The Ultimate Guide to the Fastest Vehicles for $20.000. Buying a new vehicle is always exciting and revitalizing. You are aware of what to expect. There are novel features and technologies. Peace of mind is offered by a factory warranty and possible extended warranty choices. If you’re on a tight budget, there is a significant disadvantage. New cars in the under $20.000 price bracket don’t offer a lot of performance. Depreciation is a blessing, right? If you’re willing to make some compromises, you can get a ton of amazing, fast vehicles for less than $20.000. In this article, we look at some of the fastest cars under 20,000 along with issues like dependability, durability, upkeep, and other possible issues.
A budget of up to $20,000 opens up a lot of options when buying used vehicles. Since there are so many quick cars under the $20,000 price range, it’s difficult to compile an exhaustive list. Simply put, it relies on what you’re after and/or willing to give up. Newer 2014+ speed vehicles like the Camaro, Mustang GT, and many others are available. choices that are reasonable for a combination of performance, age, reliability, etc.
Older, much more expensive cars like the E60 M5, E55 AMG, and many more are also available. You’re probably giving up a lot of dependability here. There’s a reason why these once had $70,000+ MSRP vehicles that were among the fastest today are now under $20,000.
The choices in between are also available, but they still fall short of covering everything. The point is that there are many high-performance vehicles available for less than $20,000, so this isn’t a comprehensive list. However, we will concentrate on the fastest cars under $20,000 while also including a good mix of new, old, and mid-range vehicles in this guide.
Fastest Vehicles Under $20,000: Some Things to Think About
Before truly searching for the fastest cars under 20,000, be aware of your objectives, desires, and needs. Sometimes you can’t have the best of both environments. For one or two of the many reasons listed above, many of these vehicles cost less than $20,000.
Fast, dependable, and cheap don’t frequently go together. Select two of the options. Things become costly when you select quick and dependable. Consider the Toyota Supra, which is propelled by a 2JZ-GTE. It has crazy performance potential and maintains dependability even at high power levels. But in this piece, we’re talking about a 1990s vehicle whose starting price is more than twice as high as our $20k goal.
$20,000 is typically a fairly affordable price point, despite the fact that cars are an expensive hobby. What does that leave us with, then? All three of the aforementioned qualities are difficult to possess, and we clearly want fast and cheap. As a result, we often have the option to ignore dependability. Of course, there are some outliers, but they don’t represent the fastest vehicles.
Maturity and Distance
Some of the vehicles and motors on this list might be trustworthy. Age and miles are important considerations, though. As people get older, they may become more picky when it comes to performance vehicles.
A prime illustration is suspension. Cars with more aggressive factory suspension frequently require replacement after 8 to 10 years or 100,000 kilometers. Bushings, mounts, and other parts that experience wear and strain can all be said to be similar.
Additionally, as ICE get older, they become more prone to coolant and oil leakage. With time and use, rubber tubes, gaskets, seals, etc. start to harden and crack. Given that these are simply signs of aging, it may not be fair to refer to them as reliability problems. But the argument is still valid. Older vehicles generally need more maintenance and repairs, particularly the fastest vehicles.
When it comes to performance cars, this subject is comparable to the one above. They typically use broader high-performance tires and larger brakes. More damage is done to ignition coils and spark electrodes. The collection could continue forever.
Simply accept the fact that maintaining fast cars is typically more costly. Possibly, this isn’t always the case. But you better have the right brakes, tires, fluids, and more if you want to use the strength and speed.
Deals that seem too excellent to be true should not be trusted. It’s crucial to review the maintenance records at all times. How was the vehicle used by its prior owner(s)? Did they keep up with routine upkeep like oil changes?
It’s not always simple to get a clear explanation of the situation. Always attempt to start a car cold when testing it out so that the engine can reach its maximum operating temperature. Some problems are only apparent during cold starts or when the motor is hot. Check the engine compartment, the car’s undercarriage, have someone accompany you and watch for smoke, etc. While test driving, don’t be afraid to press the accelerator firmly a few times.
Although it is a comprehensive list, it is not exclusive to the fastest vehicles under $20,000. It won’t harm to have a reliable mechanic look over the car before you purchase if you’re not sure you can thoroughly inspect it.
We will divide cars into tuner cars and factory cars in this piece. The primary distinction is that you can purchase a tuner car and still have money left over for modifications, upkeep, etc. See more below on that.
Cars that are easily tuned and modified are referred to as “tuners vehicles.” They’ll be among the quickest vehicles on this list that cost under $20,000. However, they will also be a little bit outdated and less expensive to purchase upfront. To claim a vehicle that costs $20,000 as one of the fastest if it requires $15,000 in modifications is unfair.
