They say you should never underestimate the power of denial. To many folks who dream of owning exotic, fast cars or simply the object of their dreams, denial is omnipresent and a blinding light coming off of a shiny object.
“I can afford this car – it’s a stretch, but I can make this payment work!” Such phrases have been uttered or thought by almost all car enthusiasts when they clearly deny (or rationalize) the existence of a flip side to their argument.
Owning a dream car may be possible, but turning that exciting honeymoon into a long-term blissful marriage will take work – and lots of money! In light of this truth, we've managed to curate a list of automobiles that are rather attainable for the Average Joe, but to live with them may require more financial compromises than Joe is willing to make! Here are the candidates below.
20 Ferrari Mondial
A mid-engined, Pinninfarina-designed V8 Ferrari for less than $40k? What’s the catch?
The controversial Mondial is sexy and its Scaglietti coachwork is instantly recognizable as a classic Ferrari, whether it’s a hard-top or a convertible. However, maintenance and repair costs are bound to be astronomical. An '80s vintage Italian car seduces but it also breaks your heart at the auto repair shop time and again!
19 Dodge Viper
This late, great icon of tire-smoking American horsepower brought exotic-car looks and gobs of V-10 torque onto our consciousness nearly 30 years ago. In the process, it enlisted many disciples with its in-your-face attitude and sheer affordable performance.
It’s comforting to know that one can find many well-preserved examples at tempting prices, so long as expectations for a care-free and economical ownership are kept in check. Still, it’s a pretty safe bet to own what can be a true collector car for decades to come.
18 Nissan GTR
As any car enthusiast will tell you, the GTR is no ordinary Nissan. A technical tour de force and a performance icon, “Godzilla” offers tire-scorching performance and daily usability at a price that won’t break the bank (relatively-speaking). Used examples can be had for around $50k, and one would be hard-pressed to find more all-weather prowess and sheer speed for that kind of money.
But don’t expect Altima-like maintenance and repair bills. This is one exotic vehicle and a visit to a mechanic shop will prove it.
17 Aston-Martin Vantage V8
For all James Bond wannabes, or those who simply appreciate elegant and effortless British performance, this exotic offering from Warwickshire is stunning to behold and remarkable to drive. The seductive lines and melodic V8 power are hard to resist and make this a sumptuous British dish.
Since Astons don’t have the greatest resale values, it’s relatively painless to get into a used one at a less than enormous budget. The inevitable pain will come, however, in the form of outrageous repair and maintenance bills.
16 Alfa 4C Spider
A near-exotic Italian charmer, with a mid-mounted, turbocharged engine and stunning looks, the 4C is undoubtedly in a class by itself. The fact that you can go for days or weeks without seeing another on the road is a bonus, and almost makes up for the lack of luggage space and cramped cabin.
The good news is that the little Alfa’s prices have tumbled significantly on the used car market and a nice example can be had for about $40k. What isn’t good news is the prospects of unsavory future repair bills, however.
15 Audi TTS
Award-winning design, all-weather performance, and remarkable touches all around make the Audi TTS stand out as a paragon of automotive exclusivity. This turbocharged bullet offers Quattro AWD, a dual clutch transmission and enough horses under the hood to make driving an absolute pleasure in any condition.
With some research, a used example in great condition can be found for anywhere from $25-$30K, and that is a bargain sports car purchase. The flip side? Older Audis are not known for their reliability or low maintenance costs. Caveat emptor, indeed.
14 Maserati Quattroporte
The “Four-Door” has served as Maserati’s sedan flagship for a few decades now. Only Italians can design a 4-door sedan with such sexy proportions, and with sumptuous leather, wood, and a Ferrari-designed V8 engine to sing an operatic tune every time your Sketchers press on the go pedal.
Alas, the counterpoint to the reasonable cost of such an outlandish purchase is the dismal reliability of Maseratis in general and Quattroportes in particular.
13 BMW 550i
Looking for a great sounding, rev-happy V8 engine in a rear-wheel drive family sedan with classic lines that's supremely affordable? Look no further than the E60-Series BMW 550i with a 4.8L mill that produced 360 horsepower and was available with a 6-speed Getrag manual transmission.
A fantastic driver’s car and a true executive sedan/GT, it can currently be had for a very modest sum thanks to BMW’s plunging resale values. Although these sedans are not exactly money pits when it come to repairs, they are certainly expensive to maintain.
12 Lotus Esprit V8
When Lotus decided to equip the gorgeous, Peter Stevens-designed Esprit with a proper (and twin-turbo) V8 and more aesthetic upgrades, many Lotus and sports-car fans were elated. The result was a handsome sports car with performance to back up its tempting looks.
Although their values on the used car market still remain relatively high, they can be considered bargains in light of their future collector potential. The caveat is that this is a sophisticated 20-year-old (or more) British sports car with all the woes and headaches its ownership will surely present.
11 Ferrari 360 Modena
Ferrari’s successor to the incredibly successful F355 was an aluminum-space-frame chassis, 3.6L V8-powered siren designed by Pinninfarina. The 360 ushered Ferrari into the new millennium with advanced technologies such as titanium connecting rods and carbon ceramic brakes (in the 360 Challenge Stradale).
