Car Corner
Cool Cars Under $7,500

March 1, 2009
By Scott Lewis

The last time I visited this topic I looked for cool cars under $15,000. I didn't just look for any cars, but cars that would normally be way out of the price range of the average consumer. Those cars included Porsches, Mercedes, BMW and even Jaguar.

This time I am going to pick cars that were affordable, or reasonably affordable, when new, but now could be had for pennies on the dollar. I did end up finding some higher dollar cars, but at this price point mileage is way up there. In fact, any time you consider a car with the kind of mileage these cars have you need to be very careful and expect repairs.

I was disappointed in the lack of Camaros, Mustangs and Miatas that caught my attention. In fact, I didn't find any Camaros that I would be willing to buy. Remember, I owned a 93 Camaro and I am biased. I know the LT1 engine in the 93-97 Camaro has a nasty cap and rotor system. I would avoid these unless it was a car too tempting to pass up. That happened with a 25th Anniversary 94 Trans Am. I would prefer a 98-02 Camaro or Firebird if getting the V-8.

I didn't find any Mustangs that inspired me. I was really hoping to find an older LX model, from the time when the LX was a notchback with a trunk. Those were the lightest and best for performance, so would make really good project cars. No such luck, and all the other Mustangs just blurred one into the other and didn't capture my interest.

The Miata was the biggest let down. Again, I am biased and really like the body style change they did in 1999, so I only looked at 99 and newer Miatas. Very few stuck out in my mind.

Let's see what I did find that interested me.

1992 Toyota MR2, 86,880 mi, $5,950

Description: Rare!!! Rare!!! Rare find. This MR2 is in absolute mint condition. All stock, original condition. Power windows, power door locks, flip up sunroof, books and records.

Comments: I have a friend in New York that still owns one of these. He has owned it since new. These cars are a blast to drive. Don't waste your time getting one of the turbocharged cars. They will be well thrashed by now. This car is very low mileage considering the age. For under $6,000 you could have a fun little car to drive around in. I would offer $4,500 and see what happens.

1985 BMW 635CSi CSi Automatic, 130,000 mi, $3,200

Description: Beautiful Classic. Must see and drive to appreciate. Well maintained. Clean, clean. Current inspection and registration, new tires. I've owned the car for the past 6 years as a weekender. Runs and drives great. No leaks of any kind. Every power option works. A/C and Heat work perfect. Texas car, no rust. I've priced it to sell!

Comments: I really like the look of this car, and have since they were new. And I am not alone as this is why the 6-Series made a come back. This price is so low I have to wonder what's wrong with this car. If he is telling the truth then this is the kind of car I really like... a private seller that takes good care of his cars and just want to sell it. I feel like calling right now.

2002 BMW 325Ci Sport Package, 177,000, $7,000

Description: All scheduled maintenance, Looks & runs great, Perfect first car,

Comments: Clearly this car is priced so low because of the mileage. We have to hope this is easy highway miles. This car looks like it would look fine sitting next to the new BMWs on a lot. This is so new it almost seems like a regular car that should not be on this list.

1999 BMW 323is Sport Package, 145,000, $6,000

Description: Must see, clean, 2nd owner BMW 323is RED with sport package. Excellent condition and well maintained with 145,500 miles and have owned since 25,000 miles. Car has ground effects, fog lights, spoiler package, aluminum alloy wheels and sun/moon roof. Leather interior and rear seating which fold to enlarge the trunk. Also features an advanced oil change monitor and has had synthetic oil per factory recommendations from new. New tires, belts and hoses and heater/AC control unit (known problem with this model BMW).

Comments: A little older but with less miles, and in resale red. Obviously I like BMWs.

1994 Pontiac Trans Am, 143,000, $7,100

Description: 25th ANNIVERSARY EDITION TRANS AM. These are very rare cars with only 1750 being made and only 700 with these options. This car has T-tops, auto, cd, power windows and locks, White leather interior with special 25th Anniversary embroidery. Have all service receipts, including receipt for engine rebuild at 99K. New front and rear brakes. This is a great car for your high school student or adult collector.