As a result, many of the tuners’ vehicles we discuss are under $10,000. They can be excellent all-around cars that still stay within budget if you add some upkeep, repairs, and modifications.
Typically, we’ll have two distinct car types here. older, high-performance vehicles and more recent, medium-performance vehicles. The majority of them will be priced between $15,000 and $20,000. They might also make excellent tuner engines, but a limited upgrade budget won’t allow you to do much. Again, saying “Oh, this car can produce 1,000whp, but the car costs $20,000 and the mods are another $20,000” wouldn’t be entirely fair.
Let’s get to the interesting part now that we’ve covered all the background material. By no means is the collection below complete. But in our opinion, these are some of the finest and fastest vehicles available for under $20,000.
1) BMW 335i, Fastest Vehicles Under $20,000
Type: Automobile tuners
2007 through 2015
TQ/HP: 300 lb-ft/300 horsepower
It would be impossible to compose this guide without mentioning the BMW 335i, one of our personal favorites. It won’t “WOW” anyone in 2023 with its factory-installed 300 horsepower and 300 torque. But that’s not the reason the 335i ranks among the quickest vehicles under $20,000 in price.
Engine options for the N54 twin turbo 3.0L inline-6 are offered for 2007–2010 models. Newer N55 3.0L inline-6 versions for the 335i are available from 2011 to 2015. Both come factory-equipped with the same 300hp and 300tq. Our primary attention is on the older versions powered by the N54 twin turbo engine. The more recent N55 is also a fantastic option for a tuners vehicle, but it lacks the iconic status of the N54.
Performance Possibilities of the N54 335i
The BMW N54 engine was genuinely amazing for its time. It still contends with some of the fastest cars today and costs less than $20,000 overall. 500 horsepower on standard turbos sounds good, right? What if you could modify your car to produce 500hp for less than $1,500? With the BMW 335i, it’s very likely and the motor isn’t even taxed by 500 horsepower.
The N54 engine can sustain a reliable 600–700whp for the long run when upgraded with turbine and fueling systems. It depends on having a sound system with suitable auxiliary modifications, fueling, and tuning. But since the N54 335i costs between $5,000 and $8,000, the entire project can be completed for less than $20,000. The N54 can produce 900–1,000 horsepower with a built motor, but that will probably be very expensive.
BMW 335i Issues
However, there is more than one reason why the 335i N54 has a legendary notoriety. Also well-known is its extreme unreliability. The N54 motor is excellent on its own. They frequently surpass 200,000 kilometers even when powered by original, unopened engines with 500–600+ horsepower. The N54 motor from BMW is extremely durable.
However, everything near the motor may present issues. Common issues include the complete cooling system, gasket oil leaks, and carbon build-up. Sometimes HPFPs don’t work. The index 11 and 12 injectors are prone to failing if they are missing. You can get six brand-new index 12 injectors for a good $2,500+.
Thankfully, BMW N54 motors are more established in the aftermarket and are older. Many of the issues have long-term fixes, but if you want to fix everything to make the 335i dependable, it could get expensive.
2) Cadillac CTS-V: Fastest Vehicles
2004 through 2007
400 horsepower / 395 lb-ft of torque
What else is unattainable, you ask? To create such a handbook without including at least one LS-powered vehicle. The 5.7L LS6 engine is an option for the Cadillac CTS-V models from 2004 and 2005. The CTS-V received the more recent LS2 engine for 2006–2007. Both vehicles’ original ratings were 400 hp and 395 lb-ft.
Finding a good model for under $20,000 in your neighborhood can be challenging. They do appear below that price, but they’re not always simple to locate. The correct Cadillac CTS-V might not be available right away, so you might have to wait or travel. It can, however, be among the fastest cars under $20,000 if you do manage to locate the right one.
Performance Possibilities of CTS-V
There might not be much money left over depending on the particular year, condition, and mileage. With 400 horsepower, the CTS-V can still accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in about 4.6 to 4.8 seconds. Additionally, it completes the 1/4 mile in about 13 seconds at 110 mph. By today’s norms, the performance is not ground-breaking. But there’s a solid reason the CTS-V makes the list of fastest sub-$20,000 cars.
There is a ton of aftermarket help for the Chevy LS motors. If you want more strength, you can do anything if you let your budget recover a little. A little money can go a long way with the proper modifications because LS engines are known to be inexpensive and simple to modify.
Issues with the Cadillac CTS-V
Overall, LS engines do provide excellent reliability. They are powerful motors that are capable of handling a lot more power than they were designed to. The CTS-V, on the other hand, is a 14–17-year-old vehicle. Under 20k, you should expect to travel between 80,000 and 120,000 kilometers or more. As a result, these vehicles’ engines will need some normal maintenance for a vehicle of their age.
