“Dream cars” earn their title by being way out of reach for the average car enthusiast. Sometimes it’s due to ultra-low production numbers, but usually the exclusivity comes from six or even seven-figure MSRPs. Not a lot of us are willing to drop more than the price of an average American home on a car. However, depreciation is a wonderful thing for car buyers, even if it hurts the first owner. With just a few miles on the odometer and a few years on the road, a number of once expensive dream cars are now affordable to most.
Since the Corvette has been widely regarded as “affordable” for the last several generations, we’ll use its ballpark base price of $50,000 as the limit here. And even though we’re being cheap, that doesn’t mean we want a clapped out beater. We set the mileage limit at a reasonable 60,000 for this list, as that leaves a lot of life left for these performance and luxury rides.
Bentley Arnage R
While all the rappers want a GTC, the Arnage R is where it’s at. The turbo 6.75L V8 makes adequate horsepower and torque, while the leather and wood combo keeps you insulated from the outside world. If you’re going to do a serious road trip, or are just driven around a lot for work, this is the car to be driven in. Step on it, Jeeves!
Lotus Esprit Turbo
One of the better values – on one of the older cars here – is the Lotus Esprit Turbo. While heavily dated by the turn of the millennium, it still looked great and drove even better with the power update provided by two turbos feeding the 3.5L V8. Looking for cheaper? Higher mileage can get you one for the low $30k range.
First gen Vipers retailed for 50-60K, so their steady depreciation makes them even more affordable today, although their price is likely bottoming out. Any generation of the V10 super coupe looks great and performs well. The current generation is still a ways out of reach for most despite Dodge slashing prices on all Vipers by $15K from 2014 due to sluggish sales. We’ve found extremely low mileage (four figures) third generation examples going for less than a new ‘vette. Or, trade mileage and age for a lower price and watch as you scoop up a 1992-95 model RT/10 for well under $30,000. This future classic, or a new Camry?
After Operation Desert Storm, decommissioned military Humvees briefly sold for $100,000 used. Thankfully, the US military has been dumping their used up troop carriers onto the auction block for a while now, leading to massively lower prices for the superbly capable off-roader. The mil-spec ones are Spartan, but cheaper than the slightly cushier civilian models. Pick one up for the ultimate Arnie cosplay, or as a great Christmas gift for the prepper in your life. Or just because they’re awesome.
Everyone wants a Ferrari. Satisfy that childhood yearning on a budget by buying yourself a used Ferrari. Fifty large can buy a whole lot of car, but not really from a collector manufacturer. There’s a ton of kit cars at this price, but we’re looking for the real deal. $30k to $40k will get you into a Mondial, but those are… weird. A 308 GT4 looks better, but will show some age at this price. Still, it’s a real Ferrari.
Yup, a Corvette on this list. Despite being an affordable sports car, the ‘vette is generally considered desirable, especially in rare and expensive ZR1 trim. The $120,000 Blue Devil has aged in the last 7 years, and prices are just starting to fall below $50k. That buys you the fastest, most powerful Corvette of the time, and 638 horsepower is still very good today. While not as slick as the current Z06, this one is cheaper and rarer. Save your cash for this and some mods.
Aston Martin V8 Vantage
I tried to find a DBS for this price. I really did, as I love that car. Unfortunately, the only one currently for sale under $50,000 was in a rather severe accident, and is still selling for the price of a Focus RS. No beaters here, so we’re going with the sweet V8 Vantage. This gorgeous convertible provides a thirsty V8 with an intoxicating exhaust note, and looks that will make you think you are starring in a James Bond movie.
Or, perhaps better yet the same amount of money also buys an older Vanquish.
Not the fastest thing in the world, but is an extremely unique design, and very rare. I see R32 Skylines all the time compared to Karmas. Plus, it has room for four, and really solid gas mileage. It’s like the rarer Tesla Model S, only not as good in every measurable way. Still, just for its wild appearance and exclusivity, you’ll have every right to give the head nod to the guy in the P90D. This will also be a future classic someday.
Honda’s legendary halo car returns this year, but why buy new (like anyone with $200k) when you can be a connoisseur and get this classic? Odds are there will never again be a car this simple and light, with surreal driving dynamics at any kind of price. Under $50k will get you low miles and excellent condition. Sure, you can find them in the mid-$30k range, but then you’re looking at high mileage. Still, even then it’s a Honda and will likely live forever….
No, it’s not an F-TYPE R, but it’s still pretty sweet. This price gets you a very low mileage and well maintained Jag, as nothing depreciates like an expensive British car. The looks are mostly modern, and so is the performance of the excellent sounding V8. It’s got an auto, but it’s a shift able manumatic and for the price I wouldn’t argue. If you’re still not convinced, wait until next year when depreciation brings it down to about twenty bucks.
R35 Nissan GT-R
GT-Rs launched in the US at around $70,000 back in the day. Constant improvement meant the car increased in cost every single year, taking it from almost affordable to out of reach (for most). Depreciation isn’t nearly as bad as you think for being a Nissan, as the enthusiast market is hot for Godzilla. A 2009 model with low mileage is doable, and while it’ll get embarrassed in a drag race by the current NISMO model, it’s just some mods away from neck breaking acceleration.
