best cars to own under $10k

If your love for the wheel is still at its peak, there is no reason that you shouldnt get what is the best cars to own under $10k because of your current financial position. We understand that buying what is the best cars to own under $10k from car dealers can cost you an arm and a leg and it will get even worse if you are going for a used car.

Smart choices for a budget buy.

As a car shopper, sticking to your spending goals has never been easier with the variety of used vehicles that will match your budget and offer the features you want, too. Whether you’re after an urban dynamo that parks on a pin, a stylish sedan for your highway commute, or a hatchback that’s built for weekend adventures, then budget need be no barrier to finding a car with the comforts and conveniences you want.

To help you on your search, we’ve compiled an updated list of the 7 best used cars under $10,000 for 2021 shoppers, based on CarMax sales and average pricing data from July 1, 2020 through December 31, 2020. Please be aware that certain model years and upper trim configurations may bring the prices of some of these vehicles over $10,000.1

  1. Smart Fortwo
  2. Mazda Mazda2
  3. Scion XD
  4. Chevrolet Cobalt
  5. Scion iQ
  6. Chevrolet HHR
  7. Chevrolet Aveo

Let’s begin with a look at three practical models from Chevrolet. All suit the daily driving needs of singles and families. Whether you’re commuting, running errands, or collecting friends for a coffee run, then the Cobalt and Aveo in particular are sure to serve you well, and both are right at home on a list of the best used cars to buy.

The 2005–2010 Chevrolet Cobalt is available as a four-door sedan or two-door coupe. Both body styles are also available as a seriously edgy, sports-tuned version – the Cobalt SS. The 2010 Cobalt SS coupe is powered by a turbocharged engine delivering 260-horsepower.

In its final production year, the 2011 Aveo has some spirited exterior colors and a choice of sedan or hatchback body styles. Both configurations have a 1.6L four-cylinder engine and five-speed manual transmission.

If you’re shopping for a runaround that excels at urban adventures, you’ll want to add the Scion iQ and Smart ForTwo to your must-see list. In its final year of production (2015), the subcompact Scion iQ is very practical for driving around urban areas. This two-door, four-passenger marvel is available in just one trim level in 2015 and includes an impressive roster of standard tech, including a 6.1-inch touchscreen and Bluetooth®connectivity.

The 2008–2018 Smart ForTwo is an icon of the compact car segment, with plenty of eye-catching reasons to make the 2017 model your next ride, including an optional panoramic glass roof and standard cruise control. The 2017 Smart ForTwo is available in a choice of two powertrains: a turbocharged 0.9L three-cylinder gasoline engine or electric 17.6-kWh lithium-ion battery pack and 60-kW motor. Living in a sun-blessed city? Look for a Smart ForTwo model with the convertible option.

No matter where your daily drive takes you, this updated list of budget-friendly vehicles is a great place to start your 2021 shopping. You’re sure to find a zippy, stylish and practical used car under $10,000 that you’ll love.

Looking to learn more? Take a look at these related articles:

1Based on prices on carmax.com from July 1, 2020 through December 31, 2020. Actual prices may vary based on your selected model year, features, and trim packages. Prices do not include taxes, tags, titles, and any applicable fees.
Unless otherwise noted, information related to these featured vehicles comes from third-party sources, including manufacturer information. Product and company names may be trademarks or registered trademarks of third-party entities. Use of them does not imply any affiliation with or endorsement by these entities.

Best Cars Under 1 Million

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So, you have $10K and you want to get yourself a new project car. Hell yeah.

I have a running list of cars I want to own one day, and many of them are on this list too. 

Here’s the good news. There are some SWEET cars on the market right now that have huge aftermarket support and endless performance and cosmetic potential. And, $10K isn’t bad for a solid enthusiast car. 

The bad news? Well, finding the cars on this list in good condition with decent mileage can be a little tricky sometimes. You might just need to dig a little deeper and broaden your range to find the best of both worlds—price and decent mileage. Otherwise, you’ll have to give your new project car a little extra love; they’re called project cars for a reason, I suppose. 

Some of these cars may be slightly underrated while others are more mainstream, but regardless, they speak for themselves. You’re also going to see some of these are cars are on the lower end of $10K, giving you extra cash to put towards mods, while some are closer or at our $10K budget. I’ve mixed in a little bit of both to keeps things interesting and realistic, so let’s get into it. 

The Best Enthusiast Cars For $10K Or Less…

– Honda Civic

– Honda/Acura RSX Type S

– BMW 3 Series | BMW 325i 

– Mazda MazdaSpeed3

– Mazda Miata (NA & NB)

– Toyota Celica GT/GTS

CHECK OUT THE GALERY

The Honda Civic

Generations/Years: 5th gen 1991 – 1995 | 6th Gen 1989 – 1999 | 7th gen – early 2000s

Budget: $4K to $10K

Mileage: 100K to 200K

Issues: Not many…

CHECK OUT THE CIVIC GALLERY

Look, I know what you’re thinking—”Of course a Civic is the first car on this list”. How could I not include the Civic?

The king of reliability and aftermarket support. There’s a ton of generations of the Civic and many of the earlier gens are super easy to get ahold of for under $10K. Way under $10, actually.

But, here’s the catch. We all know that the Civic is also kinda, sorta, the king of ricer mods too. So, finding one in decent condition with low miles AND that doesn’t look like the ricer Civic eBay page puked all over it can sometimes be tricky. 

READ: HONDA CIVIC FITMENT GUIDE

Overall, the Civic has a huge, and I mean HUGE, aftermarket community with tons of performance potential in terms of power and handling.

