10 Crazy Cheap Cars Jam-Packed with Fun
Who Says You Can’t Have Performance on a Budget?
Published February 22, 2018
There may come a time in your life where you desperately need a vehicle, but the scope of your search needs to contain only crazy cheap cars. You’re in luck, though, because that’s exactly what our list today is about: crazy cheap cars.
These cars are not your average fuel-sipping sedans and reliable Hondas, though. What we’re looking for here is a list of cars that have unique characteristics, or are far cheaper than people expect them to be, or even surprisingly cheap for what they are. Expect to find ravenous V8s, surprisingly bulletproof off-roaders, and some serious sleepers that will smoke a whole host of cars off the line.
These crazy cheap cars come from all walks of life; some will burn serious rubber while others will help you pick up the kids from school in style. Others, still, will tackle gut-wrenching terrain and be reliable for years to come, and may even get great gas mileage to boot. We were very liberal with our definition of crazy cheap as well, so don’t expect all of them to be at a certain price point. They’re cheap for what they are and what they could be compared to, in most cases.
With that said, sit back and relax as we count through ten crazy cheap cars that will knock your socks off.
Honda CRX Si
When you think about crazy cheap cars, chances are good that your mind will jump straight to old shitty Hondas, so we’re starting the list out strong with an old not-shitty Honda instead! The CRX was produced from 1984-91, but the second gen models (’88-’91) are going to be our focus today.
The CRX Si received Honda’s D16A6 4-cylinder good for 105-108 hp (depending on the year and perhaps tailwind/grade) and 100 lb-ft of torque. If that doesn’t sound like much power to you, well…it’s not. Keep in mind though, that this is still basically a Civic, and that this car only weighs about 2,000 lbs. What sets this car apart from the Civic is not its power, but rather its style.
The CRX is already a good-looking car, and by all accounts, a truly iconic hatchback. That said, you can make it look even better with just a few minor additions. Since it’s a Honda, it also handles engine swaps very well, so you may find yourself looking at GSR Integra engines while you’re at it.
Fuel economy and reliability are both profound (as is expected), but the model year difference is where you should pay attention. The ’90 and ’91 models are going to be your best bet because, after some minor restyling, Honda decided to give the CRX four-wheel disc brakes and new wheels, which can make a world of difference as far as handling is concerned.
Pick one of these crazy cheap cars up for your next autocross project for around $4,500, assuming you can actually find someone willing to sell. These cars are only getting harder to come by, and you can likely kiss any expectation of the car having under 200k on the clock goodbye.
Chevy Corvette Grand Sport
If you’re in the market for a new muscle car, chances are you’re looking to spend anywhere between $30,000 and $45,000, or even as much as $60k, depending on options and trims. Instead of looking for a new vehicle though, you may be better served looking to the past instead.
The 2011 Chevrolet Corvette Grand Sport is the car you need. While not as powerful as the Z06 or ZR1 models, it still outpaces the base model at every turn. I’ve heard an owner refer to this car as “the most perfectly balanced corvette for city driving.” -Random Dude in a Restaurant (2017)
To be clear, power isn’t the thing that sets this car apart from the base model, though there was an optional exhaust offered that upped the output by 6 hp and makes the car that much rowdier. You’ll get the stock 6.2L V8 (which is no joke) making 430 hp and 424 lb-ft of torque. You’ll also enjoy a new appearance package which, while cool, is also functional, and was reported to reduce aero lift by around half. It also has big brakes from the Z06, special wheels, and a fantastic list of optional features. Look for a model with magnetic ride control and you won’t be sorry.
The best part? These cars are regularly being sold on Autotrader for between $22,000 and $30,000, which is great news because it means you still have money to replace the seats in this car. If you’re planning on using it daily, you should know that the biggest complaints about this car involve garbage seats and a meh interior, but that can always be remedied.
Toyota Land Cruiser FJ40
The FJ40 Toyota Land Cruiser is among the most iconic vintage off-roaders in automotive history. It was extremely popular around the world and even made a big splash stateside. While this vehicle is not necessarily cheap, it really is a steal for what you’re getting.
