What Is The Best Fun-But-Cheap Used Car Under $5000?

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Recently, I have been toying more seriously with the idea of selling one of our used cars to buy another cheap one with a manual transmission. I’ll be honest, it’s entirely for entertainment purposes. I want to get better at driving a stick, and I also want to have fun with it before, well, we have kids and need to buy something more practical 😉

I’m looking for something under $5,000, and I expect to sell it again in about 3 years. I live in an area with nice weather, and I don’t drive very much otherwise so rock-bottom fuel economy isn’t critical. Repair costs are a concern. Here are a few models that I’m considering:

1989-1995 Toyota Pickup
Estimated cost: $2,000

Pros: Reliable model. Cheap. Truck bed could be useful for home improvement projects.

Cons: Not as fun, 4-cylinder version is a bit weak.

1987-1995 YJ Jeep Wrangler
Estimated cost: $4,000-5,000

Pros: Fun, Sunshine, Can maybe take it off-road occasionally.

Cons: Reliability ratings aren’t great. High theft rate.

1989?1997 Mazda Miata Convertible
Estimated cost: $4,000-5,000

Pros: Fun, Sunshine, Nimble, Easy to park. Pretty reliable.

Cons: Might feel small for my body frame. Not sure about crash safety.

Images from their respective Wikipedia pages.

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  1. Miata all the way. And take it autocrossing.

  2. I have been driving a 1992 Mazda Miata since… well, 1992. It has had almost no problems (other than routine maintenance, I’ve replaced a head gasket). It is a bit low on power but drives beautifully, especially if you get the wheels aligned on a bit of an angle. The turning radius is awesome, and no parking space is too small. I’d recommend installing a rollbar ($500) for safety.

  3. Toyota Trucks are pretty indestructible. Change the oil and they’ll last forever, pretty much no matter what you do to them. That model, the 4 cylinder is pretty weak going uphills… so be aware of that before you search one out. 4×4 models are amazing offroad too.

  4. Would highly recommend the Jeep Wrangler. I owned a 94 wrangler, bought new for $17.4k, drove it for over 116k miles and never had one problem….until someone decided to hit me head on in 2002. The jeep held up well, bent frame totaled it. However it took the front end off the 88 olds delta. When totaled 8 years later recieved $9k from insurance company for the value. Just another reason to buy a jeep..holds value well. I have since bought another Jeep 2006 and it is still just as fun! You can take it just about anwhere…..they even now have tents you can attach to the back if you enjoy camping.

  5. When I was accepted into graduate school, I celebrated by buying my dream car, fortunately for my grad school finances I don’t dream too expensively. I bought a new 1995 Jeep YJ. I still drive it. It is reliable, tough and fun. The fuel pump died on me this year, this is the only non-maintenance repair, I had to make in the last seven years (In 2000 the thermostat broke, that’s the other out of the ordinary repair I had to make). I drive it off-road frequently, it thrives in mud and dirt. Because it was built with non-paved roads in mind, be forewarned that the on-pavement ride is rugged and loud. If you are sensitive to bumps and noise buy the Miata; but if your local roads have lots of pot holes and speed bumps, buy the Jeep.

  6. When I was in high school my dad had a manual 1997 Miata M edition that I used as my main car for about a semester. He never had any problems with it and he purchased it used, but he did know the previous owner and knew that it had been taken care of. That thing was extremely fun to drive – it was very light weight so it moved pretty well for such a small engine.

    I did have my one and only accident in that car – I rear ended someone at around 15-20mph. The car I hit put a hole in my fender with its muffler, and I bent the bar that held the radiator. Total repairs were around $1,200 if I remember correctly, just to give you an idea.

    Whatever you choose, you can’t go wrong with a stick – they’re incredibly fun to drive.

  7. If you are considering Miata, take a look at Toyota MR2 as well. It will most likely cost you more than 5k, but this is a fun and great looking car. This is the route my wife and I went when were in the same situation as you.

  8. … MR2 SPYDER that is

  9. Hmm… auto-crossing Miata… not sure if I can pass that by the wife, but it sure sounds like a cool idea! I do like the reliability.

