Search Cars for Sale

8 Best Used Performance Cars Under $15,000

You don’t have to spend a fortune to drive a fun, fast, engaging vehicle. The increase in popularity of hot hatchbacks and small rear-wheel-drive coupes in recent years means that performance cars are now attainable at just about any budget.

Here, we highlight eight of our favorite used performance cars under $15,000.

2014 Ford Focus ST

2014 Ford Focus ST

Ford‘s Focus ST hot hatch was an American-made competitor to the Volkswagen GTI, the Mini Cooper S and the Honda Civic Si. Under the hood was a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine that made 252 horsepower and 270 lb-ft of torque — around 25% more than most of its competitors. A 6-speed manual transmission came standard. While it offered great handling and good acceleration, the Focus ST stood out because clever engineering made it possible to break the rear wheels loose when driving hard around the track, which couldn’t be said for other front-wheel-drive hot hatches. Right now, there are around 250 used 2013-2018 Focus STs listed for sale for $15,000 or less on Autotrader, and many of them are updated 2015-and-newer models. Find a Ford Focus for sale

2014 Honda Civic

2014 Honda Civic Si

The Honda Civic Si is among the more sensible, reliable choices in the small performance car segment. Offered in sedan and coupe body styles, the Civic Si sold between the 2012 and 2015 model years packed a 2.4-liter naturally aspirated 4-cylinder engine that made 205 hp but just 174 lb-ft of torque. As it did on the Civic’s competitors, a 6-speed manual transmission came standard. The Civic Si is pretty understated — it wears more conservative styling than the Focus ST or the Mini Cooper S — but it still offers a pure and fun driving experience. There are currently around 300 Honda Civic Si models from the 2012 to 2015 model years listed for sale on Autotrader for $15,000 or less. Find a Honda Civic for sale

2014 VW GTI

2014 Volkswagen GTI

In terms of used performance cars under $15,000, the GTI has a little bit of everything. It offers impeccable handling, and its 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine produces incredible torque — this is a car that feels even faster than it is. Two transmissions have been on offer since the GTI’s fifth generation, which was sold during the mid- to late 2000s: a traditional 6-speed manual and a trick dual-clutch automatic that offers lightning-fast shifts, paddle shifters and a clever launch control feature. Beyond all that, a used GTI will offer a subtle, sophisticated design and a premium interior. At around $15,000, buyers can look to either a sixth-generation GTI, which was offered from 2010 to 2014, or an early seventh-gen model, sales of which started in the 2015 model year. There are a few hundred currently listed for sale on Autotrader that would fit the bill. Find a Volkswagen GTI for sale

2014 Ford Fiesta

2014 Ford Fiesta ST

The Fiesta ST, the Focus ST’s smaller sibling, is another exceptional performance car bargain. Many of these sold for close to $20,000 when new, meaning that it’s pretty easy to find a used example for $15,000 or less — much less, even. Under the hood of this subcompact hot hatch was a turbo 4-cylinder making 197 hp and 214 lb-ft of torque — comparable to the output of many performance cars competing a class up in the compact segment. A 6-speed manual came standard, as did a performance body kit, a revised suspension and oversized wheels. There are more than 200 used Fiesta STs listed on Autotrader for $15,000 or less. Find a Ford Fiesta for sale

2014 Mazda Miata

2014 Mazda Miata

The NC-generation Mazda MX-5 Miata, arguably the most underappreciated Miata, sold from the 2006 model year through the 2015 model year, and it presents the best opportunity for value when it comes to buying a used roadster. The NC Miata came powered by a basic 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine that made 170 hp and 140 lb-ft of torque sent to the wheels via either a 5- or 6-speed manual transmission. An automatic transmission was available, but buying a Miata with an automatic transmission kind of defeats the purpose. A power hardtop became available starting in the 2007 model year. There are currently around 400 NC Miatas on Autotrader for $15,000 or less, and about two-thirds of them come with a manual transmission. Find a Mazda MX-5 Miata for sale

2014 Subaru WRX

2014 Subaru WRX

The WRX stands out by offering standard all-wheel drive in a space where most vehicles come with front-wheel drive. Beyond that, the 2009-2014 WRX packs a big 2.5-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine making 265 hp and 244 lb-ft of torque paired with a 6-speed manual transmission. The 0-to-60 mph time for this generation has been clocked at under 5 seconds — that’s quick, even for this segment. The WRX sold during these years is also the last to offer a hatchback body style. Though the WRX’s interior isn’t anything to write home about, its performance capabilities on gravel roads and in light snow certainly are. There are around 200 WRXs from the 2009 model year through the 2014 model year listed on Autotrader that would fit our budget. Find a Subaru WRX for sale

2014 Subaru BRZ

2014 Scion FR-S/Subaru BRZ

Similar to the Miata, the Subaru BRZ and the Scion FR-S twins offer RWD performance in an exceptionally balanced package. Introduced for the 2012 model year, these are vehicles you can drive hard without having to worry about losing control or getting into too much trouble. With just 200 hp coming from their naturally aspirated 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engines, the BRZ and FR-S aren’t exactly fast, but they’re a blast to drive as though they were. Buyers can choose a 6-speed manual or a 6-speed automatic transmission — as with the Miata, we recommend the manual. Right now, there are more than 300 BRZ and FR-S options for around $15,000 to choose from, around half of which come with a manual transmission. Find a Scion FR-S for sale or Find a Subaru BRZ for sale

2014 Fiat 500

2014 Fiat 500 Abarth

The Fiat 500 Abarth is a tiny car with a huge personality. Under the hood of this pint-sized city car is a potent 1.4-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine that puts out 160 hp and 170 lb-ft of torque, which are sent to the front wheels via a 6-speed automatic transmission. Given that this car is only 12 feet long, this is a lot of power, and the acceleration feels brisk. The handling is also dialed in well, and given the proximity of the front wheels to the steering wheel, it’s impossible not to feel connected to the road while behind the wheel. Perhaps the Abarth’s most delightful feature, though, is its unique grumbly exhaust note — it’s one of just a handful of vehicles out there that can be identified in traffic from the noises it makes. Sales of the Fiat 500 Abarth commenced for the 2012 model year and lasted through 2019. Right now, there are loads of affordable 500 Abarths to choose from on Autotrader, and almost 150 that would fit under our $15,000 budget. Find a Fiat 500 for sale

Chris O'Neill
Chris O'Neill is an author specializing in competitive analysis, consumer recommendations, and adventure-driven enthusiast content. A lifelong car enthusiast, he worked in the auto industry for a bit, helping Germans design cars for Americans, and now lives in Salt Lake City, Utah. He runs an Instagram account, @MountainWestCarSpotter, which in his own words is "actually pretty good", and has a... Read More

Sign up for Autotrader newsletters

The best cars and best deals delivered to your inbox

Email Address 

By subscribing, you agree to our privacy policy

Where You Can Buy

Loading dealers...

Leave a Comment

Most Popular Articles

2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid: First Look

The 2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid jumps to the head of the hybrid class.

Best Truck Deals: July 2021

These are the best deals on trucks for the month of June.

Search By Style

More Articles Like This