- Iconic, quirky, cheap. What else do you even need?

These are the 5 coolest and most unique cars you can buy for under $10,000!

They're unique, command attention, and are super cheap!

26w ago
4.6K

Anyone who is looking to purchase a first car probably wants something cool. And unless they live in Beverly Hills, they want something cheap too. Usually, the go-to vehicles are cars like Honda Civics and Mazda Miatas. They're cheap, cool, and easy to get parts for. But what if you want something a bit more unique?

Before we get into the list, a few rules I made for this. First, all the cars must be reasonable daily drivers. Second, they must be unique, meaning not Hondas, Subarus and Miatas. Finally, they must be less than $10,000 USD. All the listings I posted in this article are in CAD.

1. Mazda RX-8

What it is:

It's a cheap, sporty little import, powered by the coolest engine in existence. It looks good, sounds good and drives just as well. Oh yeah, it also has rear suicide doors.

Powertrain:

Depending on the trim you spec, you'll either get a 189hp or 238hp 1.3L Wankel Rotary engine. This will be mated to your choice of 4 transmissions, a 5 or 6-speed manual as well as a 4 or 6 speed automatic. It is rear-wheel-drive.

Why it's so cool:

Although the 1.3L Wankel is small, it can rev to 9,000rpm. The engine is also lighter than a traditional piston engine, and sounds much cooler. It also runs more smoothly, due to the fact that it's basically just a Dorito spinning around inside the engine rather than a piston moving up and down repeatedly.

The RX-8 is also one of the best handling vehicles you can buy for it's price. It has excellent grip and turn-in, and delivers a near-perfect 50/50 weight distribution.

As mentioned above, the RX-8 also has 4-doors. Although it still maintains a sporty, coupe-like appearance, it is still just as practical as a Civic. It can carry 4 adults long-distances in relative comfort. Having 4-doors will also save on insurance. Insurance companies tend to charge more for 2-doors, given that they are typically more sporty. As far as your insurance provider is concerned however, this is just a sedan.

What it costs:

Not much, actually. Although it's more desirable predecessor, the RX-7, will run you more than $50,000, the RX-8 will only set you back $4,000-8,000, depending on condition, mileage and engine options.

Check out this super-clean dealer example I found here:

What typically goes wrong:

Now it's time to address the elephant in the room. Apex seals. If you know anything about rotary engines, you've probably heard of them. Not in a good way either. They typically need to be replaced every 100k-200k miles, and only cost about $100-300. So what's the big deal? To replace them, you need to take the entire engine out of the car. This means that if you were to take it to a mechanic or a dealer to have it done, you'd be paying $3,000-4,000. Ouch. There are ways around this however.

The first way is to do it yourself. Make friends with someone who has an engine hoist and consult Youtube. While it is not the easiest thing in the world, it is a good learning experience and a valuable skill to have.

You can also buy a low-mileage vehicle, or one that has already had the seals replaced. These will typically be more expensive, but it's a good investment.

Just like any other Mazda from before 2015, the RX-8 will rust. It's mostly just bodywork rust, but be sure to check the frame for it too. The best way to avoid problems with rust is to buy a car that has been cared for. If you're going to be driving it in snow, be sure to hose off all the snow and salt build-up around the fenders when you get home. It may seem stupid and annoying, but it's worth it to protect the finish of your car. Try to keep it in a garage or under a car-cover as much as you can.

I'm not sure if you'd call this something that goes wrong, but it's definitely a problem spot. RX-8s are known for sucking fuel. Despite it's tiny displacement and low weight, the RX-8 only manages to get 26mpg. But if you really care about fuel economy, go buy a Prius.

What to look for when buying a RX-8:

There should be plenty of decent RX-8s around, so you can afford to be a bit picky when it comes to colours, options and condition. Your number one priority should be finding one with new apex seals. If you can locate one that has had them replaced recently, you won't have to worry about spending crazy amounts of cash to have the engine taken out, nor will you have to figure out how to do it yourself. Be sure to choose one with the 5 or 6-speed manual, as they will be worth more in the future, and deliver much more fun. As with any car, be sure to check for rust everywhere. Try to avoid modified ones, as they are typically overpriced, and often less reliable. If you are planning on modifying it yourself, it's always best to start with a clean slate.

Overall pros and cons:

Pros:

Cheap

Lightweight

High redline

Great sound

Great handling

Practical

Fun

Overall unique

Cons:

Apex Seals require an engine rebuild

Rust

Low fuel economy

Noisy (although is that really a bad thing?)

Lacks low-end power

Gallery:

2. Toyota Previa

If you know me, you were expecting this all along. if not, oh well, it's on this list.

What it is:

Toyota's first stab into the minivan market. It has lots of room for all your junk and your friends, and it looks like an egg! It may not seem special on the outside, but the powertrain is where things start getting really weird.

Powertrain:

It's mid-engined. And either AWD or RWD. Need I say more? Okay, in the base RWD form, it has a 138hp 2.4L inline 4. If you spec the supercharged version, you get a blistering 161hp! You can get either a 4-speed automatic or a 5-speed manual

Why it's cool:

Alright, so it's not really fast, but just the fact that you can do donuts in a van is enough to make me a fan. It's also just so unexpected. From the outside, you may think it's just a dinky old van (which it is), but once you learn that it's mid-engined (like a Ferrari), as well as RWD, (also like a Ferrari), it becomes far cooler.

The mid-engined layout also gives it a very good weight distribution, something not exactly expected in a minivan.

It is by far the most practical vehicle on this list, and I think it's perfect for someone who wants to stand out, and still be able to haul a sofa. Try that in a Miata.

The middle-row seats also swivel. This means that you could turn them around to face the back on a large car-ride, and talk to the people sitting in the 3rd row. There are stickers telling you not to do it while the car is driving, but since it's from the '90s, there's no stupid electronic safety system preventing you. Just so you know.

And because it's a minivan and is practical, it has a column shifter. That's just kind of cool in my opinion.

It also only has 3 doors. Although most minivans today will have sliding doors on both sides, many Minivans from the '90s had just one, on the passenger side. Why? It was to make sure that the kids only got out on the side of the car with a curb, and not into busy traffic.

Because it's a minivan, it is also incredibly cheap to insure, something to keep in mind when purchasing a first car.

Previas have been known to last over 300,000 miles on an original engine and transmission. Other parts may break, but the expensive ones seem pretty solid. So don't feel bad picking up one that has high-mileage. These things last forever.

They can also be modded to look really cool

Finally, it looks like an egg. That makes it subzero. Get a vanity plate for it that says "EGG VAN" or "EGGYBOI" or even "1HOT EGG".

This one is actually a Toyota Estima, but it's basically the same car, just sold in Japan only.

This one is actually a Toyota Estima, but it's basically the same car, just sold in Japan only.

What it costs:

Pennies, actually. A mint, low-mileage Previa might fetch $6,000, but most can be found for well under $2,000. That's a pretty good deal for a car that will last forever.

Check out this super cool LE Supercharged model I found here:

www.carsforsale.com/vehicle/details/68118239

What typically goes wrong?

Not much to be honest. It's a Toyota.

On automatic transmission models, it may have difficulty shifting once you break into the 150k-200k mile range. This is a problem with the throttle position sensor, which will need to be replaced. The transmission itself likely would not.

They also rust. Unlike the RX-8, finding rust-free examples can be rather difficult, as they aren't exactly collectors cars. Clean it as much as you can, and if that doesn't work, get one of those "rust is lighter than carbon-fibre" stickers to put on it.

The Previa also is known to go through tires rather quickly, and gets very pitiful fuel economy.

They are also not the safest vehicles to drive. They are very top-heavy, which can cause them to roll, and in the event of a collision, the driver would be impaled by the steering column. Basically, don't crash.

What to look for when purchasing one:

Previas are becoming harder and harder to find, so try not to be too picky. Mileage for the Previa doesn't matter too much, but look for one that has been well cared-for. Vehicles from places that do not get snow are much less likely to have rust on them. Rust on the body shouldn't threaten the car much, but be sure the frame is clear of it. Look for a 5-speed manual for maximum enjoyment. If you're getting a supercharged model, be sure that the supercharger actually works. It is one of the most expensive parts on the vehicle and can be a bit tough to find. Be prepared to buy a new set of tires for it.

Overall pros and cons:

Pros:

Cheap

Reliable

Practical

Great weight distribution

Swivel chairs!!!

RWD or AWD

Mid-Engined

Looks like an egg

Cons:

Eats tires

Bad fuel economy

Slow

Difficult to access the engine

Unsafe

Rusts

Looks like an egg

Gallery:

3. Volkswagen Cabrio

What it is:

Basically a convertible version of the Golf. Small, lightweight FWD hatchback-turned convertible thing. It's a car that is built around the word "fun". And it drives like it.

Powertrain:

The engine choices depend on which generation it is, but know that it is pretty much the same as a basic Golf. The mk4 is a decent value-for-money, and is probably the one I'd buy. It comes with an incredibly powerful 115hp 2.0L 4-cylinder engine. That is mated to either a 5-speed manual or a 4-speed automatic driving the front wheels.

