There’s nothing worse than a disappointing purchase, be it ordering a takeaway that ends up tasting awful or buying some clothes online that just don’t fit right, but there is truly nothing worse than saving up and buying a sports car that turns out to fall short of your expectations.
It’s a minefield out there, with plenty of used cars out there that may look great, or have impressive stats, but just turn out to be disappointing to own; fortunately, we have compiled this list of nothing but the most satisfying sports cars for all tastes and budgets. Whether you’re after a V8 sports coupe, a European classic or a cheap and cheerful drop-top, there’s something here for everyone, and they’re guaranteed to keep you smiling.
10 1990 Mazda Miata – $8,400
Let’s start off with an obvious choice, the iconic Mazda Miata, which has been in continuous production now for almost 35 years, with over 1 million models sold.
Sure, it may not be the quickest or sportiest roadster out there, with the classic 1.8-liter 4-cylinder only generating 130hp, but it is a simplified driving experience with nothing but the sports car essentials at hand. Rear-wheel drive, a rev-happy engine and nimble handling is more than enough to ensure this happy little two-door will satisfy for years to come, if you choose one. What’s more, they don’t break the bank, either.
9 1997 Aston Martin DB7 Volante – $19,600
OK, there are lots of reasons not to buy an Aston Martin DB7, such as expensive repair bills surrounding common issues like air conditioning and corrosion, poor performance figures in comparison to period competition like the Porsche 993 or Mercedes SL — and this is nothing compared to everyone telling you it’s ‘just a Jag in drag’ or making the same bad James Bond jokes in poor taste.
So, why do we think you should still buy one, and that you’ll not regret it? Just look at them! Ian Callum’s masterpiece is a caricature of just what a sports car should be; that long sloping hood, the low slung chassis and evocative curves are all that’s needed to ensure you turn around every time you try walking away, how could anyone ever regret buying one?
8 1999 BMW Z3 M Roadster – $20,000
A successful sports car sticks to a simplistic recipe; an exciting engine up front, a comfortable and compact cabin in the middle, and then finally keeping the driven wheels at the rear. The Z3M recipe certainly packs some delightful ingredients too, namely the naturally-aspirated 3.2-liter 6-cylinder engine up front, lifted straight out of the ever-popular E46 M3.
Despite rising prices now that these modern classics are becoming fully appreciated for what they are, $20,000 still gets you a solid example, and they certainly do live up to BMW’s slogan ‘The Ultimate Driving Machine’, and it’s this engaging drive that will keep you going back to the garage for more.
7 1990 Chevrolet Corvette ZR-1 – $22,600
The C4 Corvette ZR-1 is a classic sports car with a silhouette nearly as famous as its name, especially with those iconic pop-up headlights and mirror finished turbine alloy wheels. The ZR-1 featured a real masterpiece under the hood, with a Lotus-developed aluminum-block 5.7-liter V8, which developed a healthy 385hp and 359Ib-ft of torque which was finally enough to rival the more expensive European sports and supercars of the era.
If it’s a true American sports car you are after, then the classic Corvette really is the only way to go, and with huge support from enthusiast run clubs up and down the country, it’ll be easier than ever to keep your enthusiasm up and encourage you to climb in and go for a drive again and again.
6 1993 Caterham Super Seven – $30,000
If it’s a thrilling driving experience that you’re after, then look no further than the back-to-basics Caterham Super Seven, a lightweight legend that takes its design from Colin Chapman’s Lotus Seven, which enjoyed huge and significant motorsport successes.
Weighing in at a diminutive 1125 Ibs and featuring a free-revving naturally aspirated 4-cylinder, the Caterham Super Seven is a super agile king of the corners, and what’s more they’re incredibly simple to maintain, too. For ultimate driving thrills, this is the only option and will keep you on your toes every time you take it out, ensuring you never look back and regret your purchase.
5 1996 Dodge Viper RT/10 – $38,700
If all you had to judge a sports car was a list of its specs and statistics, then the original Dodge Viper would come out on top pretty much every single time; an 8.0-liter naturally aspirated 10-cylinder engine sits upfront and produces 406hp, which are all pushed through the rear driven 13-inch wide alloy wheels.
Sure it might not be the quickest in the corners, and it certainly isn’t half as nimble as some of the European and Japanese alternatives, but every outing in this slice of American greatness is set to be an experience, and isn’t that what sports car ownership is all about? You’ll make too many great memories driving one of these, to even begin to think about regretting the initial purchase.
4 1999 Lotus Esprit V8 – $42,200
The Lotus Esprit was the English answer to many Italian sports cars which were dominating the market space in the late ’80s and throughout the ’90s, which culminated in this, the V8.
Despite reliability concerns, the Esprit has a very loyal fan base who are dedicated to keeping these rare beasts on the road and running in good health, and if you can buy a good one with all the major issues rectified and well documented, it will prove to be a thoroughly enjoyable ownership of a mighty powerful British coupe. You’re unlikely to come across anything cooler on the roads too, with its smooth lines, purposeful ducts and aggressive rear spoiler (that is, unless you come across another Esprit!).
3 1992 Acura NSX – $62,000
Acura’s NSX has held its value incredibly well over the last three decades, thanks namely to its motorsport connections through Ayrton Senna and the fact it was quicker around a track than pretty much anything the rest of the world could throw at it during the 1990s and early 2000s.
A mid-engine layout and rear-wheel drive kept the NSX incredibly well-balanced, and the styling has aged like a fine wine, as opposed to other sports car designs from the period which have aged rather more like milk — all of this keeps the NSX very relevant in today’s car scene, and it’s also worth mentioning everybody loves Honda’s original NSX. So much so that anyone who knows you have one, will make you feel so great about it every time you take it out, that you won’t even have time to think about regretting buying one in the first place.
2 1994 Toyota Supra MKIV Turbo – $81,500
If you’re the type of person who might regret owning a turbocharged MKIV Supra, then maybe sports car ownership isn’t even for you. These Japanese coupes have been catapulted from mid-90s cult classic to a true icon of the decade, fully deserving of the legendary status they now enjoy.
Whether you’re after a super powerful modified example, or a pristine example fit for the concourse lawns, Supras are incredibly versatile sports cars, climbing up and up in price with every year that passes. With how desirable the Supra has become in modern society, it surely isn’t possible to regret adding one to your fleet.
1 1991 Porsche 911 Carrera 4S – $121,000
Saving the best until last, no list of sports cars is complete without honoring the famous Porsche 911; the model run spans over six decades and has seen some incredibly valuable iterations, alongside supercar destroying track toys. Perhaps more versatile than any other sports car, there truly is a 911 for every day of the week. While the simple Carrera is ideal for daily duties and comfortable commuting, the GT3 RS is the perfect track toy and Targa topped examples great for soaking up that summer sun.
The Carrera 4S is possible the most rounded offering from the 993 range, giving blistering performance through all four wheels whilst maintaining modest drivability, perfect for commuting and cruising when necessary. Do your research when shopping for a 911, as if you buy the correct model for you, we are certain you would never look back and regret it — a 911 is a sports car for life!