, you’ll likely encounter used models spanning the range from 30,000 to 80,000 miles on the odometer, each offering its unique blend of thrills and style. So, whether you’re chasing the wind with the top down or reveling in the joys of a spirited drive, the 2016 BMW Z4 promises an automotive adventure that’s sure to set your heart racing.
2009-2010 Porsche Cayman
In the exhilarating world of sports cars, the 2009-2010 Porsche Cayman shines brightly, often eclipsed by its open-top sibling, the Boxster, in lists of affordable used sports cars. However, we dare to say that the Cayman might just be the hidden gem that deserves more of your attention. (Why did the Cayman bring a compass to the racetrack? To navigate the curves, of course!) Built upon the same foundation as the Boxster, it boasts a mid-engine layout that delivers unparalleled handling equilibrium. With its fixed roof, the Cayman provides superior structural rigidity, offering driving enthusiasts an uncompromising blend of precision and performance.
Within our budget range, the 2009-2010 Cayman models beckon with their allure. While the Cayman S might remain a bit elusive, fear not, for the base models are here to satisfy your need for speed. Sporting a 2.9-liter flat-four-cylinder engine mated to a six-speed manual transmission, rear-wheel drive, and delivering a spirited 265 horsepower, this lightweight contender tips the scales at under 3,000 pounds. These attributes coalesce to cement the Cayman’s reputation as one of the purest sports cars ever created. While creature comforts might be sparse, limited to essentials like leather seats, ABS, and a power-operated driver’s seat, you can secure a well-maintained Cayman in decent condition for around $30,000, with odometer readings ranging from 70,000 to 100,000 miles. So, whether you’re carving corners on a scenic route or unleashing its prowess on the track, the 2009-2010 Porsche Cayman promises an unforgettable journey through the world of sports car passion.
2022 Subaru WRX
Introducing the 2022 Subaru WRX, a marvel that seamlessly blends the practicality of a family sedan with the heart-pounding excitement of a sports car. This year’s model has undergone a stunning makeover, and enthusiasts will be delighted to know that it comes packed with modern conveniences like the coveted Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration. (Did you hear about the WRX that tried to race a Prius? Spoiler alert: it still couldn’t find its pulse!) But, if you’re after the pinnacle of tech and safety, brace yourself for the fact that the premium features are primarily tucked away in the upper-tier trims, which may tip the scales when it comes to pricing.
Under the hood, every WRX boasts a robust 271-horsepower turbocharged flat-four engine paired with a slick six-speed manual transmission – a true driver’s delight. And let’s not forget about Subaru’s renowned Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive system, ensuring a grip that’ll leave you grinning through every twist and turn. (Why did the WRX enthusiast bring a ladder to the dealership? To check out that extra horsepower up close!) For those who prefer a more relaxed drive, a CVT transmission is available as an alternative to the manual gearbox. It’s worth noting that the interior quality may not quite match up to the standards set by stalwarts like the Honda Civic and Mazda Mazda3 in the compact car category.
With the base model WRX starting at just over $30,000, it’s an affordable gateway to high-performance thrills. Savvy shoppers can even snag last year’s models at a fraction of the price. Premium and Limited models, ranging from 2,000 to 20,000 miles on the odometer, are ready to hit the road, ensuring there’s a WRX for every budget and driving style. So, whether you’re craving exhilarating speed or seeking the perfect balance between practicality and excitement, the 2022 Subaru WRX is here to make every drive an unforgettable journey.
2017-2018 Honda Civic Type R
The 2017-2018 Honda Civic Type R, despite its front-wheel drive setup and four-door configuration, set the hearts of American car enthusiasts ablaze when it roared onto the scene in 2017. A launch that had enthusiasts buzzing for decades, this Type R model remains a cherished gem among aficionados, and it’s no surprise that these rare birds are still flying high in demand. (Why did the Type R blush at the racetrack? Because it saw its own reflection in the rearview mirror!)
For those eager to join the Type R club, there are still some unicorns out there, albeit not without a little digging. Scouring the market may lead you to the earliest 2017 and 2018 models, priced around the $30,000 mark. But keep your eyes peeled – a redesigned model is revving its engines, making its comeback after a brief hiatus, promising more Type R magic in the near future. Beneath its eye-catching exterior, this four-door hatchback boasts a potent 306-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder engine, exclusively mated to a six-speed manual transmission, offering a driving experience that’s nothing short of exhilarating. A spaceship-inspired design with a practical side, the Type R seamlessly balances family-hauling duties with show-stopping flair.
Beyond its captivating looks, this powerhouse delivers a comfortable ride that beautifully complements its remarkable handling capabilities. Loaded with modern conveniences like navigation, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and a 7-inch touchscreen, it’s ready to meet the demands of tech-savvy enthusiasts. While the private market currently holds the keys to these gems, keep your enthusiasm alive, for the coming year promises more opportunities as the newest model continues to rev up the excitement. So, if you’re yearning for a dose of Type R adrenaline, stay tuned, as the thrill of owning one of these icons may be closer than you think!
2016-2019 Audi TT
The 2016-2019 Audi TT is an exceptional choice that stands out in the realm of German sports cars, making it a unique addition to our list, and some might say, the quirkiest of them all. (Why did the Audi TT bring a toolbox to the race? Because it’s always prepared for a twist in the road!) While debates may swirl about its sports car status, there’s no denying that this small, two-seat coupe or roadster boasts the style, precision handling, and a potent engine to validate its credentials.
In the realm of pricing, the 2016-2019 TT models hit a sweet spot, particularly in their base trim levels. Beneath the hood, you’ll find a robust 2.0-liter turbocharged engine, packing 220 horsepower, delivering that power to the pavement with a snappy six-speed dual-clutch automatic for the 2016, 2017, and 2018 models. In 2019, an extra gear was added to elevate your driving experience. Regardless of the number of gears, the dual-clutch transmission ensures lightning-fast acceleration that puts a grin on your face with every launch. (Pro Tip: Buckle up, because the TT is about to take you on an exhilarating ride!) Surprisingly, the TT’s interior skips the center touchscreen, opting instead for a spacious digital gauge cluster. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto joined the party starting with the 2017 models, highlighting that even in its quirkiness, the TT never forgets its luxurious German heritage. As you explore the used market, you’ll typically encounter examples with mileage ranging from 40,000 to 80,000, depending on the model year and optional features, promising a thrilling journey ahead. So, if you’re seeking a sports car that breaks the mold, the Audi TT is ready to rewrite the rules and fuel your passion for the road.