Autotrader’s 5 Fast Cars on a $15,000 Budget

It gets harder each year to find budget-performance cars, but you can still find them for under $15,000. Recently, Autotrader put together a list of cars that are “scary fast.” That list includes some impressive performance cars with serious street cred, including the BMW M3, Chevy Camaro, Ford Mustang, Nissan 370Z, and Subaru WRX. Let’s take a look at these models and why they make the grade.      

2005 BMW M3 is a budget performance car

BMW makes a lot of great performance cars, but the E46 M3 is a legend. With its 333-hp 3.2-liter inline-six engine, the M3 is still capable of serious performance. Better still, the inline-six makes a fantastic noise while doing it. The E46 M3 is the whole package with excellent handling and brakes. It may be the ultimate driving machine from the company that claims to make ultimate driving machines.  

2011 Chevy Camaro, one of the nimble fast cars 

The Chevrolet Camaro used to only be good at straight-line performance. That all changed with the 2011 Camaro. With a big V8 producing upwards of 426 hp, it still has the power to demolish quarter-mile times, but unlike Camaros of yore, it’s also very nimble when the road gets twisty. It’s one of the best performance car bargains out there.     

2011 Chevy Camaro, one of the fast cars
2011 Chevrolet Camaro | Timothy A. Clary/AFP via Getty Images

2011 Ford Mustang GT is a cheap fast car

Not to be outdone by its crosstown rival, the 2011 Mustang packs a 412-hp punch with its 5.0-liter V8. Its performance numbers are equally as impressive as the Camaro’s numbers. It also features dynamic handling and is at home on the drag strip or a two-lane road.  

2010 Nissan 370Z, balancing performance and handling

Depending on your point of view, the Nissan 370Z is either outdated or a true throwback sportscar. The 2010 model is almost identical to the one sold in 2020, cranking out 332-hp from its 3.7-liter V6 engine. The 370Z provides a wonderful analog experience in a world of turbocharged four-cylinder engines and electric cars. And it still provides a good balance of performance with quick acceleration and responsive handling.   

2013 Subaru WRX makes the fast cars list

The Subaru WRX can do it all, drifting, cornering, and accelerating in a straight line. It makes 265 hp from a turbocharged four-cylinder, which is both the smallest engine displacement and lowest power output of any car on this list. Still, don’t let that fool you. Performance is brutal and will embarrass a lot of hardcore sportscars. But the WRX’s ace is its all-wheel drive which makes it one of the fastest cars on any road or surface.   

You don’t have to spend $100,000 or even $50,000 to get a seriously fast car. There are plenty of bargains in the $15,000 range similar to the ones on this Autotrader list. These five models offer rabid acceleration and great handling. Plus, there is sure to be some relief in not having to make a $700 car payment. 

RELATED: 5 Best Used Subcompact Cars Under $10,000 According to Autotrader