Getting your first car is a surreal experience for anyone. For car enthusiasts, it’s like falling in love at first sight. The right first car can even elevate that experience.
Buying a car now gives us many choices that may not have been available a few years prior. If you want something quick and fun or just reliable and practical, there’s a car for you. Every car on this list is a great pick for less than $10,000, some even for less than $5,000 in good shape.
Here’s a list of 10 great first cars for people who love cars:
1. Volvo 240
The Volvo 240 was one of the safest cars of its time and still one of the safest old cars to date. It makes for a great first car as they were built to be very tough and reliable. It has a 2.3 liter 4 cylinder engine producing 114 horsepower which is not a lot, a turbo version is also available which made 153 horsepower. These cars could be had as a sedan or a wagon, 4 or 5-speed manual, and a 3 or 4 speed automatic. You could also get them as a 2 door or 4 door and the aforementioned wagon and all of them were rear-wheel drive.
The engine bay of this car is spacious and makes for a great project car if you wanted an engine swap. If using the car as intended is the purpose then the car has a lot of room to carry you, your friends, and their luggage quite easily.
The 4th gen mustang codenamed SN95 was made between 1994-2004. This isn’t the most famous or best-looking one but it is still a Ford Mustang. The car originally debuted with a V6 engine rated at 145 horsepower but the ones you want are from 1996. The 1996 model was now offered with 4.6 liter V8 making 215 horsepower and later bumped up to 225HP.
Aftermarket parts are widely available just like every Mustang. This is a great car for anyone looking for a way to buy a cheap, fun, and reliable sports car. It comes standard with a 5-speed manual as well as an optional 4 speed automatic. Some V8 versions of this car are still available for under $5,000.
3. Ford Ranger (1993-1997)
Some people are into trucks and the Ford ranger is the perfect little pickup truck for those first-time truck fans. The ranger has been in production since 1983 till date. We are being specific about the second-gen Ford Ranger, they can be gotten for well under $3,000. It came standard with a 2.3 liter 4 cylinder making 98 horsepower and a 3.0 liter V6 making 140 horsepower. It was capable of some light towing of around 2,000 pounds.
4. VW GOLF MK4 (1997-2002)
The Golf is the most famous hatchback in history spanning 8 generations. The MK 4 Golf only has a 2.0-liter engine making 115 horsepower. A diesel engine is also available as well as VR6 V6 which makes around 200 horsepower. But it has a lot of modern safety features which makes this the perfect affordable hatchback you can buy for less than $4,000.
5. Subaru Forester (1997-2002)
One of the early compact SUVs the Subaru Forester is one of the most practical first cars money can buy. It has many of the components borrowed from its rally-inspired brother the Subaru WRX. The turbocharged 4 cylinder engine is the best engine of choice making 230 horsepower. With lots of space available and good ground clearance, the Forester is great for outdoor purposes and luggage duties. Parts are swappable between the Subaru WRX and can make this a very fun compact SUV. These are very cheap and can be found for less than $3,000 all day long.
6. Mazda Miata
Everyone looking for a fun, lightweight sports car always recommends the Mazda Miata. This car was never built for speed, the focus was being light, fun, and safe. It is a great sports car for anyone and first-time buyers will have fun owning this car. Any generation of the Miata is great and every one of them offers a manual transmission and a front-engine, rear-wheel-drive layout. Parts are extremely cheap and easy to work on.
7. Lincoln LS
The most luxurious car on this list, it is big reliable and very safe. It had a 3.9 liter V8 making 250-280 horsepower with the options of a 5-speed manual or automatic transmission. Made between 1999-2006 it was America’s luxury car made to rival the German luxury brands. The interior was leather filled with some of the best in tech available to the industry at the time. The very best thing about this car is that nice examples can be found for less than $5,000.
8. Nissan 350Z
Very much every enthusiast knows about the Nissan 350Z, they are cheap, quick, and seriously reliable. It was made between 2003-2008 but if you buy any model from 2006-2008 the V6 makes 300 horsepower. It offers a 5 speed automatic and 6 speed manual with power sent to the rear wheels.
The aftermarket for this car is huge and almost anything you need is available for this car. You can keep it as stock and reliable as you want or customize it to your heart’s content. They are also available as coupes or convertibles.
9. BMW E46 330i/330ci
BMW is one of the best sports car brands and the E46 is referred to as the best modern sports car available. The 330i has is equipped with a 3.0 inline 6 making 228 horsepower. It offers a 5 or 6-speed manual, the 5-speed automatic is the best auto option for this car. Diesel options are also available for this car if that is an option for you.
The 6 cylinder engine in this car is a reliable unit as long as it’s well taken care of. They can still be found for under $5,000 are really great sports cars.
10. C4 Corvette
The most potent car on this list is left for last because just like the mustang this is a proper sports car. It has a variety of 6 V8 engines but the LT1 made between 1992 & 1996 seems to be the best. It makes 300 horsepower which is almost 100 horsepower more than the original V8 engine which made only 205HP. This engine is widely used in most of the newer corvettes and parts are readily available. But having this as a first car does mean giving up some practicality. But the Corvette is still one of the most spacious and practical sports cars to date.
The Honda Civic and Accord are also great options for new buyers as they have the benefits of most of the cars on this list. Each of these will fulfill its role and will leave you with long-lasting memories of your first car ownership.
Which car do you like the most? Or is there a car on your mind we’ve missed, let us know.