Before we get into why you should buy this next car, let me start with the things it has going against it. First, it has a salvage title — and while that shouldn’t scare the intrepid used car owner, it does tend to frighten many potential buyers when you go to resell the car. Next, it has depreciated some, but it will continue to drop significantly in value for the next few years, that is the nature of a GTI, it should bottom at around 5k in 5-10 years if history is any indicator. And finally, the wheels are barf. Okay, with those things out of the way…what you’ve got here is a 1/2 priced almost new GTI with 14k miles, plaid seats, a few mods, and nice green paint. What else do you need in life? Find this 2017 Volkswagen GTI offered for $14,800 in Dublin, CA via craigslist.
Each time I find another cheap 996 generation Porsche 911, I wonder; how much longer can the 996 be the redheaded (orange headed? orange eyed?) stepchild of the classic 911 lineup. It wasn’t a bad car when it was released — it was faster and more capable and sold way better than the outgoing 993, which has now been elevated to deity status in the pantheon of Porsche. So what gives? Are the fried egg headlights really that bad? Is the IMS a death sentence…it seems to have been fixed on this one. Or are these currently a good buy? Find this 1999 Porsche 911 Carrera offered for $16,950 in Thousand Oaks, CA via craigslist.
Fiat first used the name 124 Spider on a little convertible sports car that was built from 1966 through 1985. Styling was by Dutch descended, but Detroit born Tom Tjaarda who spent most of his career with Ghia and Pininfarina. However, in 2015 the world was re-introduced to a newborn Fiat 124 with design by Virgilio Fernandez that pays homage to the original 124, but uses Mazda MX-5 ND underpinnings. Italian styling, Japanese reliability — what could go wrong? Unfortunately for Fiat, the Mazda version (MX-5 ND) is prettier, faster, sportier, and more fun to drive (that last bit is according to one famous beefsteak wielding automotive journalist.) The only thing the Fiat 124 has as an advantage is that it depreciates faster. Find this 2017 Fiat 124 Spider offered for $16,990 in Aliso Viejo, CA via craigslist.
After a 20 year hiatus from the Chrysler lineup, the Charger name was brought back to Dodge on a vehicle that had more in common with the previous generation Mercedes-Benz E-Class than it did with anything from the Dodge stable — 2006 was, after all, at the height of the unholy Daimler Chrysler alliance. Power might have come from an American HEMI V8, but the transmission options were limited to various slushbox autos from the Mercedes-Benz supply chain and if you wanted to row your own with a HEMI, you needed to downsize to a Challenger. However, todays next car has a 6-speed Tremec and 6.1 liter HEMI V8 from an 09 Challenger shoved into the 4-door Charger body, so you’ll have the only manual transmission Charger on your block. Find this 2006 Dodge Charger SRT8 offered for $13,000 in Queens, NY via craigslist. Tip from Cory.
The Honda S2000 is one of those cars that you’ll wonder why you didn’t buy as many as you could fit into a large barn and store for future appreciation (side note, please don’t do that, it is a jerky thing). Why will the S2000 be worth beaucoup bucks in the future? Two reasons; 1 — it wasn’t built in high numbers for the USA, 66k in 9 years (compare this to 74k of the 84-89 Porsche 911 3.2 Carrera) and 2 — it has no competition for what it does best. Yes, I’m talking about the 9000 rpm redline, amazingly tight chassis, and celebrated reliability. Get one now before they become unobtanium. Find this 2003 Honda S2000 offered for $13,000 in Fayetteville, NC via craigslist. Tip from Cory.
The Mazda MX-5 Miata isn’t a car for everybody. If you are too large or if your family is too large, fuggedaboutit– you’re not gonna fit. But for all the people who want a convertible with a driving experience that is sublime, you need to at least consider a Miata. Obviously, the latest generation (ND) has the best combination of styling, performance, etc…but if you want the best bang for your buck — look to the NB generation Mazdaspeed MX-5. It was a limited production version that added a small turbocharger, Bilstein shocks, and a limited slip diff to 5428 versions equipped with the 6-speed manual for the 2004-2005 model years. Expect them to be collectible in the future, but for now, they are affordable. Find this 2005 Mazda MX-5 MazdaSpeed offered for $7,800 in Temple City, CA via craigslist.
To the average person muddling through life like a canoer with a golf club for a paddle, an XJ Cherokee Sport is just another old junker. But to people who have their act together, like those with a Yamaha VMAX hooked their canoe, they smile when they see an XJ Sport. The XJ (1983-2001) was all of AMC’s engineering might shoved into a lifted family wagon shape. Jeep sold 3 million of these things during their two decade production run, so you have plenty to choose from, but the one you want is going to be equipped with a 4.0 liter AMC inline-6 and isn’t rusting from the bottom. Find this 2000 Jeep Cherokee XJ Sport offered for $7,250 in Cliffside, NJ via craigslist. Tip from Cory.
We automotive scavengers tend to spend a lot of time complaining about how product planners at the big auto companies miss our desired combination of big-engine and manual gearbox, in a wagon shape (hello BWM, hello Toyota, etc). However, there was a time when Volkswagen, of all people, got it right! They put the crazy W8 engine into the wagon version of the B5.5 generation Passat and let us have a 6-speed manual gearbox mated to all the wheels via VW’s 4Motion system. It was glorious and expensive and not many were sold, but used ones are cheap. Find this 2004 Volkswagen Passat W8 4Motion offered for $6,500 in Narragansett, RI via craigslist. Tip from Cory.
This next car comes from tipper Cory who writes: impossible to find IS300 wagon. I had high hopes it might be a manual gearbox equipped IS300 Sportcross, but alas, the wagon version of the IS300 was only available with a fun-sapping 5-speed slushomatic transmission. I’m sure there are a few versions that have been swapped, because the regular 2JZ-GE equipped IS300 sedan was available with a W55 manual gearbox for the entire production run, in fact, we featured a swapped 5-speed last year. Find this 2002 Lexus IS300 Sportcross Wagon offered for $5,500 in Boston, MA via craigslist.
This next car comes as a tip form Kevin who writes: If I am off on an endless road trip this just might be my ride. Sure it has the turn radius of the Queen Mary, but it has the comfort of a stateroom on wheels. Sit in that front seat and tell me it isn’t so! I have to agree with Kevin — this car just gobbles up the miles, and I drove one as a company car on many occasions. It was the EcoBoost twin-turbo version and was effortless in acceleration and a spitting chips for fuel. As an alternative to the unwieldy SUVs and uncool minivans that dot the modern automotive landscape, I find the Flex to be closer to the giant 3-row wagons of yesteryear. Find this 2015 Ford Flex offered for $15,000 in Shoreview, MN via craigslist.