Things like grounding might benefit from an update. Sometimes it’s necessary to repair gaskets, hoses, and other components. Despite its age, we don’t believe a CTS-V will end up in a scary film. These, however, are near the top of the budget, so a few problems could easily go over it.
3) Mercedes E55 AMG: Fast Vehicles Under $20k
Category: Tuners or Stock/Factory
2003 through 2006
469 horsepower / 516 lb-ft of torque
The Mercedes E55 AMG is a vehicle with a great balance of enormous stock power production and the ability to add a ton more within reason. The E55 AMG was the world’s fastest production vehicle when it made its debut. With its 5.4L turbocharged V8, it produces 469 horsepower and 516 lb-ft of torque. Imagine how significant that would have been in 2003 given how remarkable that is in today’s terms.
The E55 AMG can be purchased for around $8,000, depending on shape and mileage. Cleaner vehicles with lesser mileage can travel at about twice that speed. In either case, there is some money left over for upkeep, fixes, and perhaps even some tweaking and modifications.
Performance Possibilities of the E55 AMG
The E55 AMG was a complete missile in 2003, and it still is. The 1/4 mile is completed in 12.7 seconds at 117 mph, and 0-60 takes just 4.5 seconds. When compared to stock automobiles, it is one of the fastest vehicles under 20,000. There may even be some money left over for additional entertainment. Supercharged engines have a ton of performance promise with bolt-on upgrades.
The E55 AMG can readily reach 450–500+whp with a few simple modifications. If you want to keep pushing things, there’s even more possibility. However, you might want to hold off on making too many modifications at first. The E55 AMG is somewhat held back by a few mechanical issues.
AMG Mercedes E55: Fears
Search the discussion boards for the W211 E55 AMG. You’ll observe that many advise having at least $3,000 set aside for unforeseen, sporadic expenses. It’s a good idea to budget an additional $2,000 for upkeep tasks that may still need to be completed. If the E55’s suspension is the original, you should think about upgrading or removing it.
For the ultimate high-performance vehicle from the early to mid-2000s, the list could go on forever. Mercedes E55 AMG versions are expensive to own and keep up. However, at the end of the day, you get one truly badass car.
4) Ford Mustang GT, fourth-fastest vehicle
2011 through 2016
412-435 horsepower and 390-400 lb-ft of torque
Fair warning: We’ll be passing over vehicles like the Charger/Challenger SRT8 and Camaro SS. Since you can locate 2010 and newer models for under $20,000, they’re also a good deal. They all have more than 400 horsepower and operate fairly similarly.
But there’s a solid reason the Ford Mustang is our go-to sports car. The 2011+ Mustang GT’s 5.0 Coyote motor is one of our favorites. The 2nd generation engine debuted in 2015, and the 3rd generation 5.0 Coyote engine debuted in 2018. These changes to the engine were mostly positive. The third generation motors are fantastic, but a clean 2018 or later GT costs between $25 and $30,000. At less than $20,000, the older 5.0 Coyote engines are still fantastic and offer excellent value.
5) Mitsubishi Lancer EVO X
Vehicle Tuners is a category.
From 2008 to 2011,
291hp | 300 lb-ft torque
We looked at a few German vehicles as well as some American muscle cars. There are almost too many JDM vehicles to name, but one had to make the list of the fastest cars under $20,000. The choice was between the Lancer Evo and the Subaru WRX. The Lancer Evo, on the other hand, made the list due to its huge aftermarket potential.
Remember how we said it’s difficult to mix fast, cheap, and dependable? Another excellent illustration is the Mitsubishi Lancer Evo. Evo VIII and IX are far more coveted than the Evo X. With just head bolts, those 4G63 2.0L turbo engines can produce 450+whp. They are also dependable motors. Older Evo models are also well above our $20,000 price limit.
Even the Evo X is a financial stretch, with prices starting around $20,000. Its mod and tuner-friendly turbo engine makes it a solid option if you’re willing to go overboard with your spending. If you’re prepared to spend more money, consider the older Evo 8 or Evo 9.
Lancer Evo X Speed Prospects
The Evo X isn’t as appealing as previous versions equipped with the 4G63 engine. However, it retains the same 2.0L turbo motor – the 4B11T. It has 291 horsepower and 300 lb-ft of torque out of the box. Respectable figures, but not nearly enough to compete with some of the real fastest cars on this list.