The sexy sheet metal makes promises that the sonorous V8 delivers, and in the process, yields the joyful experience of owning a modern Ferrari. The harsh reality of costly repair and maintenance bills dull that experience a bit, however.
10 Audi A8 W12
Audi’s flagship A8 offered a monstrous 6-liter W12 engine in the early to mid 2000s, crafted by attaching a pair of V6 engines along a common crankshaft. These cars, and the ones that followed, redefined Audi’s idea of performance luxury with standard Quattro AWD and a whole host of amenities to coddle and cater to the buyer.
Not having maintained their values very well, however, this model can be found at a relatively affordable price (albeit with more than a little research). It's recommended that a large amount of reserve be at hand for any maintenance and repair bills that are sure to arrive sooner than later, though.
9 Porsche 928S
The controversial egg-shaped V-8 Porsche was something of a unicorn when it was unveiled in the late '70s. Dismissed my many Porsche purists who couldn’t envision a water-cooled, front-engine GT model, it found its own footing and limited success for almost a decade in various iterations.
A possible future investment and classic car candidate, it will still cost a pretty penny but not unreasonably so on the used car market. What will be scary, though, will be the costs associated with keeping a 35-year-old near-exotic German car on the road.
8 BMW 760i (E65)
If it’s good enough for Rolls-Royce, surely it’s good enough for BMW! The 6.0 liter, Direct-Injection V12 residing in the E65-Series BMW 760i, produced in early to mid-2000s, made this luxury car into a continent-crushing, mighty, and remarkable GT machine.
This was the engine used in the Rolls-Royce Phantom, and although used BMW prices have plummeted to a point where this car can be had for pennies on the dollar, the worry of future repair bills cannot be overstated.
7 Mercedes-Benz SL55/65 AMG
AMG’s magic fingers have transformed a multitude of relatively mundane Mercedes-Benz products into fire-breathing monsters for the autobahn (or Main Street). Nowhere is this more obvious than in the case of the SL55/65 AMG models. Turning a boulevard-cruiser into a track-worthy machine with nearly 500 hp or 600+ hp takes some doing!
Due to repair and maintenance concerns, these cars’ values have plummeted, which means that they can be had for a song nowadays. Chances are, though, you may be singing the blues!
6 Volkswagen Golf R (Mk 7)
The latest version of Volkswagen’s “hot hatch” has been on sale since 2014 and boasts nearly 290 hp, all-wheel-drive, your choice of a manual or Dual Clutch transmission, and gobs of interior room.
These cars may not have depreciated much in the used car market, but they are potential future classics and are surely still a bargain in that context. Sizzling performance in a small hatchback and no-nonsense thrill of driving a true German Autobahn-worthy machine comes at the cost of potential lackluster long-term reliability and repair outlook.
5 Volkswagen Phaeton W12
Here’s a hand-built, 420-hp 12 cylinder sedan built on a Bentley platform with all-wheel drive, every luxury feature imaginable (at least for the mid-2000’s), and a long wheelbase for effortless cruising. Sound irresistible? Well, many people found the $95,000 price tag completely laughable and stayed away. The Volkswagen badge certainly didn’t help.
Now that these cars have reached laughably low prices, one may be able to find and enjoy a nice example if one is a glutton for punishment.
4 BMW 850i (E31)
Although it came in several variants, the V-12 powered BMW 850i/Ci/CSi models offered effortless and torrential power in a sexy, '90s era-chic classic body. Destined to be a collector’s item (if it already isn’t), these cars are still relatively affordable, although finding a decent example can be challenging.
Along with all that old 12-cylinder technology will come the inevitable repair and maintenance bills that might keep an unsuspecting buyer up for nights on end.
3 BMW M5 (V10)
Introduced in 2005, the mighty 500 hp V-10 in the BMW M5 was an exercise in understated, take-no-prisoners performance in a sedan. BMW’s only V-10 thus far, this engine was inspired by BMW’s participation in Formula 1 racing at the time, and sang its soulful mechanical song all the way to its lofty 7700 RPM redlines.
Those who have limited budgets and are not easily daunted by mechanical challenges (or astronomical repair bills) may enjoy owning this remarkable and unique sports sedan.
2 Volkswagen Touareg V10 TDI
A competent, roomy, luxurious, all-terrain SUV with a V10 turbo-diesel engine was Volkswagen’s offering to the world in the mid-2000s, and it caught many by surprise. This monster engine that was available in the top-of-the-line models brought heaps of usable torque and relative civility (for a diesel) to the SUV scene. This was way before VW’s emissions scandal made all the headlines.
A nice example can be found for a decent price in today’s used car marketplace, although the true cost of ownership will likely pour some cold water over any prospective owner.
1 Lexus IS-F
Lexus’ M3 fighter, the 2008-2014 IS-F, featured a 5.0L V8 delivering 416 hp through an automatic transmission with paddle shifters and a sport-tuned suspension. Although falling short in certain performance and ergonomic categories compared to its European counterparts, the powerful IS-F did carve itself a niche among Lexus enthusiasts.
The car’s value has descended into affordable territory in the used car marketplace, however, and although Lexus is known for its long-term reliability, this little performance bargain may be an exception.