5 Budget Sports Cars You're Probably Too Late To Get A Good Deal On

The second-hand car market has been on fire for a couple of years now. With regulation outlawing the sale of new internally-combusted vehicles in the coming decade, there's a sense of now-or-never that is steadily driving up the price of gas-powered sports cars. Cars that once sat comfortably in the affordable, sub-$10,000 sector of the used car market are now soaring in value. 

Good news for those who bought a decade ago and held onto their vehicles — not so great for drivers trying to buy one today.

We're not even talking about automotive exotica here: To some extent, any old Ford is suddenly appreciating, along with sports cars like the Honda S2000, early BMW 3 Series, and fast station wagons like the Audi RS4 Avant. In the latter case, examples from 2001 are worth considerably more — we're talking in the range of $30,000-45,000 more — than a newer, face-lifted 2007 version.

Even the Fiat Coupe from the mid-90s can now be worth up to $15,000, while fast Japanese cars from the 1990s and early 2000s have arguably appreciated the most in recent years. Anyone for a $112,000 Acura Integra Type-R? Sadly, there are a lot more cars that it might already be too late to get a good deal on.

Honda S2000

A two-seat, rear-wheel-drive convertible that was in production between 1999 and 2009, the Honda S2000 is best known for its incredible engine. The 2.0-liter, naturally-aspirated VTEC revved to almost 9,000 rpm. While it produced a fairly modest 237 horsepower and reached 60 mph in 6.0 seconds, it has always been a drivers' favorite — and, of course, featured twice in the "Fast and Furious" franchise.

The S2000 began life at about $35,000, and prices fell below the $10,000 at their lowest — and to just £5,000 ($6,000) in the U.K. around 2017. Even as recently as 2015, a 2003 example described as having "excellent mechanicals" sold on Bring A Trailer for $11,000.

Today though, prices are significantly higher. A 2008 model with 21,000 miles on the clock sold in March 2023 for $44,750. The rarer CR version — of which just 700 were made for the U.S. market — commands significantly higher prices; reaching over $75,000 back in 2020, and soaring to a record-high of $200,000 when a CR was sold on Bring A Trailer with just 123 miles on the clock.

Porsche 944

Both the Porsche 924 and 944 have always been seen as (relatively) affordable Porsches — a status underlined in 2004 when the Top Gear team picked up an example of each for under £1,500 (about $1,100 at the time).

Launched in 1982, and in production until 1991, the Porsche 944 was available in coupe and convertible body styles. It came after the similarly wedge-shaped Porsche 924, and the 968 before it, with over 160,000 examples produced. It was most popular in the U.S. market, which accounted for 52% of all sales.

Now, though, things are different for the front-engine German sports car. Even back in 2015, a low-mileage example sold for $27,500. Although a 141,000-mile Porsche 944 went for just $6,100 in 2022, spending closer to $20,000 is not uncommon for Porsche 944s with their mileage still in the five-figure territory.

Barely-used examples command even higher premiums. Bring A Trailer sold a Guards Red Porsche 944 — with just 2,500 miles on the clock in 2022 — for $66,500.

Mazda MX-5 Miata NA

When it comes to affordable sports cars, the Miata is one of the all-time greats. There have been four generations to date, and while bargains are still out there, prices of the older NA and NB models are headed upwards.

Looking again at Bring a Trailer sales records, you can see how the price spread for NA Miatas has grown significantly in just the last eight years. In 2015, prices of completed auctions ranged from $5,850 to $12,500. Fast-forward to 2022, and prices range from $5,500 to $40,000. The cheapest sold in 2023 so far went for $7,000.

As with the Porsche 944 above, the original NA-generation Miata used to be a three-figure car, and while it's still possible to pick up an early Miata for under $5,000, you'll be looking at a scruffy example with potentially over 200,000 miles on the clock. Sadly, for a good NA model, you'll need to budget more like $10,000 to $15,000 — with $20,000 examples not uncommon.

Toyota MR2 (MKII)

Japanese sports cars from the 1990s are having a moment. Toyota Supra values have already headed to the moon, and now the same is starting to happen with its smaller brother the MR2.

A mid-engine, two-seat, rear-wheel-drive sports car, there were three generations of the Toyota MR2. Focusing on the second-generation MR2, which was available as a hard-topped coupe or targa with a removable T-bar roof. The U.S. and Japanese markets received a turbocharged model, while the Europeans had to make do with a less powerful, naturally-aspirated version of the MR2's 2.0-liter engine.

Once a three-figure car, the MKII MR2 has appreciated in recent years. This is partly due to box-fresh examples appearing on the scene and commanding high prices that inflate the rest of the market. However, when an example with a staggering 421,000 miles on the clock can sell for $6,500, this is clearly a modern classic in the making. 

The highest paid on Bring a Trailer is $61,750, achieved by a 67,000-mile example in early 2022, with many more hovering around the $20,000 to $30,000 mark. In fact, only three had sold on the auction platform for more than $20,000 between 2016 and 2020, then the floodgates opened, and over a dozen have achieved $30,000 or more since.

Ford Focus RS Mk1

Finally, we're taking a trip across the pond to show it's not just the U.S. market where once-affordable sports cars are appreciating out of reach. There are a lot of examples to choose from here, but the ripest pickings are among fast Fords. The value of the brand's motorsport-derived halo cars has exploded in recent years, with the most recent example being a Sierra RS Cosworth RS500 that sold at auction in February for £592,250. That's almost $720,000 for a Ford sedan once worth less than a tenth of that.

It's a similar story, albeit with fewer naughts on the end, with the Focus RS Mk1. Launched in 2002, this rally-bred hatchback carried a retail price of about £20,000 ($14,000 at the time). Prices fell to around £9,000, according to Hagerty, but have since recovered to start at around £20,000.

As always, mileage is key. That £20,000 ($24,000) gets you an example with 95,000 miles on the clock, while a factory-fresh RS with just 21 miles to its name sold in 2022 for £75,000 ($91,000). Lastly, if you're thinking about buying one in the U.S. you'll have to wait until 2027, when the first examples hit their 25th birthday and are eligible for import.