It’s easy to think of “used cars” as only referring to old models that weren’t all that exciting when they were first sold and have only gotten worse with age. In reality, however, shopping at a used Nissan dealer gives you access to some of the most impressive sports and performance cars ever made. Nissan is well known for delivering incredible power and performance at a very reasonable price, and with the low cost of a used model, you can really get a lot more “oomph” than you might expect.
Today, I’m going to take you through some of my favorite Nissan performance models out there on the used market. Now I can’t guarantee that you’re going to find all of these at your favorite used Nissan dealer, but it’s certainly worth a look. These have been popular models, so they do show up at used lots – especially those dealerships that really focus on new and used Nissan models. There are some other high-performance Nissan models out there with only a few ever made, but realistically you’re not going to find those, so these are the ones to look for.
#1 – 1990s Nissan 240SX
I’m going to go through these in semi-chronological order, so let’s kick things off with a 90s classic: the Nissan 240SX. Since these models are about 30 years old, you might not find them at a lot of used Nissan dealers, but they’re still in demand, so there’s definitely a chance. You can go back even further into the 1960s and 1970s and find some great Nissan sports cars, but I didn’t want to get too crazy.
The Nissan 240SX has been surpassed in the years since it was released by other great Nissan performance models, but it still has a lot to offer on the used market. It had a great suspension and rear-wheel drive, which is one of the reasons it was so popular. It’s especially desirable by drivers that like to add aftermarket stuff or swap out engines and other parts. Whether you’re looking for a stock model or you want something with a more powerful engine than it first had available, the 240SX is a great choice.
#2 – Early 1990s Nissan Maxima
Although the Nissan Maxima has been around since 1980, the models we’re looking at here are those from about 1989 to 1994. This was the third generation for the Maxima, and if you just look at it from the outside, you might be wondering why I’ve included it. The Maxima is a four-door sedan, and “performance” probably isn’t the first word to come to mind when you see it.
That being said, this was marketed as a “four-door sports car” (there was even a 4DSC decal on the window). Yes, it’s a sedan, but it shipped with a 3.0L V6 engine, an independent rear suspension, and its engine could deliver up to 190 hp on later models. You’re not going to turn many heads in this thing, but if you want something a bit different while still getting surprising performance from an older model, then this Maxima is hard to beat.
#3 – Early 1990s Nissan 300ZX
The 1990s were a good time for Nissan performance vehicles, and next up, we have the Nissan 300ZX. This model was built on the previous Z models, which had become a little bit lackluster during the 1980s. When the updated and all-new 300ZX hit for 1990, however, this beauty really turned some heads.
An available twin-turbo V6 engine, excellent 0-60 speed, and adjustable suspension with four-wheel steering really made the 300ZX a popular option for performance enthusiasts. This was one of the bestselling sports cars around in the early 1990s, but the shift toward SUVs in the industry pretty much brought it to an end. Still, if you’re looking for an older performance model at your used Nissan dealer, then this is one to watch for.
#4 – 1990s Nissan Skyline GT-R (R32)
Rounding out my selection of 1990s Nissan sports cars, we have the first of several GT-R models: the Nissan Skyline GT-R from the 1990s, also known as the R32. This was actually the third generation for the Skyline GT-R series, but it had been out of production since the 1970s, so unless you want to go really far back, you’re not going to be looking for the first couple generations. Since its return, however, the GT-R series has been some of the most impressive and popular performance vehicles from Nissan.
This was a very popular model in Japan and other parts of the world, but it was never released in the US by Nissan. Due to its age, it can be legally imported into the US and doesn’t have to meet federal emissions or safety standards. While it might not be as common at used Nissan dealers as some of the other models I mentioned, it’s still worth looking for thanks to its impressive 2.6L twin-turbo engine.
#5 – 2010s Nissan 370Z
You can pretty well draw a line from the Nissan 300ZX of the early 1990s to the Nissan 370Z that became available starting in 2009. There were a few models in between, but it’s pretty easy to see this as the successor to that earlier vehicle. So if you’re interested in a more recent Nissan performance vehicle, then this is a great place to start.
The 370Z has been available as a fastback coupe or roadster with rear-wheel drive and an impressive 3.7L V6 engine for about the last decade. A previous 350Z model had been quite popular, but with the 370Z, Nissan really went back to the drawing board and completely redesigned the vehicle. This has one of the lowest price tags around for its level of performance, so if you find one at your used Nissan dealer, it can be a great value and a lot of fun to drive.
#6 – Early 2000s Nissan Skyline GT-R (R34)
The R32 that I mentioned earlier was the third generation for the Skyline GT-R series, and the R34 represents its fifth generation. Launched for the model year 1999, the GT-R R34 represented the peak of Nissan performance at its time. It delivered impressive power thanks to a 2.6L twin-turbo I6 engine, excellent handling, and all-wheel drive.Now the bad news: much like the R32, the Skyline GT-R R34 was never exported directly to the US by Nissan. Since it’s not quite as old as the R32 models, finding one here in the US can be pretty tricky – though not necessarily impossible since it was such a popular model worldwide. That being said, you might be better off looking for a…
#7 – 2010s Nissan GT-R (R35)
After the production run of the Skyline GT-R R34, Nissan decided to separate the GT-R from their luxury Skyline lineup and make it available as its own vehicle. This created the Nissan GT-R, which was first released for the model year 2009 and became available here in the US in the summer of 2008. It remains in production still, though if you’re looking at models at a used Nissan dealer, then you’ll probably find ones from throughout the 2010s.
The GT-R is powered by an impressive 3.8L twin-turbo V6 engine with all-wheel drive and a sleek design that makes it incredibly fun to drive. So far, there’s only been a single generation available; it received an update and facelift in 2011, then another in 2017, so keep those model years in mind if you’re shopping for a GT-R. A lot of people would argue that this is as good as Nissan’s performance gets and that it’s one of the best sports cars out there – and I’d tend to agree.
There’s a lot to look out for if you want a Nissan performance vehicle, but these models are some of the best.