Sports cars give us a means of extracting some excitement from an otherwise ordinary and mundane activity. The right car can make your usually boring commute to work exciting, give you the ability to really carve up some twisty mountain roads, or serve as a track machine for a serious shot of adrenaline. But sometimes limited production quantities can make them hard to find, or cost-prohibitive. Buying used can go a long way towards making a sports car a more reasonable purchase, but some used sports cars make a better purchase than others. Things like reliability, availability of parts, and of course, price, are factors in what makes a good used sports car purchase. These are the smart buys in today’s used sports car market.
This one is pretty obvious. The Corvette has always been a much more cost-effective alternative to the low-production European exotics that produce roughly similar performance figures. With the fairly new introduction of a mid-engine layout for new Corvettes, there are a lot more of the front-engine models on the market, and that makes it a lot easier to find a good deal. And even though the engine is in a different place, the difference in power generated by the current Corvette and the last-gen front-engine C7 is minimal. Corvettes are also rarely used as daily drivers, so they tend to be found used in better condition, and with fewer miles than other models of the same age. And most important of all, the Corvette is a serious performance machine, one that has won countless awards and endurance racing class wins over the years. All at a lower price and lower cost of ownership than the competition.
Muscle cars have always been built to offer impressive performance at a reasonable price. Muscle cars of the past had to sacrifice things like handling in order to achieve this, but modern muscle cars have employed advanced technology to offer a completely new kind of muscle car experience, and the Camaro is an outstanding example of this. Even the base V6 produces 335 horsepower, more than a top-end V8-powered Z28 SS had 20 years ago. Opt for a V8-powered sixth-gen Camaro and you’ve got 455 horsepower, or 650 from the ZL1, thanks to the addition of a supercharger. This kind of thing is what makes the Camaro so much fun, it offers a pushrod V8 with an optional supercharger, old school American muscle, but in a car that can actually take corners at high speed. It’s an intoxicating mix, and the relatively low starting price and big production numbers make it easy to get a good deal on a used example.
Much like the Corvette, the recent debut of a new generation of the Ford Mustang means good deals abound for the original pony car. The Mustang offers class-leading back seat space, and outward visibility, making it easy to live with as a daily driver. This is a major advantage for those who don’t have the budget or the garage space for a second car. A turbocharged four-cylinder engine provides over 300 horsepower, nothing to scoff at, but Ford’s excellent 5.0-liter Coyote V8 is going to be found in a lot of the used examples you come across, and that’s a good thing. Although they aren’t going to be quite as easy to find, Shelby GT500 variants produce a staggering 760 horsepower. But any variant of the modern Mustang is going to produce enough power to be exciting, and offer up superb handling.
The Dodge Challenger has been the best-selling of the big three muscle cars for the past several years, and that means better availability and better prices on used examples. The Challenger has even been made available with all-wheel drive, a real advantage for those who will be using it as a daily driver during the winter months. The Challenger has been offered with a V6, or a variety of V8 engines, including a variety of beastly Hellcat variants offering up more than 700 horsepower. The styling is more retro than you’ll find in the competing muscle cars, giving the Challenger a touch of extra charm. Adding to this are factory decal packs, shaker hoods, and wild paint colors that harken back to the original 70s Challenger, and set the car apart from the competition even more.
The Subaru BRZ combines everything that buyers have loved about Japanese sport compact cars over the past several decades in one car, a rolling greatest hits album. The BRZ is light, and with power coming from a flat-4 engine, it has a very low center of gravity, allowing for incredible handling ability. The BRZ is, admittedly, less powerful than the other cars on this list, but it also has a lot less weight to push around, meaning that power will go a lot further. Raw speed isn’t what the BRZ is about though. It’s quick, sure, but what the BRZ does well is handling, and it does it better than most vehicles ever produced, especially in this price range. If you like a manual transmission, this is probably going to be the car where you’re most likely to find one when shopping used. Subaru sells the most manual transmission-equipped vehicles of any carmaker (in the US), with a staggering 70% of BRZ buyers opting to row their own gears*.