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9 of the Best Sports Cars For the Money

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When you think of a sports car, what comes to mind? Fast, lightweight, awesome to drive and most of all, expensive. We agree with everything but the last point. You can still get a high-speed ride without spending a fortune.

Coming out in 2019 are several high-quality sports cars selling for less than $30,000. Our review has tracked down the best candidates and laid out their cost, both the purchase MSRP as well as an estimate for what you’d spend in five years of ownership. Read on to see the best sports cars for someone on a budget.

6 best sports cars under $30,000

If you can splurge

How we chose the best sports cars for the money

For this review, we kept a strict focus on sports cars and didn’t include muscle cars or “sporty” cars like hot hatchbacks. In addition to the maximum limit of $30,000 for a sports car’s base MSRP, we also recorded each car’s five-year expected costs, as predicted by Edmunds, so you can estimate how much you would owe for maintenance, fuel, insurance and other expenses.
The five-year cost figure here is based on Santa Clara, California, but will vary by geography, so may be more or less, depending on where you live.

Once we found the qualifying vehicles, we researched their ratings both from the experts at Kelly Blue Book (KBB) and from owners on Edmunds, when available. We also searched for cars that received strong safety ratings from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and/or Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Sports cars, like many large trucks, often go unrated by safety agencies — both are notably absent from IIHS’ annual Top Safety Picks list. Cars that were rated added heavier weight in our consideration.

6 best sports cars under $30,000

2019 Fiat 124 Spider Classica

MSRP $25,190, 5-year cost N/A
4.5 out of 5 by KBB experts; 4.0 out of 5 by consumers on Edmunds (4 reviews)
No overall rating by NHTSA
26 city/35 highway/30 MPG combined

With the Fiat 124 Spider, you’re getting a piece of Italian car history. Fiat Chrysler revived the roadster in 2015, nearly 50 years after its introduction. Between its classic design and high-grade interior, this convertible will turn heads just like competitors that cost twice as much. Thanks to this vehicle’s small size and low weight, critics say you get excellent handling and plenty of power from the turbocharged 1.4-liter engine and the best fuel efficiency of all the cars on our list. However, taller readers should know that leg space is limited, even in the front seat, and the Fiat 124 Spider has minimal cargo space.

2019 Mazda MX-5 Miata

MSRP $25,730, $43,670 5-year cost
4.6 out of 5 by KBB experts; 5.0 out of 5 by consumers on Edmunds (1 review)
No overall rating by NHTSA
26 city/34 highway/29 MPG combined

For 2019, Mazda has made its MX-5 Miata convertible even better by improving the engine performance. The same 2.0-liter, 4-cylinder engine now has 26 extra horsepower as well as a higher redline (7,500 rpm up from 6,800 in 2018.) The manufacturer also added a rearview camera for the standard model. The MX-5 has excellent handling thanks to its efficient 50:50 weight balance so it’s great for tight roads and turns. As a smaller roadster, the MX-5 Miata has limited legroom and the interior can get noisy while driving on the highway. For those who prefer a hardtop convertible, there’s the MX-5 RF though it exceeds our $30,000 cutoff at a base MSRP of $32,345.

2019 Subaru BRZ

MSRP $25,795, $45,199 5-year cost
4.6 out of 5 by KBB experts; not yet rated by consumers on Edmunds
No overall rating by NHTSA
21 city/29 highway/24 MPG combined

The BRZ is Subaru’s twin of the Toyota 86, which we include, below. They’ve got a near identical design, the same 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine and the same overall performance: excellent handling and a fun ride but at a limited horsepower. With the Subaru BRZ, you can get better performance by upgrading to the Limited package trim, which includes add-on options like a Brembo performance brake system and SACHS performance shock absorbers, as well as interior upgrades like leather-trimmed upholstery and dual-zone automatic climate control. This upgrade comes at an MSRP of $28,645, so still within budget. Even though the 2019 BRZ did not receive an overall rating from NHTSA, it scored well in front and rollover crash test. IIHS gave it mostly “good” ratings as well.

2019 Ford Mustang Ecoboost Fastback

MSRP $26,395, $44,512 5-year cost
4.6 out of 5 by KBB experts; 4.6 out of 5 by consumers on Edmunds (7 reviews)
5 stars NHTSA
21 city/31 highway/25 MPG combined

The Ford Mustang has been the best-selling two-door sports car in the world for three years in a row, according to the carmaker and we can see why. It combines speed, handling, a classic and comfortable interior, and a 5-star safety rating from the NHTSA. The two-door coupe, which we focus on here rather than the more expensive convertible, also received mostly “good” marks from IIHS. Just with the standard 2.3-liter, 4-cylinder engine, you can go zero to 60 in less than five seconds and the performance can be enhanced using the 10-speed automatic transmission for an extra $1,595 (it comes standard as a six-speed manual). Also standard are a rearview camera, push button start, LED headlamps and power-assist steering. Finally, the Ford Mustang’s 5-year cost was one of the lowest on the list.

