The average new car in America costs just over $35,000
The average cost of a new car at the end of 2018 stood at $35,285. You could choose from any number of good, reliable and safe vehicles for that sum. The Toyota Camry, for instance, is a very sensible choice, and as an added bonus, it's actually gotten to be pretty decent to drive.
But we're playing a different game today. We decided to scour the pages of eBay in an effort to find what we think are some of the coolest vehicles you could choose to buy instead, using the average cost of a new car in America as a price limit. Some of our choices are pretty rational. Most of them are not.
So let's get started. Click on the image above to see what's behind the digital curtain.
2008 Chevy Corvette Z06
This is a hell of a lot of car for the BIN price $34,900. I've spent a lot of time behind the wheel of Corvettes — my father owned 17, plus the handful I've driven while working as an automotive journalist — and it doesn't get much better than this. Yes, the interior is less than stellar and yes, this one has some questionable accessories on the rear glass, but it won't matter when you're running the 7.0-liter LS7 pushrod V8 to its 7,000 rpm redline.
The engine is a marvel, a wonderful ode to naturally aspirated V8s. It's not just the performance either. It's a practical daily driver, with plenty of luggage space and relatively good fuel economy. If I had space in my garage, I'd snap this one up in a heartbeat. – Road Test Editor Reese Counts
1986 Toyota Pickup SR5 Turbo
Few trucks embody '80s cool like a Toyota Pickup, likely due in part to one being the object of desire of "Back to the Future's" Marty McFly. And this 1986 Pickup might be the best example of the breed. Not only has it undergone a thorough restoration with the factory and super-'80s graphics, but it features the unusual turbocharged inline-four-cylinder engine. And nothing was cooler in the '80s than turbo power.
The high-riding suspension, style bar and KC offroad lights finish off the perfectly period-correct look. Not only that, this truck is in spectacular shape with no rust and a spotless interior. The photos even show the chassis with the bed off to illustrate just how clean this truck is. Buy it and become Radwood royalty. – Associate Editor Joel Stocksdale
2000 BMW M Coupe
I’ll admit it. I love the clown shoe. This one is a 2000 model year M Coupe, so it unfortunately doesn’t have the more powerful 3.2-liter from the E46 M3. However, the inline-six from the E36 M3 in this car made a more than respectable 240 horsepower, and this one has had minor work done to squeeze a few more ponies out of it.
Every time I see one of these, my level of wanting one increases a few notches … and so do prices, it seems. Still, I will always adore those wild proportions and “phat” rear end. – Assistant Editor, Zac Palmer
1972 Datsun 240Z
Taking the seller’s word here for the originality of the paint and so forth, this 1972 240Z is seriously appealing. The color is sharp, one of the best offered. The shape is aging wonderfully. The L-series inline six is a well-known, generally reliable engine. Set up correctly, these drive great and sound even better. This one has a hot cam, so it’s got some nice lope at idle. There’s plenty of room in the back for some luggage. It’d be, in my mind, the perfect combination of attractive and sporty classic car with reliability.
For more reliability, a fuel injection swap using later L-series parts is possible but involved. Ditching the points ignition for a Pertronix system, if it hasn’t been done, is highly recommended. Anyways, there is a very strong aftermarket for these cars, lots of experts nationwide that can set them up to be fairly reliable, and it’s the highly desirable early car rather than the problematic 260Z or the less interesting 280Z.
It’s likely, but not guaranteed, to go up in value, especially if some original wheels can be sourced. As it is, it appears nicely upgraded and presents well. The BIN price looks attractive, since the best cars can trade for more than $50k, according to Hagerty. - Senior Editor Alex Kierstein
2016 Cadillac ELR
I looked around, and saw very little that caught my eye within the parameters. I had almost given up, but I opened a new tab, entered new search parameters, and found my perfect $31,800 mistake.
I've always loved the ELR — even more than the Chevy Volt — and my chances to ever own one only grow slimmer as time passes. It's practical (but two doors less practical than a Volt), super rare (because it was a failure), has a lot of life left in it and helps satisfy my itch for a plug-in. Call me crazy, but I guess this is my pick this week. – Senior Editor, Green, John Beltz Snyder
1971 Plymouth Road Runner
This thing looks so mean. Having grown up with a steady stream of classic muscle cars, I love the color, I love the shape, and I love the loping exhaust note echoing from the back of this 1971 Plymouth Road Runner. I have no qualms admitting that this classic bit of Americana would never be as reliable as a new car, or even as reliable as most of the choices my more practical coworkers made. But on the positive side, nothing could break on this Road Runner that would be terribly difficult to fix.
If I'm honest, I wouldn't love the emissions or the terrible fuel mileage, so this wouldn't be an ideal daily driver. But it sure would be a whole heck of a lot more fun than a crossover. – Consumer Editor Jeremy Korzeniewski
2014 Mercedes-Benz CLS 550
I found myself in the Mercedes-Benz aisle for today's eBay find, and although I was extremely tempted by what is one of my all-time favorite cars, I also know that you'll probably need at least an extra $10,000 just to keep it running.
So, I opted for this sexy beast instead: a CLS 550 in designo magno alanite gray, also known as matte silver. Would I prefer a blue interior? Sure, but the mileage is low and the price here is great for a superb car that is absurdly fast despite not being the delectable AMG 63 model. - West Coast Editor James Riswick