    Yeah, I should have added that the Toyota can go offroad. I just saw one already jacked up on Craiglist, although it seems like they really went a bit nuts. I must admit I have a little soft-spot for these workhorses.

  10. I’ve driven a friend’s Miata. It’s a great car. She’s probably half my weight and a good foot shorter but for me the Miata is a bit of a squeeze at 73″/ 230 lbs. In an emergency I’m not sure I could hit the brakes fast enough without at least crashing my knee on something.

    Never the less, it is fun to drive!

  11. any older 4wd subaru, the brats are particularly indestructible.

  12. If you’re looking for something that’s purely “fun” as opposed to “a little bit practical” get the Miata. I’ve owned a ’95 for 6 years and have never had a problem with it. You might want to skip th ’89 and ’90 models as they had teething problems. Mostly to do with the bolts that hold on the timing belt (it’s easy to break them).

    I’m 6′ and fit perfectly fine in mine. I’ve had passengers who were larger than me and they didn’t seem to have a problem with extended drives.

  13. Does anyone know about other blog posts that talk about cheap cars? I remember one awhile back somewhere that was

  14. None of the above.

    Buy a nice used Civic or even a good old ’93 Volvo 240. You can get a 240 Wagon with 120k for perhaps $3000, and it will outlast every car on your list.

    The only caveat is that if you do have problems, fixing them might be more expensive.

    That said, my ’90 240 has 370k miles and the most I’ve ever spent on it was just a few months ago when I had to replace the Air Mass Meter for $450.

    Oh, and it’s far safer than all the cars on your list! Not to mention it has all the nice extras like A/C (if you can find one that still works), power windows, heated seats, etc.

  15. Well, I can speak from personal experience on this one……….

    *I* think an early model Toyota Truck is a great buy.

    About a year ago I picked one up from a buddy (’94 single cabe 4cyl) and gave it (loaned it) to the in-laws. They’ve always only ever had one car & mo-in-law needed something. Plus it’s priceless on Home Depot runs. The thing has 170K miles on it and still running great. A/C is tempermental, but I ain’t dumpin’ any money into it ’til they either give it back or we decide to sell it.


    I picked up a ’95 Geo Prizm on Craigslist 2 years ago (9/15 was the car’s 2nd Bday) and my whole reasoning was to pick up a car to park my ’98 F150 Xcab so I could double my mpg, effectively saving approx $100/mo. (Yes, even AFTER insurance add ons, etc.)

    Well, I bought it for $2K back then, so you do the math. I’m now $400 or so in the positive. I put one $50 tire on it and had a BLAST going to the local pick a part getting little things for it. (Didn’t come w/ a passenger side mirror, so I P.A.P.’d one for $5 and put it on……bulbs, brake hardware, etc.


    I’ll get rid of the prizm & probably buy a new Camry/Accord/Sonata when it gives me trouble, but the damn thing just won’t quit!!!!!!!!!! 😉

  16. http://www.beaterreview.com/

    Nice site that reviews older/cheap cars.

    For $5,000 I’d go for a 93-95 BMW 3 or 5 series. If you search around you can find one in very nice condition with around 100k miles. As long as you tune it up twice a year the beemer will last forever.

  17. Are you sure you want to switch to a manual? I have been driving one for the past 10 years and I ask myself all the time why I didn’t get an automatic. If you plan on driving anywhere with lots of hills like San Francisco it can be a HUGE pain. Driving in traffic…also a pain. Trying to eat in your car while driving…another pain. Basically you are always stuck worrying about shifting unless you are on the highway and there isn’t a lot of traffic.

  18. Toyota. Toyota. Toyota!

    I bought a 2000 Toyota Tundra for $ 7000 about 8 months ago. Had 105k miles on it, but super clean. The Tacomas are cheaper and you can get a V6.

    May not be the most “fun”, but I think is the best investment. Would definitely go check one out for a test drive before going with a Miata.

