Fast Cars Under $5,000

There are plenty of high-performance and sporty vehicles available for less than $5,000, including the Nissan 350Z and Pontiac Solstice.
Written by Bonnie Stinson
Reviewed by John Davis
The Nissan 350Z, Chevrolet Camaro Z28, and Pontiac Solstice are among the compact cuties and gracefully aged sedans that have powerful engines, responsive handling, and enough style to turn heads for less than $5,000.
  • You can find fast performance-minded cars and normal used cars for under $5,000.
  • Performance cars tend to hold their value longer than the average coupe or sedan.
  • Expect higher mileage on these models—or expect to live with minor cosmetic wounds or do some fixes.

2004 Nissan 350Z

  • Used price: $4,309
  • Engine: 3.5 L V6
  • Horsepower: 287
  • Transmission: 5-speed automatic, 6-speed manual
Nissan 350Z
is a nimble vehicle with responsive handling. While you won’t be carpooling to work or using this vehicle for most day-to-day chores due to its limited seating and trunk space, this coupe is a great sporty car for those on a budget.
It’s important to note that one of the reasons for the 350Z’s affordable price is its interior. Along with the limited space, the materials used for the interior come off as a little cheap when compared with the rest of the vehicle.

2003 Ford Focus SVT

  • Used price: $3,837
  • Engine: 2.0 L 4-cylinder
  • Horsepower: 170
  • Transmission: 6-speed manual
Though the
Focus SVT
is not as flashy as some of the vehicles on this list, it’s a functional car for day-to-day use with the bonus of a sporty ride.
As a compact hatchback, you can expect a roomy and comfortable interior with easy storage access. In terms of handling, the SVT does well on the road with its 17-inch wheels, oversized disc brakes, and sport-tuned suspension.

2009 Hyundai Genesis

  • Used price: $4,963
  • Engine: 3.8 L V6, 4.6 L V8
  • Horsepower: 290, 375
  • Transmission: 6-speed automatic
With its two powertrain options, the
Hyundai Genesis
is a nice combination of luxury and sport at a reasonable price.
Though it has excellent handling and a gentle-ride suspension, the vehicle is not as quick to respond as some other cars on this list. However, you’ll be in comfort as you drive with a spacious interior and elegant design you would expect from a higher-end vehicle.

2002 Chevrolet Camaro Z28

  • Used price: $2,593
  • Engine: 5.7 L V8
  • Horsepower: 310-335
  • Transmission: 4-speed automatic, 6-speed manual
As the last installment in the Camaro series from Chevrolet, the
Camaro Z28
is a lightning-fast vehicle with a lot of history behind it.
With the classic muscle-car rumble, wide tires for extra grip, and performance suspension, expect to turn heads when taking it out for a spin. However, be aware that the Camaro Z28 is very much a sports car—with a less-than-roomy interior, limited trunk capacity, and poor gas mileage in the city, this car is built more for fun than day-to-day life.

2005 Ford Crown Victoria

  • Used price: $4,796
  • Engine: 4.6 L V8
  • Horsepower: 224-239
  • Transmission: 4-speed automatic
As a combination of comfort and power, the
Crown Victoria
is a great choice for those who need a lot out of their vehicles without having to stretch their budget.
The Crown Vic has comfortable seating for five to six, a spacious trunk, and a smooth ride for you and your passengers. However, the added comfort comes at a cost. The Crown Victoria doesn't turn on a dime, and the weight of the vehicle makes the handling feel slow when compared to smaller vehicles with the same engine.

2006 Pontiac Solstice

  • Used price: $3,968
  • Engine: 2.4 L 4-cylinder
  • Horsepower: 177
  • Transmission: 5-speed automatic, 5-speed manual
From the curb, the
Pontiac Solstice
has the most sporty appearance of any vehicle on this list. With a convertible design, flowing body lines, 18-inch wheels, and 50-to-50 weight balance, this vehicle oozes speed and luxury.
As with most sports vehicles, the Solstice won’t be your go-to for running errands. You’ll also want to be aware of some problems that plague this vehicle, such as the cheap interior and leak-prone top.

2007 Kia Rio LX

  • Used price: $3,299
  • Engine: 1.6 L inline
  • Horsepower: 110
  • Transmission: 5-speed manual
Just a touch over three grand, we like the
Kia Rio
LX instead of the base model so you can enjoy modern-day basics like air-conditioning and power steering. These days the LX is the entry-level trim of the Rio, but back in ‘07, there was a super stripped-down version simply known as
Base and LX share the same engine—an inline four-cylinder producing 110 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm and 107 lb-ft of torque @ 4,500 rpm—but you’ll get sturdier tires and more comfortable ride quality in the LX. By forking over $3,299 for a 2007 Rio LX you can anticipate mileage to be in the vicinity of $169,140.
The 2007 Rio is capable of hitting 111 mph, but when you’re not flooring it, you’ll still reap the benefits of quick handling and impressive lane change acceleration which give this modest subcompact sedan a sporty feel.

2008 Kia Spectra

  • Used price: $2,499
  • Engine: 2.4 L 4-cylinder
  • Horsepower: 138
  • Transmission: 5-speed manual
Kia Spectra
is a compact car with a 2-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 138 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm and 136 lb-ft of torque @ 4,500 rpm. Its solid performance makes the price feel right, but the 2008 Spectra was not a top pick in Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) crash tests due to a subpar ranking for side-impact safety. If you’re ever tempted to push the Spectra to its maximum limit of 127 mph, keep that in mind.
There’s definitely sporting quality to the Spectra—like its fun spoiler—but experts agree that the engine gets noisy at higher speeds. Ultimately, the fact that you can purchase a 2008 Spectra with about 101,626 miles for well under $3,000 makes its entry on our list well-deserved. 

