Why not have some fun?
According to ALG, the average transaction price for a brand-new car in 2019 was $35,932. If you ask Kelley Blue Book, the figure was even higher at $38,948 (KBB apparently doesn't include applied consumer incentives). That's a lot of money. You could go out and buy something fresh off a dealer lot — and you'd probably be making a sound decision that your future self and sanity would thank you for — or you could have a little fun.
We scoured online classifieds and found a handful of cool cars that can be bought for the average cost of a new car in America. As you'd probably expect, not all of our choices are practical. In fact, most of 'em aren't. But they are all most definitely interesting and unique. Click on the image up above to get started.
1996 Chevrolet Corvette Grand Sport
The $35-40,000 range opens up a ton of possibilities, but for some reason I ended up starting and finishing my search under the GM umbrella. My first choice was actually a manual-transmission Cadillac ATS-V, but that turned out to be a wild goose chase, as the listings for them are few and far between and they seem to get snapped up fairly quickly.
That led me to Corvettes, which ultimately led me to the Grand Sport... C7 Grand Sport, that is. But in browsing those, I came across a couple of these C4 Grand Sports, and how can you not love this America-in-a-nutshell treatment? 330 horsepower, adaptive suspension, and tons of red, white and blue. — Associate Editor Byron Hurd
1995 Dodge Viper R/T 10
Somebody had to do it, right? I know, a 1995 Dodge Viper R/T 10 is not the most desirable of Vipers out there, but it’s still a Viper. And really, the V10 monster needs no more explanation.
You’ve likely given it the passing thought, or laughed about it in the past. But acting on the childish urge to buy a Viper is a lot tougher than thinking about. Hopefully the knowledge that a Viper is the same price as the average new car should be the push over the edge you needed. When your coworkers question your sanity, just point at their base Ford Explorer and tell them that you two spent the same amount of money. See? The Viper is a responsible purchase.
Accept the utterly horrendous ergonomics and lack of any amenities. There’s a V10 under the hood, and that’s what matters. As an added bonus, you’ll even be getting better fuel economy (11/20/14 mpg) than the folks who run out and buy a Ram 1500 TRX. Checkmate? — Road Test Editor Zac Palmer
2013 Ford Mustang Boss 302 Laguna Seca
With the Bullitt Mustang headed out of Ford's lineup and Mach 1 on the way back in, we're reminded of the Boss 302. Here's a more specific version: a 2013 Boss 302 Laguna Seca.
The more track-ready version of the Boss 302 had a limited run of 750 cars, in 2012 and 2013. Its 302/5.0-liter V8 put out 444 horsepower (up 32 from the stock Mustang GT that year) and 380 pound-feet of torque with a 7,500-rpm redline, and it put down a 4-second 0-60 time. It had Recaro seats; Torsen limited-slip differential; track-tuned suspension with higher spring rates and manually adjustable dampers; aggressive front splitter and bigger rear spoiler; a larger rear stabilizer; and a big tubular crossbar brace that replaced the rear seat and added 10 percent more rigidity. It's street-legal, unlike the track-only Boss 302R and 302S.
Hagerty prices the Laguna Seca up to $42K for an excellent example. The ask for this one is $38K. It has a mere 2,105 miles on the odometer. And though the paint job on the 2012 Laguna Seca was garish, with a lot of red stripes and a red roof, in 2013 they toned it down to this classy black and silver.
So for the price of a new or even used Mustang GT, you can daily-drive something a bit more baller. Just don't expect to put the kids in the back seat. — Managing Editor Greg Rasa
1993 BMW 325i wagon
This 1993 BMW 325i wagon is the enthusiast special. It's a station wagon with rear-wheel drive, a manual transmission. And on top of that, it's a wagon based on the E30 BMW 3 Series, possibly the most beloved generation of the German automaker's small car line. And as a bonus, it was never sold in America, so it has that imported X-factor. It has very low miles at just 24,473, and it has an array of upgrades to make it more fun such as Brembo brakes, sporty suspension, a modern stereo head unit, exhaust system and short-throw shifter. It looks spotless inside and out, too. If you're looking for a unique, fun-to-drive machine that can be a toy, or even a fair-weather daily, you'd be hard pressed to find anything that tops this little BMW. — News Editor Joel Stocksdale
2018 Ford Mustang GT
Honestly, you can find a perfectly nice new Mustang in our price range. However, you can't find one with the Performance Pack 2 that brings along the highly desirable magnetically controlled dampers. They're magic, creating a Mustang that both handles and rides better than any other.
Now, while it's possible to find a used Mustang GT with the PP2, it's rather difficult. You have to keyword search of "Performance Package" and then weed through the results to see which, if any, have the number 2 next to it. I did find one, however, with the requisite manual transmission. I could live without the Recaro seats (not power eight-way adjustment) and that huge chin spoiler that'll scrape on everything, but I'm not really buying this car anyway. Merely, this is an example of what I'd seek for this price range. — West Coast Editor James Riswick
1957 Porsche 356 Speedster replica
You're absolutely not going to get anything resembling a drivable Porsche 356 for less than $40,000. What you can do, however, is get a very nice replica. And while we're always a bit weary of recreations of classic vehicles, it's important to remember that some of these vehicles are a whole heck of a lot better than others.
In the case of this particular Porsche 356 Speedster replica — and in fact there are several reputable shops building classic replicas of these Porsche models, which did indeed use a lot of similar mechanical bits and pieces from air-cooled Volkswagens — I happen to think that the car's owner will absolutely love the vintage driving experience.
The chassis for the majority of these Speedsters are cut down and modified VW Beetle units, with modifications that leave them not altogether different from the real thing. The air-cooled engine out back is similarly sourced from an old Bug, and again tuned to deliver the appropriate experience. Plus, it's drop-dead gorgeous. — Consumer Editor Jeremy Korzeniewski