Just like anything else, supercars suffer from depreciation, making them a bargain buy as they age before they start getting collectible. It’s been interesting to watch the market over the last few years, as we’re seeing these depreciation curves shifting in a variety of vehicles. As you’ll see below, some of our selections are already climbing in value, whereas others have yet to hit the bottom of their price curve. Either way, a pre-owned supercar is a great way to get a lot of car for a lot less bank, though it’s not without its pitfalls. The more complex the car, the fussier its engine and electronics can be, and thus more expensive its repairs can get. Buy with caution, and plan on setting some cash aside for fixing it up, but you’ll be happy you did.
Porsche 911 Turbo
Just about any Porsche 911 is will show you a good time, but the Turbo variants have traditionally been the stepping-stone into the stratosphere of the supercars. Porsche has been building 911 Turbos since 1975, and though a good one is getting harder and harder to find, they do still exist. Prices for every variation from wild whale-tailed 930s of the 1970s and ’80s to the more buttoned-down 964s and 993s have been steadily climbing, but they aren’t quite all stratospheric just yet. Pretty much every 911 is a future classic from the moment it rolls off the assembly line, and thus even a reasonable condition 996 Turbo (the only 996 to dodge the IMS issue) is worth getting your hands on before even those start spiking in value.
With a V10 engine under the hood and styling straight out of a Batman movie, the Dodge Viper is one of the wildest supercars you can buy. Shop carefully and you can buy Viper convertibles all day long for less than $40,000, and if you can up your budget to $50k or so, you should be able to find a hardtop GTS. Be warned: Vipers are a handful to drive and lack electronic safety nets like electronic stability control. One reason for their rarity is that so many unwary owners have crashed them — sometimes fatally. Be sure to leave room in your budget for a trip to a performance driving school so that you can enjoy this beast in relative safety.
Lotus was best known for their small, lightweight cars, but it was the Esprit — specifically the turbo and V8 models — that launched them to supercar status (that, plus a featured role in the 1977 James Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me). The Esprit isn’t as well known (and perhaps not as well understood) than many of the cars on this list, which may explain why they are so affordable: We’ve found a lot of clean examples priced around $30,000 or less.
Any Aging Ferrari
“Ferrari” and “supercar” are nearly synonymous, and while the cheapest of these Italian exotics sells for nearly $200,000 new, there are a surprising number of Ferraris available on eBay for less than 60 grand. And we’re not talking about clapped-out 308s, though Magnum PI fans will certainly find plenty; we’ve seen Californias, 348 Spyders, Mondial Cabrios, and 355s, all with asking prices of $50,000 or less. Up your budget to $70k, and the cars — and the deals — get even better.
Lots and Lots of Aston Martins
Fast, powerful and elegant, these British exotics are the preferred car of James Bond — and they can be your preferred car as well. Astons are more grand tourers than sports cars, with posh features that make them lovely road trip cars… though they are British, so it’s best to keep your mechanic’s phone number handy. As with Ferrari, a $50,000 budget opens you up to some of Aston’s greatest hits: We found Vantage V8s, DB7s, and DB9s trading for less than 50k.
In its day, the NSX was called the Japanese Ferrari, and with good reason: This mid-engined supercar is very fast and very precise, with excellent grip and great poise in the corners, even by today’s standards. The biggest difference is that the NSX is built with Japanese quality rather than Italian indifference, which means you need not be afraid of high mileage. There are a lot of good NSXs to be found for $50,000 or less, though be warned—we’ve seen prices on these slowly start to climb over the last couple of years.
The Elise is a different kind of supercar: A tiny little buzz-bomb that concentrates on handling rather than acceleration — though its ridiculously low curb weight means it’s still plenty quick. The Elise is the car of choice for those who favor speed in the curves rather than speed in a straight line, and its Toyota-sourced engines are reliable and cheap to fix. These continue to drop in price, with models landing as low as the mid $20k range, and it looks like $30k will put you behind the wheel of one that’s been reasonably cared for.
Corvette C4 ZR-1
The 1990 Corvette ZR-1 was General Motors first serious attempt to turn the much-maligned C4 Corvette into a world-beating supercar – and an affordable supercar at that! The ZR-1 had a Lotus-designed 32-valve V8 that gave it a zero-to-60 time of 4.4 seconds, and Lotus’ input on the suspension ensured that the ZR-1 was truly trackable. Today, these all-American supercars are bargains at $30,000 or less.
This old-school 1970s-era supercar combines an Italian chassis with an American muscle-car engine — specifically a 351 cubic inch (5.8-liter) Ford Cleveland small-block V8. Styling was a mix of old world and new; Italian design firm Ghia was responsible, but they gave the job to American-born designer Tom Tjaarda. Panteras are harder to come by than other exotics, but it’s possible to find clean, original examples for $60,000 or less.
This unusual supercar, designed by American Walter Mosler, had a body made from Kevlar and carbon fiber and a mid-mounted turbocharged Chrysler 2.2-liter four-cylinder engine. It weighed in at just 2,200 lbs — comparable to a Honda CRX — and was so successful in IMSA racing that it was given a 300-lb weight penalty before being banned altogether. Fewer than 100 were built, and the last one we saw show up on eBay was selling for just $50,000.
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