10 Sports Cars Under $50K That You'll Love

Sports Cars / 17 Comments

Whether you're after big power, a great chassis, or the best of both, there's a lot you can get for under $50k.

Manufacturers may have largely fallen out of love with sports cars, and even sedans, favoring money-spinners like crossover SUVs instead, but that doesn't mean the sports car doesn't have a place in this world. Far from it, in fact, as car enthusiasts regularly perv over sports cars, new and old.

But not all of us have six figures at our disposal at the time in our lives when we lack the responsibility to be able to own a sports car, which is why we set out to find 10 of the best sports cars for under 50k.

To be clear, these aren't the fastest used cars under 50k - that's a different article entirely - but rather a mix of new and used cars beneath that threshold that are true-to-type, dedicated sports cars for the enthusiast.


Toyota GR Supra 2.0

Got the BMW-related comments out of your system yet? Good. Then we can carry on. Yes, the Toyota GR Supra has BMW underpinnings, but it's still a damn good sports car and one of the reasons Toyota is in the top-three sports car makers in the USA. We wish we could recommend the Supra 3.0 in this piece, but the as-new MSRP is a few grand too dear, and the way dealer markups are looking right now, you'd be lucky to find one for 60k, let alone 50k.

But the 2.0-liter is arguably just as good a sports car, and it only costs $44,040. Yes, it has smaller brakes and no limited slip differential, and it's also not packing mega power. Instead, the 2.0-liter turbo four-banger pumps out 255 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque, driving the rear wheels via an eight-speed automatic gearbox.

The auto is one of the best in the business, and the Supra 2.0's chassis is sweet as heck. It'll hit 60 mph in five seconds flat and provides a mega platform for mods further down the line.

2022-2023 Toyota GR Supra A91 -CF Front-End Bumper CarBuzz
2022-2023 Toyota GR Supra A91 -CF Rear-Facing View CarBuzz
2022-2023 Toyota GR Supra A91 -CF Front View CarBuzz
2022-2023 Toyota GR Supra A91 -CF Rear View CarBuzz

Mazda MX-5 Miata

You didn't think we'd list great sports cars on a budget and forget about a Miata, did you? While we love all generations of the Miata, this list gives us the budget to recommend the fourth-generation ND variant. In 2023, you can pick from a folding soft-top or a power-operated hardtop, but we think the former is peak Miata. Speaking of 'peak Miata,' there's only one trim to choose if you're serious about performance, and that's the mid-spec Club. For this year, it's only available on a built-to-order basis, as demand is insane. Last year, this trim sold out long before the others did.

It uses the same 181-hp 2.0-liter engine as the rest and only gets a six-speed manual (the auto is reserved for the Grand Touring). But the reason you want the club is that it gets the limited-slip differential by default and gives you the option of the Brembo/BBS Recaro Package for $4,500 with Brembo front brakes, BBS 17-inch alloy wheels, special aero kit, and Recaro sports seats. All in, you're looking at $37,710, including Soul Red Crystal paintwork. It's not one of the fastest cars under 50k, but it sure is one of the most fun.

CarBuzz/Ian Wright
CarBuzz/Ian Wright
CarBuzz/Ian Wright
CarBuzz/Ian Wright

Toyota GR86

We're spoilt for choice when the Miata's chief rival is equally as laudable, and that's the situation we find ourselves in in 2023. The first-gen Toyota GT86 was fun, but the sequel is even better thanks to a 2.4-liter naturally aspirated boxer engine that has... get this... TORQUE. 184 lb-ft of the stuff supplement 228 hp, flowing rearwards through a six-speed manual gearbox (auto also available, but why?) and combining for a 0-60 mph dash of 6.1 seconds.

You get a year's complimentary membership with the National Auto Sport Association (NASA) and a free high-performance driving experience for only $28,400 in base form. A Torsen LSD is standard for all your sideways antics (the base trim rides on Michelin primacy summer tires, too), but if you spec the Premium trim, you get stickier Michelin Pilot Sport 4 rubber, 18-inch wheels, and more comfort for an extra $4,100.