Comments: The LT1 engine in the 93-97 Camaro/Firebird is a pain to work on. The distributor cap is a bad design that sits behind the water pump. If it get wet it is ruined. I have had to replace the cap and rotor on my 93 after an overheating. I still liked the car. I remember being a little jealous of the 94 Trans Am when it came out with this paint scheme after buying the 93 Camaro Z28. I don't know if this price is too much or not. If I was serious I would check around a bit and see if this is a fair price for this car.

2002 Pontiac Firebird V6, 94,500, $4,200

Description: Nice 2002 Pontiac Firebird, V6, PS, PB, 5-Speed Manual, looks and runs great, cold AC, non-smoker. Has been driven sensibly, well maintained, new plugs and wires, good tires and battery. 24MPG in mixed driving. It is a pleasure to drive.

Comments: This car was located in San Antonio, so I thought I would list it. The V-6 Camaro/Firebirds are nice enough cars. You get the looks without the bad boy reputation. I wouldn't mind getting something like this and letting my son drive it.

1990 Nissan 300 ZX, 73,300, mi, $7,500

Description: Silver/grey interior cloth, 5 spd, coupe, 73,300 miles, purchased from original family, very good condition, covered in garage, glass roof panels, cruise control, power seat, everything works, after market stereo.

Comments: There are not a lot of these around anymore. These cars were bad-ass when they were new. I remember my wife and I looking at a 92 300 ZX 2+2 when they were new. It was too expensive for us back then. The salesman was the husband of my wife's coworker and he let us drive both the 300 ZX 2+2 and a 300ZX Turbo, even though we had no chance of affording the Turbo. We held out and bought the all new Camaro Z28 in 93... and I don't regret that one bit. But these cars still look tough, and it should feel pretty fast without the turbo. The mileage is very good for a car almost 20 years old.

1993 Mercedes-Benz 300CE, 169,000, $3,600

Description: Coupe, black w/black leather interior, auto, runs great, sunroof, 169K, cold ac, good running car,

Comments: I remember these cars when they were new. They looked great. I am amazed I found one priced so low, even with the mileage. I don't know if this is a bargain or a car that needs very close inspection. Either way I think it is worth a closer look.

1987 Mercedes-Benz 560SL, 151,000, $5,300

Description: Gold, a/c, leather, alloys, abs, power windows, cd, convertible, tint, new tires, runs & looks great!

Comments: I did not expect to find any SL convertibles in my price range. Imagine when I found 2. This one is the price champ.

1988 Mercedes-Benz 560SL Roadster Convertible, ??? mi, $7,500

Description: Red w/ tan. Beautiful inside & out! All power, both tops, service records, sacrifice.

Comment: This is the second 560 SL I found. It costs more, but it has two things going for it. 1) This is Bobby Ewing's car from the TV show Dallas, and 2) It is in resale red. Red looks very good on this car. Plus this car was located in San Antonio. I almost called.

1999 Honda Prelude SH, 92,000, $6,500

Description: Rare 1999 Honda Prelude SH Looks & runs great, with Low mileage. Car has been kept in California and not driven much due to owner being in the Navy. Timing Belt and all other belts have been replaced within the last 60 days. Very clean interior, Non-smoker, well maintained, runs & drives great.

Comments: The Prelude was always a special kind of Honda. They don't make it anymore. I assume the Accord Coupe has picked up the sales of the Prelude. The Prelude was always the best looking Honda. I really liked them. This car looks good and the mileage is decent. If my son liked the look of this car I would have no trouble buying this for him and sharing in the driving.

2000 Mazda Miata MX5, 72,000, $6,750

Description: 2000 Mazda Miata, 72K miles, silver, black interior, runs good, 35MPG

Comments: I did not see a lot of Miatas that inspired me. This one had low mileage and looked as stock as could be. I like that. This could make a great little weekend car at a very reasonable price. I could see getting this and using it to offset the mileage on my 335i. Then trade back and forth with my son when he reaches driving age.


Do you have a list of cool cars for an affordable cars. Let me know.