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Fastest, cheapest muscle cars article highlights:

  • Just because new, range-topping muscle cars can cost upwards of six figures, doesn’t mean you can’t snag a serious performance bargain.
  • Most of these supercharged and N/A powerhouses produce over 400 horsepower for well under $50,000 with manual transmission options.
  • Explore the fastest and cheapest muscle cars in 2023 and discover insights into specific models, such as the Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 and Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat.

The classic recipe for a muscle car is simple: take a handsome coupe, like a Dodge Challenger, and add gobs of horsepower. Never mind cornering performance or luxe interior layout; these brawny boulevard beasts are about burnouts, smiles, and quarter miles. Better yet, you don’t have to sell an organ to get some of the quickest, cheapest muscle machines on the used car market. Check out some of 2023’s baddest, most budget-friendly options that could also land you in traffic court, like a used Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat or Shelby GT500. 

Are muscle cars affordable? 

While European sports car enthusiasts might ridicule muscle cars for one-track appeal and straight-line heroics, the V8-powered brutes have a trick up their sleeve: they’re affordable. Modern muscle cars are some of the cheapest ways to hit the fastest straight-line speeds. 

Here are 10 muscle cars across makes and models that live right at the intersection of cheap and fast: 

Make and modelHorsepower0-60 mphAverage price (KBB)
S197 Ford Mustang GT420 HP4.3 seconds$19,526
S550 Ford Mustang GT435 HP4.5 seconds$22,970
S197 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500662 HP3.5 seconds$38,108
Dodge Challenger SRT8425 HP4.9 seconds$14,613
Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack485 HP4.2 seconds$20,774
Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat707 HP3.8 seconds$35,591
Chevrolet Camaro SS426 HP4.6 seconds$13,827
Chevrolet Camaro Z/28505 HP4.5 seconds$65,417
Pontiac GTO400 HP4.7 seconds$17,523
Pontiac Firebird (Fourth generation)325 HP5.0 seconds$12,815
The Fastest, Cheapest Muscle Cars to Buy In 2023

Are S197 Mustangs fast?

While a fully loaded 2024 Ford Mustang GT might be prohibitively pricey, an S197 Ford Mustang GT could be a bargain. Better yet, with classic throwback lines, the 2013 and 2014 Mustang GT still has an enthusiastic following. Moreover, with a 420-horsepower 5.0L Coyote V8 in the post-facelift models, an S197 is properly fast.

In testing, the Coyote-equipped 2013 model dispatched a sprint to 60 mph faster than its successor, the S550 GT. Furthermore, savvy shoppers could find a 2013 Ford Mustang GT with average mileage for around $19,526.  The news is good for maintenance, too; RepairPal puts annual maintenance at around $690, average for cars in the segment.

Is a S550 Mustang a V8?

Like the Shelby GT500 before it, the early S550 Ford Mustang GT demonstrates its power and value as one of the cheapest muscle cars out there.
S550 Ford Mustang | Ford

The S550-generation Ford Mustang, the successor to the S197, brought independent rear suspension and higher-output V8 power to the model. With 435 horsepower and an optional six-speed manual transmission, a sub-$25,000 S550 GT is one of the cheapest, fastest muscle cars around. 

Still, the 2015 Ford Mustang was the first of the model’s sixth generation, so it’s understandably more expensive to run than its predecessor. Annual maintenance sits at around $766, a bit more than a comparable 2013 pony car. Further, MoneyGeek puts average insurance costs at $1,505, about $143 more than the 2013 model.

A 10-year-old Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 is one of the cheapest, fastest muscle cars you can get

A 2013 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500, one of the cheapest muscle cars ever to hit 200 mph, shows off its convertible top.
A 2013 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 | Alan Look, Icon SMI, Corbis, Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Ford collaborated with Shelby for two years to produce a Mustang Shelby GT500 for the post-facelift S197 model. The result? Shelby’s 662-horsepower supercharged lunatic is a 200 mph muscle car that will hit 60 mph in just 3.5 seconds. 

Better yet, determined hunters could find a 2013 Shelby GT500 for around $38,108, per KBB. Very few four-wheeled bargains on the market at that price point with performance to match. However, the exclusive nature of the supercharged Shelby could make it expensive to run. Beyond insurance and maintenance on the high-heat 5.8L V8 engine, the model’s 18 mpg combined makes for a thirsty muscle car.  

How much is a Challenger SRT8?

The Dodge Challenger SRT8, a precursor to the SRT 392, is a bargain among the cheapest muscle cars. Horsepower-hungry enthusiasts could find a 2008 Dodge Challenger SRT8 for about $14,613. Better yet, with a 425-horsepower 6.1L HEMI V8, the muscle-bound Mopar will hit 60 in under five seconds. 

