high-performance used cars
Buyer Tips

Top 30 High-Performance Used Cars for Any Budget

By Auto Auction Mall Team Updated: 07/09/2022 Posted: 09/05/2018

When it comes to finding the best deal on a high-performance used cars, there are many options out there on the market today.

Thanks to the growing surplus of cars, the growing number of car manufacturers, and the already large supply of used cars that is growing by the day, we have pinpointed and narrowed down the best 30 deals you will find for high-performance used cars today.

1. Audi TT 2007

From $2000

If you have some money left over to spend, a TT Mk1 is a very good option due to the decent build quality, excellent options (roadster or coupé), and a strong engine (with 150 hp, 180 hp or 225 hp, most with standard Quattro). If your pockets are deeper, a TT Mk2 offers even more performance; for less than $10,000, you can acquire a 268 hp TTS.

2. Mini Cooper S  2006

From $2000

The Minis used to defy the rules of depreciation, but now they are old, and prices are at rock bottom. Badly used cars are common, but you can still get a good deal on one that has received a lot of TLC for close to $3200.

3. Toyota MR2 Mk3 1999-2007

From $2000

A great deal on a classic Mk series, the Mk3 is the best of the first three models and the one that has endured the most over the years. Make sure to watch out for engine failure on cars built up to 2002 as the pre-cat can break up and then find its way into the cylinders. Expect real thrills when you go on a spin in these hotrods.

4. Ford Fiesta ST 2011-2013

From $2300

Ford has offered a Fiesta ST since 2011. The original engine was a 148 hp 2.0-litre, but now Ford has unveiled an ST with a 180 hp turbocharged 1.6-litre engine. If you want a sweet ride for under $2.5k, this a great choice. However, if you want a more recent model, be ready to drop at least $13k to get one.

5. Renault sport Clio 2004

From $2500

The Clios have built up a very heated history over the years. There is no doubt that they have some good performance cars under their belts. So no matter your budget, there’s something within reach. The fun starts with the Clio 172, but the 182 is a better option if you have some more money to spend because it is newer and packs more of a punch. While the former starts at just $2000, you need at least $2.5k to secure one of the latter – or for just $4000 you can have a Clio 197.

6. Nissan 350Z 2002-2009

From $5000

Expect to see real quality in the Nissan 350Z. Its development focused on the stuff that matters so that you will find a 276 hp V6, rear-wheel drive and a limited-slip diff. In this car, your money is going where it matters – on something that’s an absolute blast to drive.

7. Porsche Boxster S 2005

From $6500

When you drive a really good early Boxster S, it seems absurd that the prices are so low. Fortunately for you, that’s what the market dictates. If money is tight though, don’t buy a ropey Boxster S – find a decent 2.5 or 2.7-litre car instead. Prices start at just above $5000.

8. Peugeot 205 GTi 1992

From $6500

One of the greatest hot hatches of all time is still eminently affordable if you don’t care about owning something that’s less than mint. Crashed 205s are all too common though, so watch out for rubbish repairs. Focus on condition rather than specs. A tidy 1.6 will be far better to drive and own than a tatty 1.9, while the open-topped 205 CTi can provide a budget option if you’re not fussed about ultimate handling.

9. Honda S2000 2008

From $8500

Just like the Impreza and the 350Z, the Honda S2000 offers stupid amounts of driving fun in return for tiny amounts of cash, without any inherent unreliability issues as long as you follow the servicing schedules. Values of good S2000s are already on the rise thanks to restricted supply and steady demand – the latter because of the Honda’s fantastic VTEC engine, rear-wheel drive and fabulous handling.

10. MG TF 1998-2007

from $1300

We loved the MGF and its successor the TF when new, and while too many of them are now getting baggy, there are also still a lot of really good, cherished examples out there. Don’t stress too much about the possibility of a failed head gasket; many cars have been fixed by now and putting things right needn’t be as costly as you think.