  19. 96-98 Nissan Maxima SE

    Quick, fun to drive, still somewhat practical, good gas mileage, extremely reliable, and Cheap when compared with Hondas and Toyotas

  20. Miata by far. Super economical, reliable, cheap to repair, more fun than just about any other car on the road. RWD, manual, super-light, neutral weight-balance and convertible = motoring heaven.

  21. FWIW, I’ve driven manuals my whole life. I live in So Cal. Manuals and so cal traffic are not a big deal. Get an automatic, get extra costs, extra repair bills, lower mileage and a massive fun penalty. Lose, lose, lose. Not sure why anyone would ever buy an automatic – there are no benefits.

  22. Just to toss my experiences into the mix; I’ve had only manuals, a toyota tercel and a VW cabrio. Toyota’s do indeed last forever. my last one lived long enough to have it’s own drivers license, and was in great condition for its age. I’d bet the 4cyl would be weak though, esp for the west coast.

    My current car, the VW, is also over a decade old, and it’s amazingly fun to drive, pushing my vote towards the Miata 🙂 it’s hard to beat a manuverable convertable.

    Tracy is dead on though, at least when it comes to eating; I’ve always struggled with that. Traffic’s not too bad unless you’re really aggressive, in my experience. Don’t have much hill driving experience to know how unbearable that can be though :/

  23. Nothing beats a Jeep for fun (provided you live in a climate where you can make ample use of the top or doors off). I’ve had a 1999 wrangler for nearly 9 years and it has always been a blast.

    Put a little money into it with some bigger tires, lift it up, and you can have some real fun on the trails. One thing about jeeps too, is that parts/modifications can be found everywhere and can be dirt cheap, so you can really customize your vehicle with little outlay of cash.

    Of course, like you already mentioned, there are theft problems. Mine has been broken into 3 times, but other than a cut in a plastic window, I don’t have anything for people to steal inside it. Also, they certainly don’t handle like a car. If you’ve always driven a car, it may take some getting used to driving what feels like a tank 😀

  24. Keep the car you have and get a motorcycle and take a good basic rider’s course. Then, buy a $1000 or so motorcycle off of Craigslist. The 80’s Honda Nighthawks are built solid; mine is 24 years old and looks better than most new ones. I get about 45-50 miles to the gallon, insurance is $25 a month for both the bike and additional medical for me.

    You’ll find a friendship in other riders you don’t even know unlike that with a car, and it makes the daily drives fun again. Stay away from the sport bikes, which are by far the highest of casualties. Riding along in a 4×4 Jeep with the top down doesn’t even compare to doing it on two wheels, and I’ve driven more than my share of both two and four+ wheels.

  25. No man should ever be caught driving a Miata.

  26. I would go for any old used Subaru. They’re extremely hard to find used, but they’re excellent value. A 1999 Subaru Legacy GT is what I’d recommend.

  27. In case you are wondering what sort of punishment a Toyota Tacoma (Hilux in the rest of the world) can handle, the guys on Top Gear have done the dirty work for us. Check out the beating that their car made it through:

  28. Consumer reports would be a good thing to pickup in regards to this. Traditionally, Jeeps are pretty terrible. The anecdotal evidence of a few happy Jeep owners is mostly worthless.

  29. If you are really that close on choice, win major brownie points and LET THE WIFE PICK.

  30. Joseph Sangl says


    I would choose the JEEP

  31. You buy the Toyota truck and you won’t have to sell it if you’re into fixing things up around the house. It’s also fun to drive (i drove my father’s toyota pick-up to the ground and it never complained — until i ran it off the freeway in the rain). Don’t let the freeway mis-hap scare you though, i was 17 year old high school male, what less would you expect? The truck survived thousands more miles after that incident and had about 180,000 on it when my 16 year old unlicensed cousin destroyed it coming out of a parking lot looking right while she was turning right. At that point, only thing that was replaced on the truck were brake pads — same engine, clutch tranny, shocks, struts, etc.
    Happy Truckin…

  32. If plan on being a property owner, I woud get the truck. You wish you had one with all the Home Depo trips you will be making. Otherwise, I would get the Miata, it’s fun, reliable and low cost maintence.

