Car Life Nation

When Driving is about Lifestyle, Car Life Nation is the Answer

When Driving is about Lifestyle, Car Life Nation is the Answer

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5 Affordable Models That Prove Used Cars Can Be Exciting

Affordable used cars don’t have to be dull or boring—not every used vehicle is a minivan meant to get kids to school in the morning when the family is running desperately late. There are plenty of cars that are actually fun to drive and can still provide exceptional value for anyone looking at used cars for sale. Whether you’re contemplating your next vehicle or simply interested in what’s out there, when looking at different used options, it typically pays to have the same perspective as one would when considering new models. That is to say, fun vehicles are always going to be fun, whether fresh from the factory or getting a second life.

When it comes to used models that are both affordable and fun, the key is typically to consider what can be done without. A vehicle from just a couple years ago with all of the latest bells and whistles isn’t going to be particularly affordable, at least not if it’s also something fun to drive, like a sports car. Going back further, sometimes much further, can get you a vehicle that’s incredibly fun on the road, but it won’t have all of the modern tech features. That’s a balance that not everyone is comfortable with, but an older ride is a great choice for drivers who don’t need infotainment displays and advanced safety tech.

#1 – Nissan 300ZX

Now, when I said “going back further,” this is exactly the sort of thing I was talking about—offered across two generations throughout the 1980s and 1990s, the Nissan 300ZX is the perfect example of a car that blends affordability and raw, unadulterated fun! Introduced here in the US in 1984, the 300ZX is a sporty little number with a couple of excellent engines available for it, including a 205 hp turbocharged beauty. I know not everyone wants to go back to the 1980s for a car, but there’s no denying that these rides had style and impressive power.

First-generation models are referred to as the Z31, while the second-generation Z32 dropped in 1990 with updated looks and a host of fantastic features. From the iconic T-top to the updated turbocharged engine, the Z32 brought a sense of style to the road that you just won’t find in modern vehicles—you can decide if that’s a good thing or not. These models sold incredibly well throughout the 1990s, which means there are still many of them available on the used market. As long as it was well taken care of, this is a sports car that’s incredibly affordable, fun to drive, and available with either two or four seats inside.

#2 – Chevy Camaro

I know the Corvette is the Chevy sports car darling for many people, but I’ve personally always appreciated the straightforward power and style of the Camaro. First released for the 1967 model year, you don’t have to go back nearly that far to find a Camaro that is as fun to drive as it is affordable. That said, I’m personally a fan of the first few generations of the Camaro—full disclosure: that could be due to riding around in my father’s 1979 Camaro as a kid and thinking it was the coolest thing ever, so don’t come at me for this.

Models from the 1990s and early 2000s can be found at great prices, particularly because the Camaro is generally the more budget-friendly Chevy sports car to begin with. The SS models, in particular, still deliver exceptional power and a thrilling driving experience more than two decades later. However, a gap from 2002 to 2010 is a bit problematic when looking at Camaros for affordable fun, as models from the last decade can still be a bit pricey. But that’s just more reason to enjoy the sleek style and reckless power that the 1980s and 1990s had to offer!

#3 – Mazda MX-5 Miata

Known as the Mazda Roadster in Japan, we know this beauty by one simple word: Miata. First introduced at the 1989 Chicago Auto Show, the Miata hit the scene as a small roadster when most other manufacturers had left that segment behind. It offered sporty handling, a gorgeous design, and an incredibly accessible price tag, which made it as popular as you might imagine—nearly half a million of them were sold during the first generation from 1989 to 1997.

Since it first hit the road, the MX-5 has been through four generations, but there’s nothing quite like those early Miata models. Their low weight means the standard 1.6L I-4 engine is more than enough to propel them along at zippy speeds, while the larger 1.8L engine that came along in 1994 elevated the driving experience of this car even further. Later generations are still excellent and can be quite affordable, but there’s just something about that first wave of Miata models.

#4 – Subaru Impreza WRX

The standard Subaru Impreza is fine, as far as cars go, and it’s been available as a sedan or hatchback for much of its life. But it’s not what most of us would call “exhilarating”––that is unless you add three letters to the end of it. Inspired by technology and features for rally driving, the WRX or “World Rally eXperimental” models deliver an entirely different driving experience. While other parts of the world, particularly Japan and the UK, got to enjoy the WRX as far back as 1992, we didn’t get it here until the second-generation Impreza and the 2002 model year. All WRX models can be a lot of fun to drive, though the WRX STI versions of the Impreza are particularly sporty and fantastic options, even if they may not always qualify as affordable.

#5 – Honda Civic Si

Admittedly, “fun to drive” might not be the first thing that comes to mind for some people when they hear “Honda Civic” since other terms like “practical” and “affordable” are most likely what they think of. If that’s the case, then those folks have never taken a Civic Si for a drive. This sporty model transforms the experience significantly. While the Civic Si has been available as a coupe since 1985, the Civic Si Sedan hit the scene for the 2007 model year and the eighth generation of the car, bringing a fantastic driving experience with it.

There’s nothing wrong with a Civic Si Coupe, but having a four-door model with room inside for friends that also delivers plenty of power is simply a joy. There are all sorts of sports cars out there that are a lot of fun to drive but also quite impractical for daily driving. A sporty sedan solves this problem by giving you something that you can enjoy no matter what you’re trying to do. This Civic Si is typically quite affordable when new, so looking at older used models makes it even more accessible and still a lot of fun to drive.

Affordable Fun Is Easy to Find

The great thing about the vehicles we’ve looked at is that they perfectly illustrate the kinds of cars that should get drivers excited. It’s easy to look at some crazy supercar that costs six figures and drool over it or to dream about “What if…” but for most of us, that’s just never going to happen. A Camaro from the mid-1980s or a Nissan 300ZX is within reach for far more people than a Lamborghini ever will be.

Yeah, older vehicles like these won’t have the fancy features that we’re all getting increasingly used to, but maybe that’s okay. A big infotainment screen with turn-by-turn directions is handy, but you can get that on your phone just as easily—or actually look at a map and learn how to reach where you want to go. Having fun behind the wheel doesn’t have to be expensive or even impractical; it’s all about knowing what you need and getting a car that checks your boxes while still giving you a great drive.

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