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In the world of affordable sports cars, it’s hard to beat a Chevrolet Corvette. This doesn’t just ring true for the current generation, the C8. Though the mid-engine monster is undoubtedly a performance car bargain, used Corvettes can offer quite the thrilling drive for surprising prices.

Over 400 horsepower for under $20,000

Silver 2004 Chevrolet C5 Corvette Z06 with black wheels
2005 Corvette Z06 | Cars and Bids

This 2004 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 recently sold on Cars and Bids for $17.950. It has relatively high mileage for a Corvette at just over 95,000. However, despite its age and mileage, it’s in excellent condition. On the outside, it wears a Machine Silver paint job. Inside, it has striking black and torch red leather upholstery. For the money, it’s hard to recommend a car better than this when looking for a fun daily driver. Especially considering it’s a Z06.

Under the hood, the C5 Z05 has an LS6 V8. With 5.7 liters of displacement, this staple of Chevrolet engine history puts out a healthy 405 horsepower and 400 pound-feet of torque, which is 55 more horsepower than you’d get in a standard C5 Corvette. It has a six-speed manual transmission and powers the rear wheels.

The Z06 doesn’t just add power, though. It’s more performance-oriented than a standard C5 Corvette overall. It uses a fixed roof for added rigidity, unlike most base C5s that have a removable roof panel. Additionally, it has performance suspension and active handling, giving it more track-oriented handling characteristics.

“The C5 Z06 is a truly fantastic car, as the level of performance and enjoyment you get at this price point is simply unparalleled in the enthusiast world,” writes Doug DeMuro, founder of Cars and Bids.

This condition makes for the perfect driver’s car

Black and Torch Red leather interior on 2004 Chevrolet Corvette Z06
The Z06’s black and red interior | Cars and Bids

Not everyone wants to collect sports cars. Some folks want to drive them without worrying too much about where they park them or how many miles they’re putting on them. In that case, a Corvette of this condition is perfect. 

The listing reports that this Z06 has some rock chips and scratches on the front bumper, chips and scratches on the wheels, and some general wear and tear on the seats. Additionally, the driver’s seat bolstering has a single rip. Its imperfection, though, is what makes it so perfect. 

It has some light modifications like an upgraded stereo head unit and black-painted wheels. However, it’s primarily left unmodified and has services records to boot. So, one can rest easy knowing that it’s been well taken care of. Combine that info with the LS engine’s notoriety for reliability, and you can rest assured that this Corvette has tens of thousands of miles of life left, if not hundreds.

C5 Z06: Fast, affordable, and surprisingly efficient

Chevrolet GM small block LS6 V8 engine in 2004 Corvette Z06
The Z06’s LS6 V8 engine | Cars and Bids

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Despite the Z06’s performance suspension, it still makes a great candidate for daily use or road trips. The leather upholstery is comfortable, and the Bose premium sound system is sure to keep you company for the ride. What’s even more impressive is the fuel economy, though. According to the EPA, even with 400 horsepower, the C5 Z06 Corvette gets up to 26 miles per gallon on the highway.

Overall, this auction serves as a reminder that the C5 Corvette should absolutely be on the radar of anyone looking for a fun sports car for under $20,000. Often, shoppers can find base model C5s under $15,000. It’s hard to beat a fun rear-wheel drive car with a V8 and manual transmission for the price!