Why it's so cool:

Most people love the Golf, and this is basically a rarer, more enjoyable, and overall more unique version of it. In warm months, most people will agree that convertibles are cooler cars, and there's just something about feeling the wind in your hair that makes them so much fun.

It looks pretty cool, too. Notice how the beltline of the car rises up toward the rear of the vehicle. This is a really neat styling cue, that is still used on many modern vehicles, notable the Range Rover Velar and Evoque.

It also still has pretty much everything people love about the Golf. A great transmission, nimble chassis, and overall fun-to-drive nature. Although no GTI variant was ever created, it was still decently fast.

It is, in a sense, the German MX-5. Light, not powerful and mostly focused on fun. Unfortunately, most buyers went for the more mainstream Golf, and the Cabrio was discontinued after the 4th gen.

As far as German vehicles go, it's as reliable as the Golf, and most Golf parts should fit on it.

But, if you haven't figured it out by now, it's mostly just fun.

What it costs:

They're about the same as the Golf, but 1st gen values are going through the roof as they become classics. As of the time of this writing, you can still just barely get a decent 1st or 2nd gen for under $10,000. A nice 4th gen should run you between $2,000-6,000.

Check out this sweet swapped 4th gen here:

What could go wrong:

Although its transmission is commonly praised, both the automatic and the manual may develop problems once the mileage starts getting pretty high.

Manual models may suffer from the reverse gear malfunctioning and/or noises in the gearbox at high mileage. This is hard to avoid, but is usually fixable.

High-mileage automatic vehicles will sometimes develop shifting problems. This is due to internal defections in the gearbox and can be difficult to fix without replacing the transmission.

Power window electronics will commonly fail. This usually requires the whole system to be replaced.

They will occasionally leak oil and coolant, but if you address the problem as soon as you notice it, you should be fairly safe.

Depending on the condition of the top, you may get leaks inside the cabin. Just be sure to find one that has either had its top replaced professionally, or one that has the OEM one in great shape. Make sure it isn't snagged on anything when putting it up or down.

Due to the fact that it's a convertible, and has only 2 doors, insurance will probably be higher than the Previa or RX-8.

It also only gets 23mpg, not great for the size of the car.

What to look for when buying a Cabrio:

Find one with the 5-speed manual. They will likely be more expensive, but it will make the car much more fun. Try to avoid vehicles that have been modified. Be sure the top is in good condition, and check for rust on the frame. Mostly, just make sure it has been cared for, not trashed.

Overall pros and cons:

Pros:

Cheap

Lightweight

Fun to drive

Convertible

Lots of parts available (fits most Golf parts)

Looks really cool

Cons:

Transmission problems

Tops wear out

May leak

Not fuel efficient

Tight rear seat

Higher insurance

Gallery:

4. Porsche 944

What it is:

Porsche's wildly successful front-engined sports car. It follows the design of the 924 very closely, just with wider fenders and a more powerful engine. Amazingly, you can buy one for less than $10,000. A pretty good one, too.

Powertrain:

For a non-turbo model (which is all you can get for $10,000), the car makes 174hp out of its 2.5L 4-cylinder motor. This power goes through either a 5-speed manual or a 3-speed auto to the rear wheels.

What makes it so cool:

For starts, it's a Porsche. Most people associate Porsches with being super expensive, high performance cars. It was expensive when it was new, targeted at the successful businessman. Prices have depreciated significantly, although the car still looks just as good.

It looks amazing. Low slung, sleek, and sporty looks let you know it's pretty fast, even when it's standing still.

It is also pretty fast. Although it takes 6.5 seconds to reach 60mph and tops out at 140mph, it's still a good deal faster than those Hondas that are all over the place these days. It can also corner better than many modern sports cars, with it's near perfect 50/50 weight distribution.

It even has 4 seats, although the rear seats are practically unusable.

Oh yeah, and it has pop-up headlights!

What does it cost?

Soo... it's the most expensive car on this list. By far. Staying away from "project" cars, you'd be paying between $7,000 and $15,000 for a good example. You can pretty much forget the turbo model at this point too. Parts for it are expensive too.

Check out this clean example I found:

What can go wrong:

Although it is a high-end German vehicle, it doesn't have a lot of problems. Unfortunately, any problems that you do find are going to be quite expensive.

The most common problem is with driveshaft bearings. As the mileage goes up, they will begin to get noisy. New bearings will run you only 200 bucks, but once you factor in labour it will be much higher.

