7 Sports cars you can afford to own before you're 30
If you're an enthusiast and still establishing yourself financially, chances are you're below the age of 30. Maybe you're trying to pay off some student loans. Maybe you're trying to save as much as possible for your first apartment or house. Whatever you have going on financially, you're likely not left with much money for a fast, fun car. Certainly not a brand new Aston Martin, Ferrari, or Porsche.
Good news broke young people. We're here to help. There is a veritable bevy of fun, fast, and affordable cars just waiting to be scooped up and loved.
1) Porsche 911 (996 and 997)
No, seriously. Believe it or not, you CAN have a used Porsche 911 for a relatively small amount of money. The average price of a new car in the US is $35,700 at the time of this writing. That kind of money will get you this exact 2007 997 Porsche 911. Yes that is a 12 year old car, but if you have to have a sport car and you want reliability, a Porsche is about as good as you can get. IMS bearings are trouble on these cars and could cost $10,000 to replace, but 2008+ models which don't have the IMS bearing at all can still be had for around the same price with higher mileage.
You can even find 996 generation cars for as little as $15,000, but they are in rough shape. Stick with the 997 2008+ models and smile every time you get in. It is the best daily driver sports car out there pound-for-pound.
2) Subaru BRZ & Toyota 86/Scion FRS
The twins have to make this list. You can get a brand new one for under $30,000 and used ones can be had for almost around $10,000 these days (though those are pretty suspect on reliability). These are highly modded cars so find one that is well cared for, stock, and from another enthusiast will gives you many years of enjoyment for, likely, under $20,000.
Honorable mention goes to the Mazda MX-5 Miata in this position as well, but the BRZ/86 is a better drivers car in my opinion.
3) Chevrolet Corvette
Want cheap with a stupid amount of power? Buy an older Corvette. Not only does it have some version of America's 2JZ, the vaunted LS, but you can find later model versions for well under $30,000 and even into the $15,000s. And that's with a really good history and lower mileage. You could even go the route of buying an LS with a good donor car and swapping the engine in for way less than the price of a new Honda Accord. And best of all you'll have a throaty V8 sound with likely over 400 horsepower when you're done.
There's a reason people say "LS swap the world."
4) Subaru WRX/STI
Having owned a 2014 Subaru WRX, I can confirm how fun these cars really are. You can find base new WRXs for under $30,000 all day long. Older models will likely have been modded by previous owners, but these are highly tunable cars and finding the un-modded ones will prove extremely difficult. Still, every single generation has their quirky looks, world-beating all wheel drive, and that sweet boxer burble. You'd be hard pressed to find a better budget performance car for the money as well sourced used ones can be had for $10,000-$15,000.
5) Ford Mustang
According to sales figures, the Mustang is considered a sports car. And it's the best selling sports car in the world. No matter what you call it, it's a steal for cheap fun performance. Older GT models ranged from 350-400 horsepower and can be found for a song at under $20,000 with fairly low mileage; 50,000 being a pretty common number to see on the used market.
As far as bang for your buck is concerned, the Mustang might be the best on this list along with the Corvette.
6) BMW M3 (E46 and E92)
Two very different M3 models make the list because they are so cheap it's almost criminal. The E46 M3 is widely regarded as the last "true" M3 and also brought it into the world of serious performance cars. Older E30 and E36 models were quick, but the E46 was a world-beater taking on the Porsche 911 and much more expensive sports cars. You can find well taken care of E46 M3s for around $20,000-25,000 and that price will likely go up during ownership as finding good ones is becoming more and more difficult. Beware of VANOS issues in these cars as rebuilds for the system can cost over $4,000.
The E92 M3 is in the same boat as the E46 when it comes to value. With a stomping 4.0-liter V8 under the hood (the only V8 BMW ever put into an M3), the E92 was not only a monster in a straight line, it also was supremely comfortable as a highway cruiser. Prices can range from $15,000 for a crazy high mileage unit to over $30,000 for a well sourced one. However, you can likely find a 2012 or 2013 model from Carmax with a warranty (yes, still), with lower mileage for under $30,000. Throttle actuators and rod bearings are the big maintenance culprits on this M3, be sure they've been inspected or the car's had an oil analysis before purchasing.
7) Honda S2000
Finally we have Honda's high strung flickable beast the S2000. Arguably the best autocross car ever made, the S2000 has an engine that begged to be revved. With a 2.2-liter engine producing 240 horsepower, it wasn't blazingly quick, but chuck it around some turns and you'll soon find out just why this car is so special. And you can find them on the cheap these days with good examples coming in between $10,000-20,000 depending on mileage and age.
So fret not young buyers, there are plenty of cheap fund cars out there for you. Happy hunting!