11. Mazda RX-8 2008

From $1300

We’d be the first to admit that buying an RX-8 can be a lottery because the rotary engines can be fragile, and even when in good health they don’t half get through fuel and oil. But with fabulous handling, a brilliant design, and that rev-happy engine, there are less sensible things to spend your money on. While you can buy an RX-8s for $1300, budget to spend closer to $2000.

12. Seat Ibiza 1.9 TDi FR 2006

From $2000

Can’t find a Fabia vRS? Then try to track down a Seat Ibiza 1.9 TDi FR. This model arrived a year after its VAG stablemate. With a ridiculous amount of torque and immensely chuckable, the FR has 228lb ft of torque at just 1900rpm in a car that weighs just 1190kg.

13. Volvo S60 T5 2001-2004

From $2000

We’d be lying if we were to say that the S60 is the greatest driver’s car ever made, but the S60 does show that you can have a dose of serious performance with economy and safety in a family-friendly spacious bodyshell. Early cars got a 250 hp 2.3-litre five-pot, but from 2004 a 260 hp 2.4-litre unit was fitted to give 0-62mph in just 6.5 seconds. The steering is pretty lifeless but finds a car with the Four-C chassis, and you can have some fun for peanuts.

14. Ford Mondeo ST220 2003-2006

From $2500

If you’ve got to cart a family around or you simply prefer big cars, but you also want something that’s fun to drive and quick, the 224 hp Mondeo ST200 might just fit the bill. The running costs are out of proportion to the purchase costs because of fuel and road tax bills.

15. Mazda MX-5 2005

From $3200

It’s the car that kick-started the affordable roadster market at the end of the eighties, and since then the MX-5 has endured where rivals have not. You’ve got three generations to choose from, but good Mk1s are becoming costly. Too many Mk2s have significant rust problems which leave the Mk3 as the one to go for, thanks to its improved build quality and low purchase prices.

16. Volkswagen Golf GTi Mk5 2004

From $3200

The Mk3 Golf GTi was unbelievably disappointing after the brilliant Mk1 and Mk2. The Mk4 was no better in 2.0-litre form, although the 1.8T was a bit more deserving of the GTi tag. So when the Golf GTi Mk5 arrived in 2005, it was great to see that VW had rediscovered its mojo with a car that was fun to drive, fast and frugal but as practical as ever.

17. Subaru Impreza Turbo 1999

From $4000

Any cherished Impreza Turbo is worth a try, whether it’s the original car or the bug-eyed version that arrived in 2000. Seemingly capable of defying the laws of physics, the Impreza has to be driven to be believed, but most early cars are baggy, badly modified or pricey because they’re a new-age classic. That’s why this bug-eyed car is such a good bet; they’re still the cars that offer the most bang for your buck – but be wary of over-modified examples.

18. Mercedes SLK32 AMG 2001

From $13,000

OK, we admit that it’s not the sharpest drive out there, but with its supercharged 3.2 V6 putting out 354 hp, you can still have a lot of fun with one of these pint-sized sportsters. You get coupé-Cabrio practicality and decent build quality; these AMGs aren’t as badly built as most Mercedes of the time.

19. Vauxhall Monaro 2004

From $13,000

There aren’t many Monaros to go round, and values are already on the rise, but when you consider that you can still buy one of these V8 coupés for around $13,000 you can see why it’s worth seeking one out. Even the weediest Monaro has 329 hp, but quite a few have closer to 400 hp. The most potent pack a 493 hp punch but you’ll need to spend at least $15,500 to secure one of these, which is still a bargain.

20. BMW Z4M 2003

From $15,500

The Z4M coupé and roadster are now getting very collectible, and while Z4Ms aren’t available for give-away prices, they’re unlikely ever to be this cheap again. For your money, you get a 343 hp 3.2-litre straight-six mated to a six-speed gearbox and pushing those horses to the rear wheels. Build quality and equipment levels are excellent, and the driving experience is superb; the Z4M coupé is even better, but prices for those start at $23,000.