  33. My first car was a Jeep (Grand Cherokee). It was also the last American car I plan to buy. Costly, costly repairs.

  34. Jonathan, go with the truck. You’re a practical guy. It fits you.

  35. I will point out: the truck allows you some flexibilty: you could put a cap on it, or a camper; however, you WILL be everyone’s new best friend (“You’re moving? Oh, I hear JONATHAN has a truck!”)

  36. Toyota’s R engines (20/21/22R) are bulletproof. my ex ran one out of oil and seized it. I put in 4qt, let it cool off, and bump-started it. that thing ran for a few more years til his dad totalled it. find a non-4×4 truck and you’ll have enough power.

    manual trans is a pain in traffic but that’s all I’ve ever driven. automatics suck power, fuel, and are expensive to fix when they break.

  37. These guys publish a sometimes weekly review of cheap used cars. You might find it an interesting read.


  38. Here’s a practical site of older cars:
    They go through common issues the cars had and real life craigslist prices. Fairly informative.

  39. big blue lawn ornament says

    How about a big blue lawn ornament! Expired plates, kinda-similar color spray paint, list of things that need fixing included for FREE! Heck, act fast, and we’ll even throw in a statue of a boy holding a bird bath!!

  40. Mazda Miata
    Cons: It’s a girl car. Can’t be driven by any self-respecting man.

  41. StartingMoney says

    I recommend the Toyota. I had a ’91 pickup in high school and it was very reliable. The 4 cylinder is pretty weak and gets worse gas mileage than you might expect (I think it’s a 2.4 L engine) but the 22-RE is one of the most reliable engines ever built. Plus, you’ll be surprised how often a truck comes in handy.

  42. I’ve got a 1994 Acura Integra that I use for exactly what you’re talking about. My wife and I each have SUVs because they can haul stuff and can handle large car seats for kids. But I drove an Integra in my single days that simply is too much fun to part with. So now we’re a 3-car, 2-driver family. The Integra is worth around $2,500 at most, is a stickshift, is fast, and fun. It’s got 130,000 miles on it and is sitill going strong with no major repair problems (and it just passed state inspection yesterday). In fact, at 13 years old now, it’s more than half-way towards having an antique license plate. I suggest the Integra or any other sporty car like it if for nothing else to keep a little bit of your fun youth around once you have kid/s.

  43. Mazda Miata
    Pros: Can only be driven by a regular person who is free of stereotype!

  44. If you plan on selling it in a few years, don’t get a Jeep. They inevitably grow on you. It may be the worst damn ride nine months out of the year, but those three months with the top and doors off are amazing.

    Theft is a bit of a concern, but if you’re like me, you have it insured well and leave the doors unlocked (so they don’t cut the windows). I learned to leave nothing in the Jeep after some teenager stole my Oakley’s.

    They also aren’t bad to work on yourself, provided you have a garage (minus the random mixture of SAE/metric sizes).

  45. jeepwrangler says

    another happy jeep owner, owned a 1st hand 97 jeep wrangler, it is 130K now with no single major or minor problem. I also owned a brand new 98 toyota tacoma pickup before, with problem since day one, and end up to donate the car with less than 100K in 2005 due to endless repairs. No japanese car after that…

  46. I would go with the pick up truck for practicality. You never know when you will need to haul something big or that would cause damage to your “nice” vehicle when you get one.

  47. I vote for the Toyota truck. It is arguably as good off-road as a jeep and it can also haul stuff around so it’s like a tool and a vehicle in one. Trust me, as a new home owner you will want a truck! I have a Toyota Yaris for commuting and a Tacoma for my weekend fun vehicle. That thing has taken me everywhere from the remote Nevada desert with camping gear and dirt bikes to Yosemite Valley with the bed full of bikes and coolers. Mine has the 4 cylinder and got 25 mpg to Yosemite and back… not too bad. You are right though, it’s no race car but who wants a speeding ticket anyway. It tows my 2100 lb boat over the Sierras without a complaint.

  48. jeepwrangler, ur the first person in my adult life who has had problems with a japanese car. you definately must have gotten a lemon’s lemon.