The FJ40 was produced from 1960 all the way to 1983, but the mid-seventies models are going to be your best bet. With these examples, you’ll get the classic Land Cruiser look that will turn heads everywhere you go, one of the most capable 4×4 systems ever produced, and Toyota reliability that even extends well beyond the end of the paved road.
The Land Cruiser was offered with both petrol and diesel engines, which also caused the name to vary a bit here and there. Not all models are FJ40s, but the FJ40 is arguably the most iconic, which is why it’s listed specifically. You’ll want to look specifically for the 2F engine, offered in post-1975 models, as this 4.2L gasoline engine is good for 135 hp and 210 lb-ft of torque. There are quite a few diesel options as well, which make an average of 94 hp and 159 lb-ft of torque.
The only problem with these crazy cheap cars is that they are getting more expensive as time marches on. With plenty of examples reaching upwards of $80,000 at auction, you may be intimidated at first. Rest assured there are plenty of examples resting comfortably around the $25k-$30k range, and we even saw one with more than 600,000 miles that was still going strong!
Honda S2000 Club Racer
The Honda S2000 is arguably one of the most iconic roadsters of the 21st century. While there are plenty of ‘Club Racers’ for sale right now, you should know that most of them aren’t real. In fact, the CR trim was only produced stateside for two years (’08-’09) during which only 699 of the planned 2000 examples were made, making this car exceedingly rare.
Any car made before 2008 or even the second generation of the S2000 claiming to be a club racer is a fraud, which is why you’ll find some examples as low as $10k. Don’t be fooled though – while these are crazy cheap cars, they’re not that cheap. Expect to spend around $22k for a genuine Club Racer.
So what do you get for $22k? One of the best and most balanced driving experiences of your life. This car is the ultimate daily roadster, and it offers a perfect blend of performance (thanks to a 237 hp, 160 lb-ft 2.2L I4) and handling (thanks to aero upgrades which reduced aero lift by upwards of 80%). It may not fit in terribly well with some of the other crazy cheap cars here, and especially not on craigslist, but it’s worth every last penny.
Buick Regal Grand National
Despite the Grand National’s fame and success in the 80’s, there is a surprising amount of people who have never heard of this car. Introduced in 1982 to roaring applause and exiting the stage in 1987 to a thunderous standing ovation with the GNX, the Grand National was the pinnacle of performance in the 80’s. We recognize this is kind of a silly thing to say about a Buick, but it’s absolutely true.
The Grand National came stock with RWD and a 3.8L turbocharged V6 after 1984, so there’s your ideal model year window. It was originally intended to be a very limited production run celebrating Buick’s back-to-back wins in the NASCAR circuit but was so popular that it lived on for five glorious years.
The tricky thing about the Grand National, though, is that it was seemingly improved upon every year. It started with 200 hp and 300 lb-ft of torque in ’84, and by ’87 it was pushing 245 hp and 355 lb-ft.
And then, daddy came home. In the final year of production, Buick gave us a car that history will never forget: The GNX (Grand National Experimental). While Buick marketed this car with 276 hp and 376 lb-ft of torque, it actually produced 300 hp and 420 lb-ft. These cars are rare and expensive, so don’t bother looking for one unless you’ve got the budget.
That said, the Grand National is one of the best factory sleepers ever made and you should be able to find one of these crazy cheap cars for around $20k, even though the average asking price seems to be MUCH higher.
Shelby Cobra Replica
The Shelby Cobra is another iconic roadster on our list of crazy cheap cars, and is definitely not a name that most people would associate with the phrase ‘crazy cheap cars’. While genuine examples will surely cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars (if not more than $1 million), did you know you can get your hands on a replica that does the same stuff for less than the price of a new Mustang GT?
Sure enough, there are plenty of kit cars and replicas for sale right now that are going for less than $30k! You could be driving your dream car tomorrow and unless you’re an absolute stickler for detail, you probably won’t even notice the difference!
Of course, the true Cobras are going to be sublime in every way, but the kit cars can come pretty damn close, too. These crazy cheap cars are a good way to get your classic muscle fix, break some necks, and haul ass in a V8 roadster all at the same time. Who wouldn’t want that?
