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The Chevrolet Camaro is a paragon of bargain performance. Hell, it has been since its inception all the way back in 1967, nearly 54 years ago. The Camaro may nearly be old enough to qualify for Social Security, but the old muscle car is by no means slowing down. New models are faster and sharper than ever, and some old ones are rapidly becoming modern classics.

Now, it’s time to root out which generation of Chevrolet Camaro is the best bargain ‘Maro ever. Moreover, it’s time to determine which one will stay that way, and which ones will rise in value.

The new Chevrolet Camaro SS 1LE is a new car bargain

The 2021 Chevrolet Camaro shot from the high 3/4 angle in a warehouse
The 2021 Camaro SS | Chevrolet

We’ll start at the top. First, it’s important to remember that “bargain” does not necessarily mean “low dollar amount.” With that in mind, the current Camaro SS is a fantastic bargain. One could argue that the current crop of ‘Maro-badged vehicles is the generation that really took the Camaro from muscle car to proper sports car.

However, there’s an important piece of the puzzle that must come with your bargain Chevrolet Camaro SS sports car: the 1LE track package. It offers retuned dampers, better seats, and a host of other changes that make the SS a true sports car. Well, y’know, that and the 455 hp and 455 lb-ft of torque V8 mated to a manual transmission. Expect to find these for right around $45,000-$55,000 in the current market.

The “Transformers” Camaro could be a future classic

A yellow and black 2010 Camaro SS
The 6th Gen Chevrolet Camaro | Alan Look via Getty Images

That big-power V8 and a stick shift recipe had to come from somewhere, and no other generation of Camaro looks back more than forwards than the “Transformers” Camaro. It’s the 5th-gen model that debuted in 2010 and ran through 2015, though most people remember it as the Chevrolet Camaro that gave life to Michael Bay’s take on Bumblebee.

Moreover, the 5th generation Chevrolet Camaro isn’t down on power compared to its newer sibling. In SS form, a 2010 Chevrolet Camaro made 426 hp from its 6.2 liter V8. However, that was only for stick models, as automatic versions only made 400. Not that big of a difference, but it’s yet another part of the ongoing manual vs. automatic debate. Thankfully, these are much cheaper than new ones, coming in right around $30,000 for a manual, low-mile example.

What is the cheapest Camaro?

The 1998 Chevrolet Camaro SS in black shot in motion from the front 3/4 angle
The “catfish” Camaro is sorely unappreciated | Chevrolet

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Finally, that brings us to the underappreciated 4th-gen “Catfish” Chevrolet Camaro. Like many of the cars from the early 2000s, these are still unrecognized as desirable by the generation that was born during its lifetime. However, that trend may not last. Recently, values have started to creep up, especially on SS t-top models.

This generation is easily the most bang for your buck, with a manual transmission and a 330 hp V8 netting you plenty of fun per dollar. Expect immaculate time-capsule quality models to go for under $30,000. People may not appreciate these yet, but they will soon. And that’s why it’s the best Camaro you can get for your money.