And, if you don't like Toyota, you can always get its mechanical twin, the Subaru BRZ.

2022-2023 Toyota GR86 Driving Front Angle Toyota
2022-2023 Toyota GR86 Side View Driving Toyota
2022-2023 Toyota GR86 Front-End Bumper Toyota
2022-2023 Toyota GR86 Dashboard Toyota

997 Porsche 911

Just like that, we're done with the new cars on this list, because, frankly, older sports cars are just better when you're buying on a budget. And what's a better sports car than a Porsche 911? Even an old 911 is still a better sports car than most new ones could ever dream of being, but you don't even have to go that far back in the catalog to get a great 911 for less than $50k.

The 997 generation ran from 2004 to 2013, but you can find 2008 and 2009 year model examples at under 50k in great condition. You can also pick your flavor, with base and S derivatives, rear- and all-wheel drive available. For us, we'd aim for the 385-hp 2009 Carrera S with its 3.8-liter naturally aspirated flat-six and sweet six-speed manual gearbox. RWD makes it a real treat.

At just over a dozen years old, it still feels contemporary, but it's old enough to miss out on turbocharging and lifeless steering. And, it's one of the fastest sports cars under 50k you're likely to find in decent condition.


Nissan 370Z

W could've included the new Nissan Z on this list, but to undercut the $50k barrier, we'd have to recommend buying the base Sport trim for $40,900. While 400 hp for that sort of money sounds sweet, the simple brakes and lack of a limited-slip diff mean we'd be recommending trouble, and that's not what we're here for. So instead, we'd rather go back to the 370Z, which shares a platform with the new Z and gives you a whole lot of fun for less money.

Its 3.7-liter naturally aspirated V6 lacks a little refinement, but if you're after something rowdy, it's just the trick, with 332 hp and 270 lb-ft available and a mid-five-second 0-60 time. Best of all, the manual gearbox is raw and engaging, and the steering is hefty and communicable. Sadly, the rawness means there's a lot of cabin and road noise, and the interior isn't the best place to be, but with a few years under its belt, the aftermarket has tons of solutions to spruce up the Z's interior.

Quality examples sell for around $35k.

Front Angle View Nissan
Rear Angle View Nissan
Gear Shifter Nissan
Dashboard Nissan

BMW Z4 M Coupe

The E86 BMW Z4 M Coupe hasn't yet garnered the cult status the Z3 M Coupe "clownshoe" has among collectors, but that's what makes it a perfect fit for this list - it's still reasonably priced. And, since BMW has ruled out an M version of the current Z4, this is the last time you could get a Z4 M. Prices vary within a $15,000 price range, but the upper ceiling is pegged at around $45,000 for cars with under 60,000 miles on the clock. Only 4,275 coupes were built from 2006 to 2008, and of those, only 1,815 landed stateside. That makes these a collector's item in waiting.

Power came from BMW's 3.2-liter S54 straight six, producing 330 hp and 262 lb-ft going to the rear of the car via a six-speed manual gearbox. The E46 M3's limited-slip diff helped put all the power down, and the uprated springs and dampers gave the Z4 M Coupe more poise. M3 CSL brake discs and M3 Competition calipers aided stopping power.

All those mechanicals were tied up in what remains one of the prettiest BMW designs ever to leave Munich.


Jaguar F-Type V6 S Convertible

If you don't think the pre-facelift Jaguar F-Type is one of the prettiest automotive designs ever, you either need to see an optometrist or a psychiatrist. The spiritual successor to the E-Type, the F-Type arrived in 2014 as a drop-top first and a coupe second, and both are utterly gorgeous. Get past the looks, and there was genuine driving pleasure to be had from Jag's new sports car.