21. Honda Integra Type R 2001

From $9000

One of the best front-drive cars ever made, the Integra Type R’s brilliance is no secret, which is why values have already started to climb. But don’t let that put you off. Any decent example will prove a sound investment. Once you’ve driven one of these cars the way they were designed to be driven, you’ll soon see that $25.5k is a bargain, never mind the $12k that a superb example commands.

22. BMW M3 (E46) 2015

From $9500

The original M3, the E30, is now big money for anything good. The E36 that followed is stronger value, but it’s the E46 that we’d steer you towards as it’s much more potent than its forebear and it’s top value, even if rock bottom happened a little while ago. With a 343 hp straight-six engine up front and rear-wheel drive, if you don’t buy one of these soon, in a few years’ time, you’ll regret it, once prices have gone silly.

23. Lotus Elise S1 1998

From $18,000

Few cars offer the driving purity of the original Lotus Elise. It’s a car that’s surprisingly rare; production lasted just four years before the series 2 arrived in 2000. Values are already climbing for S1s, but don’t let that put you off. If you can afford a good one, you’ll love every minute of driving it and when you come to sell it’s bound to be worth more than you paid for it. What’s not to like?

24. Lexus IS F 2008

From $19,000

If the IS F were as brilliant as Lexus likes to think it is, you wouldn’t be able to pick one up for around $19,000. But the gearbox should be better, and the suspension would benefit from some recalibration. But the 417 hp V8 gets the IS to 62mph in under five seconds, it sounds fabulous, the equipment levels are ludicrously generous, and reliability is superb. So it’s not hard to forgive the Lexus for being less than perfect dynamically.

Read more about buying used Lexus cars.

25. Infiniti Q50 hybrid 2014

From $22,000

Looking for a family car that’s fast, innocuous and that little bit different? If so, the Infiniti Q50 hybrid should tick every box as it packs a 302 hp punch, will accommodate four or five and can streak from a standing start to 62mph in just 5.1 seconds. It’s a bit sterile to drive, but it’s seriously well equipped, comfy and shouldn’t cost much to run.

26. Toyota GT86 2013-2015

From $15,500

Proving that you don’t need loads of power to create a brilliant driver’s car, the Toyota GT86 burst onto the scene six years ago, and the oldest cars are still worth around 50 percent of their original asking price. But 12 grand is still a steal for a car that’s sublime to drive if not searingly quick. This Toyota coupé is the very embodiment of why you don’t need lots of power to have tremendous fun.

27. TVR Chimaera 2000-2003

From $15,500

There’s nothing like the sound of a barely silenced V8 to get the adrenalin flowing, and TVR used to be the master of the throaty eight-pot. When you consider that the Chimaera is essentially a Griffith with added usability and at around half the price if the Chimaera isn’t a bargain we don’t know what is. Even the entry-level 4.0-litre models are a blast; find a top-notch 4.5 or 5.0-litre example, and you can pay closer to $25.5k for it. And it’ll never be worth less than that.

28. Jaguar XKR 2008-2010

From $16,500

The original Jaguar XKR (from $8000) is now a bona fide classic and values of good ones are starting to firm up. But the second-generation car (from 2006), with its aluminum body, is still depreciating and it’s a far better car: much more enjoyable to drive, more agile, better packaged and better built. And with a 420 hp supercharged 4.2-litre V8 (later cars got a 503 hp 5.0-litre unit) it’s scorchingly fast too.

29. Aston Martin Vantage V8 2007

From $38,500

How could we not include the Vantage? It looks sensational, it is fabulously quick, and is an adventure to drive. However, it can be a nightmare to own because of reliability issues, so be very careful before handing over your money. Though prices have dipped to $32k at the bottom of the market, make sure to aim to spend at least $38.5k for quality.

30. Maserati GranTurismo 2008

From $32,000

Who has not heard of the Maserati GranTurismo? Fast, beautiful, aggressive and luxurious – and not devoid of character, but when you can buy a 460 hp 4.7-litre V8-powered coupé that looks as gorgeous as this, you won’t mind the odd ergonomic glitch. Check the service history, be forensic with your test drive and have a contingency fund – then get out there and enjoy it.