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Not everyone can afford to throw down tens of thousands of dollars for a fun sports car. That being said, there are a handful of cars you’ll have a blast driving without surpassing the $5,000 mark. Here are three of our favorite enthusiasts-loved cheap sports cars for sale regularly that you don’t have to be rich to relish.

E36 BMW 3 Series (1990-1999)

Front 3/4 of a bright yellow 1992 BMW 325i Coupe E36, one of the best cheap sports cars for sale on the used market
1992 BMW 3 Series | BMW

For a while, one could find a running and driving E36 3 Series BMW for under $1,000. Though the prices have steadily been on the rise, you still can find solid examples for under $5,000. You’ll have to do a little digging, but resources like Facebook Marketplace will undoubtedly bring them to your attention!

There is a bit of a stigma with the E36 chassis. Admittedly, they do pretty regularly have electrical gremlins like faulty switches and failing window motors. In addition, they are fairly notorious for overheating. So, if you’re in the market, keep your eyes peeled for these issues and try to find an example that has been decently maintained.

Models specifically to look for in this price range are 325 and 328 models. Of course, the 318 trim level with a four-cylinder is out there, but the iconic BMW straight-six engines in the former models are dependable and blissful. So long as you care for them, that is. Unfortunately, the almighty E36 M3 is well beyond the $5,000 budget.

NA Mazda Miata (1989-1997)

I can hear you sighing through your screen, but you knew this was coming. If you’re familiar with my writing, you’ll likely know that I’m a four-times-over first-gen Miata owner and general enthusiast of the smiley Mazda roadster. My biases aren’t in play here, though. Virtually any list of cheap sports cars for sale at any price point will include one of the four generations of the iconic MX-5/Miata.

Unfortunately, the Mazda Miata isn’t the bargain bin find it once was. First-generation examples are getting quite expensive. However, with some due diligence, one can still find one in decent shape with some moderate mileage for $5,000 or less. There are, however, a handful of issues to keep your eyes peeled for. You can read about some common Miata issues here!

986 Porsche Boxster (1996-2004)

Side profile view of yellow Porsche 986 Boxster parked on race track
986 Porsche Boxster | Porsche

This Affordable Luxury Car is A Reliable High-Class Hideout for Under $10,000

Anymore, a Porsche 986 Boxster is really pushing the limit of the $5,000 budget. However, they are indeed out there at this price point. They might be a little rough around the edges and carry some high mileage, but you can even still find manual models for $5,000 or less.
The 996 Boxster carries iconic Porsche styling, engine architecture, and handling characteristics without carrying the price tag of a 911. Unfortunately, many of them carried the same IMS bearing issue as the 996 911. So, you’ll want to keep an eye on that while shopping, too.

Any of these cars will require a bit more upkeep and TLC than a more modern car due to their age. That, however, is just something that comes with buying an older car. It’s especially important when you’re shopping for an older performance car. That being said, if you’re looking for something to take to the track, autocross, or windy roads on the weekends without having a corporate pension, these three cars are a phenomenal starting point. If you’re handy, they have a virtually unlimited supply of aftermarket performance upgrades to progress with your driving skills, too!

Let us know your favorite enthusiast cheap sports cars in the comments!