The appeal of cheap speed is hardly seasonal, but with winter approaching, it might be time to upgrade what’s in your garage. For less than $15,000, there are plenty of used cars on Autotrader that deliver excellent performance — in the spirit of Halloween, you might even call them scary fast.
Here are 10 cars that might spook you with their performance, but not their price tags:
Dodge Challenger R/T
The upside to having been around since 2008 without a full redesign is that a cheap Dodge Challenger looks a heck of a lot like a brand new Dodge Challenger. Of course you’ll want V8 power, so grab a Challenger R/T, and maybe make it classic Hemi Orange.
Under its long hood you’ll find a 5.7-liter V8, which in its inaugural year put out 370 horsepower shuffled to the rear wheels through either a manual or an automatic transmission. Find a Dodge Challenger for sale
Ford Taurus SHO
Looking and performing just like a police cruiser, the Ford Taurus SHO is a big bruiser of a super sedan. Underhood, you’ll find 365 hp from its twin-turbo 3.5-liter V6. Though it tips the scales at about 4,400 pounds, the SHO still scoots. A new Performance Package for 2013 added bigger brakes and better cooling, too, though the ride is very firm. Find a Ford Taurus for sale
Subaru Impreza WRX
With its rally-bred roots, the WRX has long been a go-to for drivers seeking all-season (and all-conditions) performance. Subaru resale is ultra-strong, so we had to dial the clock back a bit to find a third-generation WRX, but boy were these factory hot rods a lot of fun. The initial 2008 model was relatively weak with just 224 hp underhood, but over the years the automaker upped that to 265 hp with blistered fenders over a widened track.
This 2013 WRX benefits from those changes, and it boasts beefy bolstered seats ready for any curvy road. Find a Subaru WRX for sale
Born in Australia, but with American V8 power and a classic Pontiac badge, the reborn GTO is a rolling contradiction. It wasn’t especially well-received when new, but the short-lived GTO is finally getting some recognition. Prices are on the rise, and clean examples are getting harder to find.
To stay under our $15,000 threshold, you’ll probably have to stick to the first-year 2004 GTO. With 350 hp and 365 lb-ft of torque shifted rearward through a six-speed manual gearbox, however, this GTO at a Chrysler dealer in Spokane, Washington, still delivers plenty of thrust for just $13,000. Find a Pontiac GTO for sale
Jaguar has long slipped superchargers under the hoods of its coupes, convertibles, and sedans. Among the best of the breed is the XJR, especially the so-called X350 generation that was the last to make use of the classic quad-headlight, low-roof styling. The supercharged V8 cranked out 390 hp and 399 lb-ft of torque (which we’d round up to 400 lb-ft in conversation, just saying).
Finished in British Racing Green over a tan leather interior with plenty of burl wood trim, this first-year example in suburban Chicago ticks all the right boxes. For under $11,000, it leaves plenty of room for inevitable repairs, too, but we’d still gamble on it. Find a Jaguar XJR for sale
Porsche Cayenne Turbo
If we were ranking bargain hi-po cars on a pounds to horsepower to dollars ratio, the Cayenne Turbo would win hands down. Porsche’s first SUV is dirt cheap now — it doesn’t exactly have the resale of a contemporary 911. Oddly, Cayenne Turbos have a somewhat reasonable reputation for reliability, too.
Chevrolet Camaro SS
Set your search parameters to include Camaro SS models under $15,000 on Autotrader and you might be surprised at the variety. You’ll find plenty of fifth-generation Camaros with a wide range of options, trims, and colors. Of course you’ll want the SS with its 6.2-liter V8 rated at 426 horsepower.
We’re partial to convertibles that also wear the SS badges. Plus, the Camaro droptop boasts by far the best outward vision — look, ma, no blind spots! Find a Chevrolet Camaro for sale
Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8
Whoa, when did Jeep’s first super-SUV get so cheap? Forget what you think about the Jeep brand when it comes to the SRT8. Its lowered suspension, 20-inch wheels, big brakes, and bolstered seats are clues to the 420-hp 6.1-liter Hemi V8 found underhood.
For a while, the SRT8 was the fastest of Chrysler’s performance cars, too, thanks to the grip offered by its standard all-wheel-drive system. No, you can’t tow with a first-generation SRT8, but you certainly can haul something. Find a Jeep Grand Cherokee for sale
Yep, you can get an engine hand-built in Affalterbach, Germany, and a mid-size E-Class body for under $15,000. New for 2007 was the 507-horsepower 6.2-liter V8, which was AMG’s first fully in-house design. Though there are many reliability issues to be aware of, the big V8 is a glorious engine, and it works so well in the ultra-subtle E63. Find a Mercedes-Benz E63 for sale
Want your sub-$15,000 go-fast car to look like it just rolled out of the factory? Consider the Nissan 370Z. A 2009 is nearly indistinguishable from the current version — and that’s just fine with us.
Underhood you’ll find a 3.7-liter V6, the latest version of Nissan’s vaunted VQ family of engines. A 7-speed automatic transmission is common (and actually works quite well), but we’ll stick with the 6-speed stick in this smurf blue example. With just over 102,000 miles, it’s just getting broken in — and those are grippy track-ready tires we spy, too. Find a Nissan 370Z for sale