    Even a lemon japanese car is probably better than a dodge neon

  49. Dog Clothing says

    You might also want to consider Toyota AE86 (if you can find a decent one) or a Honda CRX. I had them and they were extrememly fun to drive. Repair cost is minimal compared to others. These should be around $3K.

  50. anyone drives a NX2000?

  51. miata driver says

    lots of men out there unsure of their manhood it would seem. miata is a fun, cheap and reliable alternative to overhyped “man” cars like the mustang, corvette and camaro. plus you can always call it an mx5 if it makes you feel better.

    i know a lot of people happy with toyota trucks.

    jeeps are loud, uncomfortable, handle badly and are made by chrysler. run the other way.

  52. jeepwrangler,
    I also have a ’98 Tacoma. Bought it at 100k miles and now it has 130k miles 3 years later. Not one problem except for an interior rattle that drives me crazy on bumpy roads. All I do is change the oil every 5k and put in gas. I’m not easy on it either, the only time it gets driven is if I need to haul something or go off-road (10,000 miles per year off-road and hauling is pretty severe usage). The thing still looks and runs beautifully after all that abuse.

    I had a bad experience with my only American car, a ’91 F-150 4×4 and it soured me forever on them so I understand your point but it is amazing that our identical vehicles could be so different in reliability.

  53. I usually buy cars that are very reliable, pass strict crash tests, don’t make the top of list for stolen vehicles, and are cheaper to insure. I would never go without front and side airbags for both driver and passenger. If you get hit by a huge SUV on the passenger door while driving a tiny Miata with your wife, chances are it will be catastrophic. Regarding motorcycles, you will fall sooner or later. I’ve had several motorcycles and got hit by irresponsible drivers twice. Once in front of the Malibu pier, which put me in the hospital for a few months. Don’t forget that being alive is a matter of statistics and if you keep pushing the envelope, the numbers will catch with you. BTW, studied Risk & Insurance Management in college.

  54. I’m very happy with the 93 BMW 325i with 165,000 miles that I bought for $2600. Drove from Chicago to LA and even averaged 28mpg. Very reliable too.

  55. Is this going to be a third vehicle for your family? I have to question the wisdom of flushing 3-5K down the drain to have an extra(unnessary) car to play with.

    I just seems you spend a lot of time searching for ways to make a free $25 here and there on the web only to negate it all with a $5K unncessary purchase. I realize everyone has to have their guilty pleasures, it just seems counter to the way you run the rest of your life.

  56. Jim, Jim… Why not trying re-reading that first sentence of my post again?

  57. The first sentence doesn’t indicate whether this is a 3rd car for your family. If it is a 3rd car then my point stands. Spending 5K for a 3rd car when you have only have two drivers defeats the purpose of all the small cash bonuses you earn throughout the year.

    If it’s your family’s second car then I apologize in advance.

  58. I would recommend checking out Consumer Reports to look at reliability and ratings. Also try Edmunds. They will show re-sale numbers as well.

  59. “…selling one of our used cars to buy another cheap one with a manual transmission.” – I’m just replacing a car, not getting an extra one.

    Not only that, it doesn’t necessarily defeat the purpose at all. Maybe somebody already socks away 20% of their income, and then maybe the idea of being able to buy a luxury is their incentive to spend a bit more time and earn some extra money via bonuses or whatnot.

    The way I see it, it’s hard to judge someone else’s purchase as “unnecessary”, as long as you are making your desired progress towards your financial goals. I dine out, have a cell phone, and pay for air conditioning, none of those are necessities either. I’m all about optimizing those experiences. So here, I’m trying to extract some fun and excitement without increasing our car expenses 🙂

  60. My vote is for Mazda Miata Convertible. Trust me it is a lot of FUN!!

  61. Mazda Miata/MX-5 is the hands down choice if you don’t live anywhere near dirt roads. Otherwise, I’d get a Jeep (my wife and I have those two on our short list as well).

    Regarding the Miata and manhood, if the dumb thing had its original name, the Lotus Elan, people would call it an exotic! Mazda ripped off the Lotus design for the first gen car, and the current tiny Lotus Elise is anything but a girls car! Even still, the Miata has a huge weekend racing following and according to jdpower dot com, 68% of buyers are men! It’s got way more male buyers than mainstream cars like the Civic (55%).

