It seems like all of the best conversations and debates start at the pub. Recently (at the bar) I was asked which 2-seat sports car would I recommend for under $10,000. My friend interested in the car wants something relatively quick that looks nice. He doesn’t mind having to do work on the vehicle because he wants to learn more about wrenching a car. So after some thought I have come up with this list for him.
Yes, it is possible to get a 2-seat roadster for under $10,000. Ultimately, should you? That’s up to you to decide, but here they are!
1. 2003 Honda S2000
I used to own a S2000, so it is no surprise that I am biased. This one here on eBay is a 2003 with a selling price of under $9,000. Yes, it has a salvage title, but these vehicles were often stripped and turned into club racers, so depending on the original damage the vehicle could still be a rockstar. There are other ones also listed in the $10,000 range.
2003 was the last year of the 2.0L VTEC that revved to an astonishing 9,000RPMs. The vehicle features a mechanical limited-slip differential, rear-wheel drive, and was only available with a 6-speed manual transmission. In the sports car world, that is a win.
2. 1999 Mazda MX-5 Miata
The Mazda MX-5 is the quintessential sports car of the last 20 years. Although underpowered by today’s specifications, the 140hp motor did not have to push a lot of body weight around. 1999 was the first year that the vehicle had fixed headlights instead of the pop-up lights (one less thing to fail), and low mileage versions like this one can be had for under $7,000 in excellent condition.
Again, the 6-speed manual transmission combined with rear-wheel drive make the Miata a hoot to drive. Avoid the stereotypes and own one of the best handling sports cars on the planet.
3. 1997 BMW Z3
BMW Z4s are not quite in the price range we would like, but the Z3 (the predecessor) is definitely obtainable. The Z3 made its film debut in Goldeneye, making it officially a James Bond car. Examples are easy to find under $10,000, but we’re particularly fond of this one.
The Z3 featured a 1.9 liter 4-cylinder engine, rear-wheel drive, and available manual transmission. Yes it is a broken record, but rear-wheel drive and a manual transmission are a MUST in a small roadster. The previously mentioned Japanese cars are obvious picks because of reliability, but the Z3 has a classic design and German heritage. We like that.
4. 1972 Fiat 850 Spider
Sports cars, especially roadsters, have not always been the most powerful cars on the block. It is all about the overall sensory experience of driving that make them appealing. When it comes to passion and soul, the Italians have long been able to deliver. For the random, off-the-wall pick we are going with a 1972 Fiat 850 Spider. Why? Because it’s cool. They can be found on eBay for under $3,000.
What makes it cool? It’s Italian. It also has a rear-engine, rear-wheel drive setup. Typically, mid-engined and rear-engined cars are “high performance” vehicles. That is one quirky feature that we like about this car. We also like that you will not probably see another one of these on road.
Beware of old Italian vehicles, because the reliability may not be there. But we’re willing to bet on a nice sunny day this car is fun to drive.
5. 2001 Toyota MR2 Spyder
Like Honda with the S2000, Toyota used to make a good, small roadster. It was the MR2 Spyder. They are easily found on AutoTrader in our price range. This vehicle was especially unique because it could be had with an automated manual gear box with paddle shifters. We do not recommend this early generation system, but luckily a manual was an option. This car was also mid-engined, meaning the motor sits in front of the rear-axle. Sports car was bred into its DNA, and although it didn’t sell well then, it should be a great option for an enthusiast today.
When purchasing a used car it is always a great idea to have a mechanic check it out before purchasing, and also make sure a vehicle history report is run. Good luck and happy motoring!