With a tune and some simple bolt-ons, you can push the Evo X past 300whp. 450+whp on the stock engine is feasible with turbo upgrades, but they don’t seem to hold up as well as the older engines. Torque is a significant factor, so don’t go much higher than 360-380 lb-ft. Nonetheless, the small 2.0L engine is capable of producing some impressive outcomes.
Mitsubishi Lancer Issues
Mitsubishi no longer manufactures the Lancer Evo. It’s both beneficial and bad for a few reasons. One advantage is that they are desirable vehicles, and their values should endure fairly well. Even early 2000s Evo 8 versions are worth more than $30,000 for a clean example. However, as time passes, assistance and part availability may become increasingly limited.
In stock condition, these cars and engines are fairly reliable. When you start modding and tuning them, you take on additional risk and possible costs. You don’t want to spend a lot of money buying and modifying an Evo X only to blow the engine trying to generate too much power.
Mentions of Merit
Some comparable guides show 10-20+ cars with less information on each. That just goes to demonstrate how many great fast, high-performance cars are available for under $20,000. We wanted to focus on a few key points and delve deeply into the details. However, there are far too many others who must be included.
As a result, here are a few other fastest vehicles under $20,000 with less analysis. This is still far from comprehensive. But don’t worry. If readers find this material useful or entertaining, there will be plenty more in the future. Leave a remark and tell us what you want to see! Anyway, let’s move on to some honorary mentions.
6) BMW E60 M5
500 horsepower / 384 lb-ft torque
The E60 M5 does not appeal to us, and it can be costly to own and keep. The S85 5.0L V10 motor, on the other hand, screams to over 8,200 RPM. With the right tuning and software, you can securely rev them up to 8,500 RPM. Even in stock condition, it has 500 horsepower and a top speed of 200 miles per hour. The engine is a real work of art. These high-revving NA V10 engines are simply no longer manufactured. Just listen to the pass between 0:26 and 0:30.
7) Miata Mazda
Price: $6,000 – 15,000+
TQ/HP: 116-167hp / 100-140lb-ft
What does a vehicle with 116 to 167 horsepower have to do with this list? That is an excellent topic. Those who are familiar with the MX5 Miata will comprehend why it was included on the list. They’re famous because of their low price and ease of modification. There is support for a wide range of various builds. The Mazda Miata shines at two things: track use and LS swaps. Considering that a Miata costs between $6,000 and $10,000, there’s plenty of money left over. You can modify it to become one of the fastest straight-line cars, construct a track, and do a variety of other things.
8) The Nissan 350/370Z
287-350 horsepower / 274-276 lb-ft torque
370Z models were manufactured until 2020, but 2015 is about the limit for getting in under $20,000. When it comes to older 350Z models, costs start around $7,000. Expect to spend more than $10,000 if you want a vehicle from the late 2000s with low mileage.
The 370Z is probably the better option because it is newer and has the awesome VQ37VHR engine. However, both the 350Z and 370Z are excellent options. They’re excellent drivers’ cars with an exceptional all-around balance. You can get into one if you have enough money for tuning, engine modifications, suspension improvements, and so on. The possibilities are endless.
9) Chevrolet Corvette C6
400-430 horsepower / 400-424 lb-ft torque
The Chevrolet LS2 engine has already appeared on this list in the Cadillac CTS-V. It’s back in the Chevy Corvette C6 base model. The Vette produces 400 horsepower and 400 pound-feet of torque. If you can find a 2008 or later Corvette, it has the bigger 6.2L LS3 engine with 430hp and 424 lb-ft of torque. That’s enough power to make the list of fastest vehicles under $20k, even in stock form.
C6 Corvettes start around $15,000, and there are a good number for sale in the US for less than $20,000. You can also save money by purchasing an earlier C5 Vette. If you’re ready to stretch your budget, the C6 Z06 starts around $30,000 and has insane performance potential thanks to the 7.0L V8.
Summary of the Fastest Vehicles Under $20k
There is no perfect solution to the question of the best, fastest cars under $20,000. This article has over 3,500 pages and could have gone on much longer. There are simply too many excellent performance vehicles under $20,000 to discuss everything. It’s also difficult to state which is genuinely the fastest when budget builds, modding, and so on are taken into account.
Nonetheless, the list above is a great starting point for some of the fastest vehicles under $20,000. Everything from low-end, newer vehicles to ultimate German performance automobiles from the early 2000s is available. Then there are the JDM tuner vehicles, American muscle cars, and everything in between.
If you want a fast, cheap vehicle, one of your main concerns should be reliability. Make sure you budget for maintenance, possible problems, and mods if you want more power. Finally, the options are virtually limitless, so pick the car that speaks to you.
What is your best fast car for under $20,000? Please let us know in the comments!