    Of course we know that the girly car stereotype will never disappear, but that keeps the prices down for those of us who actually have driven them. Gobs of fun, and way more fun than the Honda S2000.

  62. “selling one of our used cars”

    i’m pretty sure you cant sell a new car, unless you are ourisman dodge dealer

    this is something i’m looking into as well, but as an above poster mentioned, i am leaning toward a motorcycle or scooter, as it would also let me park at work for free

  63. I’m a college student looking for practical cars within the same parameters (perhaps even less cost, if possible). Could you cover that, too? I’m also interested in low insurance rates (since for my age group it can be very high) and fuel efficiency. Thanks!

  64. Go with the Jeep! I just turned 40 and bought one for myself…I love it…riding with the top off can’t be beat! I have a hard top, so the theft issue isn’t a concern. Mine’s a 4 cylinder…great gas mileage to boot…

  65. im a 22 year old that just replaced my automatic ’87 MR2 with a black ’95 Mazda Miata Convertible manual… FUNNEST CAR EVER!
    To all those guys whining about a girly appearance… HAH! you clearly have never driven one with the top down and seen how badass it is. I found it on craigslist for $4000, talked it down to $3650! I practically stole it from the guy… with new water pump, timing belt, pads, tires, entirely mechanically sound.
    I’ve only owned it for 2 weeks now and I can tell you for a fact, im holding this until it becomes a classic. Best money ever spent!
    Those who have never owned a convertible, your missing out on half the ride!
    Sexy black convertible roadster for the win.

  66. ANY guy saying a man shouldn’t drive a miata is too insecure with himself or his driving skill to realize the Miata is a terror on a track/curvy road. Go ahead and admit you’re intimidated by other men at the gym too. The miata will do things on the road that only the top tier of performance cars can manage. Now if your masculinity is threatened by the appearance of a car, imagine how shaken your ego will be the day a Miata schools you on a track or road course.

    Honestly, it’s sad how many men out there think their masculinity is based on the car they drive.

    Do yourself a favor, sign up for a two day weekend driving course, learn how to drive like an adult and then take a Miata out for a spin. If you’re still whining about “girly” cars, then you might want to snatch up a Hummer because you obviously have a very frail ego.

  67. the miata is a piece of crap. doesnt weigh much, which is the only thing that makes its performance somewhat acceptable. they are extremely tiny and if you are an average size man, it will feel like you are driving a go cart.

    jeeps are fun if you live where it is sunny year round and want to drive around with the doors and top off. ride is incredibly stiff and they are NOT meant for the highway. it is a horrible ride unless this is purely a weekend romp around vehicle.

    out of these 3, my recommendation is the tacoma by far. practical and reliable. HOWEVER, you will wish that you sprung for the v6 model, which may put it out of your price range. the 4 cylinder engine will make you question your “FUN” purchase.

    if you want something solely for entertainment, why not by a car that was designed to go somewhat fast? how about a 94-98 ford mustang gt – itll give you a thrill, has a v8, and you could perhaps find a convertible model. they dont hold their value at all and you may be able to pick up a good deal. the nissan altima/maxima is decent also.

    stay away from any high mileage luxury brand. they were not designed to be driven past 100k miles. they simply do not hold up, repairs will be incredibly high in comparison, and IMO older model bmws, lexuses, mercedes look trashier than older domestic cars. what was once hip is now a disaster on wheels.

  68. bgdc

    I’m one of the men that thinks the Miata is a girly car. I don’t feel that the car makes the person, I just feel that way because the very first time I saw a Miata, a lady was driving it and that image stuck with me. Every time I see a man in a Miata, it just looks funny to me…like a kid in a box car. I’d go with the truck personally because I use vehicles to accomplish things like getting to work and back home, picking up things from Home Depot/Lowes, moving….you get the point. “Fun” isn’t something I’d buy a car for and if it were I still wouldn’t buy a girly Miata, maybe a motorcycle.

