You know what the worst part of classic car ownership is? The expense. Even if you’re mechanically inclined and love to wrench all day, chances are you don’t think you’ll ever own an exotic car.
After all, who buys exotics? People with hundreds of thousands of dollars to burn. But after a few years, most original owners drop these ultra-exclusive rides for something new. And unless it’s a Ferrari or Porsche, just about everything else depreciates like a stone.
So let’s say you have a budget of $40,000 and want to skip the Toyota dealership and buy something wild. You’re in luck, because you have a lot of seriously exotic cars to choose from. Here’s a list of lust-worthy exotics and supercars that you could buy today without going to the poorhouse.
1. 1975-1985 Ferrari 308
With anything with a Prancing Horse badge commanding seemingly unattainable prices nowadays, it’s almost shocking that a classic Ferrari could be had for under $40,000. But it’s true; not only are variants of the 308 worth around $38,000 according to Hagerty, but it also has pop culture provenance thanks to its starring role in Magnum P.I. Who cares that they’re slow by modern standards. With its sumptuous curves and gated manual shifter, the 308 has everything that’s great about a vintage Ferrari.
2. 1992-2002 Dodge Viper RT/10
If you came of age in the ’90s, there’s a good chance you had a Viper poster on your bedroom wall. Dodge’s hand-built exotic was powered by an 8.0 liter V10 that cranked out 400 horsepower and drew comparisons with the iconic Shelby Cobra of the ’60s. Today, the Viper has survived the bottom of the depreciation curve and is starting to gain status as a collectible. Still, you can buy a decent example for under $30,000 – or about as much as a mid-level 2017 Dodge Journey.
3. 2005-2010 BMW M6
The BMW M6 returned after a 16-year hiatus in 2005. And while its styling is polarizing for many enthusiasts, its performance is not. This world-class grand tourer packed a 500 horsepower V10 under its long hood and could be had with either a six-speed manual or dual-clutch automatic transmission. Unlike the Viper, these cars are just hitting the bottom of their depreciation curve now. The once-$100,000 car can easily be found for about $25,000. That’s cheaper than any new car BMW offers.
4. Jaguar XJS
Yes, the XJS is a grand tourer, not a supercar. But 42 years after its debut, it still doesn’t get the credit it deserves. The Cons? Its electrical system is notoriously temperamental, and it was only fitted with automatic transmissions. But this car had an amazing 21-year production run and was the direct successor to the legendary E-Type. It also had a massive V12 engine that could be tuned for tons of power. For those who love the styling but hate the finicky British mechanicals, plenty of shade tree mechanics have replaced the engine and electrical systems with Corvette parts. Stock or modified, you can probably find running examples on your local Craigslist for under $10,000.
5. Bentley Continental GT
No, this isn’t a typo. You can find a Bentley Continental for the price of a Toyota Camry. Fairly easily too. Launched in 2003, the Conti GT has undergone one major redesign and a number of small improvements. But that car starts at around $200,000. Early cars don’t look much different from the current model, and with a 552 horse W-12 engine, you won’t be left wanting for much in the performance department either. A quick search on Autotrader shows a number of certified pre-owned cars with a Carfax for well under $40,000.
6. 1991-1994 Mercedes-Benz 500E
The 500E looks like another old Mercedes sedan, but it’s actually one of the most advanced performance cars of the ’90s. Launched in 1991, the car was the result of a partnership with Porsche. The result? A super sedan with a 5.0 liter V8 under the hood and a revised suspension. In fact, the car was so different from the base Mercedes E-Class that Porsche largely hand-built all 10,500 of them in the same factory that produced the 959 supercar. Today, you can find one in good shape for under $30,000. Between a new Mercedes A-Class and a clean 500E, we’ll take this Mercedes-Porsche mashup any day.
7. 1989-1999 BMW 8 Series
Like the aforementioned M6, the 850 was BMW’s flagship grand tourer. Unlike the newer car, however, the 850 benefits from one of BMW’s greatest designs ever. The automaker spent over $1 billion to develop the most advanced GT car on the planet, and for the most part, it succeeded. With a design that barely changed over a 10-year production run, the 8 Series came in a few flavors: The V8-powered car (the 840Ci), with 282 horsepower, or the sublime V12-powered cars (850i, 850Ci, and 850CSi) that shared an engine block with the McLaren F1 hypercar and put out up to 375 horsepower. Due to their complexity, you can find plenty of needy 8 Series cars out there for under $10,000. For well-maintained V12 models, plenty can be found for under $30,000.
8. 1990-2005 Acura NSX
With the way prices have been skyrocketing, the first-generation Acura NSX is poised to become the next air-cooled Porsche 911 in collector circles. So if you’re in the market for Honda’s game-changing supercar, get one now. Launched in 1990, the NSX brought Honda-like reliability to the supercar field. Beautiful and powerful, yet comfortable enough to be a daily driver, pick up an NSX while you still can. If you’re lucky, you can find a higher-mileage (but well-cared for) example for under $40,000.
9. 1990-1995 Chevrolet Corvette ZR-1
The C4 Corvettes were built from 1984 to 1996, and still seem to be everywhere. And the red-hot ZR-1 looks like just another C4. But make no mistake, this thing is a monster. With its unique 375 horsepower LT5 V8 and suspension both designed by Lotus, the ZR-1 could make the zero to 60 sprint in 4.4 seconds and top out at over 180 miles per hour. With a $60,000 price tag in 1989 (about $100,000 in today’s money), Chevy sold just under 7,000 ZR-1s. Today, you can find an average one for well under $20,000.
10. Lotus Esprit
Let’s face it, you’re probably not going to be able to afford any of James Bond’s Aston Martins anytime soon. But Bond did drive another hand-built British exotic that you conceivably get your hands on. From 1976 to 2004, Lotus built the Esprit, a radical, wedge-shaped sports car that gracefully evolved into a supercar. From the ’70s S1 cars (like Bond drove) to the 175 mile-per-hour, V8-powered S4 cars, there’s a lot of variety to choose from across the Esprit’s 28-year production run. The best part? They rarely change hands for over $40,000.