2019 Toyota 86

MSRP $26,505, $47,207 5-year cost
4.6 out of 5 by KBB experts; 3.8 out of 5 by consumers on Edmunds (4 reviews)
No overall rating by NHTSA
21 city/28 highway/24 MPG combined

Coming with just a 2.0-liter, 4-cylinder engine, the Toyota 86 coupe is not much of a speedster. But it makes the most of this limited power. Critics say it has excellent steering and handling, especially on tight corners. It also comes standard with a range of features including sport front seats, a leather wrapped steering wheel, disc brakes in the front and rear and a 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system. Toyota developed the 86 in partnership with Subaru and it’s nearly identical to the Subaru BRZ. While the base price of the Subaru BRZ is lower, by going with Toyota you could save on repairs because it includes covered maintenance for two years/25,000 miles. Subaru only covers maintenance in certain markets, but not nationwide. Though NHTSA has yet to give an overall rating for the 86, the coupe did receive high marks in front and rollover crash tests. It also received mostly “good” marks from IIHS.

2019 Nissan 370Z Coupe

MSRP $29,990, $55,000 5-year cost
4.2 out of 5 by KBB experts; 3.8 out of 5 by consumers on Edmunds (4 reviews)
No overall rating by NHTSA
17 city/26 highway/20 MPG combined

For a low-cost sports cars, the Nissan 370Z delivers the best combination of power and handling. It accelerates from zero to 60 in 5.3 seconds, thanks to its standard 332 horsepower V6 engine. However, critics noted that getting to the top speed makes the engine release an unpleasant groan. They were more impressed by the 370Z’s sharp steering and handling Getting the performance of the 370Z usually means spending another $20k to buy a Porsche or Audi. So why the bargain? Critics say the interior and features of the Nissan 370Z are extremely dated. It doesn’t include driving aids like blind spot monitoring, Bluetooth is only available for the most expensive trim, it doesn’t support Apple CarPlay/Android Auto and it still comes with a CD player in the dashboard. With the 370Z, you’re buying a fast ride, not the latest gadgets. The 370Z also comes as a convertible but its base price is over our $30,000 threshold.

If you can splurge…

If you have a little extra spending money in your budget, these are the best sports cars at the next price tier, around $60,000 MSRP.

2019 BMW M2

MSRP $58,900, 5-year cost N/A
4.5 out of 5 by KBB experts; 5.0 out of 5 by consumers on Edmunds (6 reviews)
No overall rating by NHTSA
18 city/25 highway/20 MPG combined

In 2019, BMW rebranded its M2 model as M2 Competition and with good reason. The horsepower has jumped up from 365 to 405, along with an increase in torque. As for acceleration: zero to 60 in 4 seconds flat. The BMW M2 Competition is best left for driving enthusiasts looking for the most performance. It’s not the most practical ride for bad weather because it’s only available with rear-wheel drive.

2019 Porsche 718 Boxster Convertible

MSRP $59,000, $80,522 5-year cost
4.6 out of 5 by KBB experts; not reviewed by consumers on Edmunds
No overall rating by NHTSA
21 city/28 highway/24 MPG combined

If you’d like a Porsche sports car, the 718 Boxster Convertible is about as affordable as they get, at nearly half the price of 911 Carrera. But that doesn’t mean it cuts any corners on performance. The base trim still reaches 60 miles per hour in 4.9 seconds and with the 718 Boxster’s low center of gravity, critics say it’s fantastic around tight corners. The downsides? It only comes with two seats and a soft top.

2019 Jaguar F-Type

MSRP $60,750, $95,813 5-year cost
Not reviewed yet by KBB experts; 4.0 out of 5 by consumers on Edmunds (1 review)
No overall rating by NHTSA
23 city/30 highway/26 MPG combined

Jaguar’s luxury 2-door sports car comes as either a coupe or a convertible. With the standard 2.0-liter, 4-cylinder turbocharged engine you get a balance of performance and fuel efficiency but you can upgrade all the way to the 500-horsepower V8. The Jaguar F-Type also has precise handling and an upscale interior. The only criticism is the cabin can be quite noisy, especially if you go with the V8. We based our review on the 2019 model but Jaguar has just started advertising the 2020 version on its website.

Ways to finance the best sports cars

When you’ve found your dream sports car, we’d understand if you’re in a rush for a test drive. But before you hit the dealership, consider getting your car loan sorted out first. While dealers can set up financing, one way they make money is by charging a higher interest rate than the one you may be able to get by shopping around. Banks, credit unions and online lenders all offer auto loans that will likely charge less than the dealership.

You can apply to get preapproved for an auto loan, even before you’ve decided on your car. One fast and effective way to get quotes is through LendingTree. You can fill out an online form and get up to five potential auto loan offers from five different lenders, based on your creditworthiness. With this info in hand, you’ll enter the dealer negotiation in the strongest position possible.


To be in our list, top candidates under $30,000 had average scores of at least 4.0 out of 5.0 stars between KBB expert ratings and those by consumers on Edmunds when available. We also indicated when cars were rated by NHTSA and/or IIHS and the results of those ratings, when available.

MSRPs in the article are accurate as of the date of publishing.


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