  69. While I definitely think the Miata is the cutest car on the block (and wanted one very much in college), I wouldn’t think it’s a great purchase for a young couple about buy a house and maybe start a family? As soon as your wife becomes pregnant, you are going to be placing the “For Sale” sign on it and wonder why you bought it at all. If you were 3-5 years away from that, I’d buy it — otherwise not. It’s really cool looking, but really, how safe could it possibly be? It’s a tiny car.

    I don’t care for the open sided Jeeps, they also scare me (granted I’m a chicken). I would go with the more practical Toyota — although I would bump up the price a little. Try spending $4K on a newer nicer version of the Toy with more fun stuff in it — can you get it with a better engine or another “safe” 4×4 with more horsepower.

  70. I like pickups and I think toyota tacomas are good trucks but, they don’t feel as fun to drive as say a big old chevy-they just drive much stiffer. and they have short beds so you can’t use them to haul anything big or really heavy. So since this is just for fun, I say go for the jeep. You can’t take a miata off road!!

  71. Dude! Who says you need to buy a dull-o-matic car when you have kids? You may still need 4 doors, but hey, there are lots of options. Do NOT get stuck in the mini-van trap, and you’ll be a happy driver!

    For fun, I would go for a Honda Civic SI–zippy and cute. For cheaper thrills, an older (~10 yrs) Honda Prelude. Those are sweet rides.

  72. Okay, well I’ve owned two of the cars on the list, an 89 Toyota, and a 94 Miata R. The truck was nice but I realized that after a year, I had only used it as a truck (to move stuff, or for ground clearance) less than 5 times in during that year, so I sold it. I decided that I rather have a car, and could borrow/rent a truck when I needed one, and the utility didn’t outweigh the 20mpg in town. You could also get a tow hitch and utility trailer for your car, and get the same functionality as a truck. The trucks do last forever, take a beating, and hold their resale value.

    If you want a FUN car, get the Miata. I autocross and track my car regularly and for the money it can’t be beat. If you live in a warm climate like me you can have top-down fun every day of the year. If you live in the northern parts, a hard top can be added for about $800. People who call it a “girl car” fantasize about some macho standard that doesn’t exist. And you can laugh at them when it costs them three times as much to fill up at the pump for the same amount of driving (30+ mpg!) Reliability is awesome too, as most of these cars go 200k or more without major work.

    Another surprisingly fun-to-drive car I’ve found for ULTRA cheap is a Dodge Neon ACR. Under 2 grand, with some toe out and lots of static negative camber, the car is highly tossable and easy to drive at the limit.

  73. Oh and if you’re getting a motorcycle for FUN, get a sport bike. Hogs and cruisers are big, heavy, and slow. Make sure you have good health insurance, as a lot of people don’t see you on the street!

    +1 on the camaraderie with motocycles. You get that too with Miatas, surprisingly, with the “wave” as they drive by.

  74. I have had great luck with Honda’s (Accord or Civic). Tune them up and change the oil. It’s also very important to buy from somewhere that you know the car history. Private parties are the best.

    Happy Driving…!

  75. Everyone knows that hondas are good, reliable cars. But he specifically said he wanted to throw caution to the wind and get something fun and not so practical.

  76. I drove a 1997 Miata for a year or so, until it was rear-ended at a stop by a panel van. (And she would have been fine except she’d already been totaled before I bought her, so her frame just gave out. I was fine, and she still drove. However, the cost to pull out the frame was more than the value of the car.)

    It was a lot of fun, low maintenance, and easy to park.

    And before I’d owned it a week I discovered you can put five small fruit trees in the passenger seat if you put the top down. My Miata did more hard work than my Chevy Silverado ever did.

  77. Toyota Trucks are pretty indestructible.

  78. I had a Tacoma for a couple years. They are strong, reliable trucks, and if you get the 4×4 version, you can do many things a Jeep can do. They also have the best utility out of the vehicles you mentioned because you can haul stuff with it. I love the utility of having a truck. I, however, ended up selling my manual transmission truck to get an automatic car. I hated having a manual in traffic, and I was also about to have knee surgery (actually 2 of them, one on each knee). I needed an automatic transmission. I liked my truck, but the only thing I miss about it now is being able to haul stuff on occasion.