Mercedes-Benz S65 AMG
Why? Because your family sedan needs a 604 horsepower V12. This once $180,000 super sedan has taken a serious hit lately, and now that amount of horsepower falling into cheaper hands almost borders on irresponsible. As one of those cheaper people, I’m actually okay with this. While it’s not the current sleek design, it’s still a relative head turner. Unlike the Bentley above, this Benz is also a solid driver’s car.
It’s old, but oh so gorgeous. The pinnace of ‘80s design, the 8-Series backs up its looks with V8 or V12 power. Since it’s older, you can find decent examples under $10,000. While that’s a tempting impulse purchase, looking around with a higher budget gets you some great cars. Under $27,000 finds an immaculate example with under 40,000 miles, the vaunted M70 V12, and a manual transmission. This or a V6 Mustang?
Maserati Gran Turismo
The Ghibli litters AutoTrader at this price, but we wanted something a bit more exciting. How about a Gran Turismo that uses the chassis from the Maserati Quattroporte and drivetrain bits of the Ferrari 599 GTB. Sound expensive? It’s not (anymore). Under $50k buys reasonable miles, and not even the oldest model year. It looks great, drives excellent, and sounds even better. Plus, it has four seats, so, family car!
HA, no. We couldn’t find even a damaged Lambo on eBay or AutoTrader under $50,000. Sorry.
Porsche 911 Turbo
You can get a 997 Carrera all day long for about 40 grand. Far more interesting than driving Sally from Disney’s “Cars” is the nicely done 930 Turbo we found. While this amount of money won’t buy you Singer perfection or an extreme RWB, it will get you a nice 911 with all the service records and tastefully modified. This car looks more fun than anything you can find in dealerships today.
Land Rover Range Rover
THIS is an SUV. Take the iconic looking Range Rover and stuff it with the legendary supercharged 5.0L V8, and you have one of the best SUVs anywhere, at any price. Especially this price, as just 30,000 miles will cause an essentially new 2013 model to fall to a very sane $40k-50k range. Depreciation hits these guys hard though, so plan on keeping this tank for a while and you’ll be alright.
Tesla Model S
Need to haul your five kids? Don’t want a minivan? Friend, have I got the solution for you. Tesla looks to be the manufacturer to beat for the next few years, giving all their cars serious street cred. The Model S is not the star anymore, but still looks good, delivers a spacious interior and zero onboard emissions, and even this base model can hang with a low end sports car. While it’s not a P90D, the neighbors won’t be able to tell.
Rolls-Royce Silver Seraph
If you think Bentleys are for the help, then you need a Rolls. There are a few Rolls-Royce models selling for under $10,000, but while they would make hilarious drag car projects, we’re looking for something well-rounded. That sounds like the job for a late ‘90s Silver Seraph. It still looks stately outside, if not modern. Inside, there’s acres of leather and wood, and probably the smell of old money. You won’t win any drag races with the 5.4L V12 dragging around this 2.5 ton land yacht, but it sounds as good as it is classy. Buy this car just for the engine, and drop it into your Miata.
If you aren’t afraid of miles, you can find a G500 all day long for these prices. This distinctive SUV is one of the most rugged vehicles made for the street, which is where 99.99% of them spend their entire life. That’s great news for you, as you can pick up the 5.0L V8 Bavarian off-roader for about the same price as a loaded Wrangler. And for about the same reliability. If this truck isn’t nuts enough for you, the AMG version is available at this price, but with twice the mileage.
Toyota Supra Turbo (93–02)
The MKIV Supra has been hot essentially since it hit the market. Prices dropped to about half MSRP, then started increasing. The combination of ‘90s good looks, Toyota reliability, and the potential for massive power on stock internals is what makes this one of the ultimate Japanese GT cars. Since most buyers took advantage of that huge potential, factory stock examples are getting rare and valuable. Buy it now, before we have to put it on the list of “affordable” $100,000 cars.
The M5 is one of the absolute greatest driving sedans ever made. The price reflects that. Depreciation allows $50,000 to get you pretty much any M5 you could want, as long as you want one at least 3 years old. Want the 4.4L twin turbo V8 riding on 19”s? You got it. Want a Dinan S2? Not a problem. At this price point, engines vary from inline sixes, to V8 and V10 power, with a choice of precise manual transmissions. Get an earlier E34 model for the brilliant handling, or a 4,000 lb E60 that performs like a Ferrari F430. With an M5, you can’t lose.
Take the bare chassis of a previous generation Mustang, add lightweight bits from a legit race company, and sell at a profit. That’s the business model for the American made sports car with the foreign name. While I’m not a fan of the nose or center gauges, the Esperante is said to be a blast to drive due to proper suspension and steering tuning. I can’t say for sure, as I’ve never even seen one, much less driven one. There’s something to be said for owning a car so rare that you will never see another out and about.
Okay, I lied. I totally forgot about the turn of the millennium Ferraris that just don’t get a ton of love, like the 456. For less than the price of your boring factory Corvette, you can buy an Italian prancing horse with a 5.5L V12, a real manual transmission, and none of the electronic nannies that limit your driving fun/feel. Sure, it’s got a JLo butt, and the wheels are hideous, but keep it stock, and you’ll be able to sell it for twice this price in ten years.
When searching eBay, Autotrader and the like, everything screams out as a great deal, as cars that were once unthinkably expensive are now within reach. Many of these could be a great buy right now as they could become future classics worth exponentially more. While I don’t recommend looking for supercar deals if you have work to do anytime soon (searching can be quite addictive), let us know if you’ve found a depreciated dream car that needs to be on our list.
By: Andy Jensen