Useful Car Tips

Cars for Enthusiasts on a Budget

July 16, 2019
If you’re a young car enthusiast, or even just a little strapped for cash, you’re in luck. The used market has plenty of offerings for enthusiasts of any kind. From hot hatches to V8 muscle cars, you can find yourself a stellar car that fits your individual needs for US$20,000 or often much less. Let’s explore some popular options you may or may not have already considered in your search.


If one is to browse internet forums, one car above all is most commonly recommended for a budget-oriented enthusiast: the Mazda Miata. The venerable Miata roadster, known as the MX-5 in other markets, has been a staple of the automotive scene for nearly thirty years. Every iteration, from the NA to the ND, has been lauded as a true driver’s car. Its horsepower, just 180 for the newest generation ND, has never been a key point to the design. Instead, enthusiasts rave about its tight manual transmission, responsive steering, and the pure driving joy it provides. A Miata won’t win you any races at the drag strip, but its other attributes more than make up for that. Miatas can be had for cheap, with first-generation NA examples routinely being sold for under $5,000 (with high mileage, of course) as per prices on AutoTempest. They’re also generally reliable and cheap to maintain, but it’s still recommended to do a thorough inspection before buying used.


If you’re looking for something a little more practical while still providing ample driving enjoyment, consider the Ford Fiesta ST and Focus ST. The Fiesta ST is quite small, even for its segment, and does not offer much backseat space for passengers. Its bigger sibling somewhat rectifies this issue, although space is still a little cramped in the rear. While both offer 4 liter turbocharged engines, the Focus is significantly more powerful. Both hatchbacks have received near universal praise from automotive journalists, but the Fiesta ST is smaller, lighter, and offers a driving experience some have even compared to the Miata. Regardless which you choose, both manual-only hatches will be sure to give you the driving experience you desire. Used prices vary from region to region, but in the Northeast United States, both the Fiesta ST and Focus ST can be found on the used market for under $20,000. The Fiesta ST is generally cheaper, and some examples can even be had for under $15,000. Both cars, while rather new, seem to be reliable for the most part. Just be sure to evaluate differences in practicality and driving experience between the two, as they can be significant to you.


For some, nothing can replace the sound and power of a V8 engine. Enthusiasts on a budget have several options in this segment, with the Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Camaro making unsurprising appearances. If you’re looking for something newer and have a little more money to spend, a 2011+ Mustang GT may fit the bill. An S197 Mustang GT of the era was equipped with a 4.6 liter V8 until 2011, when the now-famous 5 liter DOHC Coyote debuted. Horsepower was increased from 300 to 412, and torque from 320 lb-ft to 390, transforming the GT into a formidable straight-line weapon. If you’re a GM fan, a Mustang is out of the question (and vice versa). If so, you’ll be happy to know an equivalent fifth-generation Camaro SS of the era features more horsepower and torque: With manual transmission, its LS3 V8 generates 426 horsepower and 420 lb-ft of torque, but these figures are slightly decreased with an automatic. Why are we mentioning all of this? If power is important to you, both models offer great values given their used prices. In the Northeast, each can be had for under $20,000, with less than 75,000 miles on the odometer. Compared to other cars on our list, be prepared to pay a little more for maintenance, and of course, gas (for the cheapest local gas stations, consult GasBuddy). If you’re looking for something cheaper, older used Mustangs and Camaros of both the V6 and V8 variety are quite common on the used market.


Every car buyer must balance the factors most important to their buying decision. Sometimes, abject fun can be the deciding factor when choosing a new vehicle, especially if its intended use is only as a weekend driver. Other times, a little practicality in the form of a spacious hatchback may be welcome. For others, nothing can replace an American V8. No matter what cars interest you as a young or budget-conscious enthusiast, you can be sure to find a car almost tailor-fitted to your needs. We hope we’ve shed light on potential options for you and helped you in your search. Good luck in your further research and find the car that puts the biggest smile on your face!
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