  79. My parents both have Miata’s and love them – they are in their mid-50’s. It’s definitely a fun car to cruise around in, make sure that you get a manual though or you’ll be doing yourself an injustice; and get the flip-up lights.

  80. Why not a Honda Civic? I bought my 1988 Honda Civic in 2000 for $2,000 (manual transmission) and I’ve been driving it ever since. It has over 200K miles on it, but has never let me down. Only had to replace the radiator and muffler once ($1,100) and the rest has been maintenance exps (oil change, new tires for winter, new battery). I’ve driven it all over the state and to neighboring IL, WI, and IA with no problems.
    Otherwise – the Toyota truck is the next best. My husband bought his 2000 Tundra three years ago and we’ve never had any problems with it — except it started to be moving weekend every weekend 😛

  81. Just a thought….my husband had a Toyota truck which we LOVED and it was the best deal. However, we had to sell it when we had a baby. I don’t know how close you two are to having babies, so maybe it is not an issue. I just know that we had to sell both cars in order to get something that fit a baby seat.

  82. The 90-93 Honda Civic Si little cars were so much fun I regret ever turning it in for an SUV back in 1995. Find a black 91 black Civic Si with moonroof and low miles and you’ll love it. Totally a great all-around car that I miss more than my girlfriends from that era…

  83. if you want a fun cheap car get an 83-90 toyota supra.there really fast good on gas and sound nasty with a 40 series flowmaster.and theyll carry 4 people and all of your crap.just get a 5 speed and a turbo if you can find it. just check the oil a lot.

  84. Go drive a 3rd gen Honda Prelude SI 5 speed. 1988-1991. I really nice one goes for around 3K. It is about the most fun you can have for the money. Jr NSX

  85. whats the milage o ther miata!?!?!?!?!?!?

  86. michermacker says

    thank you darrel I have had three 87 supras, they are incredible!!! The first one was a silver 5 speed 150 mph+ damn I wish it had 6 spd. Purchased for $500, in the 80k miles I drove it the only work I did to it was replace plug wires and only did that because after flushing the radiator I forgot to replace the cap!! After a quick 100+mph jaunt the whole engine compartment was ablaze! 6 high performance plug wires ran an astronomical 180 bucks but got me back on the road for another 60k before I threw a rod bearing and sold the body for 450. Amazing!! Truly bulletproof motor I tortured that thing day in and day out. The second, a targa top automatic. Driving topless is nice but without the manual its just not the same. The top eventually wore out, so did dye driver side window switch (a $450 part) I got 50k out of it and got 1/2 my money back by selling it for $1200. The third one I knew better than to buy it with 240k on the odometer but the body and interior were so nice I dropped the $950 and got another 30k and am thinking about purchasing a jdm replacement motor on ebay only about $800 delivered but I know that the trans should swap too. So I can get that on ebay for about $700 delivered, prolly $2000 installation oh yeah and a wiring harness for $400 I’m looking at an 87 supra with 50k on drivetrain for about $5k find me a better deal. I wonder what it would take to upgrade to a 2jzgte??

  87. I own both a miata and a jeep. both are great buys.Also own a 1990 BMW 735 that has only 100k miles(bought for $4300). Older inline 6 beamers with around 100k miles are a good bet. should last 250k miles.

  88. Hey I just bought a 2002 VW Cabrio for 3500.00 It was a great deal so I actually flew to Philly to pick it up and drove it back to wichita Kansas, 1370 miles in two and a half days, WHEW!!! But what a blast to drive, all of the bells and whistles and excellent gas mileage. Fun little 5 speed convertable an very low highway noise that you would expect in a convertable. But I have owned Toyota’s since I started driving and they are the best made cars and trucks out there.

  89. i drive a 93 Mazda 323, its got a really rev-happy 4 banger and a 5-speed and is an absolute blast to drive, and dirt cheap at that!

  90. Get one of the new eco friendly 12 mpg highway ford f-350 super duty truck lots of space weigh a ton don’t go fast and probably only cost around 50 grand.

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