While it had a range of engines and drivetrains ranging from 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinders to a raging supercharged 5.0-liter V8 and rear- and all-wheel drive, the best of the lot was the V6 S, the model launched nearly a decade ago. The 3.0-liter supercharged mill generated 375 hp and 339 lb-ft, directed to the kitty's tail via an eight-speed automatic and a mechanical LSD. It handled sharply, unburdened by a massive V8 up front, and the V6 absolutely screamed in the most glorious fashion. If that doesn't make the F-Type a top sports car for under 50k, we don't know what will.

The early models have taken a substantial appreciation knock, but you can still pick up good low-mileage models for under $40k.

2014-2017 Jaguar F-Type Convertible Front View Jaguar
2014-2017 Jaguar F-Type Convertible Front Angle View Jaguar
2014-2017 Jaguar F-Type Convertible Front View Driving Jaguar
2014-2017 Jaguar F-Type Convertible Taillights Jaguar

Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Z51 (C7)

We desperately wanted to include the C7 Corvette Grand Sport on this list, but when doing our research, we found the GS has held its value remarkably well, and if you find one for under $50k, there's probably something wrong with it. But, the regular Corvette Stingray of this era is still an equally good option with all the hallmarks of a great American sports car. Want a big V8? It's got a 6.2-liter LT1 small block V8 with 455 hp and 460 lb-ft. Want a manual gearbox? You can have that too. And it could hit 60 in just 3.8 seconds.

The best of the lot had the Z51 Performance Package with an extra five hp and five lb-ft, staggered 19- and 20-inch wheels with sticky Michelin rubber, bigger brakes, an electronic LSD, and optional magnetic ride control. These features, plus the double-wishbone suspension, made the C7 one of the most entertaining FR-orientation sports cars to drive.

Nowadays, you can pick them up for anywhere north of $35,000, and if you can push your budget to 50k, you're in for a great time.


Honda S2000

Time is running out to buy an affordable S2000, as collectors are snapping them up and flipping them for bold prices that scare all but the most serious investors off. Everyone likes to believe that the Miata is the be-all, end-all sports car, but for many, the S2000 was a purer drop-top sportster for those who didn't moonlight as hair stylists.

Sold between 2000 and 2009, the S2000 developed a cult following, mainly because its straight-four engine could rev out to 9,000 rpm in early models, indicated sublimely by the digital tachometer. It's the post-2004 models you want, as the AP2 facelift included a lengthened stroke that raised displacement to 2.2 liters, despite dropping the redline to 8,200 rpm. It generated 237 hp and 163 lb-ft and partnered these outputs with one of the best manual gearboxes in the world. It weighed just 2,864 lbs (CR model not included as it's priced out of this feature) and had one of the sharpest chassis around.

If you're of the opinion that power isn't everything, then the S2K is an icon you must buy.


Audi TT RS (8J)

Every affordable sports car on this list so far has been RWD, but for our final entry we decided to include something with AWD and a front-wheel biased AWD system at that.

The second-gen Audi TT may not have been everyone's favorite sports car, and we'll admit it wasn't the purest compared t some of the machines on this list, but the second generation (8J) was the first to give us an RS variant, replete with Audi's magnificent 2.5-liter turbocharged five-cylinder engine. With 335 hp, 332 lb-ft, and all-wheel traction, it was utterly rapid from a standstill - we'd argue its status as one of the fastest AWD cars under the 50k barrier - and it had bigger brakes to help slow things down when you needed it.

But the best thing of all was that you could get this combination with a six-speed manual gearbox, which felt sublime and added a layer of interaction to a car that was often described as clinical. There aren't many around with the manual, as the dual-clutch automatic was quicker, but you can find them for $30,000-$50,000.


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2022-2023 Toyota GR Supra A91 -CF Front View
2022-2023 Toyota GR Supra A91 -CF Rear-Facing View
2022-2023 Toyota GR Supra A91 -CF Front-End Bumper
2022-2023 Toyota GR Supra A91 -CF Rear View
2022-2023 Toyota GR86 Side View Driving

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