You can snag a 6th or 7th gen for under 10K pretty easily, leaving you some dough to put towards wheels, tires, and suspension upgrades, and performance mods.

Honda/Acura RSX Type-S

Generations/Years: 2002 – 2006

Budget: $7.5K to $10K

Mileage: 110K to 180K 

Engine: K20A2 2.0L inline 4-cylinder | 200 HP and 240 lb-ft torque 

Issues: 1st and 2nd synchros are known to be rough

CHECK OUT THE RSX GALLERY

Another hot enthusiast car you can find under $10K is…another Honda; specifically, the RSX Type S. This car made the list because it’s incredibly fun to drive, and there’s also a lot of great mod potential here. 

Since it’s a Honda (or Acura, whatever), it’s going to be reliable. I know that a lot of enthusiast cars either start as unreliable or become unreliable when we start bolting this on and deleting that. Still, the RSX Type S is known to be a reliable, fun, FWD car with a very desirable engine. 

READ: MANUAL VS. AUTOMATIC

You can grab one of these anywhere between $7.5 to $10K depending on the mileage and the area you live in. Don’t be surprised to find a lot of these already modded, so beware that it’s still somewhat clean.

Even as reliable as this car is, if it’s been beaten on its entire life, chances are you’re going to be giving your new purchase a lot of love. 

BMW 3 Series | BMW 325i

Generations/Years: 5th Gen. 1997 to 2011

Budget: $5K to $10K 

Mileage: 80K to 150K

Issues: Battery cable corrosion, somewhat unreliable engine, water pump issues

CHECK OUT THE BMW 3 SERIES GALLERY

We’re making a crazy transition to a euro car, specifically the BMW 3 Series. You just can’t go wrong with a 3 series. Depending on the generation, they make great drift cars, show cars, and fun daily. 

The E90 is a great platform, but you also have the 4th gen E46 which is also super popular.

Especially if you snag a 6-speed manual 3 series, these are super fun to drive on some back curvey roads. 

3rd gen 325i’s are easy to find for a good price, and maybe even with fun mods too. 

The 3 series is known to have some engine reliability issues and since they are European manufacturers, parts can be a little more pricey compared to your average Miata, for example. 

READ: EVERYTHING ABOUT THE 2021 BMW M3

Mazda MazdaSpeed 3

Generations/Years: 1st Gen | 2007 – 2009 | Some 2nd gens too 

Budget: $3K to $10K

Mileage: $120K + 

Engine: 2.3L 4-cylinder Turbo | 263 HP 280 lb-ft torque (on 91)

Issues: Reliability issues, Prone to rust

CHECK OUT THE MAZDASPEED3 GALLERY

This is a platform not many people talk about anymore. The MazdaSpeed3 has questionable reliability, but it’s manual, a hot hatch, and has a little turbo…all good things. 

These cars are super fun to drive and also have some great mod potential. A downside to these cars is they are known to be finicky unless you follow the mods in order. 

There is more maintenance involved with these since they are turbocharged, but like anything else, take care of it and it should take care of you too. 

Overall, this hot hatch makes pretty good power out of the factory but a few bolt-ons can really bring out its fun driving experience, making it the perfect enthusiast car. 

Mazda Miata (NA & NB)

Generations/Years: NA 1989- 1999 | NB 1999 – 2005

Budget: $5K to $10K

Mileage: 50K to 160K

Engine: 1.6 L DOHC inline 4-cylinder | 115 HP & 100 lb-ft torque (painfully slow…)

Issues: Leaky roofs aka Rust

CHECK OUT THE MAZDA MIATA GALLARY

The Miata had to be on the list as well. These cars are incredibly fun to drive and also have HUGE aftermarket support.

While they may be painfully slow, their well-balanced chassis and mod potential are endless.

You can’t go to a car show or autocross event and NOT see a Miata. 

You can pick up a NA or NB Miata for significantly under $10K, leaving you plenty of cash to start building it. 

And the thing is, the Miata doesn’t really need much to perform well on the autocross track or for a fun daily. Plus, you’ll get pop headlights with the NA, which counts for a lot. 

New wheels, some sticky tires, coilovers, sway bars, an intake, and exhaust maybe, but that’s it. You really don’t need much to make this little go-kart super fun. 

If you want to take it 5 steps further, you can swap in an LS, SR20DET, or K series engine, which is super badass.

Depending on how much you end up spending on a NA or NB, you’ll have plenty of cash to throw at a higher horsepower engine swap.

Toyota Celica GT/GTS

Generations/Years: 7th generation 2001 – 2006

Budget: $2K to $5K

Mileage: 100K to 180K

Engine: 1ZZ-FE or 2ZZ-GE 1.8L 4-cylinder | 180 HP & 130 lb-ft torque (also painfully slow…)

Issues: High engine idling 

CHECK OUT THE CELICA GALLERY

Wait, what? A Celica? I may be slightly (very) biased here, but the Celica has always been highly underrated in the community.

Similar to the Miata, the Celica isn’t the quickest car on the road, but its well-balanced and light chassis can hold its own on the curvy roads with the Evo and STI, for example—obviously keeping the power and general platform differences in mind. 

The Celica is another platform that has a pretty decent aftermarket and awesome power potential. 

These cars don’t weigh much at 2.4K to 2.6K lbs and generally handle very well, so throwing a little turbski on the 1zz or 2zz with a few other bolt-ons can all be done under $10K (including the cost of the car). 

The only trick with the Celica is finding one that isn’t beaten to death. Regardless, you can find one between 2K and 5K very easily

With the Celica and every other car on this list, be patient and find one with decent mileage that’s not riced out.

It’ll be worth the wait. 

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