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So you were dreaming of a used V8 muscle car with a stick shift that you could thrash around this summer. But you aren’t looking for something from 1970 that needs a full restoration, you were dreaming of one of the newish American muscle cars. I’m here to tell you that if your budget is $10k or less, you’ll almost certainly end up with a Ford Mustang. The Chevrolet Camaro and Dodge Challenger are excellent choices. But used ones just cost a lot more.

It was 20 years ago that Ford revealed its redesigned “retro” Mustang for the 2005 model year. Back then, we had the redesigned Mini Cooper and VW Beetle, but besides the Plymouth Prowler, there was no retro-looking performance car. The 2005 Mustang started all of that. By 2009, Dodge had joined the fray with its Challenger, and then in 2010 Chevrolet launched a retro Camaro.

One reason you may be able to get a stick shift V8 Mustang so much cheaper than its retro-styled competitors is that they were around a lot longer and thus Ford made a ton more of them. In addition, the 2005-2010 Mustang is far from the most desirable era of the car.

A white cue ball shifter shows how simple it is learn how to navigate gears in a manual car.
2008 Ford Mustang Bullitt shifter | Erik Sherman, MotorBiscuit

What’s up with this? Well it had a 4.6-liter V8 that offered just 300 horsepower. And while the 2015 sixth-gen Mustang redesign had independent rear suspension that made it corner much better than the Challenger, the 2005-2014 had a solid rear axle. Also, many enthusiasts prefer cars after the 2010 redesign which added LED running lights. And of course motorheads hold out for the 5.0-liter “Coyote” V8 which debuted in 2011.

That said, the 2005-2009 Mustang had simple, vintage looks that still seem at home on today’s roads. And yes, you could get it with a manual transmission and the rumble of a V8. So at $10k, it’s a bargain. There were of course special editions and there are showroom quality examples for sale. These all cost quite a bit more. And there are 200,000+ mile beaters that are poorly running for $5k. But I’m seeing a ton available somewhere in the middle.

Here’s my method. I used the AutoTempest website, which searches Craigslist all across the country. I started by searching for Camaros with V8 engines and manual transmissions. I narrowed my search to cars from 2010 to present listed by private party sellers for less than $10k. There were exactly zero available. So I pulled the price limit and found what I was looking for starts around $20k. If you love the Camaro’s looks, you might consider a V6.

I completed the exact same search for Dodge Challengers. Again, I found V8 manuals rare, and commanding a premium. There was exactly one–with a salvage title–listed under $9k. Many Challengers were automatics, and many are worth $20k-$30k now. The Charger is also an excellent muscle car option, but was never offered with a stick shift.

Finally, I completed this search for Mustangs, from 2005-present. I narrowed the search to V8 cars with a stick shift, listed by private sellers for under $10k. I found many of them. Specifically, there are 12 with less than 200k miles which could make for a reliable summer ride. And that’s even before you get in to Facebook Marketplace, where we know most of the good deals are.

So there you have it, if you want a used V8 stick shift with retro good looks, chances are you’ll be looking at a Ford Mustang.

Next, read more about the 5th-gen Ford Mustang, or check out more of the best sports cars you can get for $10k in the video below: