There comes a time in many of our lives where we wind up filled with the desire to park a sports car in our driveway. For some of us, it comes in retirement; for others, in middle age; for others still, the moment we first clap eyes on some sleek machine on the street and lose ourselves in the thought of driving it.
Still, as many a spouse, partner, parent and financial planner has made clear, a sports car is a terrible investment. While they may not depreciate quite as precipitously as some vehicles, they certainly don't hold their value (unless you're playing in the rarefied air of million-dollar exotics) — and they certainly don't serve as well for everyday tasks as a sedan, station wagon or SUV, let alone a pickup truck or minivan.
Still, the siren song of the sports car can only be avoided for so long. So in order to try and let you fill that need for speed without blowing through your entire 401(k), we've rounded up 10 cars — new and used alike — that'll give you your sports car fix for less than $30,000.
Okay, so technically, the full sticker price of the Camaro 1LT 1LE comes in at $30,995. But, if you leave off destination, it's $30K on the dot — or, to look at it another way, GM's frequent discounts mean you can often knock this down below the magic $30,000 mark. (As of this writing, a $1,500 discount brings it down to $29,495.)
That said, even if you have to breach the $30K barrier by a hair to grab it, the Camaro 1LE is worth it. The basic Camaro is already a stunningly well-rounded performance car for the money, even in basic turbocharged inline-four form; 275 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque are more than effective, especially when hooked to a six-speed manual; add the 1LE's myriad performance parts (the Camaro SS suspension, heavy-duty cooling, 4-piston Brembo brakes up front, beefy summer tires, etc.) and you have an all-American autocross crusher.
The second-generation Subaru BRZ may not have scored the turbocharged motor many folks were clamoring for, but there's no doubt that it's an improved, distilled version of the well-balanced plaything that the original Toyobaru is. The new version benefits from added power and torque, a better-looking exterior, and a nicer cabin — yet it starts at the same $28,845 price (before destination) as the 2020 model.
There's pretty much no new car on the planet that can beat the Miata for smiles-per-dollar. It's not quite the bargain it once was — two of the three versions start past the $30K mark — but you can still nab a MX-5 Sport with the important stuff (amazing handling, crisp manual gearbox, easy manual top, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, etc.) for $27,825. Hell, at that price, you can even spring for the sexy $Soul Crystal Red paint seen here and still come in well under $30,000.
Audi's TT may not be the sharpest sports car you can find, at least in non-RS form. Still, considering it's basically a VW GTI with a sultry coupe or convertible body, it'll still show you a good time. Look around, and you can even find second-gen TT S models with the 268-hp turbo four for under $30,000.
Unless you're talking about the M4, to call the 4 Series a proper sports car involves stretching the term a tad. Still, with potent engines, solid handling and a good-looking body, it's an excellent pick for anyone who'd rather prioritize all-around capability above bleeding-edge performance. Whether you go four-cylinder 428i or six-cylinder 435i, solid last-gen versions can be found easily for between $24,000 and $30,000.
Grabbing any of these one-year-old cars could save you big money over buying factory-fresh.
Fiat's latest convertible may have left production, but this turbocharged Italian Miata is still well worth considering — especially now that it's nice and affordable on the pre-owned market. You can find plenty of them for between $20,000 and $30,000.
Mercedes-Benz's smaller roadster was never quite the equal of the Porsche Boxster in terms of driving excellence, but it's still a fun, nimble little convertible that'll put a grin on your face when you toss it down a winding road. You can find solid examples for less than $30,000 without too much trouble.
Of all the current non-M Bimmers, perhaps none carries the "ultimate driving machine" torch quite as well as the 2 Series. Bith the 228i and M235i are delights to drive, and low-mileage pre-owned ones can easily be found below $30,000.
The EcoBoost Mustang may not have the V8's thunder, but it's still a potent powerplant — and as the HPP option package for the Mustang proves, it has the ability to be become an excellent affordable sports car. It's not hard to find a good EcoBoost 'Stang under the $30K cap — though you may want to hit up Ford Performance Parts for some add-ons afterwards to make the most of your Mustang's potential.
First-generation Boxsters can easily be found for less than $20,000, but if you're operating under a $30K ceiling, you can move up to the 987-generation car. Second-gen Boxsters in great shape (like the 2009 1-owner car with 52,000 miles seen here) can be snapped up for less than $30,000 without much issue.
It's an old chestnut that cars plummet in value the moment they leave the lot. These cars don't, even after a year.