Can you really find a cool, affordable car under $10,000? It all depends on how you define the word “cool” and how much work you’re willing to put into your search.
You’re not going to find a used Ferrari or Lamborghini for that price, no matter how beat up it is and how much TLC you’re willing to put into it. You can find plenty of used Civics for well under ten grand, but no one will think your car is cool unless they work for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety – or unless they’re your parents, if you’re a teenager.
The search for cool affordable cars is worth it, though. Just imagine the looks on your friends’ faces when you pull up in a cool-looking Porsche, BMW or Jeep, and then imagine them trying to figure out how you managed to pay for it.
Here’s our list of 10 cool, affordable cars under $10,000.
1991 Mercedes-Benz 560SEL
We’ll start this list out with a bang. The 560SEL doesn’t look anything like a modern sports coupe or funky import; it actually looks more like something a suburbanite would drive. But get behind the wheel and you’ll find out how cool it really is. The V8 will go from 0 to 100 in the blink of an eye, it handles better (and is built better) than just about anything you’ll find on the road today – and yeah, it has that hood ornament telling the world you own a Mercedes. With a little searching, you can find a ’91 560SEL under $10,000. Just be ready to pay what you didn’t spend on the car for the gas this baby drinks like water.
2003 Jeep Wrangler Sahara
If you do offroading, you don’t need any convincing on this one. But even in the city you look cool driving a Jeep, especially an ’03 Sahara which has monster tires and premium fender flares as standard equipment. The 4.0-liter six-cylinder engine delivers 190 horsepower and a ton of torque, and if that’s not your definition of cool, just rip off the top and take off the doors, and there will be no doubt. Lesser models of ’03 and ’04 Wranglers are easier to find in this price range, but you’ll find a Sahara or two in the bunch with a little work. If you’re looking for a cool car for teenagers, this will fit the bill, too.
2001 Porsche Boxster
We hear you crying out for cool sports cars, and here’s one of them. Responsive, fast, fun to drive, and definitely an eye-turner, the Boxster was, and is, the least expensive Porsche but still a sweet high-end ride. It’s true that the early 00’s Boxters can be expensive to repair, but they’re worth the risk. Take a trip around town in your Porsche convertible, and you’ll look like you’re headed to the country club rather than McDonald’s. You can occasionally locate a Boxster S under $10,000, but the base model is much easier to find.
1965 Volkswagen Beetle
Maybe not everyone will consider this one cool – but trust us, it is. A 60’s era vintage VW Bug that’s been lovingly cared for and is still in good condition (and probably has been in South Florida or Southern California for its entire life) will be the talk of your neighborhood. Just slap a few flower decals on it to look authentic, and watch out for rust. Well-preserved “old” Beetles (or VW buses from the same time period) sold for a lot less than ten grand new, but can cost almost that much now. They’re cool cars for teenagers, too, especially if they’re teens who want to impress their girlfriends’ or boyfriends’ parents and grandparents.
2007 Nissan Sentra SE-R Spec V
You probably don’t think you could use the word “cool” in the same sentence as the name “Nissan” unless there’s a “Z” attached. Meet the Sentra SE-R Spec V, which was only available in the mid 2000’s. Nissan took a Sentra and added a cool body kit, great suspension, and a 2.5-liter 200 horse engine to create a great looking car with lots of zip. There aren’t a lot of these around anymore, so count on everyone asking what it is and how much it cost. You don’t have to tell them the second part.
2009 MINI Cooper
Coolness is in the eye of the beholder. Are Minis ugly or funky? Maybe that’s a male/female thing, but a ton of Mini Coopers are still being sold, and the ’09 has more power than you’d expect and a suspension that will take a beating. The one word people who have owned a Mini Cooper use more than any other is “fun” – if you’re lucky enough to find a convertible under $10,000 (and it’s possible at times), your car will definitely be both fun and cool.
2001 BMW Z3 3.0i Roadster
No one is going to debate you over the cool factor here; they just won’t believe that you found a Z3 Roadster for this price. The interior of this two-seater isn’t as luxurious as you might expect from a BMW, but the 3.0-liter inline-six’s pickup and performance, and the car’s incredible style, are exactly what you think it should be. You’ll have everyone you know begging for a ride, but you’ll only be able to take one at a time for an incredibly cool ride.
1977 Datsun 280Z
In the 70’s, this was one of the coolest cars on the road. It still is today if you can find one that’s been taken care of the right way, since the fastback Z remains an icon in the world of cool sports cars. The Z is a lightweight car, but its 2.8-liter 6-cylinder oomph will have you targeted for a ticket on the highway if you’re not careful. In 1977 the Z was revered for its dual carbs and fuel injection; now, it’s just a really hot throwback to own, and you can definitely find them in this price range.
2000 Corvette Hardtop Convertible
Anyone want to argue the coolness of a 2000 Vette? Didn’t think so. You can find used ’00 coupes and even convertibles for just under ten grand, letting you experience the power of 345 horsepower provided by the V-8 under the hood of this jewel. It’s hard to believe anyone alive won’t be awed when your sexy two-seater goes from 0 to 60 in less than 5 seconds; in fact, they’ll be awed just if they see it sitting in your driveway. There can’t be a car any cooler than a Vette.
2003 Ford Mustang Mach 1
Unless it’s a Mustang, of course. This five-speed, 305-hp revival of the beloved 1969 fastback has the same classic looks and could give the ancient pony a run for its money. It can hit 60 mpg in just over five seconds, with a sporty ride and modern-day advances over the ‘60s Mustang like high-performance shocks and struts, and rack-and-pinion steering. You’ll have to search a bit to find one of these babies under $10,000, but the search will be worth it; when it comes to cool sports cars, a 21st century Mustang that recalls the glory days of mid-20th century models is the true prize.