They may also leak oil. Depending on where the leaks are, they may be expensive or very expensive to fix. Be sure to have them fixed though, because should your engine leak oil all over it's timing belt, you'll need to get a new one. That will cost between $1,000-2000. Plus labour. Also, it never looks good to leak oil.

The clutch may begin to slip as the car ages, requiring a new one. (expensive)

It could also suffer electrical problems, which are very expensive to fix. This may include A/C not working properly, and other minor issues.

What to look for when buying a 944:

Look for one with the manual transmission. Be sure there is no rust, and no leaks anywhere. Try to find a vehicle with as much working equipment as possible, as replacement parts are rare and expensive.

Overall pros and cons:

Pros:

Sporty styling

Great handling

Looks more expensive than it is.

Future classic

POP UPS!!

Cons:

Not super powerful

Useless rear seats

Parts are expensive and hard to find

May leak oil

Electrical issues

Gallery:

5. Jeep Wrangler TJ

What it is:

A small, bare-bones off-roader. They have iconic styling, and are often modified to perform better off-road. The roof is detachable, so it's technically a convertible.

Powertrain:

The TJ is powered by a 2.5L 4-cylinder that produces 147hp or a 4.0L 6-cylinder that makes 175hp. You have the choice of either a 5-speed manual, or a 3-speed automatic, with 4WD standard.

Why it's so cool:

It can go pretty much anywhere. This means you can comfortably take one camping, or just off-roading through fun trails.

The roof comes off, turning it into an open-air off-roader. This is especially important for blasting through sand dunes in the desert where it's really hot.

There's a huge aftermarket for these things. The Jeep Wrangler is the most modified vehicle on the planet. You can buy winches, lift kits, lights, and those awful body kits that are all over the place. You can also buy reproduction OEM part for them, in case something breaks.

Jeep owners are also part of one of the largest and most vibrant automotive cultures on the planet. You'd have no problem finding some buddies to go off-roading with.

What they cost:

Prices vary a lot. Most are between $4,000 and $9,000, but a few are listed at over $10,000. Expect to pay around $5,000 for a decent 4-cylinder model, and $9,000 for a nice 6-cylinder. The manual transmission models are typically more expensive as well.

Check out this really cool lightly-modified example I found here:

What could possibly go wrong?

Pretty much everything that could break will. The good news is that parts are cheap, easy to find, and easy to replace.

The cabin may leak from the A-pillar on the doors. It's an easy fix, just a new door seal that will run you about $80-100. They are super easy to install.

There was a recall on the ignition switch causing short circuits and making the car refuse to start. Be sure your vehicle has had it replaced, or pay about $90 to do it yourself.

The throttle position sensor can fail, which can make your car stall. Again, expect to pay around $90 for the parts.

Exhaust manifolds can crack at the welds, a fix that will cost around $800.

Loose suspension and steering components may result in an annoying wobble in the steering wheel. A tire rotation and full alignment should solve this problem.

They rust. Everywhere.

The list goes on. Be sure to check a more detailed summary of problems before you buy one.

What to look for when buying a TJ:

Ideally, you'll want a 4.0L with the manual transmission. There are tons of these for sale all over the world, so be picky and buy what you like. Try to avoid modified ones as much as possible, as many are ruined by bad mods. Try to find one that isn't very rusty. Check for leaks everywhere, and be sure the exhaust manifold welds are not cracked.

Overall pros and cons:

Pros:

Can go everywhere

Look pretty cool

Fun to drive

Top comes off

Large aftermarket available

Easy to work on

Cons:

Very unreliable

Rust

Slow

Top-heavy

Unsafe

Bad fuel economy

Often ruined with bad mods

Gallery:

That's my list! I hope you enjoyed reading it and learned something.

Don't forget to vote which is the best below:

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Comments (18)

  • I'm super glad you included the 944. I will say though that the thing about the electrical issues is 100% correct, of which I speak from experience.

      6 months ago
  • The things is my I have family that owns a Mazda dealership so I could get some deals if I needed a repair

      6 months ago
  • Love everything, especially the previa.

      6 months ago
  • Speaking of Porsche, why not include 944 when it was adolescent, Porsche 924?

      5 months ago
    • Yeah, I just figured that the 944 was a better version and you could still get it for under the budget

        5 months ago
  • Very well written and researched, well done.

    Personally I’d go for the 944 or Wrangler, as I really would want a RX-8 but all the ones I know are constantly a source of annoyance to their owners, so I’ll go with an engine I at least understand how to fix if it goes wrong...

      6 months ago
    • Thank you! I'd probably go with the RX-8, but I totally see your point.

        6 months ago
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