If you’re in the market for a sports car but don’t want to spend a whole load of cash, what do you buy? Well, if you’re willing to hunt around for the right car, you could find a peach of a machine for a relatively small outlay.
Here are the best sports cars you can buy for under $15,000.
Toyota MR2 Turbo
A legend in the world of enthusiasts and tuners, the diminutive MR2 Turbo can still hold its own against modern machinery. 225hp in a car weighing around the same as a sneaker is more than enough to put a smile on your face, and the MR2’s handling will turn that smile into a big, silly grin.
If the standard car isn’t enough for you (these cars will do 0-60 in around 5.5 seconds in factory spec), tuning options are plentiful and won’t break the bank. Power gains of around 75hp are possible for a sensible cost – and reliability will be unaffected. Behave yourself with steering and throttle inputs, and the MR2 won’t bite…
Communication through the wheel and the seat is fantastic, so you always know exactly what the car is doing (or about to do).
These cars are getting old now, but don’t let that put you off. Find one that’s been looked after and you’ll have a faithful friend for a long time to come. Plus, who doesn’t love pop-up headlights?! (By the way, I may be slightly biased here – I absolutely adored my MR2.)
The S2000 was built by Honda as a 50th birthday celebration. With a screamer of an engine (a 2-liter four-cylinder that revs to 9000rpm and produces 240hp) and superb handling, it was an instant hit.
There was only ever one model to choose from in terms of engine and transmission (although you could specify the GT model, which came with a hard-top for the winter months).
A classic front-engined, rear-wheel drive set-up was an excellent basis for the car. It was designed as a soft-top and it shows – there is no sense of this having started off as a coupe and then getting its head chopped off.
Put the roof down, wring out that sweet VTEC engine and listen to it sing. Just be careful in the wet – it can be snappy but it’s easy to correct any slide (and I can certainly testify to that).
Toyota Supra Turbo
A 3-liter straight six is at the heart of this beast. In this price bracket, you’re probably looking at the older, A70 model (1986-93), but that’s no bad thing; these old girls were built to last.
230hp and a useful 240lb ft of torque goes a long way in this car. Okay, the interior is dated, but you’re not really going to be paying too much attention to that as you hurtle along.
If you’re not bothered about having a turbo, you could find yourself the owner of an A80. 22ohp is enough to keep things interesting, and of course it’s a slightly more modern vehicle.
With an upper limit of $15,000, it’s still possible to bag one of these beautiful cars in FD3S guise. One of the most stunning cars to come out of Japan (or indeed, anywhere else), the RX-7 coupe is a rare sight on the roads, giving you the added benefit of exclusivity.
Mazda was still tinkering with rotary power at this point in time, so the RX-7 had a twin-turbo, 1300cc rotary engine. There are some horror stories about blown engines, but as long as the engine has been rebuilt at appropriate intervals you should be fine. Some specialists will even include a warranty on a rebuild.
With 252hp and 217lb ft of torque, this machine goes as well as it looks. Like the MR2, it has pop-up headlights – there’s a peculiar sense of satisfaction when you turn the knob and they flip up mid-drive and you think, ‘Yeah, this is cool…’.
If interiors are your thing, the RX-7 has one of the best interiors of all Japanese cars of its era.
Overall, the RX-7 is more subtle than, say, the Supra, and that is no bad thing.
Our non-Japanese entry is the time-honored Boxster. An ‘S’ may not be in the price range, but the base model is still a great car to have. The looks are not to everyone’s taste, but the drivetrain and driving experience surely are.
With a shade over 200hp the Boxster will never set the world alight, but a sub-7-second 0-60 time might at least get the tyres smoking (slightly).
The earliest models (and those are the ones you’ll probably be looking at) are 20 years old but don’t necessarily look it. Many have been well cared for, but some could have fallen into the hands of people who treat them badly or can’t really afford to maintain them – so steer clear of anything that looks like it’s been ragged or maintained on a shoestring.
So what would be top of your list? We’d love to hear from anyone who has bought a sports car for under $15,000. Tell us what you bought and what it’s like! Do you use it every day or is it a weekend toy? Would you trade it for something else? Have you sold your car and regretted it? All stories are welcome!