Volkswagen Golf R32
This is it, y’all, one of the most iconic hot hatches in history. The GTI is no stranger to fame and success, and Volkswagen wanted to see if they could push the envelope even further. While most hot hatches utilize turbocharged 4-cylinders, the R32 has something special up its sleeve.
That’s right, this AWD 250 hp and 236 lb-ft hot hatch makes do with a 3.2L V6 in place of the standard 4-cylinder. The power gains aren’t that impressive, but the AWD system and V6 engine certainly make this car a whole other beast.
They’re also pretty rare. Not exceedingly so, but they’re far less common than their GTI counterparts. Despite this, we found quite a few models from 2008 resting very comfortable around $10,000, which is an absolute steal for what you get. These crazy cheap cars are quick, affordable, sought-after, and very much respected in the automotive community.
This may come as a surprise, but the Acura TL is actually a fantastic car. While most people assume this large luxury car is quite expensive, there are actually plenty of models as new as 2012 that are going for less than $12,000.
What you get for your money is essentially a gussied-up Honda Accord that makes 305 hp in the SH-AWD model thanks to a 3.7L VTEC V6. Sure, it weighs in at nearly 4,000 lbs, but it’s no slouch. Speaking of the SH-AWD (SH stands for Super Handling), that’s the model you’ll want to go for. It features some really intelligent engineering that allows the car to cruise at highway speeds with a 90/10 front/back power split, but can allocate up to 70% of power to the rear wheels for acceleration. On top of that, it can send 100% of that 70% to either of the back wheels independently, making this car one hell of a cornering machine.
These crazy cheap cars also come with an array of optional luxury equipment such as full leather interiors, a 10-speaker sound system, keyless ignition, and an 8-inch display. It also features four-wheel disc brakes to help this behemoth come to a not-so-screeching halt.
Cadillac CTS-V Sport Wagon
These crazy cheap cars are some of the most badass wagons on the market, plain and simple. It does 0-60 in 4 seconds flat and features the same 6.2L supercharged V8 (inspired by the C6 ZR1 engine) as its sedan brother. It’s good for 556 hp, 551 lb-ft. of torque, and a shitload of good times, screeching tires, and sideways turns.
That performance does come at a cost, though. Apparently, the EPA has officially rated this as the least fuel-efficient wagon for sale in the US at 14 mpg. Let’s not forget that this car also runs the quarter mile in about 12 seconds, so is fuel economy really going to be our concern here? I didn’t think so.
These RWD monsters are still somewhat pricey due to rarity compared to the sedan and coupe models, but you can expect to find some examples in the ballpark of $45,000. That’s really not bad at all though when you compare this car to the likes of the Porsche Panamera and wagon offerings from Mercedes AMG.
Ford Mustang SVT Cobra
Of course, no good list of crazy cheap cars would be complete without some American muscle. Of course, the Ford Mustang is iconic as any of its counterparts, so we sprung for the 1996-98 SVT Cobra. Unfortunately for the purists, this is the first model Mustang that saw Ford retiring its 5.0L V8 in place of a new 4.6L Modular unit. The Crown Victoria actually shares the same engine, albeit in a slightly different configuration that makes about 100 fewer hp.
This new take on the Mustang was good for 310 hp and 300 lb-ft of torque, could do 0-60 in 5.9 seconds, and top out around 152 in its heyday. Of course, these models are a bit dated by now, but if you can find one in good condition (which our research estimates will run you about $8,000), one of these crazy cheap cars will surely still bring a smile to your face.
What Makes Crazy Cheap Cars So Great?
The thing that makes these rides so special is that they offer performance that new models do at a fraction of the price. While some of these cars could easily still be compared to new models from other segments, they’re still very affordable for what they can do.
You should know, though, that when buying a car like anything from this list, finding one in pristine condition is going to be nearly impossible. You want grandma drivers or guys that obsessed over maintenance and had temperature-controlled garages. What you’ll probably get instead is someone who has driven the beans out of it and wants to ditch it before it becomes a problem. Or any number of less-than-savory situations.
So as is the case with any vehicle purchase, make sure to inspect the vehicle thoroughly before purchase if you end up going with any of these crazy cheap cars!
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