The average price of new cars creeps up every year, and the herd of affordable secondhand stuff seems to get thinner at the same the time. But there are still plenty of sweet vehicles on the market that can be had for pretty short money. I fantasize about a few in particular all the time. What about you?
BMW E30s are a lot more expensive than they once were, but they still offer a lot of driving excitement and style for what they fetch and there are plenty to be had for less than $10,000. Acura Integras are solid, too. Even non-VTEC cars are fun, if not exactly fast. I think you’d also do well to pick up a Toyota MR2, and of course there are always zillions of Mazda Miatas on the market.
If off-roading’s more your thing, you’d be hard-pressed to pick up a decent Jeep Wrangler for four figures but XJ Cherokees and third-generation Toyota 4Runners are gettable at that price point. You might also be able to nab a rough Land Cruiser, but to be honest I think the best budget adventure 4x4 you could buy now would be a Mitsubishi Montero. They cost, like, nothing. And they’re tougher than people give them credit for.
I’ve owned seven cars in my 15-year driving career, three of which I still have now. They’ve all been excellent in their own ways, and none of them cost me more than four figures to buy. In fact, all but one of my cars have been $5,000 or less. I spent about $8,000 on my 2005 Acura TL in 2012 and remember freaking out for days wondering if I’d gone crazy to blow that much money at once.
Some six years and 60,000 miles later I’m glad I did, because my TL has been an absolute model of durability. But lately I’ve had my eye on another car I’m starting to see for sale for less than $10,000: the original 986 Porsche Boxster.
Yes, I remember hating the fried-egg headlights and even the name when the Boxster came out at the end of the ‘90s. But spending some time with more advanced and heavily customized Porsches lately has had me sucked into the hype of this brand, and got me tentatively intrigued at the prospect of getting into one myself.
A car that someone, somewhere might consider “fast” is one of the two remaining items I need in my stable before my collection is complete, and I’m starting to think the poor man’s Porsche I grew up clowning on might actually be just the ticket. Discovering that a Spyder conversion exists has me even more excited about these cars.
Of course, I think I’d have to improve my mechanical aptitude if I really wanted to own one of these inexpensively. And the Honda S2000 is similarly tempting. But right now, the 986 Boxster is my four-figure dream car.