2001 Chevrolet Monte Carlo

  • Used price: $2,999
  • Engine: 3.4 or 3.8 L V6
  • Horsepower: 180-200
  • Transmission: 4-speed automatic
Spacious yet aerodynamic, the 2001
Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS
offers a taste of luxury and an extra helping of performance. The SS was the top-level trim in 2001, with upscale options like leather seats and a power sunroof.
The Monte Carlo SS reaches a maximum speed of 129 mph thanks to a burly V6 that generates 200 horsepower @ 5,200 rpm and 225 lb-ft of torque @ 4,000 rpm. An automatic transmission is the only option, as is FWD.
For a sale price right at the 3k mark, the exterior should be in good shape and the mileage will hover at $176,832. The Monte Carlo is known to last for many miles.

2003 Lincoln LS Sport: 132 mph from $2,999

  • Used price: $2,999
  • Engine: V6 or V8
  • Horsepower: 232
  • Transmission: 5-speed automatic
The mighty
was only around for a few years but its redesign in 2003 was strong. There’s nothing like a 3.9-liter V8 under the hood to pump up the power, which is exactly what you get in a Lincoln LS Sport.
The 2003 LS comes with a V6 for its lower trims—and we suggest going for it. RWD provides a smooth drive quality, to remind you that you’re behind the wheel of an American luxury sedan—one that happens to reach speeds upwards of 132 mph. At this price, the LS Sport should be in good used condition with mileage in the 132,848 range.  

2004 Volvo S60 2.5T 

  • Used price: $2,495
  • Engine: 2.5 L inline 5
  • Horsepower: 208
  • Transmission: 5-speed automatic
Leave it to the understated nature of Swedish engineering to produce a deceptively fast, elegant sedan at a sensible price. A 2004
Volvo S60 2.5T
could be yours for well under $3,000 with 154,645 miles on the odometer. It’s not unusual to see older Volvos on the road—because they last.
Who knew the ‘04 S60 2.5T could be so fast? Guided by its unique five-cylinder turbo engine, the S60 can cruise up to significant speeds, topping out at 146 mph.

2000 Mercedes-Benz E-Class E430

  • Used price: $2,700
  • Engine: 4.3 L V8
  • Horsepower: 275
  • Transmission: 5-speed automatic
Mercedes-Benz is used to being at the top, but it might come as a surprise to see a sedan like the E-Class E430 rounding out our list of fastest cheap cars. Even at 168,000 miles, it’s classy inside and out.
Mercedes reminds us why it’s worth the big bucks when you actually get the E-Class E430 up to its potential top speed. In 0-60 seconds, its 4.3-liter V8 brings the E430 to 6.7 seconds with top speeds hitting 149 mph.

2006 Dodge Charger SE

  • Used price: $2,999 (with approximately 115,000 miles)
  • Engine: 3.6 L V6
  • Horsepower: 250
  • Transmission: 5-speed automatic
From 0 to 60: 7.2 seconds and reaching a top speed of 142 mph, the Charger packs a serious punch.
The 2006
Dodge Charger SE
is a RWD, full-sized sedan that carries a 3.5-liter V6 generating 250 horsepower. Rocketing to 142 mph is no joke, but reaching this top speed with the entry-level V6 could cause your transmission to go into limp mode. 

2003 Volkswagen Jetta GLS 1.8 Turbo

  • Used price: $2,500 (with approximately 169,521 miles)
  • Engine: 1.8 L inline 4
  • Horsepower: 180
  • Transmission: 5-speed manual
From 0 to 60 in 7.3 seconds and reaching a top speed of 128 mph, don’t skip this Jetta!
The Jetta has been popular for decades, but if you want to cash in on its speed, go for the
GLS 1.8 Turbo
version. At this price, there will likely be noticeable body damage, but niceties like an attractive interior, moonroof, and keyless entry will help soften the blow of cosmetic imperfections.

2003 Mustang Convertible

  • Used price: $2,500 (with approximately 151,538 miles)
  • Engine: 3.8 L V6 or 4.6 L V8
  • Horsepower: 190 to 300 (or higher on a Cobra)
  • Transmission: 6-speed manual (or automatic on Mach 1)
Mustangs are known for their power (think
Mustang GT
Mustang Mach 1
), but if it’s an economical alternative you’re after, consider the 2003
Ford Mustang
Convertible. You can expect scuffs or flaws on the body of an ‘03 Mustang for this price, but the mechanics should be sound. This vehicle will take you from 0 to 60 in 5.3 seconds with a top speed of 112 mph.

2005 BMW 325xi 

  • Used price: $2,500 (with approximately 148,000 miles)
  • Engine: 2.5 L inline 6
  • Horsepower: 184
  • Transmission: 5-speed manual
Up for a passion project? A sporty V6 like this one is a great performance vehicle—as long as you’re willing to make repairs ranging from new power windows, a new battery, and fixing an oil leak. Go from 0 to 60 in 8.3 seconds and hit an eye watering top speed of 145 mph.

2004 Subaru Impreza 

  • Used price: $3,000 (with approximately 170,000 miles)
  • Engine: 2.5 L flat 4-cylinder
  • Horsepower: 165
  • Transmission: 5-speed manual
A lightning-quick
Subaru Impreza
for $3,000 will also require some TLC, like bodywork and a replacement stereo. But to satisfy your need for speed and AWD? It might be worth it. This car can take you from 0 to 60 in 4.78 seconds and hit 145 mph at top speeds.
In all honesty, this budget doesn’t give you a ton of vehicle options these days (thanks inflation!) if you have a need for speed. But if you can live with high mileage or minor damage, it’s possible to find a cheap car that goes fast. 
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