Best used sports car under $5,000 – what can you reasonably expect to get? For starters, you’re looking at models from quite a few years back, no getting around that. But there are some iconic names on the list, so savvy and persistent shoppers may be able to find a great deal. As always, do your due diligence: have any sports car you’re considering thoroughly inspected by a professional mechanic, and obtain a vehicle history report.

To get to our list, we started with two household names and then added some other consumer favorites. For an idea of price, we use Edmunds True Market Value (TMV). And, we’ve included comments from automotive experts as available. Here, then, are our choices for Best Used Sports Car Under $5,000:

  • 1996-1999 Chevrolet Camaro Z28 or SSAlong with the Ford Mustang, the Chevrolet Camaro has enjoyed iconic status for most of the past 40 years. Discontinued after the 2002 model year, Camaro returned in 2010 – but used Camaros fitting the under $5,000 price bogey are limited to the years 1996-1999 (from the muscle car’s fourth generation, 1993-2002). Edmunds says: “The fourth-generation Camaro, which bowed in the early ‘90s, still offered V8 power, a rear-drive chassis, swoopy styling and a choice of coupe or convertible bodies. The V8 cranked out more than 300 horsepower and 13-second quarter miles in Z28 and SS form. Edmunds TMV for 1996 Z28 coupe and convertible ranges from $3,054-$4,016, while the Z28 SS versions go from $3,585-$4,671. For 1997, the range is $3,989-$4,552 (Z28 coupe, convertible), and $4,333-$5,529 (Z28 SS versions). Z28 coupe, convertible for 1998 ranges from $5,116-$5,623, while Z28 SS coupe starts around $5,306. For 1999, only the Z28 coupe is near the price bogey at $5,772 (but you may be able to negotiate it down).
  • 1996-2000 Ford MustangThe only continuously-sold (since its 1964 debut) muscle car in America, the Ford Mustang offers consumers looking for great performance bang for the buck a lot of value – particularly the 1996-1998 (part of the seventh generation) and 1999-2000 (eighth generation) models. What’s the difference? In 1996, Mustang featured a new 4.6-liter SOHC V8. Eighth-generation Mustangs were similar mechanically but had different exterior styling. Go for the GT form in any year, with coupe and convertibles available. Edmunds TMV for 1996 GT coupe/convertible is $2,940-$3,853, while 1997 TMV ranges from $3,420-$4,281 and 1998 is $4,027-$4,985. TMV for 1999 ranges from $5,305-$5,923, while the 2000 GT coupe is $5,667. Consumer Guide says this of the 2000 models: “If you’re interested in bang-for-the-buck our Budget Buys include the Chevrolet Camaro and Ford Mustang. At any given price or equipment level the Camaro is a faster car, but the Mustang might be a little more user-friendly as a daily driver.”
  • 1999-2000 Mazda MX-5 Miata A much tamer sports car by comparison, with a 140-hp 1.8-liter inline 4-cylinder engine, the Mazda MX-5 Miata is nevertheless a very popular consumer choice – and a downright bargain for 1999-2000, the first two years of Miata’s second generation.  Edmunds says: “It was a much sharper car to drive than the original [first generation models], with even better handling highlighted by sublime steering…The addition of a glass window made visibility better and maintenance substantially easier (the old plastic window clouded and was hard to replace), while the lighter roof was now easier to raise.” Edmunds TMV for 1999 MX-5 Miata is $4,239-$5,595, while the 2000 base model starts at $4,981. The 2000 MX-5 Miata is also a Consumer Guide Best Buy.

Of course, any list of Best Used Sports Car Under $5,000 wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the Chevrolet Corvette. Check out 1990-1992 for base model Corvettes.

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