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

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A yellow 2017 Ford Focus ST is shown from the front at an angle.

5 Affordable Used Fords for Enthusiasts

Are you looking for an affordable and relatively modern used Ford for sale that you can squeeze some extra performance out of before hitting the streets? Well, you’re in luck because there are plenty of different Ford models available that you can take, tweak, tune, and upgrade to get the most out of them without spending a whole lot of money. I know some of you might be scoffing at that idea, but it’s true…you can get some beefy gains out of a modern used Ford model without having to take out a mortgage on your house or sell a kidney.

More specifically, if you’re tuning on a budget and want a cool used Ford you can tweak and turn into your own pet performance project, we’re focusing on Fords made within the last 10 years. Meaning the 2012 and newer vehicles that you can find from a used car lot or auction house. This age is a good standard that many people use when opting to buy used, and if you’re buying used, on a budget, and still want some good performance gains, these are the top five performance Fords you can easily tune.

#1 – Ford Maverick

The Ford Maverick is actually the newest entry on this list. It’s new for the 2022 model year, and it’s very unlikely that you’ll be seeing many used Ford Mavericks for sale anytime soon. However, this compact truck is affordable even when brand-new. If you do manage to get your hands on this beaut of a midsize pickup, you’re in for a treat. Why? Because Ford specifically designed the 2022 Ford Maverick to be modular, tunable, and highly scalable. What does that mean? It means you can downpipe this bad boy and squeeze out some extra power. Alternatively, you can fit a sweet ECM tuner on your Maverick without touching the hardware on the block to eke out some extra performance.

The Ford Maverick is a great do-it-yourself pickup truck, and this truck is going to be hugely popular on the used market, mark my words. This is a pet performance truck project just waiting to happen. The bare-bones design means you can outfit it both with performance and aesthetic parts you can cook up and design yourself. Swap the intake, put in an intercooler, or opt for some sports headers on the turbocharged 2.0-liter EcoBoost with all-wheel drive. It remains to be seen how well an engine swap would work with the Maverick, but for basic tuning––from catback exhausts to electronic tuners––there are some really simple and easy ways to boost the power on the Maverick without going into debt doing so.

#2 – Ford Explorer

You’ve heard of the Explorer ST, which debuted for 2020, but if you want to save some money, look for a Ford Explorer Sport. Produced from 2013 to 2019, the Explorer Sport boasts a twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter V6, which makes 365 hp and produces 350 lb-ft of torque stock. The Platinum trim also offered this engine after 2016, but it will cost a bit more. Since the 3.5-liter EcoBoost is actually larger than the engine in the Explorer ST, it has plenty of room for growth and can easily make over 440 hp on 93 octane. This is a beefy crossover SUV that’s very powerful for its segment.

Heck, just getting any stock Ford Explorer Sport is enough to satisfy most power-hungry car shoppers out there, new or used. However, if you want to boost the already twin-boosted Explorer Sport, you have options. Intercoolers, intakes, and exhausts galore, along with performance tires, wheels, and aerodynamic hood scoops. In fact, you could actually leave the entire powertrain alone and focus just on a good set of performance wheels and tires, upgraded brakes, and some suspension mods to get the most out of an Explorer Sport, which just goes to show how performance-ready Ford’s crossover SUV is. Given how well it performs out of the box, it’s definitely something that would appeal to entry-level tuning enthusiasts.

An orange 2015 Ford Fiesta ST is shown from the side while parked in a field.

#3 – Ford Fiesta

The Fiesta is one of the most underrated performance tuners on the market. This little subcompact has been discontinued, but since this list goes back a decade, you can easily find this popular used Ford for sale from just about anywhere. They’re fairly cheap, too, so if you’re shopping on a budget and don’t want to blow your entire savings on the car alone but would prefer spending all of your money and then some on the aftermarket parts, the Fiesta is the way to go.

The most popular option would be the 2014-2018 Ford Fiesta ST. This turbocharged subcompact beast has 200 hp and 214 lb-ft of torque tucked into a chassis that tops out at around 2,600 lbs. People love to tune the Fiesta, and if you’re looking for an affordable performance-driven Ford to mod, the Fiesta is the way to go. The diminutive size means you can squeeze a lot out of it without putting a lot into it. Since it’s already boosted, most people try to squeeze extra gains out of it with simple, cost-effective mods like ECM tuners and access ports so they can both boost and monitor the boost.

High-performance tires and upgraded swaybars to stabilize the vehicle can go a long way on a very short budget, too. There’s a reason the aftermarket scene loves the Fiesta, and it’s all to do with how much you can get out of this little subcompact and how versatile it is. It’s small, it’s aerodynamic, and you can turn it into a very performance-heavy little hatchback if you can find one for sale.

#4 – Ford Focus

The Ford Focus was never really a performance-oriented vehicle. It was usually seen as a slow, economical starter vehicle. I mean, that’s what it was when it was first introduced onto the market. It was unconvincing, and personally, I found it to be pretty lame. However, all of that changed with the third generation. The vehicle was still a compact four-door hatchback, but it changed. It was like seeing that friend you used to think was frumpy in high school, but then you meet them at a school reunion, and you think they look like a supermodel? Well, the Ford Focus isn’t quite like that because it still looks kind of frumpy, but everything about its performance capabilities was supermodel tier.

Ford unified the design and stuck with the hatchback look. Over the years, it began putting in more powerful powertrain options, including the 2.0-liter EcoBoost that arrived with the 2012 Focus ST. The Focus RS kicked things up another notch in 2016, adding all-wheel drive and another hundred ponies. Ford even leaned into the performance culture that began building around the Focus thanks to its popularity in rally sports by including features like the Drift Mode. Swap the fascia for something more aerodynamic, add a larger wing to the rear, and slap some performance tires on the Focus, and the vehicle is ready to whip its tail like a drift king.

Given that the Focus has been a popular vehicle on the race track, it’s easy to scale the performance to what you want out of the compact vehicle, whether it’s lowered suspension for tighter handling or improved exhaust for better boost. There is also a lot of headroom to tune the Focus. Given its affordability and versatility, it makes for a good pet project for both entry-level and advanced tuners.

An orange 2021 Mustang Ecoboost HPP is shown from the front at an angle.

#5 – Ford Mustang

Is there really any other option for anyone who wants a used Ford for sale that is performance-ready from the get-go? The Ford Mustang is a pony car for a reason: it’s affordable, easy to mod, and no matter which trim you go with, it’s still ready to hit the road and give you something fun to drive. The best part about the Ford Mustang is that you don’t need to be mechanical savvy to squeeze extra performance gains out of it. Simple tuning like wheels and tires can make a big difference for the pony car.

If you have some cash to spare, opt for an older Boss 302 or GT500. If you need a basic pet project and want an easy way to add some major power to the vehicle, you can go with a tuned EcoBoost Mustang and modify some of the other components. From exterior mods like spoilers and bumpers to tires and tuners, you can do a lot with the Mustang to make it your own. You can increase the performance and scale the vehicle according to what you feel most comfortable with. Plus, whether you buy one from 2012, 2016, or 2022, you’re always going to have a reliable pony car in your possession.

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