If you ever thought a fast car was out of your price range, guess again. Due to the fact that horsepower drops in price relative to the model year, the used car market is a great place to look for cheap deals on trusted brands.
A little research reveals that some drivers want to know two things about a car before they buy: that it’s cheap and fast.
The good news is, whether you’re searching for your first car to go cruising in or a second car that’s a bit slicker than your family wagon, there are some pre-owned gems out there with plenty of zip that won’t break the bank.
Our writers scoured the web and put their collective heads together to compile a few affordable choices that should run you well under $15,000.
Image credit: Concept Carz
Price:Between $10,300 - $14,000
Engine: 232HP 1.3L 2-rotor rotary engine
Fuel Economy: 8.9 Highway / 13.3 City
Other Highlights: Raised spoiler, 19" wheels, Bose sound system
Mazda hasn’t put out an RX-8 model since 2012, but from 2002-12, it was one of the sporty RWD rides in the automaker’s lineup, and the 2011 iteration can be had for a decent price. It comes in either six-speed manual or automatic transmission that can tilt the horsepower down to 212HP on the later version. Torque stays the same throughout, and with the smaller rotary engine, the RX-8 won’t be as fast as others on this list, but it’s still a sleek ride.
Fuel economy isn’t the best, so this may not be the one you choose for long daily commutes, whereas shorter routes and the odd cruise should feel nice. Torque is also on the lower end, meaning acceleration isn’t dynamic, as it takes the RX-8 a little more time to pick up speed. It is a two-door coupe, yet has room for an extra two in the back. The taller the driver and passenger, though, the tinier the legroom for anyone back there.
Image credit: CarGurus
Price: Between $8,000 - $14,995
Engine: 420HP 5.6L DOHC 32-valve 8-cylinder engine
Fuel Economy: 10.2 Highway / 14.7 City
Other Highlights: Backup camera, 18" wheels, sound system
If you want the room of a four-door sedan with the speed of a zippy sports car, the 2011 Infiniti M56 was exactly that when it came out. The 420 horsepower and equal dose of torque makes this a fast car on the road, even by today’s standards. The V8 engine won’t do too many favours on fuel economy, but that’s the trade-off in getting something this fast and powerful.
There are RWD and AWD models for the M56, though the horsepower and torque numbers don’t change. It’s also an automatic transmission, extending an olive branch to those with a need for speed, yet no need for a stick shift. The nice interior is complemented by extras, like the sunroof, sound system, backup camera and rain-sensing wipers.
Image credit: AutoGuide.com
Price:$5,000 - $8,000 approx.
Engine: 260HP – 2.0L DOHC turbo 16-valve 4-cylinder engine
Fuel Economy: 6.6 Highway / 9.3 City
Other Highlights: Turbocharged engine, sound system, 2-door coupe
When it first came out almost a full decade ago, the 2010 Chevy Cobalt came in both two-door and four-door styles, lining up in four trims. The fastest of the bunch was the SS, which had a turbocharged 2.0-litre engine with 260 horsepower and an equal measure of torque. It’s fast enough to go from 0-60mph in 5.7 seconds, so it’s no slouch on acceleration.
The SS trim only comes in a coupe, and with a manual transmission, so it’s hardly a family car, but it’s small and handles well. It’s also considerably different than the other trims, making it an outlier in an otherwise basic lineup. Plus, most things Chevy skimped out on for those trims are readily available here, like electronic stability control, leather steering wheel, and a better sound system.
Others include the 16” alloy wheels, power sunroof, and an infotainment display. If you were so inclined, you could always swap out the latter for an aftermarket head unit to bring in Apple CarPlay or Google Android Auto into the cabin.
Price: $6,000 - $9,000 approx.
Engine: 368HP 5.7L HEMI V-8 engine
Fuel Economy: 8.7 Highway / 13.4 City
Other Highlights: Electronic stability control, horsepower, 18" wheels
The Dodge Charger hardly has the reputation of being a slowpoke on the road, but when the 2010 trims came out, some people weren’t thrilled at the sedan design. Not to mention the automatic transmission. But those concerns, even if you have them today, are probably dispelled quickly by the power under the hood. And if you’ve got a nostalgic appreciation for old-school Americana, this automobile is in the same vein.
It’s hard to argue with 0-60 in five seconds, and despite the obvious muscle involved here, the Charger always acclimated well to daily commutes. The 2010 models offered better fuel economy than previous years, though the V8 engine is a gas-guzzler, but the horsepower and torque might make up for that.
The R/T came in either an all-wheel-drive (AWD) or rear-wheel drive (RWD) model, both of which came with 18" aluminum wheels and dual exhaust, among other extras from the SE and SXT trims. The infotainment system inside is outdated, but swapping out the head unit for a new aftermarket one should make that feel a lot more modern on the inside.
Image credit: Motor1.com
Price: Between $6,500 - $9,950
Engine: 306HP 3.8L DOHC 24-valve 6-cylinder engine
Fuel Economy: 7.3 Highway / 11.9 City
Other Highlights: Cruise control, heated front seats, 19" wheels
Hyundai has since spun off Genesis into its own brand, but at the time it came to market, the Genesis GT Coupe was made to ride against the likes of the Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Camaro. The V6 engine was the more compelling option for speedsters when compared to the 4-cylinder base model, which explains the difference in horsepower.
The GT Coupe also comes in both automatic and manual transmissions, so you do have some flexibility in case you prefer stick or not. It is a rear-wheel-drive (RWD) in keeping with its sporty look and offers plenty of pep no matter where you drive. Being a coupe, it is a two-door affair, though there is room for an extra two in the back, however tight it may be.
As you might expect from the years gone by, the sleek look on the outside isn’t always matched on the inside. The leather interior is nice, with a sound system that is better than the base models, it’s just that the infotainment system will feel very dated.
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