What’s more, the 2009 Dodge Challenger SRT8 has an annual repair cost of around $574, over $100 less than a newer, Coyote-powered Mustang GT. However, with average insurance rates between $1,500 and $2,000, running the Challenger isn’t as cheap as an economy car.

What’s the difference between Challenger R/T and Scat Pack?

While the Dodge Challenger R/T packs a 370-horsepower 5.7L V8, the R/T Scat Pack pushes the envelope with a tire-shredding 485-horsepower 6.4L V8. Consequently, the monstrous naturally aspirated V8 will catapult the used Challenger R/T Scat Pack to 60 mph in around 4.2 seconds. 

Further, shrewd car hunters might be able to get their hands on an average 2015 model for around $20,774. That’s good news for fans of the Mopar brute, as it’s a much more livable package than the brutally powerful SRT Hellcat. However, the 2015 Dodge Challenger has a higher annual maintenance cost than its SRT8 predecessor. Owners may have to spend around $758 in annual repair costs.

When it comes to the cheapest muscle cars with bleeding-edge speed, the Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat is at the forefront

A bright red Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat, like the Shelby GT500, packs a supercharged V8 as it reflects on a salt flat.
2015 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat | Stellantis

The 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat pushes the envelope of “cheapest.” However, the early Hellcat routinely changes hands for around $40,000, depending on condition, mileage, and location. Also, with 707 rampaging horsepower, the supercharged Mopar is one of the fastest muscle cars. 

However, even with an attractive used car price point, the cheapest supercharged Mopar muscle cars might be pricey to run. Forums report brake jobs for between $2,000 and $3,000, as well as five-year ownership costs as high as $8,000. Still, the Challenger represents a rapidly disappearing part of American muscle culture.

Is a Camaro SS a muscle car?

The fifth-generation Chevrolet Camaro SS is a proper muscle car. Specifically, fans of the old recipe can get a Camaro SS with a six-speed manual transmission and a 426-horsepower LS3 V8. As a result, a 2014 Chevrolet Camaro SS is a performance bargain at an average of $17,233. 

Better yet, the LS family of engines are notoriously compliant and often find themselves under the hood of hot rods and custom builds. Still, even with the familiar LS3 under the hood, the 2010 Camaro’s annual maintenance costs are higher than a comparable Challenger, at $633. Still, average annual insurance costs are around $1,538, on par with other modern muscle cars. Of course, insurance will depend on factors like age, driving record, location, and even gender.

The Camaro Z/28’s monster heart makes it one of the fastest muscle cars with ‘cheapest’ credentials

The fifth-generation Chevrolet Camaro Z/28 is becoming a collectors’ car, but it’s still accessible to some fans. puts the brute at $65,417, a steep ask for the collectible. However, with a volcanic 7.0L V8 (you read that right), it’s a unique proposition among the fastest muscle cars, if not quite the cheapest. Still, the beast’s heart is enough to want it in your garage. 

Of course, while insurance and maintenance might be on your mind for a budget-friendly brute, the Z/28 is more of a collectible. The 7.0L Camaro has increased in value and could be a special get for a collector with an affinity for high-powered N/A muscle cars.

What year was the fastest Pontiac GTO?

The fastest production Pontiac GTO ever is also the last one GM built: the 2006 Pontiac GTO. Specifically, the 2006 model channels 400 horsepower from its 6.0L V8 to hit 60 mph in under 5.0 seconds. 

Moreover, the GTO has depreciated to accessible levels; a 2006 Pontiac GTO has an average value of about $17,523. Better yet, the GTO’s age and sub-$20,000 used car price point make it quite insurable. 2006 Pontiac GTO owners report insurance rates as low as $1,000, even with a V8 and manual transmission.

What is the fastest stock Pontiac Firebird?

The fourth-generation Pontiac Firebird produced some of the fastest factory Firebirds in the model’s history. With the sought-after WS6 Trans Am package, the “Screaming Chicken” was good for a 5.0-second sprint to 60 mph, faster than some much newer competition.

Better yet, if classic aesthetics matter less to you than owning one of the cheapest, fastest muscle cars for the money, a WS6 Firebird could be yours for around $12,000. Of course, the WS6 Trans Am is gaining value as a collector’s car, so insurance rates will depend on whether you want classic car coverage or a conventional policy.

Any of these muscle cars will fit a budget and deliver smiles per gallon well beyond the price. Keep up with MotorBiscuit for the latest muscle car content covering the Ford Mustang, Dodge Challenger, Chevrolet Camaro, and more!