Shopping for a new car can seem like a pretty daunting task these days. Not only are most cars leaving the factory with more electronic doodads than ever before, but they all look so similar! Plus, all those computerized functions in modern cars seem like they're going to end up just like smartphones: built for planned obsolescence.
Modern car buyers don't just worry about everything that's bad about modern cars, though—they also miss the great cars from the time when manufacturers worked hard to stand out from the crowd. When it comes to overall styling, comfort, performance, and reliability on the used car market, though, there's one nation standing at the top of the pile: Japan.
Not every Japanese car has been a perfect knockout, but brands like Toyota, Honda, Nissan, and Mitsubishi have had so many successful releases that the market is chockfull of options. Keep scrolling for 19 of the sickest cars from Japan that anyone can find for under $10,000 today.
19 Toyota MR2 First and Second Gen
One of the greatest Japanese sports cars ever built is the first-gen Acura NSX—but they cost way more than $10,000 these days. But there's a car known as the "poor man's NSX" that can be had for cheap: Toyota's MR2.
Both the first and second-generation MR2 are awesome, especially with some tuning on their forced induction setups. Plus, the mid-mounted layout is great for spirited fun.
18 Toyota 4x4
When it comes to owning a vehicle that can do anything, it's hard to beat a Toyota 4x4 pickup truck. The late-80s and early-90s examples on Craigslist these days might look beat-up and worn out, but there's plenty of life left in them. Just make sure they're not rusty because otherwise, the engines that power these trucks can chug along forever.
17 Honda CRX
The Honda Civic is arguably the best car ever built in Japan, though it's hard to call it "sick" in any way. But the little Honda CRX is essentially a Civic with a bit of style, thanks to that classic square-back design. Is it going to burn rubber off the line? Nope, but it'll handle respectably for a front-wheel-drive car—and it'll definitely cost way less than $10,000.
16 Mazda Miata
Without a doubt, the Mazda Miata represents the best bang-for-the-buck in the sports car world. The problem is that it's tiny, which makes it hard to live with. But for pure canyon carving or drifting, the Miata's combination of lightweight, a mounted front-engine, and rear-wheel drive can't be beaten. Plus, they're cheaper than dirt!
15 Toyota 4Runner
The Toyota 4Runner has become so legendary that values are quickly rising. However, it's still easy to find examples below $10,000 that don't need too much work. These early SUVs offer great style, are off-roading capable, and come with bulletproof reliability—as long as they are optioned with a stick shift, not the automatic transmission.
14 Lexus SC400
Lexus was trying to get into the luxury car market in a big way in the late-1990s and early-2000s and the effort was wildly successful. Today, cars like the SC400 from that era offer levels of reliability and comfort that are borderline unbelievable.
With a V8 under the hood, sleek exterior lines, a sumptuous interior, and a low price point, it's hard to go wrong with one of these Japanese legends.
13 Acura Legend
Rapper-turned-actor Chris 'Ludacris' Bridges famously loved his Acura Legend so much that he still drove it around after making millions of dollars. In fact, Acura even refurbished the car for him as a marketing ploy. (And if a Legend is good enough for Tej, it's good enough for anyone!)
These cars are climbing in value, as well, so grab a clean example before they all get scooped up.
12 Infiniti FX45
The Infiniti FX45 might have a bit of an angular look that turns off some drivers, but that only means that market prices are going to stay low. Still, with an aluminum V8, room for the whole family, and an all-wheel-drive system shared with the Nissan Skyline GT-R, what's to lose? Especially since nice examples can easily be found well below $10,000.
11 Acura Integra
Values for the Acura Integra Type R have climbed well out of the $10,000 range, but base models can still be found under that limit. These lightweight sports coupes might be the best-handling front-wheel-drive cars of all time, and with a bit of aftermarket tuning and modding, all the benefits of a Type R become attainable at much lower costs.
10 Acura RSX
Acura's successor to the Integra was the RSX, which debuted in the US in 2002. In Japan, meanwhile, it was still known as an Integra! With much more aggressive styling, the RSX had big shoes to fill. These days, though, they're known as a hot commodity that crooks love to boost because they're just that much fun to drive—and their mechanicals are legendary!
9 Subaru BRAT
There aren't many cars that inspire the same amount of grins as a Subaru BRAT. Sure, this little 4x4 truck might be tiny and rust-prone, but just look at those jump seats in the back bed. Those came from the factory! Plus, BRAT trucks come with Subaru's legendary all-wheel drive and when they pop up online, they're typically priced well below $10,000.
8 Subaru WRX
Of course, most Subaru fans will know that in terms of all-around daily driveability—and taking the fun factor into consideration—it's hard to go wrong with a WRX. An early Bugeye WRX, from the first years of the 21st century, is a great buy under $10,000 and there are plenty of them listed on various internet sites at any given time.
7 Subaru Forester
For Subaru fans who need a bit more space and off-road capability than the brand's sedans can offer, the first-generation Forester is a great option. The model may have a reputation for being a "mom car" given its styling, but with some roof racks and steelies, there's no arguing that the Forester looks bad in the snow or on the trail.
6 Scion FR-S
Given all the engine drama surrounding the car known alternately as a Scion FR-S, Subaru BRZ, and Toyota 86, it's just possible to pick up a high-mileage example under the $10,000 price ceiling. And if the car has had its engine running flawlessly for all those miles, it could be set to go for much longer while providing tons of grins on back-canyon roads.
5 Mitsubishi Montero
In the United States, the Mitsubishi Montero is a largely-forgotten SUV. Most drivers would probably recognize the smaller Montero Sport, which is also a great option on the used market, but the big brother is even more set for overlanding. That V6 under the hood has been in so many cars that all the maintenance is super cheap, too.
4 Lexus IS300 SportCross
There are very few cars that offer everything that a Lexus IS300 SportCross brings to the market. It's sporty, with a limited-slip differential at the rear axle, plus it's luxurious on the inside. Throw in a silky-smooth inline-six and the space of a smaller station wagon, and there's no downside—especially since they go for below $10,000 these days. And the sedan version can be had even cheaper!
3 Isuzu Trooper First Gen
Some Japanese cars get lost in the mix, which can definitely be said for the Isuzu Trooper. The rest of the world knows about these legendary SUVs, though. And it's hard to argue against a cheap, reliable, quintessentially boxy vehicle that has everything today's modern crossovers lack. Is it aerodynamic? Not even a little bit!
2 Nissan Hardbody 4x4
When it comes to quintessential boxy goodness, the Nissan pickup trucks from the 1990s are one of the best deals on the used car market. These trucks run forever and have absolutely zero creature comforts—but that's not what they're for. They're for beating up all day, every day at work, on the trail, or on the way to the ski slope.
1 Honda Odyssey First Gen
It's impossible to list the best Japanese cars on the used car market without including at least one of the stellar minivans that have come out of that country over the years. Possibly the strangest—but one of the best, nonetheless—is the first-generation Honda Odyssey. With four normal car doors instead of sliding doors, the Odyssey was an experiment doomed to fail, though now that they've aged, they look good and offer reliability points galore.
Sources: Wikipedia, Car and Driver, and Jalopnik.